Raising Tadpoles: kitchen science projects

It’s that time of year where you might be lucky and find a clutch of frog eggs near a pond, or maybe you even have the chance to catch a few tadpoles! But what to do after you have caught the tadpoles? Raising tadpoles is a great kitchen science project, or backyard science project, depending on where you decide to house your tadpoles. As you’ll see below, raising tadpoles at home is easy to do, and greatly rewarding for kids to watch.

NOTE: You should NEVER purchase tadpoles online to rear. These tadpoles are often non-native and can endanger local species, bring disease, or out compete the native population. 

NOTE: You should check with your local state/country laws to ensure that you can bring a tadpole home to watch the metamorphosis. Once your tadpole has grown into a frog you should NEVER release it into a new environment. Instead take only healthy recently metamorphosized frogs back to the same pond you collected your tadpole from. 

Why raise tadpoles?

You might be wondering why you would want to bring tadpoles into your house. There is a huge scientific opportunity with raising tadpoles – especially if you manage to find an egg clutch. Kids can observe hatching, metamorphic changes, and finally the release of the frog. A huge bonus is that those released frogs will not only croak you to sleep, but also eat up tons of those pesky mosquitoes and other bugs.

What do you need to raise tadpoles?

You won’t need much for this project, some food, a decent living space for them, and a lot of care.

Project Ingredients:Tank or aquariumWeeds or grass from your backyard (keep the roots)Spinach (tadpole food) Fish or frog food (for when they get larger) Tadpole lifecycle key (I like the ability to put out the portion your tadpoles are in

How to raise tadpoles at home

If you did not opt for the all in one kit, or if you want to grow more than one tadpole, you will first need to find some extras. You can often find tadpoles in ponds in April or May – just be aware of your local temperatures. It should be as spring starts to kick in, with freezing temperatures diminishing.

If you found an egg clutch, I highly recommend filling your tank with water from that pond. Tadpoles are filter feeders so having scummy water in the beginning is a great way to keep them healthy and alive.

Feeding your tadpoles

Once your tadpoles have hatched (or if you caught them as tadpoles and not eggs) you will need to feed them. You can purchase tadpole food online or you can opt to do a little cooking. Tadpoles usually eat green leafy anything they find in their pond. You can mimic this in a couple of ways. First, you can go pull some pesticide-free weeds from your garden (roots intact) and place them in your aquarium. Or you could boil spinach or other green leafy items for about 10 minutes – if you choose this path make sure to buy organic as pesticides can easily kill your tadpoles.

Your tadpoles can likely eat about a teaspoon of the greens a day. If you opted for roots and plants you should keep an eye on them and replace them with new plants every coupld of days.

Cleaning your tadpole environment

Tadpoles, like humans, like a clean environment. Of course, our definitions of clean are vastly different. You will probably want to clean your tank once a week, if you’re near a pond you can absolutely refil your tank with that freshly scummy water. The tadpoles will happily feast on all of the tiny particles and bugs swimming in it. If not, you can set aside some tap water overnight, or treat it with aquarium drops, to get rid of the chlorine. Be sure to leave the soap out of your cleaning process! Tadpoles are very sensitive to their environment and soaps don’t blend well with them.

Watching your tadpoles grow

With all the responsible items out of the way it’s time for the fun! Watching your tadpoles grow is an amazing science lesson.

a small frog raised from the tadpole stage rests on the glass