Tadpoles have gone on to become favorites as pets. A lot of families choose to get them at home, so that it would be an educational experience for the children, and for adults as well, to see their metamorphosis into frogs. The other reason is that they are relatively low-maintenance. Although the needs of a tadpole are simple, it is highly susceptible to chlorine water. There are many other such minute things which you will have to take care of, so that your pet grows well in the confines of your home.
How to Take Care of a Tadpole
The first step is to procure frog spawn or tadpoles from their natural environment. In some states, it is illegal to collect tadpoles or eggs, so you will have to check the laws with a wildlife or environment agency. If you decide to collect them yourself, it is important to get just a few, and leave the rest to grow in their natural setting. An alternative is to obtain captive-bred eggs. This will give you an idea about the particular requirements of the species.
Before you get the tadpoles home, you will have to procure an appropriate container. The size of the container needs to be sufficiently big, so that the tiny critters have sufficient space to move around, as is the case with their natural environment. You can make use of an aquarium, wading pool, large plastic tub, garden pond, or a child's swimming pool. The container should, ideally, be placed outdoors to mimic natural conditions. It should not be placed under direct sunlight. It should be placed under partial sunlight, so that they can get sunlight when they need it. At the bottom of the container, you can place some smooth rocks and gravel. Ensure you do not add a lot of water to the container, as tadpoles prefer shallow water.
An important instruction regarding the water in the container is that it should be both fresh and dechlorinated water. Chlorinated water will have to be dechlorinated by adding a dechlorinator to the water. These are available at pet shops. If there is no pet shop in the vicinity, you can leave the water in the sunlight for 7 to 8 days, so that the chlorine in the water dissipates. Chlorinated water can be harmful for your pets, so it is recommended to have a sufficient number of water changes to maintain the water quality in the container. To partially change the water, scoop out about 1/3 of the old water and replace it with fresh water. The smaller the container, the more number of water changes it will require.
Since most tadpoles are herbivores, you can feed them with lettuce and spinach leaves, which they often love. You will have to feed them in small quantities once or twice a day. Overfeeding is not recommended, as it is not good for their health, and it will also pollute the water, which will further hamper their well-being.
The metamorphosis of a tadpole into a frog may take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months. It actually depends on the species to which the tadpole belongs. When you notice that it is developing hind legs, you will have to reduce the water level further to provide easy access to land. You can do this by adding sloping rocks or sticks large enough for them to climb on. Apart from the emergence of hind legs, development of the digestive tract, development of lungs and loss of gills, and changes to the skin will also start to occur. The other change which will happen is the resorption of the tail. The tadpole will eat less when the tail is going through resorption, and it is not something to worry about. When the lungs develop, it is recommended you reduce the quantity of water, so that the tadpoles do not drown. In some cases, they will have to be removed out of water altogether, as they do not come out of water themselves and may drown.
After the metamorphosis, it is time to feed them small crickets, fruit flies, small insects, invertebrates, etc. Once the metamorphosis is over, you may want to consider releasing the frogs or toads into natural water bodies. However, ensure that the species is native to the area, and also check the wildlife rules. Releasing them as close as possible to the area from where you had picked them up increases their chances of survival.