Tadpoles don’t stay tadpoles forever. With the right living conditions and a hearty diet, those tiny amphibians soon transform into frogs. Before that time arrives, a tadpole's digestive system is a little different from that of a frog, and it requires some care to provide them with the nutrients they need to mature. With a general understanding of the kinds of meals tadpoles need, you can grow happy and healthy frogs.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Healthy vegetarian meals such as boiled greens, egg yolks and store-bought tadpole food rich in protein and calcium support the tadpoles' transformation into healthy frogs.
Wild vs. Domestic
In the wild, tiny tadpoles mostly stick to one area and eat the surrounding algae. As they grow into bigger tadpoles, they might start to munch on other plant leaves, moss, mosquito larvae and sometimes small bugs and insects.
If you’re raising tadpoles, providing them with the same kind of meals as they would find in their natural habitats can be difficult. However, plenty of easily attainable foods can provide them with the protein and calcium they need to mature.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when feeding tadpoles is that they are not equipped to eat meat. Their intestines are shaped like long coils. As they turn into frogs, those intestines shorten and are better able to hold and process meat. Before maturation, though, keep their diets plant-based. Refrain from food pellets made for other animals like fish and turtles because those often contain meat products.
Nutrient-Rich Tadpole Meals
Tadpoles must get their protein from sources other than meat, especially when they reach the stage where their back legs are beginning to form. One of the best ways to provide protein is through green, leafy vegetables. Boil vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, green peas or zucchini for about five minutes, or until the veggies are soft and easy to chew. Then, finely chop them and give small amounts to the tadpoles twice a day.
Hard-boiled egg yolks are another excellent and digestible source of nutrients for tadpoles. Crumble the yolk into small pieces and place it in the tadpole tank during feeding times.
Greens and egg yolks are delicious and nutritious tadpole meals, but you may find it time-consuming to prepare food for your growing group of amphibians. Fortunately, good options for store-bought tadpole foods are available at most local pet or fish stores. Pay attention to the labels when picking out the food. Many brands sell foods for both early- and late-stage tadpoles. The later stage varieties usually contain more protein to help the bigger tadpoles grow strong.
If you can’t find prepared tadpole food nearby, look for prepared baby food, which is designed to be easily digested and highly concentrated with nutrients. Look for the foods with the highest amount of calcium and protein.
Be careful not to overfeed the tadpoles. While they typically don’t overeat, too much food waste quickly dirties a tank.
With the right environment and diet, your tadpoles will transform from tiny tadpoles to strong, healthy frogs.
About the Author
Rachelle Dragani is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn with extensive experience covering the latest innovation and development in the world of science. Her pieces on topics including DNA sequencing, tissue engineering and stem cell advances have been featured in publications including BioTechniques: the International Journal of Life Science Methods, Popular Mechanics, Futurism and Gizmodo.