What Exactly Do Tadpoles Eat?

Most people know that frogs start out as tadpoles.

But most people don’t really think of tadpoles as house pets. Who would want to keep tadpoles in their fish tank? It’s not like they do a whole lot. They don’t do tricks or anything interesting.

However, tadpoles eventually turn into frogs. Some people like to witness this transformation. If you take good care of your tadpoles when they’re young, you’ll end up with healthy frogs in a few months’ time.

What people don’t realize is that tadpoles do, indeed, eat. They don’t survive on air and water. Whether they’re in the wild or in captivity, tadpoles need to eat. Now, they don’t eat all that often.

They can go days without any food at all. The same is true for frogs. But, if you’re going to raise tadpoles in your house, you need to know what they eat and how to take care of them.

Wild Tadpoles Eat Different Food Than Pet Tadpoles

What tadpoles eat depends on where they grow up. If tadpoles are in the wild, they’re going to eat things like:

  • Micro-plants
  • Algae
  • Debris from dead plants and animals

On the other hand, if they’re being raised in captivity, they’re going to eat different sorts of food. Most pet tadpoles eat:

  • Baby food
  • Egg yolks
  • Lettuce and cabbage
  • Spinach

Of course, they eat other things. Just like frogs, they’ll eventually eat things like insects. But that isn’t until they’re grown. The food they eat changes as they progress through the life cycle. So, let’s talk about the life cycle about tadpoles a bit.

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group of tadpoles in an aquarium

What is the Basic Life Cycle of a Tadpole?

Most kids learn about the life cycle of a tadpole when they’re in elementary school. It’s always a good example to teach children about biology. But we’ll still go over a brief summary of the life cycle of tadpoles into frogs in case you’ve forgotten.

  • Frogs lay thousands of eggs, often on a lily pad, leaf or other natural structure
  • They lay so many because they know there’s a good chance that their eggs can be eaten by animals, fish and other tadpoles
  • These eggs are covered in a jelly-like material to try to protect them from prey
  • When the frog spawn takes place, the eggs start to clump together and start to rise to the top of the water where they’ll float

Once the tadpoles are ready to hatch, so to speak, it can take up to a few months for them to become fully grown frogs. Tadpoles follow a pretty simple development cycle.

For the first few days, tadpoles live under the water and stay there. After about a month, they start to grow hind legs. It’s at this point that they start to resemble frogs.

Finally, about 3 months later, they start to grow their front legs. At the same time, their tails come off. If you see a tadpole at this point, they’ll start to look just like regular frogs. 

How to Care for Your Pet Tadpoles

If you have tadpoles in your home as a pet, there are a few things you need to do to take care of them. You need to keep them in a big container. Many people think that tadpoles can live in a small bowl because they’re tiny. This isn’t true. You really want to keep them in a large tank, half full of water.

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Make sure you don’t use tap water. If you do, you have to let it purify for at least a week. Tadpoles are very sensitive and can’t be exposed to any toxins. Also, make sure there is no chlorine in the water – at all.

You also want to keep the bowl away from direct sunlight. Sun and warm temperatures aren’t good for tadpoles. It can accelerate the development of the little guys which can kill them.

Tadpoles like to brush up against harder items so it’s a good idea to put some rocks, branches and leaves in the bowl. This helps simulate the same conditions they’d live in the wild.

tadpole. white background

What do Tadpoles Eat When They Grow to Become Frogs?

If you’re going to raise tadpoles, you need to know what to feed them once they become frogs. That is, after all, the point of having tadpoles as pets – to see them grow into full-fledged frogs. 

Once your tadpoles grow into frogs, you want to make sure you feed them the right foods. Some of these include:

  • Insects
  • Snails
  • Spiders
  • Worms
  • Small fish

Some bigger frogs can also eat bigger things like rats and lizards. But it’s really up to you. They can get enough meat from Bloodworms. If you don’t have it in you to feed them rats or lizards, that’s okay.

And, you don’t have to feed them all that often. Once every day or so is enough. In fact, frogs can survive for at least 2 days without food. But, there’s no need to test that theory. Feed them every couple of days just to be safe. 

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Frogs will also eat some things you don’t feed them. They may find house flies or other insects and eat them. They can sometimes grab these insects with their long, sticky tongues. You’d be surprised at what kinds of things they can eat on their own.

Some Final Thoughts About Tadpoles

Now that you know what to feed your tadpoles, let’s look at a few fun facts about tadpoles. 

Did you know that a bullfrog tadpoles can grow to be as long as a banana? Imagine that. 

Also, tadpoles are cannibals. Whether in the wild or in captivity, tadpoles will actually eat other. There’s not much you can do about this. Tadpoles are little eating machines. They’ll eat anything in their path – including other tadpoles. So, don’t be surprised if you start out with 20 tadpoles and end up with only a handful.

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