This summer we found a school of tadpoles in an old fountain at our local park. It was a beautiful illustration of natural life. There were easily hundreds of babies swimming around at all stages of life. As a fun summer project we decided to take a pair home to observe. My boyfriend, being overly cautious and worried for the little ones decided to research a stable environment for tadpoles. I thought imitating the environment they were in previously was good enough, but here’s what we learned in the process.
If possible, use the water that you find them in. If not, rain water is best. Do not use tap water! Tadpoles love to hide from the sun in their environment, so make sure you provide a bowl big enough to include some rocks for shade. If this is a patio project like it was for us, use a glass bowl for the best visibility. If your are setting up the habitat outdoors but don’t have a pond, use a terra-cotta pot. You may even want to burry it into the ground to make the habitat more seamless.
As well as rocks, you will want to include plants for shade. We pulled tall weeds from the park we found them in. The tadpoles are always nibbling on the roots, so try your best to pull the weeds close to the ground. The tadpoles even nibbled our fingers when putting them up to their nose. The plants also provide shelter from potential predators, especially when they grow up and become frogs. My boyfriend has read that tadpoles like to snack on dead bugs. Whenever we swat a fly, we’ve put it in the bowl. So far they’ve been untouched, so that might depend on the species.
As a fun way to keep your older children engaged, get a field guide book like this to identify your tadpoles. It will be hard to identify the tadpoles by looks alone since many of the species look similar. However, reading about their habitat, size, and breeding season will all be useful clues. Once they grow up, you’ll be able to tell if you guessed right. So far, I think that ours is a Cuban Tree frog. I was able to deduce this because the species is indigenous to Florida, they have a summer breeding season and they have a similar appearance to the ones we found. Cuban Tree frogs were also described to thrive in habitats that are associated with human habitation.
This is a great activity for young children. It teaches children empathy for wildlife and the stepping stones for animal conservation. Giving children the freedom to interact with the natural environment at a young age initiates a relationship with nature. It also develops trust in nature and its ability to sustain. You can also pair this activity with a lifecycle toy like this.