Gardening for Wildlife

By Sean Morrow

One Earth Landscaping, Education and Consulting

Welcome Readers, this month the focus is on Frogs and Tadpoles.

Frogs and Tadpoles are best left where you find them, but given the curiosity of many children and adults, some frogs and tadpoles often end up being caught and relocated to a person’s garden or home so they can be kept as pets etc. It can be very educational to study these animals and we as humans can learn a lot by being close to nature. I spent a lot of my childhood collecting and observing native Frogs and Tadpoles.

In some circumstances, these Frogs and Tadpoles are taken from an environment where they are perfectly suited to thrive and they are taken to a location where they either cannot survive on their own or there is not the right conditions or habitat for them to thrive. They need the right conditions for feeding, finding shelter from predators and a body of water to breed in once they become a mature Frog.

Often these animals are taken to an environment where they do not naturally occur as a species, therefore they may struggle to survive into an adult Frog and the chance of them breeding and building up numbers is extremely low.

If you do take Frogs and Tadpoles from the environment to watch and study them or to have them as pets, then I would recommend once the tadpoles have become Frogs that they are returned to the environment where they were first collected. If you do return to the creek, pond or body of water to release the Frogs and the water has dried up do not be

concerned as it is likely that the species you caught earlier is a species that breeds in ephemeral or temporary water. Remember, once a Tadpole has become a Frog it leaves the water and does not return to the water until it is an adult Frog ready to breed.

If you are taking Tadpoles from a pond that is located where you live, then they should be put back into the same pond as a Frog or as they start developing their legs and are changing from Tadpoles to Frogs.

If raising Tadpoles make sure you use clean water (rainwater, dam, creek). Some bores may also have suitable water, but not all bore water will be suitable. If using town water let it sit for 24-48 hours before using to help with the chemicals leaving the water. You can increase the rate in which the chemicals leave the town water by placing an air stone to create bubbles in the water (like you may use in a fish tank to keep the water oxygenated).

Tadpoles predominantly eat algae that naturally grows on rocks, logs or on decomposing leaves in the water, but with this said, they will also eat each other or some insects/animals that may have fallen into the water and have died and started to decompose.

If you need to feed Tadpoles emergency food then you can feed them leafy greens like Lettuce, Silverbeet, Spinach or Papaya leaves (plus others). You can freeze or steam the leaves, this helps to break down the cells in the leaf structure making it instantly available as a food source. I prefer to steam the leaves in a small pot with just enough water. After a few minutes, I take it off the heat and tip the leaves and small amount of water into the water where the Tadpoles are located. Within minutes many Tadpoles are all over the leaf eating it. You can also just add a few fresh leaves to the water, but these will take 3-5 days to be ready to be eaten as they slowly decompose. Remember to not add too many leaves to the water as it can become anerobic (no oxygen) and kill the Tadpoles.

As a general rule, you need at least 1 litre of water for each tadpole. If you put 50 Tadpoles into a 20 litre container they will eventually start to eat each other as they run out of space and food.

Do not feed Tadpoles fish food flakes as it can lead to deformities, and do not try raising Tadpoles in water that already has fish present (unless you can separate them) as they will possibly be eaten especially when little.

Some species go from egg to Frog in just a few weeks, while other species could take many months or longer to develop.

There are recommended native ‘safer fish’ that can possibly be used in the pond, but they may still eat the Tadpoles if they are small enough and the fish is hungry. These ‘Safer fish’ are ‘Pacific blue eyes’, ‘Fly-speckled hard heads’ and ‘Crimson spotted rainbow fish’.

I don’t have fish in my ponds at home as there are already enough predators accessing the water to eat them. These include, but are not limited to dragonfly larve, yabbies, snakes and birds.