Some things about your future are impossible to envision when you first become a parent and hold that sweet-scented, swaddled-up newborn in your arms. Like the fact that just nine years later you will be standing over your stove boiling romaine lettuce leaves for 10-15 minutes to make tadpole food.
Four days prior to making this tadpole food, I had been walking past the creek behind our backyard and saw cloudy clusters of frogspawn clinging to various objects just beneath the surface of the water. When I told the kids about this, they got a mason jar and we went to fetch a few eggs so we could watch the magical metamorphosis, from the comfort of our kitchen.
Before I let the kids take the frogspawn, I asked my oldest daughter to research the proper care and feeding of tadpoles on the internet. If I am ever wrongfully convicted of murder, you all can show up at my trial and testify that I don’t like anything to die unnecessarily. Ever. I sometimes even hesitate killing ants that invade my house. The last thing I wanted to do was neglect these tadpoles and have them die.
After we scooped the frogspawn (six eggs) into the mason jar and set it on our counter, with a good amount of creek water, we noticed that we had also captured a bunch of active water insects and a tiny little leech that liked to zoom around the jar with remarkable alacrity. Who knew a scoopful of creek water could be so entertaining?
One of the eggs hatched! When we noticed the teeny tadpole swimming hesitantly around the mason jar, all of our instincts immediately told us that he must be hungry! Thankfully the internet makes us all instant experts at everything, including how to feed baby tadpoles. So I whipped up a nutrient-rich dinner for that little guy in no time.
Another website we found suggested that we needed to enhance the tadpole’s living environment. Apparently some people believe that our meager glass mason jar is insufficient at best and neglectful at worst.
Although the internet can make us “experts,” it’s also pretty good at making us second guess ourselves.
Some of you out there, no doubt, are expert tadpole raisers. I wish I had known you and been able to give you a quick call for some reassurances. That would have been a relief!
We opted to take a large plastic tub, evict the Costco pretzels that previously dwelled therein, and make that our new tadpole habitat. We also decided that it couldn’t hurt to add some rocks and maybe even a plant or two with its root system still intact. Whether or not we should do anything else, including replacing the tadpoles’ water, fifty percent of it at a time, every few days, would be left to further debate.
One thing that concerned us a little bit was the advice that we should stop feeding soft romaine lettuce to the tadpoles as soon as their legs were all formed, because they need to absorb their tails as their form of nutrition at that point. What if some of the frogs have fully formed legs and some don’t? Will we be able to know for sure if the legs are completely formed? How do tadpoles in the wild ever survive? The website failed to answer that question.
Then there was the whole issue about when the tadpoles need solid ground, as they near the end of their metamorphosis. A frog could drown, we were told, if at some point it doesn’t have dirt underneath it.
Wow. This could be stressful.
But you know what, we are just going to try to act as responsibly as we can, proceed with as much knowledge as we can garner, and enjoy these little creatures in our home for as long as we see prudent before they are released into their natural habitat.
Aside from the information overload, these learning experiences can be very fun.
Photo Credit: First photo taken by, graphic design by Charity Klicka; second, third, and fourth photos taken by Amy Koons.