Raising Tree Frog Tadpoles (MD, USA)

If you have kids, raising tadpoles into frogs is a must. With not much effort you can witness the fascinating metamorphosis of a tadpole into a frog. Here is a tree frog we raised in the summer of 2004.

Gray tree frog found on my house (which is green) in southern Maryland 2008.

Green tree frog found outside my house. (Southern Maryland 2008)

Green tree frog outside my kitchen window 2009. It is not uncommon for tree frogs to hang out there eating the moths that are attracted to the light.

Mini Pond -2004

We have a galvanized container that I got at an antique store that doubles as a mini deck pond. When it rains we often hear one or more male tree frogs calling for a mate. They usually get together at night but we’ve seen them on really rainy days. In the morning we see eggs in our pond: lots of them. It doesn’t take long before you have all those little tadpoles swimming around. At this point, we get a few of the tadpoles to raise inside. I find that if the weather is really hot, the tadpoles all die. Hence, for better results, we bring some inside for raising. The tadpoles in our mini deck pond, if conditions are good, will eat mosquito larvae growing in the “pond”. Therefore, I don’t have to worry about creating a mosquito problem. The tadpoles will also eat algae- the green stuff growing on the sides of your pond. Your pond will stay cleaner looking. They will also resort to eating smaller tadpoles. This sounds pretty harsh but in doing so, at least some of the tadpoles will make it to adulthood.

Home for tadpoles

We kept our tadpoles in various large glass containers over the years. I like to limit the number of tadpoles because you don’t want to overcrowd them. The number you raise will depend on the size of the jar or tank you use

Change the water:

Freshen the water by dumping about half out and replacing it with fresh water. I have well water but if you have city water, you probably have chlorine to worry about. The chlorine will kill your tadpoles so set out a pitcher of water for a day or two in preparation to adding it to your jar of tadpoles.

Feed your tadpoles:

Your jar pond should have sunlight so the algae can grow. They love to eat the algae that grow naturally but there will not be enough in your little “pond” so you will need to feed them.

Don’t add so much food that the water gets all dirty looking. Feed as needed. I’ve successfully raised tadpoles on lettuce. I chopped it up then boiled it for a short time. (I’ve since read that boiling it first isn’t necessary.) After that I’d either pour off the water and freeze it or make portions in ice cube trays: the lettuce is frozen in the ice. Either break off bits of your frozen lettuce or drop in an ice cube when necessary. I’ve also feed them leftover fish food that I didn’t need any more. They loved that too.

I recently found the following link. It provides additional information about keeping tadpoles and is definitely worth checking out (no pictures though).

http://frogs.org.au/x/media/cs-lentic.pdf

When they start to grow front legs, you will need to cover your jar with cheese cloth or mesh of some kind so they don’t escape into your house. There needs to be something for the frog to climb onto- out of the water because you don’t want your new frog to drown. Release your tree frog back into the wild after metamorphosis takes place.

The whole process will take a little over two months if you are starting with eggs.

Check out the mouth on this guy!

This tadpole is clearly trying to go unnoticed.

Back legs at last!

Almost done!

How cute is that!

Tree frog we raised in the summer of 2008.

39 thoughts on “Raising Tree Frog Tadpoles (MD, USA)

  1. alliana scharer

    i have 5 tree frogs now and i think one is pregnate and i need to know everthing to prepare and hopefuly it will not end in a disaster!knowing my family.i am 11 and i love them i think they are awsome and a diffrent pet but they are work so could you help.

  2. jane Post author

    Hi Alliana,
    Aren’t tree frogs wonderful! After you have enjoyed watching them and caring for them, you may want to let them go. They know just what to do to prepare for winter. As for being pregnant, female tree frogs lay her eggs in water. Her babies will not grow inside her like a human baby grows inside its mother. I don’t believe that tree frogs would lay eggs so late in the summer (end of September). Look for tadpoles in the spring.
    Best of luck,
    Hester Jane

  3. jane Post author

    If your tadpoles are dying when they are turning into frogs, it might be that they need to be provided a way to get out of the water. Newly formed frogs can drown if they can’t climb out of the water. They can’t swim indefinitly. Make sure you have a stick extending out of the water or a rock for it to climb onto. New frogs will have a bit of their tail left when they are ready to climb out of the water.

  4. Michelle

    We have tree frog tadpoles that are just sprouting back legs. I am starting to worry about releasing them. It is getting late in the year, Will they be ok? Also we got them because a momma frog laid eggs in my daughter’s wading pool. We do not have any permanent water right here. When I release them should I let them into the tree the mom was in or take them about 1/2 mile away where there is a stream near by?

    thanks,
    M

  5. jane Post author

    M,
    I think you will still have time to finish raisng them into frogs. I would release them as soon as they change. Ideally I would put them out on a day that wasn’t super cold. It would be nice if they had time to acclimate. Tree frogs will lay their eggs in temp. “ponds” like kiddie pools. Newly transformed frogs will not need to return to water until they are ready to breed. Therefore, you don’t need to let them go near water. They know what to do.

    Gray treefrogs hibernate on land, and the common gray treefrog is known to produce glycerol, an antifreeze used by some insects to protect cells during the freezing process. Without this protectant the frogs would be forced to hibernate on or in the substrate of ponds or swamps or at least below frost line on land. (This was from this site. Go to find out more.)
    http://www.cmnh.org/site/ResearchandCollections/VertebrateZoology/Research/Treefrogs/GreyTreefrogs.aspx
    best of luck!

  6. Denise

    My hubby recued some tadpoles from a diminishing pond a few months ago and I’m still having tadpoles change to little bity tree frogs — however, mine keep dying too. I’ve finally created a separate tadpole / frog tank so they won’t drown — even when I had plenty for them to climb on we kept finding them back in the water. Now what do I do with them, I’ve tried meal worms, flightless fruit flies and dead crickets (too big though) — I don’t want to try to keep these alive all WINTER — can I release them now as cold as it is?

  7. Yevin

    Hello,
    I have a similar question to Denise. My froglets do not seem to be eating, and I am worried they will starve. I’ve tried crickets (dead and alive; but they are all much too large, even in infancy), and dead bloodworms, but no luck. Therefore, I’d like to release them, but is it too cold? I live in western Massachusetts and the winters here can be brutal. Also, for my late blooming tadpoles, is it too late to find a pond for them given the cold weather?
    Thank you, and please let me know.

  8. jane Post author

    When to look for eggs/tadpoles.
    The mating season of these tree frogs is from mid-April to mid-August. Embryos hatch within a week and tadpoles transform between 55 to 63 days after hatching. According to Wikipedia.
    I often see tadpoles around here until at least the end of September.

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  10. Sarah

    Hi, I have a hand full of tadpoles one of them has back and front legs and the tail is half way gone is it able to breath air. thanks

  11. jane Post author

    Sounds like you should provide a way for the frog to climb out of the water. It will know when it is ready to leave the water. Yours likely has lungs already. I’m assuming you are raising tree frogs. When they start to change, they change quick.
    _Hester Jane

  12. Nicole

    We have successfully gone through 2 different seasons of tadpoles/frogs. We found them in a deconditioned above-ground pool in the Baltimore area. The first time was the summer of 2009. We rescued several hundred of them. I know that one kind was a Cope’s grey tree frog. There may have been some standard greys in there, but w/o being able to hear them calling, it’s hard to be certain. We released most, kept a few for our friends w/kids and had some at a youth center..

    We did it again this year, just with about 160-180. We rescued them in mid-June. Our first froglet was 2 weeks later. As of now, we have over 80 in a terrarium. We’ve had to pull approximately 10 out because they’ve gotten big enough that when new froglets are introduced, they are at risk for being eaten. So those guys have their own “big frog” home.

    They’ll be released, given to friends, etc. We’re letting them go somewhere that we know where they’ll have a normal froggy life, in an area that is familiar and compatible for them. It’s an amazing process. As 2 adults w/ no children, it’s still been lots of fun. Worth noting: Large quantities of tadpoles develop into large quantities of frogs. They require a time commitment that’s much more than feeding goldfish. It’s worth it though. Also, they don’t always develop properly, so some will die. We make it count by putting the ones who didn’t make it outside so Mother Nature can make the best of things. Bugs and such need food, too. Enjoy your own backyard!

  13. LeeAnne

    I have been raising tadpoles–thought they were toads–NO this morning “Big Mama” the biggest who has gotten her legs and arms before the rest had climbed out of her separate tank and was on the screen on our porch. I still have about 75 with out arms.I have been feeding them beta food ,dried tubiflex worms,dry catfood.They have done really well.Half of the batch has back legs but will soon get arms.My real quandre is what do I feed big mama now.I read that they dont eat when they still have tails but…is this true and what do I feed her.I would k
    like to keep her if I could.(my grandaughter is almost as attached as I am)Oh I live in S.Carolina,they have been kept on my screen porch to keep them climatized.Help!!! Thank-you Lee

  14. Sarah

    Hey,
    We live out in the woods and the tarp on our pool fell in during last winter, so all of the tree frogs were able to get in and lay eggs. Dad and I were draining the pool and I saw the tadpoles and collected 532 of them. We put them in huge tanks, and, as expected, some of them have died. I have had about 30 turn into frogs. A couple died from drowning, and I couple swelled up really big and died. I read that they would have eaten the dirt that was in the tank and couldn’t pass it so I switched tanks and filled the new one with aquatic rocks, vines and greenery along with water. Now I have had three frogs die for no apparent reason. They have not been swelling anymore, but they just lay in random spots with their back legs spread out and they front legs tucked under their bodies. Are they just hibernating and not ‘waking up’ when I get them out of the tank because I think they are dead? There is a light on the tank and everything.
    Thank you,
    Sarah

  15. jane Post author

    Sarah,
    If you are raising tree frogs, make sure you have a way to let them get out of the water when they are getting legs. This is very important. They only spend their time as tadpoles in the water. Once they change into frogs, you might want to let them go (or at least most of them). Best of luck!

    -Hester Jane

  16. Sarah

    Hester,
    Thank you for your response, but that does not tell me if they are dying or hibernating. If they are hibernating would they respond to a touch?
    -Sarah

  17. Buff

    Sarah-
    I have been raising several gray tree frogs since they were tiny tadpoles in April. I do not know if your frogs are suddenly dying, but I would think that they would have buried into the soil or substrate in your tank if they were hibernating. Froglets need food shortly after they emerge from their tadpole stage- their tails are their last supply of food until they get some bugs. If you are not prepared to feed them all winter, I would advise you (as Hester Jane did) to release them before they die and it is too cold outside for them to survive. I am a science teacher and I am raising my frogs for my students at school, but they are a lot of bother because now I have to make a trip to the pet store a couple times a week to buy crickets or fruit flies!

  18. Heather

    Hi there I am going to the pet shop this evening to purchase a couple of tadpoles. I am going to keep them after they turn into frogs, what I want to know is how many should I purchase so I can get at least two frogs. I was told that tadpoles can die if not taken care of what should I keep them in and should I give them tadpole food from the pet store or just put lettuce in the container?

  19. jane Post author

    Best to ask a knowledgeable person at the pet store those questions. It depends on the kind of frog you get and the care given etc. My post refers to native tree frogs of Maryland.

  20. sophia yslas

    i have about 8 green tree frogs (babys) and about 10 too 15 tadpoles, i want to let them lose but i dont want them to die is it too late or too cold to?

  21. Bria

    So I caught a girl frog and she is pregnant.How big of a water dish sould I put in there tank? How deep? Are the eggs all ready fertalized? How warm should the tank be?

  22. Bria

    So I caught a girl tree frog and she is pregnant.How big of a water dish sould I put in there tank? How deep? Are the eggs all ready fertalized? How warm should the tank be?

  23. jane Post author

    Hi,
    Please note that when a female is ready to lay her eggs (up to 400), she will be interested in finding a male to fertilize them. The male will find a suitable site (shallow water with aquatic plants) and will call to local females. If a female shows up, the male will fertilize the eggs by discharging sperm onto the eggs. The tadpoles hatch in about a week and become frogs in two months.
    I’d suggest you let your frog go. She will know what to do. It’s best to look for eggs if you are interested in raising a tadpole into a frog. Good luck! -Hester Jane

  24. Crissy N.

    I caught alot of Tadpoles last year in the late summer so i took them in and fed them and stuff and now i have some left over and since when they were fullygrown when there was snow out. can i release them now?
    -crissy n.

  25. jane Post author

    You didn’t say where you live. But if it was here in MD, I would let them go on a warm day. It is important to return them to the same location too.
    Good luck.
    Hester Jane

  26. Harry

    I have about fifty tadpoles and in a ten gallon tank and they are getting bigger and I am waiting for them to grow their leg I can’t wait but will they be okay thank you harry

  27. Tracy

    Hello I live in central PA. I caught 13 Tadpoles so my kids can watch them grow into frogs. I plan on keeping at least one or two as pets. I love frogs and I used to have a pretty green tree frog I bought from the pet store. The others I plan on releasing them. How can I tell what kind of frogs I have? From the way it looks I have two different types. They are not black so I know they are not toads. 4 of them have all 4 legs, and 9 of them only have the back legs. I have been searching hoping to find out what kind of frogs they are with no success. The 9 I have look like they could be tree frogs because they sorta look like the ones you have pictured more rounded with eyes at the side of their heads. The other ones look way different im not sure if its because they have all for legs but they have more of a pattern like irregular dots. Not sure if your able to give me info on how to tell what kind of frog they are. Thank you.

  28. maureen

    My tadpoles are starting to get their back legs. Do I still need to feed them or are they getting their nutrients from their tails? Thanks:-D

  29. jane Post author

    Tracy, If you live in Maryland I might be able to help. Could you send pictures? Also, it is important to know the date the pictures were taken because the time of year is a big clue to their identity because different frogs bread at different times.If you don’t live in MD, You should try looking up what frogs are in your area.The department of natural resources usually has this information online. I hope you are having fun!
    Hester Jane

  30. Pingback: Raising A Spring Peeper: Tadpole to Frog | Fun In The Making

  31. James

    We had a wet fall at our farm in southern Ontario and in late Sptember when we brought in all of our house plants (very numerous) we found a wood frog which we captured and returned to nature. However in early March we noticed one, then two tree frogs sunning themselves on plants on sunny days. They are very quiet and based on the droppings getting enough to eat. Standing water under orchids etc. seems to keep them moist when they want a bath. We would not consider putting them outdoors now as the winter has been very cold and their cousins are likely under a healthy blanket of snow. The house plants will return outdoors in early June. Any thoughts on whether our little friends will breed and how to send them home happily?

  32. jane Post author

    I’ve heard of this- tree frogs hiding in flowerpots and then finding themselves inside for the winter. I do believe they didn’t mind. They would probably send you a thank you note if they could. I would be surprised though if they tried to breed during the winter. I have seen them lay eggs in as little as a large bucket of water.

  33. Chris

    We have many gray tree frog tadpoles on our pool cover, some turning into tiny green frogs. We need to remove the cover and want to relocate them. No ponds in the immediate area, only rivers and streams, which probably isn’t ideal. We’re willing to make a temporay habitat but I’m guessing there are at least 100 or more. How big of a “temporary pond” would we need and about how long before they will leave the temporary pond? We have a lot of these gray tree frogs in the area, I’m listening to them sing right now. We live in Wisconsin. Thanks

  34. jane Post author

    It is common for tree frogs to lay their eggs in people’s pools. If you had a kiddie pool you could transfer them into that instead. Don’t treat the water in any way. Let the algae grow for the tadpoles to eat. They will take 6 weeks or more to turn into frogs. They grow slower when food is limited.

  35. Tamara Stromquist

    I was netting mosquito larvae out of my rainbarrels (for my goldfish) and discovered oddles of treefrog tadpoles (I’m in Oregon). I fished out about 60 to raise inside. They LOVE the organic rice-based baby formula I’ve been feeding them. It’s dry, very fine & I just sprinkle it on top of their water several times a day. (Fresh water every day.) As they get bigger I also feed fish food flakes & keep some duckweed in their pail-homes. As they get big I separate them from the smaller ones. I put the first batch of 9 into one of my water lily tubs after they showed all four legs. The rest of the mob will probably be set loose at a nearby river area. I have a yard filled with flowers and shrubs etc. but I already get serenaded in the front and back areas so don’t really need a population explosion. (When they feed upside down u can see that their tummies are irridescent. Interesting twerps.) Good luck everyone!

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