Q: Do I need to do anything special for my water garden frogs this winter?
Toni – Philadelphia, PA
A: Despite their innocuous demeanor, frogs are tough little critters. They have evolved ways to survive in some of the harshest climates on the earth, including the Arctic Circle, Mojave Desert and everywhere in between. So don’t worry: The ones living in your pond – likely a type of green aquatic frog or bullfrog – can handle some cold or frozen conditions.
Frogs are so good at the cold life, in fact, that portions of their bodies will partially freeze. Ice crystals form in places like the body cavity, bladder and under the skin, but a high concentration of glucose in the frog’s vital organs prevents them from freezing. A partially frozen frog will stop breathing, its heart will stop beating and it will appear quite dead. But when the outside temperature warms above freezing, the frog’s frozen portions will thaw, and its heart and lungs resume activity.
They can survive those cold temperatures, but you still should provide an optimized environment for your web-footed pals. Here are three things you can do to help them hibernate comfortably this winter.
- Mind the Liquid, Gas: For aquatic frogs to survive a freezing winter, ponds should be 18 to 24 inches deep and have an open hole in the ice for gas exchange. The depth ensures the water (and your frog friends) won’t freeze solid, which gives them a place to hibernate. The hole in the ice, kept clear with a bubbler or aerator, allows harmful gases to escape.
- Provide Oxygen-Rich Water: Aquatic frogs will spend a good portion of the winter just lying on top of the mud or only partially buried, but they typically hibernate underwater. They need to be near oxygen-rich water at all times, and you can provide that with an aeration system, like the KoiAir™ Water Garden Aeration Kit, which infuses the pond with essential oxygen
- Reduce Muck & Debris: These guys like a little mud, but you should keep that muck and debris to a minimum to keep toxic gases tamed and the water quality at its best. The beneficial bacteria in Seasonal Defense® makes the job easy. Bacteria works by breaking down leaves, sediment and scum during the late fall when water temperatures fall below 50° Fahrenheit.
You don’t need to worry about land-loving terrestrial frogs. They will normally hibernate on land, where they’ll burrow deep into the soil beneath the frost line, crawl into cracks and crevices in logs or rocks, or dig down as far as they can in leaf litter.
If you maintain your pond regularly and have it well-prepped for fall and winter, your aquatic frogs will be just fine. They’ll be croaking and playing and eating bugs again come spring!
Pond Talk: As fall and winter approach, do you do anything special for your aquatic frogs?