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I see the little black tadpoles in my pond every year how do they get from tiny little tadpoles to full grown frogs? – Pond & Lake Q & A

I see the little black tadpoles in my pond every year how do they get from tiny little tadpoles to full grown frogs?

I see the little black tadpoles in my pond every year how do they get from tiny little tadpoles to full grown frogs? Troy – Demotte, IN

Anyone that has had a pond or is near water has probably heard the call of the bull frog. The low call heard that keeps us up at night, is from the male frog during mating season. Soon after, up to 20,000 eggs are laid and tiny tadpoles appear and begin their journey to adulthood.

Tadpoles will begin feeding on algae or other forms of plant life in their area but may also eat eggs or compete for food against other species of frogs if necessary. Since the tadpole stage offers little defense mechanism, many of the tadpoles are not able to survive, though not all are lost as there are a couple ways they are able to escape danger. Coloration makes it easy for them to blend in with surroundings. When you first walk up to the pond you may not notice them right away. At least not until you disturb them and they begin to swim. This movement is defense number two. Their small mass and quick tail allows them to swim hastily away from the opposing threat. If by some chance their tail can’t get out of the way quick enough, have no fear, the tadpole is able to just grow a new one.

As the tadpole continues to growth it will begin to develop eyes, gills, mouth and teeth to continue feeding. After some rapid growth spurts the tadpole can reach up to 6” in length before growing any legs. This process generally takes up to 3 years to complete.

Finally the legs begin to grow. The back legs start first and then the front legs. Now the tadpoles become more mobile, they lose their gills, develop lungs and a hard skeleton. At this point you can see the tadpole begin to take the shape of a frog. The last thing to go is the tail.

The growth process continues as the frog can now feed on insects and other tasty treats that may pass by until the coming spring when they too will join in the spring time calling.

12 Responses

  1. I have my first tadpoles this year. They are in a fountain by my back porch. Last Saturday morning, I saw the frog I assume is the mother just hanging around the fountain side. Later in the afternoon, I saw many eggs. I went out of town earlier this week and returned Thursday to a huge number of tiny, fat tadpoles. I have noticed there are now 2 small, dull green frogs living in the fountain with the babies. They are not toads…. I am guessing a bull frog type. Since they have moved into the fountain, I will not treat for algae and mosquito larvae. How long might I expect them to live in my fountain?

    • The length of time depends on the specific type of frogs they are. Bullfrogs take a long time to mature into frogs and will stay in the water until they have at least their hind and front legs. After that they may venture a little further out but will remain close until they loose their tail.

  2. our tadpoles are much smaller and mature in a matter of weeks….they seem to be from tree frogs and other small frogs that are hopping about all over…smaller than a dime, some are black, some are speckled dark grn. You have to be careful walking around our small(2200 gal) pond. We have had it going since 2007, and these tiny tadpoles are in there every spring and gone by mid summer.

  3. Correct me if I am wrong but the little “black” tadpoles are actually toads and not frogs. They also turn into toads the same year and not 2-3 like frogs.

  4. We live on wetlands in SE North Carolinia. The bullfrogs eat our goldfish so I had to eliminate them. They are a real problem. After the first one they call others, so you have eliminate all of them quickly.
    Larry Wyte

  5. can you tell what happens to turtles in a pond with mud/muck bottom
    don’t they need to come up for air?

    • Hi Jan,

      Turtles can spend a lot of time underwater but they do come up for air. Typically they would rest in the shallowedges of the pond.

  6. I’m confused by this answer. I have tadpoles in my ornamental pond every year. I have put them into fishtanks so my grandchildren can watch them grow. The tadpoles are anywhere from 1-1 1/2″ to 2-3″ depending on the type of frog. Within 4-6 weeks after hatching, they have legs and I let them out into the garden surrounding my pond. What type of tadpoles grow to 6″ and take 3 years to develop legs??

  7. Teeth, really! No amphibian that I’m aware of has teeth! Come on, I like your site and the great information in your weekly emails, but PLEASE correct this!!!

    Sincerely, Kathy Shields

    • Hi Kathy,

      Actually frogs/tadpoles do have some teeth though they are not in rows of broad teeth that are found in humans or other mammals. They are small cone-like structures, made out of the same materials that are used mainly just to aid in food intake as the tadpole is growing.

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