The Toad Chronicles

May 30, 2008

Okay, I knew nature is exciting. Really exciting! But oh, my goodness is it fascinating! and strange! and beautiful! And, well downright weird!

My SIL sent us pictures of her toad in her backyard pond. And in the water with it is what at first blush appeared to be some black string that was left in the pond.


Little did I know what exactly what that string-y thing was. Those, my friends ARE the eggs!!!! (and yes, I do recognize the irony of me being a former scientist and NOT knowing how they laid their eggs. but in my defense, I studied at the DNA/molecular level of humans. I had no time to study – or more honestly, no interest in studying – the breeding habits of animals). It’s amazing what rocks my world now that I have kids.


Does that not totally make you go WOW!!!!

How does the mama lay those eggs in spirals? Is that crazy or not?

And in a few weeks, the eggs will start looking like tadpoles


Nature is COOL!

Frog/Toad Fast Facts

Breeding: In the spring when breeding starts, the male anurans will be the first to come to breeding ponds. Here they use their specialized calls to attract female mates. The male anuran will climb on top of the female’s back and clasp the female around her “waist” in what is called amplexus, and the eggs are fertilized in the water as she lays them.

Eggs: The number of eggs that are laid and the length of time that it takes for them to hatch varies upon species. For example, Bullfrog tadpoles take two to three years to metamorphose (grow into adult frogs). The average length is between 6 to 21 days after fertilization.

Tadpoles: consist of gills, a mouth and a tail. Immediately after hatching, they will usually stick themselves to weeds or grasses in the water. After about seven to ten days, the tadpoles will start swimming around and feeding on algae. After about six to nine weeks, the tadpoles start to absorb their tails and grow legs and arms. Now the tadpoles will eat plants and dead insects floating on the water.

Froglet: By approximately twelve weeks, the tadpole has a tiny tail stub and will soon leave the water.

Frog: Between twelve to sixteen weeks, the froglet totally absorbs its stubby tail and leaves the water becoming an adult frog. And the cycle begins again in the spring.

It’s awesome, isn’t it?

Now, I wanna pond with froggies and fishies in it too!

We’ve got tadpoles!
June 13, 2008 by growinginpeace

And we didn’t even have to buy them. My sister in law’s pond contained quite a few eggs (as shown in this previous post).


The kids and I are soo excited about it. We just hope we can grow them up without killing them. We started with about 10 and we are down to about 6. A few died in the collection and transportation of them.

We are faithfully cleaning out the tank daily, rinsing it really well, and using dechlorinated water, and feeding them tadpole food. I even purchased a few aquatic plants to help oxygenate the water.

Here’s their fishbowl, redecorated with some aquatic plants

It might be just me, but they seem to be happier since we added the plants.

Please send good vibes our way that they survive.

I think the tadpoles are dying…
June 22, 2008 by growinginpeace

I’m very sad. I think they got a bacteria or virus introduced when I tried to give them some new rocks to climb up on. I tried to do what they needed: changed water every day to every other day, fed them but not too much, used dechlorinated water, bought some aquatic plants to keep the water oxygenated.

I don’t know what went wrong. When I saw that one of them looked quite bloated and started to float upside down, I knew this wasn’t right. So when I read that indicated dropsy (or edema), I knew it wasn’t good. I separated out that one, and another one that started to look a little swollen into another tank. I was hoping only those two were affected.

And I’m incredibly sad because they were beginning to morph. Some were growing their back legs already. At least when they were just tadpoles, they didn’t look like much, just fish like. But now with these little toad legs (yes, I’m pretty sure they were toads and not frogs by the way they laid eggs and the fact they were all black), they started to look like they were going to make it and we were going to have all 6 survive to be toadlets.

But now, they are all getting pale and bloated. I have cleaned the little fish bowls I have them in again, and changed their water completely out, but I have very little hope for these guys. I have put them outside for now, because I will be very upset if my girls happen upon them tomorrow before I do.

I feel really badly for them, and guilty too for doing something wrong that got all of them sick. I just don’t know what to do for them. I don’t even know how to make their last days better. I know if we just left them in the pond they were in at my SILs house, they may have been eaten by the fishes, but maybe they would have been okay.
I wish I could fix this, but I don’t think I can. I’ve already prepared my oldest two for the possibility of them all getting sick, and I hope they don’t get too upset. Though I’m 38, and I was already crying about it, so I really don’t know how a 4.5 and 6 year old are going to handle it. Hopefully better than I have.
Okay, I’m updating. It’s now Sunday morning and four of them don’t look as bad as they did yesterday. After cleaning out their container and adding only the tadpoles, dechlorinated water, NovAqua (which has echinacea and vitamins in it), and some more tadpole pellets, they seem to be doing better this morning. I was really not looking forward to having them be in more distress than they seemed yesterday. They looked positively frightening last night with their paleness and you could almost see into their insides. And they had some redness going on too. I just don’t know what that was.
Even the one that was floating upside down is no longer doing upside down today. I have no idea what is going to happen to these guys, but maybe they will have some small chance of surviving.

Tadpole update…

June 25, 2008 by growinginpeace

I just thought I’d update with what’s been eating up all my free time lately – trying to nurse these tadpoles back to health. And I’m going to say that I’m glad growing human babies happens within a closed system. If I had to watch the metamorphosis of my zygote into a fetus (aside from the occasional ultrasound), I would have seriously stressed for 9 months straight. As it was, I was only moderately stressed, and only infrequently.

As for the toad tadpoles, they look sickly from time to time. One of them definitely was doing badly when he was floating upside down. I segregated him into his own fishbowl with another guy that wasn’t doing so well. I washed the fishbowl carefully, and then added NovAqua Plus and made sure my water was dechlorinated with Amquel Plus before using it. I added the Amquel Plus and let it sit out for 24 hours before using. I always keep a plastic jug or two full of dechlorinated water for water changes.

After a few days, the tadpole floating on it’s back near the surface was back at the bottom of the bowl the right way. I still don’t think he’s out of the water, because he is growing very slowly.

Then, I have kept the other four that were doing mostly okay by themselves in another container. I still have been changing their water daily, and following the procedure above, worried that they were becoming sick too. Because almost every day, they’d start getting translucent to the point of being able to see their insides. I have no idea if this is a normal part of metamorphosis, even though I’ve searched online, it doesn’t seem to mean that way. Every time I read about paleness in tadpoles, it usually meant something bad – like not enough oxygen, not enough food (or too much food) resulting in too much tadpole excrement, chlorine contamination, or bacteria or viruses making the tadpoles sick. Or maybe the aquatic plants I brought in from the pet store had been contaminated.

I don’t know. I have read so many places that taking care of tadpoles was easy, but I’m not so sure of that. I have nurtured these critters probably more than they needed to be (and traumatized them by so many water changes), but I’m uneasy waking up in the morning to see my poor tadpoles go from black to translucent. They looked positively freaky and ill. They may have been okay, but every time I changed their water (which was daily) and then stuck them outside in the cool night air (partly just in case they died overnight and my children got to them before I did), they seemed to perk up and regain their coloration.

I was trying really hard to get a good picture of one of the translucent ones, but I don’t know if I ever did.

At any rate, here are the “healthy” ones now:


Here’s a closeup of the one toad with 3 legs. I sure hope he’s got another one in there just waiting to pop out. I thought they should both come out at the same time, just small and then grow big, but maybe this one got injured in my water changes. I hope not. But I swear he didn’t have the front leg this morning, so maybe the other one is coming soon.


Now, I know I said I hoped only one of these critters were going to survive, but really, I would really feel bad if I caused them to die or be deformed because I wasn’t careful enough.

Oh, and I wanted to share some lovely tadpole/froglet pictures from Pilgrim Parent I came across today.

Toadlet updates
June 26, 2008 by growinginpeace

Well I guess the toadlets are going to make it after all….the three-legged toadlet did get his other front leg later by dinnertime (you can’t see it in the pic, though). Poof, just like that it was there. Crazy.


My toadlets aren’t even bigger than a penny yet.

You can see one is already digesting it’s tail. The other one is not as far along, but soon he will be losing his tail too.

I have read it only takes about 30 hours to lose the tail, and then we’ll have to start catching bugs to feed it. Youtube has a great video from a user named FlyingScience of how to feed your tadpoles and toadlets.

Method 1: pick up a rock and use a small paintbrush to brush off the tiny bugs into a bowl
Method 2: set a container of cantaloupe seeds outside to collect gnats
Method 3: use a net to scoop up tiny insects from the grass
Method 4: tape a cylindrical container with a handmade funnel inside (not sure I remember what was used) underneath a lit porch light. Some will fall into the funnel when coming to the light but won’t be able to get back out.

Method 1, 2, and 3 seems like the best way for now.

Feeding juvenile toads is nearly impossible…
July 1, 2008 by growinginpeace

Here’s some updated pictures of the toads:

One that was losing it’s tail and wanting to leave the water.


And one climbing up the corner of his container:


They weren’t kidding when they said that feeding juvenile toads/frogs are very difficult. It’s impossible to get these guys to eat:

I’ve tried:

1. ants – nope. they crawled all over the toads, and the toads would get freaked out

2. 1/4 crickets – the smallest I could find at the pet store – nope. not small enough and the toads got freaked out. The pet store does not have pinhead crickets, which is small enough for them to eat.

3. flightless fruit flies – nope. not small enough.

Not even when I made them a fancy feeding station (just a Glad food container with holes poked in the top), hoping that less area would help.


They just ignored the fruit flies in there.

I’m almost about to give up. We may have to release them to the wild. I wasn’t even sure they were capable of opening their mouths. I have read that some toads are anorexic because they have too many parasites rendering them too ill to eat.

Except last night, I know for a fact that the toads DID, in fact, EAT something. They ate a mouthful of coconut husk fiber – something I threw in there container for their bedding and for them to hide in. That just about freaked ME out when I saw them eat it, but then I read online that coconut husk is probably the safest thing they could ingest.

Maybe my toads are vegetarians? Sigh.

But probably not. They seem to be American toads (not 100% positive), and if they are, they can eat as many as 1000 bugs in a day when they are adults (if they ever make it that far). And when they are adults, they don’t really care a whit what they eat – spiders, crickets, slugs, flies, fruit flies, you name it.

I have learned that they are nocturnal, so they probably have been ticked off that I attempted to feed them during the day, and didn’t give them any bedding to hunker down in while I tried to use the feeding station.

But still, I’m totally puzzled why they won’t eat what I have offered them (except for the fact that they are slightly too big). But come on! If you had a choice between starving and having a juicy bug in front of you, even if slightly too big, wouldn’t you at least try to eat it?


I’m going to try harder to find some smaller bugs around here. These little guys have come so far, I can’t let them down now.

Well, we had a good run while it lasted…
July 1, 2008 by growinginpeace

I’m sad to report that we lost a toad. I figured this may happen. When I saw the toad last night take a big mouthful of coconut husk fiber, I knew it couldn’t be a good thing. He seemed to be doing all right when I went to bed, but this morning, I awoke and saw on toad posed as if he was going to jump. I was going to get him out so I could try once again to put him in the feeding station, after I dug around and found really tiny ants. But when I moved him, he didn’t move his pose. Right then I knew it was over. He was stiff. He went on to toad heaven.

I felt really bad about it, and I pushed around the coconut husk to look for the other one, almost certain it met with the same fate. Fortunately, I found it alive and hopping around. After telling my oldest about the dead toad (and her wanting to see it dead), we decided it would be best to release the living toad and she decided she wanted to bury the dead one.

So, we went to a local park that had a pond, and we decided to release him there. We found a nice shady spot near the water to live. My daughter said she hoped he would be all right out there, and I told her it was better he be free than to be cooped up with us.

We have one tadpole left, and he’s in the middle of morphing right now. He has his back and front legs, but he hasn’t ventured out of the water yet. I don’t even feel like trying to keep this one going once he becomes fully toad. I don’t think I can handle another toad death. I’ll let nature take its course with him, instead of trying to keep him from ending up the same way.

One of my daughter’s classmates brought in a couple of toads, about twice the size of our little guys. I was a bit jealous, because I know if our toads had been that big, they wouldn’t have a problem eating the bugs we have. I asked him how long he had his toads and what he fed them to get them so big, thinking that this little kid knew something I didn’t. Apparently, he just got them from a swamp near his friends house. Yeah, that sealed it for me that these little guys would have done better if I just let them go a few days ago.

On a good note, though, when we did go to the park, someone decided to bring their pet tortoise. I talked with the mom of said tortoise, and I found out that she had gotten him after a toad of her daughter’s had died. He was a beautiful creature, about the size of a basketball (not including legs).
So of course the girls thought it was really neat to see a real tortoise, and forgot all about the toad we just released.

The woman got him off craigslist for free. And she thought that was such a bargain, until she researched African tortoise, and found out that they grew as much as 150 pounds and lived 50-80 years.

So I didn’t feel so bad thinking I was nuts for trying to keep toads. Apparently I’m not the only nut out there.

A toad! A toad! We found a toad!
August 8, 2008 by growinginpeace
We were at the park for my almost 5 year old daughter’s last day of sports camp. They were playing at the playground and I was watching from the sidelines when all of a sudden I found a full grown toad.

Of course, knowing the fiasco of our other attempt to grow a toad from a tadpole, I’ve been keeping my eyes out, hoping we’d get lucky and find one, and sure enough, today we did. Though in all honesty, I didn’t think we’d quite simply stumble across one so easily. I figured we have to do some work to find one. Fortunately, we had a disposable plastic cup to take him (or her) home in.

And here is our specimen


S/he isn’t all that happy about being in captivity, but we will keep it around for a while, and get it some crickets to eat. This time I’m pretty confident it will be able to handle the crickets. In a little while we will release it back to the wild.

August 23, 2008 by growinginpeace


Seriously, PLEASE?! Stoopid hooman!


14 Responses to The Toad Chronicles

  1. Lisa says:

    I Love this! Those eggs in the water are the coolest things I’ve ever seen! My girls were amazed! What a cutie pie toad. I really love your site. We would make an amazing pair! 😉

  2. theexplorationstation says:

    Thanks Lisa – I wish I had someone nearby who was a lot like me. Sad though it is, I live on a street in middle of suburbia where every mom works, so I have to keep up doing things with the kids just to keep me going.

    I love your blog too. I keep coming back to it because I’m gathering ideas!


  3. FrogGirl says:

    I love this blog…I have run tadpole rescue efforts since I was a kid…our pool had a batch every spring:) I am now all grown up and found tadpoles in my dog’s baby pool! I know none of them will make it in there. I have been out with my net trying to get them all so I can release them in a small pond where they might make it. I have about 100 so far…only 500 or so left. My husband thinks I’m crazy but I don’t care. best of luck with the pet toad.

  4. theexplorationstation says:

    Thanks – we did end up releasing him back into the wild at the end of the season last year. I thought it was more humane to let him go near a pond in a pretty park nearby.

  5. colette says:

    We collect tadpoles every spring, put them in a fish tank with 50percent pondwater and 50 tap water left in the sun for a few days, and leave well alone….we have 40 maturing this year, we never change the water completely just remove a 3rd once a week and replace with same amount, never mess about with the enviroment, feed fish food only and the odd plant if we go back to the pond to collect ….. we dont have fatalities either, I do believe the less they are handled or stressed the better. the only problem we have every year is deceiding where to release the frog and toadlets.
    good luck next year.

  6. theexplorationstation says:

    Collette –

    I am sure the less handled they are the better…from everything I was reading, that’s true.

    But the other thing is once one is sick they can easily spread it to the others.

    They already might have been stressed from being transported 1/2 hour from my sister in law’s backyard to ours…half of them died before they got inside the house.

    I am chalking this up to a learning experience. If we collect tadpoles again, I’ll try to do it the way you suggest and see what happens.

  7. Nancy says:

    This is a crazy question! But you’d sure know the answer… what does frog poop look like? We have a “million” frogs in our back yard. All different types and sizes. All the sudden we have little black balls on our deck around our potted tomatoe plants. Possibly they’re drinking the water in the tomatoe pans and they think it’s the bathroom too. At 1st we thought it was a raccoon (as they were eating the tomatoes) but this accumulation happend during the day Monday and the raccoon’s come @night. Any other idea??? Thanks for your help 😀

  8. theexplorationstation says:

    Nancy –

    No, it’s not a crazy question. But most frog/toad poop doesn’t come out in balls. It comes out in 1-2 inch long cylindrical shaped poop.

    Do you have rabbits? That’s the only kind of poop I can think of that might be round pellets.

    Or…wait…do mice poop round pellets? Gosh, I should remember this because we had a mice infestation one winter…

  9. Alecia says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog! We have a tadpole right now. I found him belly up when I got home this afternoon. I thought for sure he was dead!! 😦 I got on-line (which is how I found your site) to see if sometimes they swim upside down and one site said that they can do that to feed on stuff at the surface of the water. But we took him out of his habitat and gave him a little more fresh water and food. Now we are just waiting with fingers crossed!

  10. nevaeh says:

    that is sooo cooolll!!! i have toad tadpoles in my fish tank . most of them hade all ready turned into tiny toads. i had 23 tadpoles. only 2 of them died. i learned quite alot from you
    – thanks!

  11. Polly says:

    If you ever find yourself in another tadpole/baby toad rescue event, try bug traps to capture very tiny insects. Very easy to make & use. Instructions: Using a regular size piece of paper (white worked well for me) make a funnel making sure one end is bigger than porch light bulb & oosite end will fit inside the opening you will make in a container lid. Secure with tape. Fasten funnel, small end just inside lid of a small plastic lid with container. I have used gatorade bottles, to go cups, etc. Now attach lid to funnel. I have used string &/or a chopstick placed through 2 holes at top of funnel to hang just beneath a porch light. Now just attach container to lid, turn on light at dark, & collect lots of bugs either in the am or if you like, 1-2x during nigjt & am.

  12. Kieran ohare says:

    I’ve got 24 tadpoles but nothing happening and all I can see is one swimming about should I start to worry

  13. Kieran ohare says:

    Shoud you chAnge the water as I’ve already got tadpoles in the bucket if yes that could be the reason 23 of them are dead

    • theexplorationstation says:

      In natural settings, the tadpoles live in very “grungy” water. however, if you use tap water, then you need to let it set out for 24 hours so the chlorine evaporates. Also, I used a product from the pet store to dechlorinate if I didn’t want to wait that long and I would add Amquel Plus sometimes.

      I think if you were to have that many tadpoles, I would have divided them into two or more containers – in case some got sick in one container you can minimize the spread of infection.

      Sorry to hear you lost them. That’s unfortunate. ;(

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