What Do Tadpoles Eat?

Not all tadpoles are carnivores, as they do not have “teeth” to chew with. So what do tadpoles eat?
What do tadpoles eat?

Anuranic amphibians undergo a complicated life cycle that causes them to be completely transformed to reach adulthood.  In other words, they undergo a metamorphosis process where they change their larval appearance and turn into the typical frogs or toads. Before that, however, they live like amphibians and live, eat and behave differently than adult anurans.

Despite their importance, little attention is paid to the frog and paddle larvae, as they are only a few weeks old at this stage. Due to their variability, much of their diet, behavior, and characteristics are overlooked. In this article, we will therefore show you more about their biological structure. Read on and find out what they are, what they eat and additional facts about tadpoles.

What is a tadpole?

Frog fry represent part of the life cycle of anuric amphibians. The appearance of the larvae is very similar to a small fish, and their long tail and outer gills give them a distinct appearance. This stage is unique to tailless amphibians (anurans), as their sister group (caudates) have larvae that are more similar to adult animals.

In other words, these amphibians are those that hatch after the incubation of the egg and they remain in this state for an average of 1 to 3 months. During this time, they undergo their metamorphosis, which is a complete transformation from their “fish” appearance to the shape of a frog or toad. This process is progressive, so each structure emerges step by step.

One could say that this cycle summarizes years of evolution in a few months, as this change is similar to the transition of living beings from water to land. If you want to see it in a simpler way, you can compare the metamorphosis process with what the fish had to do to give rise to the rest of the vertebrates. This is one of the most fascinating features of amphibians.

What tadpoles eat.

What do tadpoles eat?

The tadpole’s main purpose is to grow as fast as possible to meet the requirements for its transformation. Therefore, their diet should include foods that are abundant in water. This explains why they are herbivorous organisms, as plants are usually one of the easiest resources to find. In addition to this, they can also feed on sediment or by filtering the water when they swim.

Although it has been said that tadpoles prefer to eat plants, the way they do it depends a lot on the structure of their mouth. They can actually have a type of very simple teeth called keratodonts , which they use to gnaw on stones or grind food. Depending on how hard these “teeth” are, the larvae can eat animal remains or other tadpoles.

The latter may interest you, as we mentioned above that they were herbivores. In rare cases, however, tadpoles are more opportunistic and eat what is available in their environment. In the end, it is most important for them to grow, as they in the water can fall victim to many predators.

What do I do if I have caught a tadpole?

Since frogs and some toads have become popular pets, it is likely that you will someday consider raising them. Therefore, you may be wondering what tadpoles eat in captivity or what you need to do to take care of them.

First of all, it is worth remembering that the laws of some countries do not allow the collection of eggs, tadpoles or specimens of certain frogs and toads. This means that you must be careful about buying, selling and catching protected species that are not allowed in your area. Also, keep in mind that they are living beings and not toys. You have to make sure they have what it takes to survive.

Frog fry food in captivity

Once the tadpoles are installed and attached to their artificial habitat , you need to feed them with some type of vegetation. They have a special fondness for the genus Elodea , but if you manage to get algae of a different type as a complement, it would be much better. Fresh salad and spinach work quite well, just remember to wash them well to avoid illness.

It is also possible to use commercial pellets for fish whose diet consists mostly of algae, such as spirulina. Avoid them if the properties of the processed feed do not meet the nutritional requirements. Many varieties use materials of animal origin, which can damage the fry. All of the above are closely linked to the tadpoles’ herbivorous habits, which you remember are their main way of earning a living.

How many times a day do tadpoles eat?

When it comes to quantity, there are no strict rules. This is largely due to the availability of nutrients that each species has in its natural environment. The general recommendation, however, is to give two to three meals a day in small amounts. This way you can observe how much uneaten food remains and then adjust the dose to reduce wastage.

Although their food is usually crushed, this is not necessary, but it does give you better control over the quantities. As their limbs grow, the tadpoles will start consuming meat, so you can continue with pellets or start with an insectivorous diet. At this stage, it is better to use larvae, worms or some microarthropods that supplement their nutritional needs.

If you see a group of tadpoles in a stream, you may be tempted to take them home. Taking care of them, however, is not a game and should not be taken lightly, because we are talking about a living being, not a toy. All species have a special beauty within themselves that can be appreciated in their natural environments.


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