Tadpole Tank Setup
Tadpoles are not just fish. They are intricate little creatures which will transform from breathing water to breathing air. Here are some of the key things to know when you are setting up your tadpole tank, so you grow strong, healthy little frogs.
First off, you've probably seen pictures on the web of people dumping tadpoles into a Tupperware, tossing in some iceberg lettuce, and leaving them alone for weeks at a time. This is a situation to avoid.
Tadpoles breathe their oxygen out of the water. If the water is stagnant and not refreshed, there won't be any oxygen in it to breathe. It would be like putting a human into a sealed-up room. At some point the human would run out of oxygen and die. The same is true for little tadpoles. Also, an environment like this is very unnatural for tadpoles. It doesn't give them the nooks and crannies they seek in nature. I've seen tadpoles in tanks like this thrash and flop, looking vainly for somewhere to hide and feel safe. You don't want to stress your little tadpoles like that.
So how should you set up a healthy tank for your tadpoles?
You want to size your tank so you have a liter of water for every 5 tadpoles. A liter is about a quarter of a gallon. In this 5-gallon tank there are 20 tadpoles. There's probably about 8 liters of water in there, given how much room the rock is taking up. That's plenty of space for the little tadpoles to swim and grow.
Note that the larger froglets of course take up much more space. When they get to this point you want to aim for about 1 liter of water per froglet.
You want gravel at the bottom of your tank. Tadpoles poop. A lot. It might not be so bad when they are tiny, and only make tiny little poops, but as they grow larger they can fill the tank with poop at an impressive rate. You can't just dump the water out for reasons we'll discuss later. So you want gravel at the bottom to catch and hold the poop during the day until you are able to do some cleaning.
Have about 1-2 inches of gravel so that it's deep enough to catch some of the poop, while not being so deep that it takes up a lot of space and becomes hard to clean. Also, aim for gravel with rounded edges. Tadpoles often wiggle along the bottom, snuffling with their mouth while looking for things to eat. You don't want rough, sharp edges in the gravel that might hurt them.
Nooks and Crannies
Tadpoles have it hard-wired into their little brains that they want to hide somewhere safe. Fish and other creatures would eat tadpoles in the wild. If you have a blank tank with nothing else in it, this is stressful to the little tadpoles. Give them places to hide. Under rock edges, within aquarium decorations, you name it. They love to snuggle under piles of romaine lettuce. The more hiding places, the better. Of course, don't clutter your tank up, either. They love to zip along at high speed, so give them open areas to swim in.
Rock / Float
Your tadpoles are going to metamorphosis in an amazing way. They will go from breathing water to breathing air. Once they get to the air breathing stage they'll want a place to rest where they don't have to tread water all the time. A rock or float with a gentle slope is key. They have to be able to wriggle / hop their way up the side of the rock to rest on top of it. Make sure the rock is large enough to fit several tadpoles, while still leaving ample water around it for the tadpoles to swim and enjoy life.
The texture of the rock is important. If it's glass-smooth, the tadpole will have a challenge getting up it. They could just keep slipping back down. On the other hand, if it's too rough, the tadpole could scrape its delicate little fingers or toes on the material.
A basking location can seem the same as a rock or float - but it serves a different purpose. Where a rock or float is somewhere for a froglet or young frog to come fully up out of the water, a basking location is where a tiny tadpole can rest in very shallow water. They love to do this. It makes them feel safe and relaxed. Be sure there are a few basking locations in your tank. A tadpole should be able to swim easily into the shallow area, and then turn around to swim back into the main tank area. It's fine if your basking spot is the ramp of the rock or the float. That will serve the purpose fine.
Having a filter for your tadpoles' water is critical. I've got a whole page on this, to explain why.
Tadpoles and a Water Filter
Tadpole Care Feeding and Raising - What do Tadpoles Eat and Need to Thrive?
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This step by step manual helps ensure that your little tadpoles grow up to be happy, healthy frogs. From choosing the tank to designing the menu, from checking the pH to adjusting the temperature, I'll ensure your cute, tiny balls of energy grow up into a joyful friend.
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