By Charlotte Owen
Something amazing is happening, and if you’re really lucky it’s happening in your own back garden. It’s frogspawn season and the miracle of metamorphosis is underway in ponds, lakes and puddles across Sussex – and in tanks, buckets and washing-up bowls too. Rearing tadpoles is relatively simple and endlessly fascinating, and can also give the local frog population a welcome boost by helping a few more tadpoles complete their perilous transformation into miniature frogs.
If you’re collecting frogspawn, take only a small amount (20 is plenty) preferably from a garden pond, with permission from the owner if it’s not your own. Collect some pond water too or fill a clean container with rain water, but never use tap water – it contains chemicals that are harmful to amphibians, and your frogspawn won’t thrive. Tadpoles develop best in warm, shallow water so position your tank somewhere that will get plenty of natural light (but not full sun) and add some pond weed. Tadpoles are vegetarian at first and will naturally eat algae and other pond plants but you can feed them boiled lettuce, spinach and other greens. Add a small amount at a time and gradually increase this as the tadpoles get bigger and hungrier. They are very efficient eating machines, which inevitably leads to a lot of waste coming out the other end, so you’ll need to change their water every now and then to keep things clean.
As the tadpoles grow from tiny black squiggles into big-headed bruisers they become more carnivorous and the easiest way to add some meat to the menu is to sprinkle a small amount of goldfish food, which they will gobble up with gusto. Their back legs will develop first, followed by front legs and at this stage they need to be able to crawl out of the water. Float a clean sponge on the surface or gradually lower the water level and add some pebbles for them to climb onto. Release your fully-formed froglets into vegetation near the pond they came from, and in a couple of years they will hopefully return as mature adults ready to spawn the next generation.
It’s tadpole time! #MondayMotivation pic.twitter.com/6CxZc5eoq8
— Sussex Wildlife Trust 🐸 (@SussexWildlife) April 1, 2019