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Frog and Toad Care

Last Updated: 2/21/14

A male green frog at my 153 gallon pond on 9/4/00 on the left, and a female green frog at the same pond on 9/21/02 on the right.

On this page:
Feeding Frogs and Toads
Raising Green Frogs from Eggs to Adults
Frogs On Nets
Frogs and Fish

On other pages:
Salt and Frogs
Overwintering Amphibians

This page is about caring for pond frogs and toads.

Feeding Frogs and Toads

If you need to feed a frog or toad for some reason, there are a number of food choices. Adult frogs and toads only eat live animals or things that they think are alive (in other words, they are moving). Captive frogs and toads, as well as those in need in the wild due to drought, can be fed many live foods. When my green frogs needed a meal, I would just place a bug near them, and they would grab it with their long tongues. Frogs and toads generally do not take non-living foods. They can be rarely tricked in to eating dead animals by having them move. Tying an animal to a fishing line is not a good idea though as the frog or toad would then eat the fishing line as well. Pet stores sell feeding dishes that wiggle the food but I do not think too many animals fall for that. Really, you need live animals to feed frogs and toads. Otherwise, do not keep them in captivity.

Store bought choices to feed include mealworms (newborns, standards, giant, and king), earthworms (trout worms and larger night crawlers), and crickets (pinheads/newborns, small, and large) which come in various sizes and species to fit the animal being fed. Smaller frogs and toads (froglets and toadlets) may prefer live blackworms (an aquatic species), wingless fruit flies, or other tiny animals. You can also collect small insects and/or worms from outside as long as no chemicals were used in the area. For information on taking care of and breeding crickets and mealworms, see my sailfin lizard page. While bullfrogs and larger frogs will reportedly eat live fish such as minnows or small goldfish, they may not do so. Large frogs sometimes will also eat small mammals such as the mice that pet stores sell to feed to snakes. In my opinion, it is much easier to stick to insects. If you have land that you can visit, you can catch crickets, grasshoppers, flies, beetles, butterflies, and moths to feed frogs or toads. I would not suggest catching butterflies since they are often imperiled themselves but, in my ponds, the frogs ate butterflies almost exclusively in the summers of 1997 and 1998, much to my dismay. The poor butterflies could not resist the lily flowers. The frogs waited by the flowers and got almost every butterfly that visited. Lastly, nothing satiates a frog or toad better than a good old earthworm. These can be found outside by digging or bought at any pet store or bait shop. Salamanders and newts also require live foods which may include small fish, blackworms, bloodworms, earthworms, crickets, mealworms, wingless fruit flies, and countless other live insects and worms.

A frog-keeper named Larry sent me information on how he gets his frogs to eat freeze-dried crickets. He puts the cricket near the frog, shines a laser pointer on it, and wiggles the light. The frog thinks it is alive and eats it. Be sure to avoid shining the laser at the frog's eyes.

For information on raising mealworms to feed your frogs and other animals, see my mealworm page.

Raising Green Frogs from Eggs to Adults

A green frog tadpole in my 153 gallon pond on 7/4/01. This tadpole was about 14 months old and soon would turn into an adult frog.

This guide, while written specifically for green frogs, can be used for other species of toad and frog. The main differences are in the amount of time it takes tadpoles to develop, and their various sizes. Most frogs and toads change from eggs to adult in one season but green frogs and bullfrogs take more than a year to do this, and thus, must overwinter in ponds.

I have raised many green frog tadpoles (Rana clamitans) in my ponds. Eggs are laid from early May into early September here in Zone 6/7. Egg masses are about 3 inches in diameter. When the tadpoles first hatch, they are tiny and not poisonous, so all fish and other animals will eat them. They can be raised in a small pond (tub pond or kiddie pool which works well) or aquarium without other animals until they are large enough to not be eaten (depends on the size of your fish and the amount of plant cover the tadpoles have). The size of their home until fall (for spring and summer laid eggs) should be at least 20 gallons with about 50 gallons being ideal. A small air stone should help keep it oxygenated but do not use a pump or filter (if you want to save them all) because it will suck them in (my filter pads get covered in tadpoles). At first, like newborn fry, the tadpoles will just lay there, not move much, not eat, and do not look like tadpoles. They look flattened and not at all like tadpoles of any sort. After a few days, they will begin to swim around. They will eat algae and fish food. They may or may not eat hair algae but will eat other algae. You can add algae from your main pond to supplement their diet of fish food. I feed tadpoles Cheerios, goldfish flake food, pond floating pellet food, and algae tablets made for plecostomus catfish. Tadpoles will eat most fish foods. When I put in Cheerios, they all hitch on and spin it around like an amusement park ride. When I put in koi kookies (a koi treat), the kookie gets covered in a black mass shortly. One person says he raised toad tadpoles on rabbit pellets! So, you can try other foods but variety is best.

Change about a third of the water every week. This may be hard if there are a lot of tadpoles and little water. You can either run the water to be changed through a net to catch the tadpoles, toss the changed water with tadpoles into another pond (I do that since I have so many ponds), or discard some (to reduce their numbers). Sometimes, I just do not change the water since there are too many tadpoles, and they survive. By fall, they should be about 0.5 to 1 inch in length. Over winter, they must either be in a pond that will not freeze solid or indoors. If left outdoors, the pond needs to retain an opening in the ice using aeration or a de-icer. I have kept a few in my indoor pond over winter for the last few years, and they do well. By spring, they will have a growth spurt. By the following summer, they should reach about 2 inches or more in length. They are great algae eaters then and too big for the koi to eat (unless by accident) so they can be in with the koi. After 1 to 1.5 years, the tadpoles will metamorphosize into adult green frogs. The exact time required depends on temperature and food sources. They turn into adults about an inch in length and are so cute! By the end of that year, they will be up to a few inches long. By the following summer (two years after they were laid), they should be breeding for you. They only grow up to about 3 inches maximum and do not eat fish (at least, I have never seen mine eat any fish). I have lots of photos of my adult frogs on my various frog pages.

I would expect that out of one bunch of tadpoles (100-200), only have a few make it to adulthood which is fine because you do not want to be overrun! Many will starve, get eaten by each other or any animals that get to them, or die from ammonia, nitrite, and/or organic build up from overcrowding.

As adults, the green frogs can eat the foods mentioned above.

See also, the section on raising tadpoles.

Frogs on Nets

In the fall, when the pond is covered with a leaf net, a few frogs will inevitably decide to play trampoline on top of the net (watching a huge bullfrog is quite amusing). Some people use nets year-round to keep out predators. Frogs will get stuck on top of the net even more often in summer. To prevent frogs on the net in the fall, I always leave some areas of the net open or elevated at the edge for frogs to get in and out until they finally go into hibernation when it gets colder. If all the frogs are under the net when it goes on, and the net is sealed completely around the pond, then there would be no problem. But, there are going to be frogs who are off visiting another pond and come back or holes in the net where a frog can wiggle out. It is much easier to get out than back in! I have had frogs try to jam themselves through the net holes that are way too small instead of finding the edges and lifting them up (wouldn't that be nice!) to crawl under.

If you find a frog bouncing on top of the net, then use a long net to either catch it and then place it under the net or use the net to coax the frog over to an area where you have pulled back the netting (easier for larger frogs). If it is pretty cold outside, this should be easy. If it is still warm like when you or I first put that leaf net on, this can be quite a fun adventure. If you cannot catch the frog, leave a portion of the leaf net pulled back for a while, and the frog should find his way back into the pond. Around my 153 gallon pond, I go a step further in making the leaf netting frog-friendly. When I drape the net over the pond, I also put it over the terrestrial plants next to the pond so that the net is actually a few feet off the ground, and all the brick area around the pond is available for the frogs to socialize until the winter sleep. The net does not go to the ground on one side so the frogs can come and go. While leaving corners of the net open does seem to be a magnet for the leaves to find that one hole, it is a compromise between letting all the leaves in and keeping all the frogs from coming and going. Once it gets cold enough and the frogs stop coming up to sun and move around, I secure down the leaf nets all the way.

Here is a photo of a pickerel frog on my 1800 gallon net on 10/19/06:
Pickerel frog on net.

Frogs and Fish

A common pond question is about compatibility of frogs and fish in a pond. In general, goldfish, koi, orfe, and any fish over a few inches in length will try to eat frog eggs and any tadpoles small and slow enough to catch. Tadpoles over an inch long are normally not eaten by non-carnivorous fish. Toad tadpoles taste bad and most fish will not try to eat them. For the rare fish that do, the fish may feel ill but rarely die as a result.

It is often a concern as to whether or not frogs will eat the fish. It is usually the frogs who are in more danger but some frogs can and will eat fish. Bullfrogs are generally the largest North American frogs and will happily stuff anything they can catch in their mouths. They are not perfect hunters though. I have yet to see any of my bullfrogs catch fish although they may have. Many people report small and larger fish eaten by bullfrogs. Bullfrogs will try to catch small, slow, and/or sick fish. Fish that are larger than the frogs and healthy will rarely be bothered by the frogs. Frogs also usually will not bother with fish that are too small in relation to their size to be worth their time.

Other, smaller species of North American frogs almost never eat fish. Green frogs, leopard frogs, pickerel frogs, and a few others technically can eat fish and may occasionally get one but it is not very often. Only small, slow, and/or sick fish would be caught in most cases.

Many species of both fish and frogs co-exist in my ponds. Sometimes someone gets eaten but it goes unseen. Both the fish and frogs are more at risk from other predators like herons and raccoons than each other. But fish eat fish and large frogs eat big frogs too! There is no reason not to keep frogs and fish. I do suggest a smaller fish-less pond nearby though if you want frogs to breed without their eggs and tadpoles being eaten. When winter approaches, the now larger (so less likely to be eaten) tadpoles can go in to the pond with fish if the frog pond is not deep enough to overwinter the tadpoles.

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