How to Set up a Terrarium for Tadpoles & Frogs

Written by emmalise mac
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How to Set up a Terrarium for Tadpoles & Frogs
A semi-aquatic terrarium is perfect for unidentified tadpoles because it makes a space for terrestrial froglets. (frog image by MateiA from Fotolia.com)

Setting up a terrarium for frogs and tadpoles is simple, as long as you know the needs of the species you plan to keep. If you plan to collect tadpoles from a nearby pond and raise them, you may want to start with a semi-aquatic terrarium. It is difficult to identify tadpoles, and will be much easier to identify your new pets after they metamorphose into froglets. If your tadpoles turn out to be toads or treefrogs, you can transfer them to a terrestrial terrarium. If they turn out to be aquatic frogs, you can move them into a more permanent aquatic terrarium.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Aquarium (10-gallon or larger)
  • Tight-fitting screen aquarium cover
  • Aged water OR dechlorinating drops (from a pet store)
  • Medium-sized gravel (from a hardware store)
  • Small-sized gravel (from a pet store, only for semi- or aquatic terraria)
  • Aquatic plants (from a pet store, only for aquatic terraria)
  • Sphagnum peat moss (from a hardware store, only for terrestrial terraria)
  • Sterile potting soil (from a hardware store, only for terrestrial terraria)
  • Potted plants (only for terrestrial terraria)
  • Shallow water dish (only for terrestrial terraria)

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Instructions

    Setting up a Basic Semi-Aquatic Terrarium

  1. 1

    Age enough water to fill your aquarium by letting the water sit in a bucket for 24 hours. This will allow the chlorine to evaporate. If you cannot do this, add dechlorinating drops to the water (follow the directions on the label), stir and let it sit for a few minutes before adding it to the aquarium.

  2. 2

    Rinse medium-sized gravel with running water to get rid of any dust or dirt

  3. 3

    Add medium-sized gravel to the aquarium, pushing it toward one end to create an "island" for metamorphosing froglets. Your slope should be nearly half the height of the aquarium, but it shouldn't take up all of the space.

  4. 4

    Cover the medium-sized grave with a thin layer of small-sized gravel to fill the spaces between the larger rocks, so that small froglets don't get trapped in them.

  5. 5

    Add aged or dechlorinated water to the aquarium, leaving only the top of the "island" exposed.

  6. 6

    Add tadpoles or frogs and cover the semi-aquatic terrarium with the screen lid.

    Setting up a Basic Aquatic Terrarium

  1. 1

    Age enough water to fill your aquarium by letting the water sit in a bucket for 24 hours. This will allow the chlorine to evaporate. If you cannot do this, add dechlorinating drops to the water (follow the directions on the label), stir and let it sit for a few minutes before adding it to the aquarium.

  2. 2

    Rinse medium-sized gravel with running water to get rid of any dust or dirt

  3. 3

    Add a layer of mixed medium- and small-sized gravel to the bottom of the aquarium, so that the gravel is about 2 inches deep.

  4. 4

    Add aged or dechlorinated water to the aquarium, filling it about two-thirds full.

  5. 5

    Add aquatic plants to the aquarium to provide shelter for the frogs. Aquatic plants are usually sold in bunches held together by small metal clips--bury the metal clipped end in the gravel.

  6. 6

    Add tadpoles or aquatic frogs, and cover the aquatic terrarium with the screen lid.

    Setting up a Basic Terrestrial Terrarium

  1. 1

    Age enough water to fill your water bowl by letting the water sit in a bucket for 24 hours. This will allow the chlorine to evaporate. If you cannot do this, add dechlorinating drops to the water (follow the directions on the label), stir and let it sit for a few minutes before adding it to the bowl.

  2. 2

    Rinse medium-sized gravel with running water to get rid of any dust or dirt

  3. 3

    Add a layer of medium-sized gravel to the aquarium, so that the gravel is about 2 inches deep.

  4. 4

    Mix equal parts of potting soil and sphagnum moss in a bucket, adding water until the mix is well moistened.

  5. 5

    Add the moist soil-sphagnum mixture to the aquarium to create a layer about 4 to 6 inches deep over the gravel.

  6. 6

    Remove potted plants from their plastic pots, loosen their roots gently with your fingers and plant them in the soil-sphagnum mixture. Place the plants in locations where they will give the frogs shelter but won't keep the frog from moving freely around the aquarium.

  7. 7

    Add the water bowl to the terrarium and fill it with the aged or dechlorinated water.

  8. 8

    Add terrestrial frogs or treefrogs, and cover the terrestrial terrarium with the screen lid.

Tips and warnings

  • If you can afford one, install an under gravel filter in your aquatic terrarium before you add the gravel.
  • If you are keeping treefrogs, use latches to secure the terrarium lid.
  • If you want the island in your semi-aquatic terrarium to be smaller, use large (brick-sized) rocks to form the base of the island, and then cover them with medium- and then small-sized gravel.
  • Be sure to check with your state wildlife agency for information about your local frog species before collecting tadpoles, so that you don't collect protected species or raise invasive species that could harm the ecosystem.

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