Raising tadpoles with children is an excellent way to show them the different stages of life and to teach them about growth and change. Tadpoles can be located in several ponds, streams and small bodies of water throughout the United States. The most effective way to catch a tadpole to grow at home is with a small mesh net. Tadpoles can also be purchased at several pet and pond supply stores.
Place the tadpoles into a clean, smooth-sided container such as a glass aquarium or fishbowl. There should be approximately one gallon of warm water for every one tadpole in the container. Add dechlorinating tablets to the water according to the package directions if you are filling the container with tap water. An outdoor pond is also a suitable container to house the tadpoles.
Pour the tadpoles directly into the container. Do not handle the tadpoles as the natural oils occurring on your hands can cause a negative reaction to the sensitive tadpoles.
Provide the tadpoles with plenty of shade if you are keeping the container outdoors. This can be accomplished by placing the container under a shade tree or awning. If you are considering using a child's pool or a pond to contain the tadpoles, be sure there is ample shade.
Feed the tadpoles boiled lettuce. Once the lettuce is boiled down to a soggy consistency, cut it into extremely small pieces. The lettuce can also be frozen to achieve this same mushy consistency. The amount of food each will eat will depend upon the growth stage of the tadpole and the number of tadpoles in the container. Feed the tadpoles by trial and error but remove any remaining food after one hour, as leaving it behind will lead to discolouration in the water.
Continue to feed the tadpoles a diet of plants until the legs begin to develop. When this occurs, a live protein must replace the all-plant diet. This can come in the form of aphids, mealworms or bloodworms.
Provide the tadpoles with lily pads or branches once the legs begin to develop as this is also the same time when the lungs will begin to develop. This will ensure the newly developing frog will have a solid surface to jump onto that is out of the water.
Separate the tadpoles that have developed legs from the others that are developing at a slower rate. Tadpoles take approximately six to 12 weeks to grow into a mature frog and different tadpoles will grow at different rates. Smaller, immature tadpoles that are allowed to remain with froglets may become dinner as mature tadpoles are carnivores and will eat smaller, weaker tadpoles.
Continue to feed the maturing froglet a diet of live insects until it reaches maturity. At this point you can either decide to release the frog or keep it as a pet. Make sure that you have a native species of frog before releasing it into the surrounding environment.
Tadpole powder can be fed to the immature tadpoles in place of boiled lettuce.