How to Raise Tadpoles in Captivity

Updated November 21, 2016

Whether you collect frog eggs from the wild in springtime or are attempting to breed pet frogs in captivity, the set-up and care for raising tadpoles remains the same. Since tadpoles breathe underwater with their developing lungs, maintaining a clean aquatic environment is essential for healthy tadpole development. Raising tadpoles from eggs until they develop into small frogs is an entertaining and rewarding project that can easily be completed with basic household materials.

Fill a 5-gallon bucket with fresh water and install a strong aquarium air pump with an air stone attachment to aerate the water. It is important to have a healthy reserve of dechlorinated freshwater available at all times when rearing tadpoles in captivity.

Fill small plastic containers -- such as small food containers -- with dechlorinated freshwater and place a single tadpole in each container as they hatch from the egg mass. Raising tadpoles individually makes it easier to observe how each tadpole is feeding and developing. In addition, some species of tadpoles are cannibalistic and separate rearing containers helps prevent larger tadpoles from feeding on smaller ones.

Feed tadpoles several times each day by sprinkling in a small pinch of Spirulina fish flakes.

Siphon out any uneaten food and waste in the evening using a turkey baster; take care to not suck up small tadpoles when cleaning the water.

Replace the siphoned water with dechlorinated freshwater. It is important to clean and change the water daily to prevent water chemistry problems that could cause development problems in the tadpoles.

Soak sphagnum moss in fresh water for five to 10 minutes and squeeze thoroughly before placing the moss on one side of a small aquarium.

Prop the side of the aquarium with the sphagnum moss up so that the empty side of the aquarium is empty and lower than the moss.

Fill the aquarium with dechlorinated freshwater so that the top of the water reaches the sphagnum moss.

Transfer the mature tadpoles to the aquarium set-up and place a layer of cling film over the aquarium to help maintain humidity levels in the aquarium. Ensure the aquarium has a secure cover to prevent the froglets from escaping.

Continue to feed the mature tadpoles and clean the water daily, as before. Ensure that the water level is always at or above the sphagnum moss so that the tadpoles can easily climb out of the water when they are ready to go onto land.


The length of time from egg to froglet varies by species, but when the front and rear legs are fully developed and the swimming tail of the tadpole starts to recede, the tadpole is almost ready to mature into a small frog and move onto land.

Things You'll Need

  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Air pump
  • Small plastic containers
  • Turkey baster
  • Supply of fresh water
  • Fish flakes
  • Small aquarium with secure top
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Cling film
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