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DIY Tadpole Food Recipe

With spring lots of animals come out of hibernation and one of our favourites are the frogs. Suddenly the pond is teeming with frogs and very soon frogspawn is covering the surface and we head off to collect it and raise our own tadpoles. Ever since I was a child it was one of the family traditions we had. I loved watching the frogs and toads develop from the frog spawn in a tank on the nature table or in a small pond from the eggs to the tadpoles to froglets. Now I have children of my own it’s a great way for my kids and their friends to get closer to nature and start to work on the gap that is forming as children spend more time on screens and less time outside and in nature.

Raising tadpoles is a fantastic way for kids to connect with nature but what do you feed tadpoles as you watch them change. Discover what you can feed tadpoles at different stages of development with these easy recipes for tadpole food.

Raising Tadpoles

Collecting and raising frog spawn to froglets in your own home. Simple low cost Nature activity for kids to do in Spring at home or in the classroom

Tadpoles are relatively easy to raise in a tank and then release back to the pond you found them in or start your own colony of frogs in a new pond within your back garden. You can find our full guide to raising tadpoles with tips on what equipment you need as well as the best way to collect the frogspawn when you find it.

What to feed your tadpoles

One of the questions that I get asked frequently is what do you feed the tadpoles once you have them and I have seen various different recommendations on sites starting with “feed the tropical fish food” or “Turtle Pellets” to buying expensive Tadpole and Frog Food. NO NO NO NO NO!

It’s much easier than you think to feed the tadpoles.

Tadpoles start out as algae eaters – so they are plant feeders. You can use a piece of pondweed from the pond where you found the eggs that is covered in algae as their food source.

However, it’s not needed – the easiest form of tadpole food is a slice of cucumber – slice the cucumber and then remove the outside so that your tadpoles have access to the soft inner layers of the cucumber and let it float on the surface.

Another alternative is to lightly boil some lettuce this will break the tough cellulose layers and then feed a little of this lettuce to the tadpoles.

As they grow bigger and the gills disappear and legs form, they transition into carnivores specifically eating insects. The main source of insects for these froglets are those found swimming in the pond water and on the surface so in the days before you return them to the pond make sure that you have followed our instructions on how to change your tadpoles water and then you should have lots of little insects for the froglets to eat.

So when they first hatch – either algae or the cucumber or lettuce described above. As they transform into frogs they turns into insect eaters so pond insects that you find naturally in pond water.

Equipment Needed for Feeding and Raising Tadpoles

Tadpoles swimming in a tank of water.
Tadpoles via Shutterstock

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If you have an old fish tank or aquarium laying around – fantastic if not then a glass vase will work – the larger the surface area the less frequently you will need to change the water but if not then you don’t need anything special – these little aquariums are perfect they have carry handles, and once the frogs have been released you could easily use them for watching snails, caterpillars or similar creatures during the summer months.

At the point where your tadpoles lose their gills and their legs form they need a place to rest and breathe a rock in the tank is ideal. Although you can use a rock from the pond or garden with the garden rocks you do need to be careful what you are bringing in so we have used rock in the past that is designed for aquariums.

Learning about and with Frogs and Tadpoles for Kids

As I said raising tadpoles is one of the great spring activities you can do with children that will help to connect them with the natural world. As they watch the tadpoles develop you can help them understand what is going on through some fun and easy learning activities.

A fun selection of Frog Books ideal for toddlers & preschoolers including our favorites with bright pictures & fantastic rhymes perfect for Spring Reading

Share some fun books with your youngsters and read about frogs and tadpoles.  We have a fun selection of fiction and non-fiction books which are fantastic to read aloud and share with toddlers and preschoolers however slightly older children will enjoy many of these as well.

Create your own puppets to use in circle time or with your child for the popular children's rhyme Five Little Speckled Frogs. These easy to make puppets are perfect for playing with and helping your child recognise numbers and count aloud as they sing the rhyme.

Sing one of our favourite counting rhymes about frogs and use these cute little craft stick puppets to accompany the song Five Little Speckled Frogs.

Simple and Fun Frog Counting Game for Preschoolers

Based on the song 5 Little Speckled Frogs we created a simple math game to count the frogs going into and out of the pond. Simple addition and subtraction for Toddlers and Preschoolers.

Frog Themed hopping phonics game for children learning to read. Download and print these free resources to help children to blend and read words.

Jump into the pond and support your child as they learn to read with this Frog Hop Phonics Game.

Raising tadpoles is a fantastic way for kids to connect with nature but what do you feed tadpoles as you watch them change. Discover what you can feed tadpoles at different stages of development with these easy recipes for tadpole food.
Cerys Parker

Cerys is a marine biologist, environmental educator, teacher, mum, and home educator from the UK. She loves getting creative, whether it is with simple and easy crafts and ideas, activities to make learning fun, or delicious recipes that you and your kids can cook together you'll find them all shared here on Rainy Day Mum.


  1. About 30 days ago, I scooped out 22 newly hatched tadpoles, from my simple water feature. It was a surprise to find them there and I’ve had them in a large plastic portable aquarium ever since. They are growing well and eat the commercial tadpole food granules. I have a creek in my yard, but it’s not consistent with having water in it, especially now, in hot North Carolina drought conditions. What can I do to feed them in their pending carnivorous stage? I do not have “pond water” to give them.

    1. Hi, so in the UK we have a tadpole food that is suitable from when the back legs arrive that you can get commercially on Amazon. I’ve just been looking at the USA Amazon and can’t find anything exactly the same. But can see you can get Daphnia which are small water fleas until they are froglets they will have a mixed diet and then it’s insects so a mix of some small aquatic shrimps (pet shops here in the UK sell some) and the tadpole food that you are using may provide the right combination.

  2. Brian Collinson says:

    I have a small aquarium about 16 litres. Is there a maximum number of tadpoles which can survive in it.

    1. I don’t know the exact number but as they get bigger I thin out the number from the original clutch returning some to the pond when I collect new water for the tank. By the end we tend to have around 5 to 10 froglets for release.

  3. Sarah O'Donnell says:

    Hello there, I’ve been keeping tadpoles since they hatched back in March. Some of them have developed into little froglets but I’ve noticed in the last day or two that a couple have died. What might the cause of this be? Are they perhaps being killed/eaten by the other froglets/tadpoles or might it be due to their lack of air? I have a rock in the tank for them to climb onto but us it possible for it to be too steep?

    1. Hi, I would suspect not enough air and diet. They are now carnivores and need to have a mix of food suitable for them as well as a safe haul out place.

  4. Steve Murray says:

    Be careful when the frogs start to lose their tails. If the water is too deep they will drown. When they get all four legs I move them to small aquarium which I prop up at one end and only has about two centimetres of water in it in the other end, so it is like a beach. The frogs can easily swim to the part that is out of the water even when they don’t have a tail anymore.

    The other thing I would say is that you can feed them fish food. It’s cheap enough from the supermarket and seems to do the trick. Tadpole food is expensive though.

    1. We let them go back to the pond before the tail goes normally, although this year we will have them in an observational tank for a while as we are building a new pond. Once I have photographs I will be adding more detail about as the tail disappears. I’ve never tried fish food, instead we use algae, lettuce and cucumber which is even cheaper.

  5. Marjory Giuliano says:

    I have 4 tiny (3′ diameter, 8″ deep) “ponds” in my yard where I have tried to raise frogs for a few years, hoping they would come naturally. This spring I found some frog/toad eggs in a puddle, and scooped some up for my little pools, where tadpoles have been growing slowly since March. Some are now brown and thick-bodied but still w/o legs. I have been feeding fish food but really want them to grow into frogs, as last year they did not mature. I just read to feed cucumber…should I order tadploe food? Plenty of mosquito larva and other tiny living things in the pools, but for hundreds of tadpoles what is needed?

    1. Hi Marjory, thanks for your question. First I have to ask are you sure that they are frog or toad eggs – newts and black axolotl also lay similar style eggs. If they are left in the pool then they should be fine living on the algae initially and then moving on to the larvae in the pools. However, if there is little algae then cucumbers or tadpole food would be good to use when they first start emerging from the eggs.

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