What kind of tadpole is this? How do I take care of it? Can I release it?

“Hi- This may seem strange but I seem to have become the owner of a tadpole of unidentified origin or type. We were at a pet store in Tennessee and we were purchasing all the necessities to house a couple of anoles. As I was paying the mounting and overwhelming bill at the register the cashier whispers that she has a tadpole in the back and would I like to have it for my daughters. “What for”, I’m asking. She said they accidentally received it in with a shipment of fish and have no idea what it will become. The whole thing seemed to sound like the beginnings of a Saturday night thriller movie but I said what the hay throw some tadpole flakes in with my order and we’ll use it as a learning experience.

I have a water feature in the anoles rather large terrarium. I put “taddy” in there and that’s about it. We have thought he was dead a bunch of times- however with a little time you will find he is somewhere else in the tank. I had thoughts of releasing but then I realized I don’t know if this guy is native to the area. I have no idea where he came from. The best that I can do at identifying him on line is that he’s a baby bullfrog. Based on size of tadpole and black spots on tail. I’m sure that if he is to survive I need to know a little about how to care for him and also if he does survive- I cannot continue to keep him in with the anoles forever because someone might end up getting eaten.

So I guess my question is what kind of tadpole you think this is. Advise on how to care for it. Can I release when grown? At what point do I need to remove from the anoles cage?

Anyway I’m rambling so any advice you could give me about any of these things would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much”

It’s not uncommon for pet stores to receive tadpoles that were accidentally included in shipments of tropical fish. Especially common are true frogs like green frogs or bullfrogs that bred in the ponds feeder fish were being produced in.

What kind of tadpole is this?

From your photo and description of the tadpole, I think you are right that it is a Rana species like a bullfrog. But, bullfrog tadpoles grow very large and if it is a bullfrog then it is still quite young. Instead, there are other frogs like green frogs or leopard frogs that have similar looking tadpoles but are smaller.

To help identify your tadpole see: http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/tadpole/

How long will it take to turn into a frog?

Tadpoles of true frogs like bullfrogs can take several months or even a year to complete metamorphosis and turn into a frog. How long this takes depends on water temperature and food availability. Lots of food and warm water = fast growth.

How do I take care of it?

Legs will develop first and afterwards arms will too, and at that point the tadpole will need access to land. This can be as simple as floating a piece of cork bark or plants on the water surface or placing a gradually sloping rock in the water area.

Once the tadpole is on land, it will live off of the nutrients in its tail for several days and not require food, but once it no longer has a tail it will need to be fed lots of small live insects, as much as it can eat daily.

True frogs like green frogs, leopard frogs, and bullfrogs need a lot of space to live well in captivity. They are semi-aquatic and need a large deep water area and a land area along the water’s side. Water quality is especially important to these semi-aquatic frogs, so use a good filter and perform frequent water changes. They may also benefit from a warm basking area created on part of the shoreline near water.

But, frog care is probably a ways off looking at the photo of the tadpole now. In the meantime, keep the water clean, feed regularly (tropical fish flake should work, you can also try algae wafers but be careful of overfeeding), and consider moving the tadpole out of the anole’s terrarium and to its own separate aquarium.

Can I release it once it is a frog?

Lastly, do not release the tadpole or the frog when it is grown. It is not native to your area. It also is possible that since it has been housed with other aquatic pets at the pet store it could be harboring a foreign disease that could harm your wild amphibian populations.

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