How to Set Up a Tank Environment for
Tadpole to Frog Metamorphosis
Article Summary: Here's how to set up an aquarium to house tadpoles as they progress through metamorphosis into frogs.
Tadpole Aquarium Tank Set-up & Care
Carolina Biological Supply, to provide our young children (ages 6 and 8) with an indoor life science lesson that would carry us through the Michigan winter.
Inside these boxes was a well-cushioned plastic bag of water with seven bullfrog tadpoles. The tadpoles were transferred to an unheated 10-gallon aquarium tank that had been prepared prior to their arrival.
Setting Up An Aquarium Tank for Tadpoles
Size of Tank
An adult bullfrog needs be housed in a tank that is at least 20 gallons, with an additional 5 gallons for each additional bullfrog. This means that the 10-gallon tank that we chose for the tads is far too small to house adults, but, due to limited space, I figured that we would cross that bridge when we come to it, as bullfrog tadpoles can take up to two years to metamorphose. If you are setting up a tadpole environment, choose the largest tank that you can afford and find space for.
Materials purchased for tank setup (~$70 new):
Prepare the tank at least a week in advance, if possible, to allow algae to begin growing. The tadpoles seem to mainly eat algae off surfaces in the tank.
We keep our tank in the basement and do not use an aquarium heater. It is now winter, and the temperature in the tank ranges from 50 degrees F at night, with tank light off, to 55 degrees F during the day, with tank light on.
This is below the optimal temperature for bullfrogs (~59 - 90 degrees F), and will likely slow their growth, but they do appear to be very healthy.
The smallest number of bullfrog tadpoles that can be ordered in a shipment from Carolina Biological Supply is six. The cost was ~$10 for the tads and ~$20 for shipping to Michigan. They sent seven tadpoles and we only now have one living frog from that batch.
On the order form, I was prompted to select the date that that the tadpoles would be delivered, and on that date, a large cardboard box arrived, housing an insulating Styrofoam container.
More Rad Tad
Info & Activities:
Young children are natural born scientists, full of curiosity! Join the at-home experiments and explorations of a scientist mom & her kids.
Latest Tadpole News
Sad news today. Lumpy, the little bullfrog we raised from a tadpole 2 years ago, died of unknown causes today.
Thanks for showing us how cool frogs are!
> See Lumpy's Story
See Page 2 for how to care for tadpoles and see a video of our bullfrog tads!!
Bullfrog Tank Setup
We did eventually house Lumpy, the 2 year old bullfrog, in the following environment, after metamorphosis:
- 20 gallon long tank, with 10 gallons of spring water
- underwater reptile tank filter
- screen completely covering top of tank
- several places for frog to leave water, such as bottom of inverted pots and floating artificial lilly pad pictured above
- 10 gallon aquarium set-up with filter
- Aquarium tank cover with light
- thermometer to stick on inside of tank, beneath water line
- 4 live aquatic plants to supply cover and oxygen
- 2 orchid pots (You can use anything that will provide hiding places for the tads, Orchid pots are handy because they have holes in them where small tads can hide. However, bullfrog tadpoles quickly outgrow these holes.)
- 5 - 6 gallons of spring water. Pond water or dechlorinated water can also be used. Do not use distilled water or chlorinated tap water (chlorine can be removed by setting the water out for at least 24 hours so the chlorine can evaporate).
- algae wafers, tadpole/frog food pellets, goldfish food (to see what they like to eat)
American bullfrog with rear legs, the first change you see when metamorphosis begins.