Hunting Tadpoles

Hunt-ing – (noun) The activity of hunting wild animals or game, especially for food or sport.

Right, yes, so I know tadpoles aren’t exactly big game. They’re not that hard to find, or catch… they don’t seem to be the brightest. Just so we’re clear, I didn’t go out armed with a blunderbuss, dropping dynamite into the ditches. Nevertheless, a-hunting I did go.

Tadpoles are brilliant. Aren’t they? Little muddy pearls flecked with gold, wriggling through ponds and ditches, puddles and streams. Jet beads like gleaming pinheads stare at you impassively, before a flick and a wiggle of that elegant crest of tail sends them off to gulp down water fleas, or nibble pondweed from the rocks. Then, they start to get bigger. Braver. More belligerent. The bruisers of the garden pond. Before long they’ve sprouted legs and are contemplating the concept of sub-aquaticism, pushing their little bodies further out of the water and peering above its surface. Then… BANG. Mini frogs! The size of your fingernail, bouncing all over the place.

Two frogs, alike in dignity.

I didn’t really encounter many frogs when I was a child, until I moved to the UK, so my formative impressions were derived from fairy stories. Tales of witches, hobgoblins, and talking animals. There was something dark and primal about where frogs and toads dwelt, and the particular breed of magic they possessed. Holes full of ancient  bones and precious stones deep beneath the ground, and shadowy underwater forests full of hidden, watching eyes. I still get excited when I come across one.

Toby and the Goblins

Me, as a baby.

(Not really. The above is titled Toby and The Goblins, and is by Brian Froud  – art work for Labyrinth, Jim Henson’s amazing 1980s film starring David Bowie. I could happily live in Brian Froud’s imagination.)


Me, as a young girl.

(Again, lies. This is a still from the 2006 film Pan’s Labyrinth, showing Ofelia searching for toads.)

Even when I was a teenager I’d sometimes catch a few tadpoles, and put them in an old aquarium so I could observe them (if anyone thinks that’s odd then learn ye this lesson: things are different in the countryside. People do strange things to keep themselves entertained. Very strange things). This leads me to my most recent activities. I have purchased a fish-bowl, filled it with rocks and water-weed, and am READY. Fish-bowls are unpleasant for fish, but their spherical form is rather captivating, so I’ve created a safe, predator-free little Narnia for my adoptive babies. I mean tadpoles.

The water has to be fresh (chlorine kills them, so tap-water is a no), so I’ve let it stand for a few days to allow the chlorine to evaporate. When I need to do water changes to refresh it I’ll  use spring water (Evian – these tadpoles are going to be living a life of luxury). I filled it with rocks so they’d have somewhere to hide, and to give them a platform to crawl out onto when they frog. It’s also full of weed (purchased from Amazon. No joke – it came in the post) from which tiny water snails have appeared. I’ll only be keeping a few, to ensure as many as possible survive, and as soon as they turn into frogs I’ll release them near a pond, but it’s going to be a good couple of months.

This is my pond. I may live in a flat three flights of stairs up, in London, in which I am not allowed pets, but damn it I’m a rebel. You’re looking in the bowl aren’t you… look more carefully, as… they’re not in there yet. They’re on a train with me currently, my little Northern beauties, and I can’t wait to put them in their new home. I’m probably the only person on the national rail network currently transporting frogspawn in a big jar (at least, I sort of hope so). I’ll keep you updated!

Is anyone else looking after tadpoles or do you all think I’m completely mad? Let me know.


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14 thoughts on “Hunting Tadpoles

  1. I love how you wrote this article dear. It'[s lovely and reminded me of my childhood, when I used to go to the pond at my school and catch some tadpoles with my friends 🙂


  2. Love the idea of a tadpolebowl! We are lucky enough to have ponds that do the trick. Trouble with tadpoles is not that they become cute little frigs (my word), but that the frigs become frogs – in our case, large and VERY noisy toads!

    • I first did this a couple of years ago, and realised they needed to be released when I spotted a couple bouncing their way along our hallway. I wish we had a pond for them! Jx

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      • They get absolutely huge, which is very exciting, but I don’t think you’re allowed to release them (certainly not in countries they’re not native to) so you have to be prepared for keeping the frogs as well. I’d love to see pictures if you do get them though – I’d be very jealous! Jx

      • I’m not sure what the laws are here in Australia. I do know the eastern part of our country has cane toads in plague proportions but I’m down south. I was thinking of checking out the local pet stores or aquarium shops to see if they sell locally caught tadpoles for people like me who go at the wrong time of year or can’t find any?!

      • I have seen them for sale in garden centres and aquatic centres in the uk before, so I’m sure you’ll be able to find some. I’d phone ahead to check though, as it seems to be down to the whims of individual staff whether they’re stocked or not. Good luck! Jx

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