For several summers in a row when I was a girl, I kept tadpoles. I caught them in an old dam on my grandmother’s farm, transported them home in a jam jar, set up a pond for them in an old baby bath in my parents’ garden, and watched them grow into frogs. They always hopped away in autumn, and the next summer, I started again.
This summer, I’m growing tadpoles with my daughters. A new pond has been dug out at my parents’ bush block, and within weeks of it filling with water, frogs had moved in. By the time we got there just after Christmas, it was teeming with tadpoles. They will be Australian bell frog tadpoles, introduced, but still welcome, especially to the kotare nesting in the valley.
On our last evening there, Mr Bee and I took the girls tadpoling with a bucket and a net with a very long handle. I caught half a dozen taddies first (I wanted to be sure that we had at least some tadpoles to bring home), and then everyone else had a turn, successfully so. Eventually we had 13 tadpoles to bring home, ranging in size from miniscule to nearly-big-enough-to-start-sprouting-legs. We put them in a cut down plastic juice bottle, carefully wedged in a bucket, and transported them home to Greenhills. Once we got home, we transferred them to a bucket, with some extra pond water that we had brought home with us.
(Description: tadpoles in green bucket)
Alas, I don’t have an old baby bath to use for a tadpole pond, so we bought a green plastic fish crate to do duty instead. It smelled a bit too plasticky for my liking – I was concerned that the chemical residue would poison the tadpoles – so we filled it with tapwater and left it standing for a day, to leach the chemicals out.
(Description: large green crate filled to the brim with water)
For my Australian readers who are worried about the extravagant use of water, you must remember that water falls in huge quantities from the sky here. Fortunately, it was doing so as we were setting the pond up, so we were able to collect rainwater to use.
Ms Thirteen and I went on a rock scavenging expedition down at the local river. As the tadpoles grow, they will need to be able to spend time half and and half out of the water, practicing their breathing. We set the rocks up in the pond so that they have a slope to crawl up into the air. We added some oxygen weed, and some extra water from the creek near our place, and finally, the tadpoles themselves.
(Description: close-up shot of tadpoles in corner of the green crate pond)
The pond is set up in a corner of the garden, where it is partially shaded. We’re feeding them on ordinary old fish food, and later on, as they get bigger, we will give them bloodworms too, so that they don’t eat each other. It is developing a small ecology: one or two water boatmen have come along for the ride, and the walls of the crate have a build-up of algae. From time to time we will freshen the water, with collected rainwater or water from the nearby stream, or in a pinch, tap water that has been left to stand for 24 hours so that some of the chemicals in it evaporate away.
Our cat loves the tadpoles almost as much as she loves the guinea pigs.
(Description: tortie cat with front paws on edge of green crate, inspecting the tadpoles)
And I’m loving sharing some of the experiences of my childhood with my daughters.