Tadpoles are the larvae (juvenile form) of amphibians, such as frogs and toads. Tadpoles emerge from eggs and usually live solely in the water until they grow arms and legs and make the transition to an adult amphibian. Most tadpoles have an oval body with gills for breathing and a long tail used for swimming. As they grow they undergo metamorphosis during which they develop lungs, legs and then arms. Finally their tail disappears and they turn into a fully formed adult frog or toad. Tadpoles also undergo changes to their digestive system during this process to allow them to change their diet as adults. Let’s find out what tadpoles eat.
What do tadpoles eat?
The vast majority of tadpoles are herbivores (plant eaters). They primarily feed on algae, which they can filter out of the water with their gills. They also eat other plant matter in the water, such as underwater plants and weeds. Some species are carnivores (meat eaters) and have been known to eat insects, small fish and even other tadpoles. These species also commonly feed on larger organisms, such as fish, after they have died. Some of these species are even known to be cannibalistic!
Tadpoles make a popular pet and are relatively easy to care for. Most species can be fed leafy vegetables such as lettuce or spinach. However, tadpoles should also occasionally be given algae tablets and/or fish food flakes to ensure they are getting all of the nutrients that they require. Some shops even stock specially formulated tadpole food. It is important to ensure that you never overfeed your tadpoles because rotting left over food can lead to poor water quality.
Did you know?
Tadpoles are preyed upon by many other animals such as fish, birds and newts. Some species have adapted to this situation, such as the cane toad which has poisonous tadpoles!