Frog Opera Farm

Tree frog perched on white rose
Frog sitting on rose

Frog Opera Farm–that’s what I like to call this place because during wet winters, the shear volume of the croaking when you go outside in the evenings reverberates through the whole body. We’re at a low point in the hills around us and little vernal pools form. We’re particularly fond of the frogs, and besides the natural vernal pools, there is also a seasonal pond and innumerable stock tanks and little basins for them. Besides being adorable they help with the garden bugs.

Creating Frog Habitat

It’s easy to offer your own little frog breeding spot, in the form of a small ceramic basin filled with non-chlorinated water. It must be still water–no fountain. If there are frogs in your area, they will likely find it. Please note: I believe it is illegal to capture native tadpoles from natural areas. If there are some grasses hanging over and drooping into the water, that will provide some great surface for the frogs to lay their eggs on. The eggs get attached to these floaters.

Tadpoles

Keep in mind that any standing body of water around here must have a control for mosquitos. If it’s a temporary water site, we use the mosquito dunks available in nurseries. They are nontoxic to all but the mosquito larvae. Or Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector will come out for free and treat your water and check for larvae.

(If it’s a permanent body of water, you can use mosquito fish. They are very small and rapidly reproduce and eat the mosquito larvae, but they seem to be incompatible with tadpoles, in my experience. They may eat the frog eggs.)

The tadpoles seem to mature best in temporary, sunny water spots–water that gets warmer as the water recedes over some weeks, stimulating their legs to grow. Frog eggs and tadpoles will be safer in water that has no fish predators or non-native bullfrogs to eat them. Herons and wild ducks may still swoop in for snacks though. For tadpole protection, you can add some hideaway objects in the water — like a broken piece of pottery to create a cavern, or rocks providing underwater channels. In a big pond, some branches might do. Once they have developed their legs, offer a protected escape route in the form of adjoining leafy plants.

These tadpole havens are great fun for kids, or people like me who are easily entertained. Watching them grow from teeny specks to tadpoles and then frogs is fascinating. I find it quite mesmerizing just watching the tadpoles wiggling their tails as they sun themselves. They also like having a small stick or old piece of wood (untreated!) that floats. The tadpoles attach to that for sunning, and as their legs grow, they climb up on it. Beware that the water will get murky with algae until it finally dries up. Adding cold water to a receding basin of warm water will likely slow down their growth process. Try to use water of a similar temperature if you want to prolong the pool for the last stragglers.

Once they are grown up and have jumped the pond, you will find them in the most unexpected places. Keep your camera handy.

Enjoy your frog opera and send in your froggie photos!

Tadpole breeding basin

UPDATE: After I published this post on frog habitat, I was talking with another gardener friend about tadpoles in her pond and what to look for in terms of eggs. And then I found these two photos of frog eggs I had taken years ago. This is what frog eggs look like, including when they start to become tadpoles. So, I’m editing them into this post for everyone. Look for a (kinda gross?) gelatinous blob with little clear round sacs, usually attached to some floating sticks or grasses hanging in the water.

What do frog eggs look like? See above — little round clear sacs with a growing dot inside. Look for a gelatinous blob attached to floating sticks or other floating pond materials.
As the frog eggs mature, you can see them turning into tiny tadpoles in the egg sac. Yeah, kinda gross actually, but if you want to know if your frog habitat is working, this is what to look for. 🙂
If your tadpoles/frog habitat pond has steep sides, you can help them get out easier with a “ladder” like this partially submerged board. Overhanging plants also provide cover for exit.

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4 thoughts on “Frog Opera Farm

  1. We love our frogs too but I have never seen tadpoles in the garden. We leave water out for our bees but always raised on stones. Do the ceramic basins work better at ground level and how big must they be? Amelia

    1. Hi Amelia! Good question. Yes, a basin on the ground is better, so they can crawl in easily. My ceramic basin is bowl shaped, about a foot deep and just over 2 feet wide. It’s sitting on the ground, not dug into the ground. Even though they don’t like fast running water, I do have a tiny fountain in mine, but it’s just a trickle of water and causes no disturbance–almost a drip. It’s possible that the sound of the water draws them. There are lots of plants and large rocks nearby for cover/protection. We also have a larger stock tank where they breed. I don’t know where you are gardening and what frog species you have there. Here in Sonoma County, California, we have mild wet winters, and frogs are gathering in pools and ponds at this time. If you let me know what area of the world you are in, I can try to help you research. Though I believe it’s not legal to collect tadpoles from natural areas here in SoCo, it may be possible to buy them at pond places, where they are bred. Thanks for reading! Good luck! If it works, send me a photo! Stay safe and well, lisa

    2. Thank you that helps a lot, our pots are out of easy reach. We have different frogs but the friendliest are Hyla meridionalis and we also have Triturus marmoratus which are adorable. We are in S.W. France with mild winters perhaps not too different from yours. I just want to watch the tadpoles. I will try to follow your advice for this spring.

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