Frogs in general eat a wide range of plants and animals. Tadpoles tend to be herbivores, eating algae, plant matter and detritus, while adult frogs are carnivores eating insects, molluscs and worms.
What is a pond?
There are many different kinds of ponds across the world. In general, ponds are small bodies of still water, however they can be temporary or permanent, shallow or deep, they can be situated on fields, in forests or even on mountains.
Some ponds sit isolated within the landscape, whereas others can be part of vast wetland systems. Most ponds evolve over time. Sediments depositing at their base slowly fills in the water, while vegetation encroaches from the edges.
Some ponds are periodically refilled as rivers flood or seasonal rains appear. Others dry up regularly. All of these differences mean ponds can vary in the kind of life they support.
Of course there are also garden ponds. These are often man-made rather than natural. Most gardeners decide to line their ponds with a plastic lining to avoid water escaping.
Do frogs live in ponds?
Amphibians of all kinds are generally attracted to water. This is in part because they often have very thin skin, meaning they lose water very quickly.
Across the world there are around 7,000 species of frog, living in many different kind of habitats. Frogs can be found in tropical rainforests, rivers, grasslands and even deserts. Most are not entirely aquatic, though many will spend a great deal of time in water.
Water is often particularly important during the mating period, as most tadpoles live with the water until they become young frogs.
While many of us associate frogs with ponds, many will live in rivers or lakes, or even simply within pools of water that form within plants such as bromeliads.
Many species will be happy to use a variety of different wetland habitats, and few species specialize to ponds, while many will make use of them.
Read also: Here’s “How Frogs Find Ponds”
What do frogs eat in a pond?
Most frogs start as eggs. These are laid by the females in their chosen locations. Eggs are usually laid in large clutches. Tadpoles emerge from the eggs with no legs, and long tails.
They spend their time within the water, swimming around and feeding. Over time they begin to grow legs, and their tail disappears.
Once they have become froglets, they are able to emerge from the water, and begin a life similar to an adult frog. So what do these tiny tadpoles eat while swimming around the pond?
- Frog eggs
A tadpole’s first food will be within their own eggs, the tasty yolk that will help them develop. As they emerge they may also eat the rest of their eggs.
The main food of most tadpoles is detritus found at the bottom of the pond. This will be organic waste that has floated down from above. It may be made up of plant water, animal feces or dead animals.
Plankton are microscopic animals, who float in the water column, feeding on other floating debris. A wide range of species make up plankton, including the young of bivalves and crustaceans.
Tadpoles, like many aquatic animals, eat these small but easy morsels, as part of their diet.
Algae are a group of aquatic plants, which includes seaweeds. They are often common within pond environments. Many algal species are small and easy for tadpoles to feed off.
- Mosquito larvae
Tadpoles are mostly herbivores, unlike their adult counterparts. However, many species will also eat easy and available sources such as mosquito larvae.
Adult frogs can live between 2-10 years. In this time they can spend time both in and out of water. While most will come to water to breed, they may also spend time in other habitats the rest of the time. This can help them find food, or shelter, or avoid harsh weather conditions.
During very dry or cold periods they may enter a state similar to hibernation, often finding sheltered spots away from the water.
Most frogs eat a wide range of foods, taking advantage of whatever is available, rather than specializing. Frogs do not chew, instead swallowing their food whole.
This means they cannot handle prey that is too large for them, or might defend itself too vigorously.
Flies that the archetypal frog food. In part, this is because they are plentiful, and usually small and defenseless. With their large tongues, it’s easy for frogs to reach out and pluck flie’s off plants nearby.
As well as flies, frogs will eat a wide range of other insects. They will eat both adult and juvenile insects, some of whom have aquatic life cycles.
Beetles are often a popular form of food, as well as damselflies and mosquitos.
Slugs and snails are easy food for most frogs. They are slow moving, have no defense mechanisms, and are nutritious food.
Worms are another popular food. Worms live both in the terrestrial environment and within the water. Like molluscs they are easy to catch and have little in the way of defense.
Some frog species will happily eat fish, however, fish are often faster than a frog’s usual fare. Because of this, fish are more likely to be eaten when found already dead.
Some larger frog species will eat some reptile species such as lizards. Such a large and fast meal isn’t the easiest to come by, and frogs will catch them through a lucky ambush rather than pursuit.
As with reptiles, some frogs will eat small mammals. This can be species such as mice, shrews and voles. However, such meals aren’t easy to come by.
How often do pond frogs eat?
How often a frog needs to eat will depend on how big they are, and what their prey is.
Most frogs do not need to eat regularly, and may only eat once a day or once every few days. However, as frogs are highly opportunistic feeders, they may at times feed more or less regularly.
Being well-fed can also be more important at key times of year, such as prior to the breeding season or winter.
Life on a lilypad
Frogs have lives that revolve around food, safety and mating. When not feeding they try to ensure that they aren’t the next on the menu.
From birds to mammals to fish, there are plenty of creatures that are happy to eat a big fat frog. The young tadpoles can be particularly at risk, and ponds with high numbers of fish are often too dangerous for these little amphibians to survive.
So if you want to encourage a few frogs, leave your pond fish-free.