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A Reader’s Diet for the Filter-Feeding Tadpoles of the African Clawed Frog

Xenopus Laevis, wild caught female
The African Clawed Frog (Xenopus laevis) is a very common pet and lab animal and yet holds many surprises for those willing to look – it has no tongue, produces skin secretions that have yielded valuable medicines, was once used by the millions to detect pregnancy and thrives as an invading species in habitats ranging from Texas cattle ponds to brackish marshes in England… and their tadpoles feed by filtering organic material from the water.

Inducing Reproduction

Clawed Frogs may be induced to breed by keeping a pair at 68F for a few weeks while gradually lowering the water level of their aquarium.  A sudden increase in water volume and temperature usually stimulates calling and egg-laying.  Sometimes, the hardy beasts even spawn without any pre-conditioning at all – a nice change from their often “picky” relatives!

Tea-Drinking Tadpoles

The tadpoles are quite odd…propelled by a rapidly vibrating tail, they move about with their funnel-like mouths wide open, filtering water day and night  – just like minute, plankton-feeding whales.

Many years ago I raised a batch of tadpoles utilizing a diet that had been touted by European herpetologists for some time – strained Nettle Tea.  I went through boxes of the tea and the tadpoles grew with astonishing rapidity.  The water in their aquarium went from brown (or “tea-colored”!) to clear in no time at all as they sucked down the apparently delicious brew.

However, about 2 weeks after the tadpoles transformed into frogs, they all died.  This is unusual, as African Clawed Frogs are quite hardy and they were housed in 4-5 different nature centers, zoos and private collections.  Something must have been lacking in their diet, but I did not look into it any further.

An Original, Effective Diet

Hikari First Bites Food
Recently, That Reptile Blog reader Kyle kindly wrote in and informed me of a diet he has used with great success – Freeze Dried Bloodworms, Shrimp Pellets, Hikari First Bites Fish Food and Hikari Turtle Sticks ground into a fine powder. Kyle has observed the tadpoles taking in sizable (relatively speaking!) pieces of food, and reports no losses since formulating this diet.

Thanks, Kyle – no more expensive Nettle Tea for my tads!



Further Reading

These fellows have surprised me by reproducing without amplexus, basking on rocks and more (most of which is doubted by my colleagues!)…please see African Clawed Frog Behavior.

Read more about the Clawed Frog’s spread to foreign habitats worldwide at the Global Invasive Species Website.

Yes, there is a YouTube Video of these amazing tadpoles!


About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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