How to help a frog spawn & survive in a pond

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Frogs return to the pond in Spring and leave frog spawn

Frogs in Spring:

  • Males return first to the pond in Spring.
  • Frogs return to the pond where they were hatched.
  • Males attract the females to them by croaking.

Mating:

  • They mate in shallow areas of the pond amongst plant growth.
  • Once he has attracted his female he will grip her from above with his forelimbs in an embrace called 'amplexus'.
  • The female lays frogspawn which is fertilized by the male on release.
  • The female uses plant growth on shallow shelf areas to support herself during this process as she can be suffocated or drowned.
  • The mating can last for days and more than one male can mount one female while she is laying spawn.
  • Each female usually produces one clump of frog spawn in a season usually in warm days in March.
  • Over the weeks of spawning many frogs will appear in the water with a mass of movement and frog spawn as a result.
  • Frog spawn is laid on shallow shelf areas as lumps about the size of a tennis ball.
  • Each lump will swell to grapefruit size as it matures and will float to the water surface. They will merge to look like one jelly mat.

Freshwater Habitats Trust (formerly Pond conservation) ask pond owners to take part in the Big Spawn Count every year to see how many clumps of spawn appear in your pond so they can see how many breeding females are reported.

Big Spawn Count results show:

  1. Spawn laying depends on the outside temperature and can vary by 2-3 weeks.
  2. Up to 5mx5m appears to be the optimum size for the pond water area
  3. Construct the pond with shelves to produce shelf areas of shallow water
  4. A pond should be in the sun in Spring.
  5. The average number of clumps of spawn in a 5mx5m pond was 14.
  6. A smaller pond of 1mx1m had, on average, 7 clumps of spawn (or 7 visiting female frogs).
  7. Plant the area around the pond densely to give a habitat for protection and hiding places to get the best numbers of frog visitors and survivors.

Our pond had over 40 frogs in it one year and they made at least 15 balls of spawn which soon merged together as a swollen mass of jelly to protect the eggs.

The juvenile frogs not yet capable of mating (3 years old) may appear in the pond too.

Frog spawn survival:

Froglife (the wildlife charity for conservation of amphibians and reptiles) advise that frog spawn is not taken from one pond to another to help control the spread of invasive pond plants and amphibian diseases.

  • The adult female lays several thousand eggs to allow for huge losses - each in a clump of jelly with dark brown-black centres.
  • A clump of spawn sits half submerged under the water and half exposed to the air. It is vulnerable to overnight frosts.
  • In a light frost the spawn closest to the outside of the clump will be killed. The centre of the clump may survive because it is protected by the outside of the clump.
  • Leave any spawn that dies in the pond as it will break down to get eaten by other creatures.
  • Dead eggs will have grey or white centres.
  • Very cold weather can interrupt spawning - a second batch of frogspawn may appear in your pond once the cold weather subsides.

Around three weeks after spawning the tadpoles hatch out from their eggs.

  • Each tadpole is about 12mm long and brown in colour.
  • They will feed on the old jelly mass and any algae which is growing on it.
  • You can supplement their early food requirements with a vegetable based food - particularly important in a new pond - at first use Early stage - Tadpole food.

Frog tadpoles in Summer:

  • Once they start to develop legs, tadpoles change from being vegetarians to carnivors.
  • Most established ponds will have enough food for the tadpoles to develop to maturity but in a new pond or with a large number of tadpoles in your pond supplement later with late stage (high protein) tadpole foods.
  • Up to 90% of the eggs, tadpoles or froglets in a pond are lost to predators in the warm shallow waters at the edge of a pond. These predators include dragonfly larva, water boatmen, snakes or birds.
  • They need as much cover from plant leaf as possible so they have somewhere to hide from these predators.
  • Grow Myosotis species, Veronica beccabunga and in a larger pond area - Mentha aquatica and Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum.
  • Garden ponds are often home to more than one species of amphibian - see newt and toad pages - this is a healthy situation and shows that the pond is functioning well.
  • Numbers of one species will control another until they balance with each other out. Adult newts can eat frog spawn. Late stage frog tadpoles can eat young newts when the frog tadpoles are in the carnivore stage.

Adult frogs:

Ranavirus - Adult frogs can be affected by Frog red leg disease. On hot days between June and August at temperatures above 25°C  you can find a large number of dead frogs in a short space of time . The frogs are often thin and lethargic before death.

  • Affected frogs may appear with:
    Drowsiness (lethargy).
    Abnormal wasting (emaciation).
    Redness of the skin (erythema).
    Skin ulcers or sores.
    Bleeding (systemic haemorrhaging), especially from mouth/anus.
    Breakdown of limbs (limb necrosis).
    Eye problems.

Frogs in Winter:

  • Frogs may live in the pond over winter as they can breathe through their skin. Most will leave the water and spend Winter under logs or sheds, in compost heaps or any other damp hiding place they can find.
  • Frogs try to return to the pond of their birth after Winter hibernation to mate.

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