Tadpoles swimming in shallow water

Wouldn’t it be great if all living things could live side-by-side and get along? Well, unfortunately, in the real world that does not happen even for the most social of creatures – humans, let alone further down the food chain in the animal kingdom and your garden pond is no different. 

We are going to answer the question “Do Goldfish Eat Tadpoles?” and if they do, we will tell you how to save your tadpoles from being eaten.

Do Goldfish Eat Tadpoles?

Goldfish are closely related to the carp, which is generally considered to be an omnivorous fish, meaning that they will eat plants as well as other animals. Goldfish are no different and they will indeed eat tadpoles, and not only will goldfish eat tadpoles, but they will also eat frogspawn and just about anything else that is alive in a pond whether it is plant life or not.

In a pond, goldfish reign as king and are the dominant species and will eat just about anything. This is not just limited to goldfish but fish in general and that is why we do not recommend keeping any kind of fish in a wildlife pond as you will soon find that there is not much wildlife left.

Goldfish will happily forage and feed on algae and other plants in your pond, but they will also scavenge and munch through any insects and other small animals that they come across which means that tadpoles are often on the menu (unless they come across toad tadpoles which contain toxins in their skin and the fish will spit them out).

What Are Tadpoles?

Tadpoles are the immature hatchlings of frogs in the larval stage. Frogs will lay their eggs (known as spawn) in the early months of the year and between 2 to 4 weeks later, the spawn hatches into tadpoles.

Tadpoles look like small fish-like animals with a round head and gut followed by a long flat tail which is used to propel them through the water via lateral undulation.

Frog tadpoles are omnivores and mostly eat algae and water fleas. There are a few species that are mostly carnivorous and will cannibalise each other and the tadpoles of other creatures like salamanders are mostly carnivorous too.

How Long Does It Take for a Tadpole to Become a Frog?

After hatching, a tadpole will spend the first months of its life swimming with no limbs at all relying solely on its tail for mobility.

Around 16 weeks after hatching, the tadpoles will begin to grow legs. The back legs come first, shortly followed by the front and then as the baby frog grows larger, the tail is absorbed into the body too.

Once the tail has fully absorbed into the body, the young tadpole will become a frog. This has usually happened by the early summertime but has been known to go on until the early autumn.

How to Stop Tadpoles from Being Eaten

I do love it when I go outside and see hundreds of tadpoles in my pond as it means that spring is on the way. Sadly though, the first thing that you need to think about is that most tadpoles are likely to be eaten regardless of what you do and is the reason why frogs lay so many eggs.

Female frogs will lay up to 3000 eggs and the majority of eggs and tadpoles will not make it to adulthood. The eggs make a nice easy snack for fish and the tadpoles are preyed upon by a variety of creatures.

As well as goldfish, tadpoles have many other predators to contend with such as water boatmen, dragonfly larvae, diving beetles, grass snakes, crows, magpies, blackbirds, and even hedgehogs.

1. Netting

Covering your pond with netting is a great idea especially if you are also worried about your fish as this will prevent predation by birds.

You call also try and separate the fish from the tadpoles and put some mesh between them but this is quite difficult to achieve with any real success unless you have a square or other simple shaped pond.

Netting however will not keep your tadpoles safe from the predators that are in the water with them though so as well as netting, we recommend that you have some areas for the tadpoles to hide too.

2. Hiding Places and Shallow Areas

If you are worried about goldfish eating your tadpoles, you should create some spaces to hide. Plants and other areas built from rocks etc make great hiding places that help keep the tadpoles safe.

Building shallow shelf-like areas that the fish cannot reach is also a great idea. Tadpoles will enjoy basking in the shallows where it is nice and warm and away from the goldfish’s mouth.

3. Create a Nursery Pond

First, you’ll need to gather a large enough container to house the tadpoles.

Second, you’ll need to gather some pond plants. These plants will help to oxygenate the water and provide shelter for the tadpoles.

Finally, you’ll need to take some pond water and create a separate nursery pond with no fish.

This nursery pond will be where the tadpoles can grow and develop without being at risk of being eaten by the goldfish.

Can I Move My Tadpoles

Although moving tadpoles or frogspawn to another location may seem like a sensible idea, it is something that you should NOT do.

When you move animals between ponds, you may unknowingly transfer non-native plants or even diseases which could be devastating to the new ecosystem you have moved to.

You could temporarily move some tadpoles as long as you use the same water and take some plants for them to hide amongst and eat and then put them back once they have turned into frogs.


Do goldfish eat tadpoles? Of course, they do! Just remember though that whatever you try and do to stop it, mother nature will have her way and lots of tadpoles will get eaten.

There are a couple of things you can do to help, and netting is a great idea but not as good as introducing shallow shelf-like areas and hiding places in between or behind plants.

Do not worry too much though, Frogs have been around for a lot longer than we have so they know how to survive.

Did You Know

Garden Doctor Trev

“Frogspawn is laid in clumps and there can often be up to 3000 eggs, each of which is surrounded by about a centimetre of clear jelly!”

“Tadpoles hatch with gills but as they mature, skin grows over them as the young frog develops lungs!”

“The paradoxical frog is only around 7.5cm long and has the largest tadpoles. They can reach a staggering 27cm in length!”

“Tadpoles will have usually fully metamorphosised into young adult frogs by early summer where they may be seen cooling off around the pond when it gets hot!”

“There have been a few recorded instances where tadpoles in large numbers have actually eaten fish!”

Frequently Asked Questions

Can tadpoles and goldfish live together?

It is not recommended to keep goldfish and tadpoles together. The goldfish will undoubtedly eat any tadpoles that they come across so unless you want your fish to eat the tadpoles, do not put them together!

What kind of fish will eat tadpoles?

Most fish will eat tadpoles. In a pond, fish are the dominant species and will eat almost anything. Fish that eat tadpoles includes regular pond fish such as koi and goldfish.

Can I put tadpoles in my fish pond?

It is not recommended to move tadpoles from the water source where they hatched unless you create a nursery pond from the same water. Moving tadpoles between ponds at different locations could unwittingly also transfer disease or non-native plants at the same time. That being said, if you have a fishpond and some spawn has been laid there, the fish will likely eat the tadpoles for lunch when they hatch.

Do Magpies eat tadpoles?

Yes, magpies are scavengers and defenceless tadpoles make a tasty treat for them. Magpies will also eat the baby frogs once the tadpoles have grown legs.

Do goldfish eat frogspawn?

Yes, Goldfish will eat almost anything, and frogspawn is definitely on the menu. Frogspawn laid at the beginning of the year makes a tasty treat for goldfish – it is a good job that female frogs lay so many eggs or frogs would have died out many years ago.

About Me

Hi, I’m Trev and I’ve been growing things since I can remember. When I was younger, I grew up on a farm, so I have always been around plants and animals. After studying horticulture at university, I decided to start my own nursery which I have run now for 25 years. In my spare time, I run this website – which is a resource for people who want to learn more about their gardens.

More You Might Like