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.

Tadpoles swimming in shallow water
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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.

Do Goldfish Eat Tadpoles?

Goldfish are closely related to the carp 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 everything. This is not just limited to goldfish but in general, fish are omnivores and will eat anything including tadpoles. 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 plant matter, insects and other small animals that they come across but they won’t eat toad tadpoles which contain toxins in their skin.

What Eats Tadpoles?

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.

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.

Tadpoles in the Shallows
Tadpoles in the Shallows

How to Stop Tadpoles from Being Eaten

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.

1. Create 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.

2. 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.

3. 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 can 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. So, netting is best used in conjunction with one of the other methods.

Tadpoles with Container for Nursery Pond (inset)
Tadpoles with Container for Nursery Pond (inset)

Can I Move My Tadpoles

Contrary to what you may have seen on TikTok, tadpoles should not be moved from their original home. While the idea of relocating tadpoles or frogspawn might seem harmless or even beneficial, it can inadvertently introduce non-native plants or diseases to the new environment, potentially harming that ecosystem. If there’s an absolute necessity to move tadpoles temporarily, to protect them from a voracious fish, for example, you can make a second nursery pond. Ensure your nursery pond uses the same water and move some plants across for shelter and food. Once they change into frogs, you can move them back to their own pond.

Conclusion

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.

How to keep Tadpoles Safe from goldfish Infographic

Did You Know

“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!”

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 omnivores 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.


Author

Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.


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