common frog

Info & advice

Spawn & tadpoles: identification

How do I tell the difference between frog, toad and newt spawn/tadpoles?

Key things to look out for:


  • Spawn is laid in clumps in shallower water (usually the earliest to be laid).
  • Tadpoles are black and will stick together in a writhing mass when they first hatch.
  • As tadpoles develop, they become mottled/brown and do not shoal.
  • Tadpoles grow back legs first.


  • Spawn is laid in long strings, usually wrapped around vegetation in slightly deeper water.
  • Tadpoles are jet black (and remain so) and they often form shoals.
  • Tadpoles grow back legs first.


  • Eggs are laid individually and are wrapped in submerged plant leaves.
  • Larvae (sometimes called tadpoles) have a frill of gills behind the head.
  • Larvae develop front legs first.


I’ve seen white spawn/tadpoles, what’s going on?

Quick answer
White spawn may have died or could grow into albino tadpoles.

Further information
If you have noticed that the normally black centre of the spawn is white then it could be because it has not been fertilised. This spawn will naturally break down in the water.

However, if the white dots start to become ‘comma’ shapes, like ordinary spawn, then this will hatch into white or ‘transparent’ tadpoles. These tadpoles are either albino (missing all skin colour pigments and will have pink eyes) or are just missing certain skin pigments.

White tadpoles do not always survive well in the wild as they are so conspicuous to predators. Those that do survive don’t necessarily turn into white frogs, often they become darker in colour as they grow.

It may not be an albino frog that has laid these eggs, it could just be that there is a high proportion of the local frog population that carries the gene for albinism. If this is the case then you may see this occurring in future years.


common frogspawn
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