Is it illegal to raise tadpoles in captivity and, if not, what do I need to know?
It’s not illegal to keep tadpoles, just make sure you provide them with the right conditions and release the froglets back where you found the spawn.
Keeping Common Frog or Common Toad tadpoles in captivity is not illegal. It is not advisable to keep newt eggs/larvae if you know Great Crested Newts are present in the area as this species protected by law and to keep them in captivity would require a special license. Telling the difference between the eggs of different newt species can be tricky so it’s best to stick to frogs (or toads).
We recommend that tadpoles (or froglets) are released back into the same pond from which they were taken. This reduces the threat of moving amphibian diseases or invasive pond plants to new ponds.
Watching tadpoles develop can be a great educational project for children: we advise following the advice in the FSC’s Guide to Keeping Frog Tadpoles, available through our shop.
Key points are to have around 3-5 tadpoles per litre of water, and ideally they should be kept in pond water with some pond weed. If tap water is used it should be left to stand for a day or so to let the chemicals settle out or treated to remove chloramines. Feed newly hatched tadpoles on boiled or frozen lettuce or spinach, and fish food (for cold water fish) when they get bigger. Make sure there are rocks and plants for the developing froglets to climb on, if they can not easily exit the water at this stage they can drown. If you keep the tadpoles until they have metamorphosed into froglets don’t release them directly into the pond, instead release them into some damp vegetation close by.
An amphibian habitat is threatened, what can be done?
Depending on what species are present, unfortunately, there may not be much that can be done.
Of the more widespread species of amphibians (those that you are likely to come across), only Great Crested Newts are protected by law from intentional killing and injury. Their habitats, including ponds and key foraging areas, are also protected. All of the UK’s rare amphibian and reptile species (Natterjack Toad, Pool Frog, Smooth Snake and Sand Lizard) and their habitats are protected in the same way.
In 2007, the UK Biodiversity Action Partnership (UKBAP) listed the Common Toad as a species of conservation concern. In England and Wales this means that (under Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006) all public bodies must have regard for Common Toads, and Great Crested Newts, (specifically under ‘biodiversity conservation’) when carrying our their functions.
In addition, Planning Policy Statement 9 (PPS9) states that planning authorities should ensure that species of principal importance, including the Common Toad and Great Crested Newts, are protected from the adverse effects of development. It’s important you submit records of your sightings to your local Biological Records Centre so if/when consultants are researching an area they pick up these species at the earliest opportunities. You can use our free Dragon Finder app to record sightings and we will share the data with record centres.
Sadly, if work is being carried out on a site where there is spawn/are tadpoles in a pond, there is no requirement for these to be relocated.
If you suspect any laws are being broken please contact your local Wildlife Crime Officer or a relevant advisory body.