A pond full of tadpoles, followed by froglets, provides plenty of entertainment for children and is appealing to many adults. Tadpoles are also useful in practical ways. Amphibians form an essential part of many land and aquatic ecosystems, keeping populations of their food species under control and in turn providing food for a range of larger animals. They play these roles even in small habitats such as a garden or a garden pond.

Algae Control

Tadpoles in an algae filled pond.

Tadpoles in an algae filled pond.

Algae form an important part of the tadpole diet. As a result, large numbers of growing tadpoles eating their way through a pond’s algae mitigate some of associated problems, including damage to equipment and the death of aquatic animals or plants.

Algal blooms in a pond are basically a smaller version of infamous ocean dead zones. Oceanic dead zones come from the excess of nutrients in fertilizer run-off, sewage and phosphate detergents, which promote a phytoplankton, better known as algae, population explosion. As the algae die and decay, the water loses oxygen and becomes inimical to aquatic life.

Excess phytoplankton turn clear water into a thick green soup. While some algae is beneficial in a pond as it provides food for aquatic animals, too much is not only unsightly, it can deplete oxygen from the water and block light to submerged plants, ultimately killing fish and other pond life. Tadpoles help to keep the free-floating phytoplankton and the green algae on rocks under control, without the need for polluting chemicals.

Pest Control in the Pond

Because many tadpoles become omnivores or carnivores as they grow, they reduce populations of various invertebrates. Bodies of still water are the preferred breeding grounds of several biting insects, including mosquitoes and some gnats. If tadpoles are present in the pond, many, if not most, of the larvae end up becoming dinner long before they have a chance to metamorphose.

Pest Control in the Garden

Slug.

Slug.

Once the tadpoles change into their adult forms, they continue to be helpful to a gardener or small farmer. The diet of most amphibians consists primarily of invertebrates, with larger individuals managing small vertebrates. Such a diet includes common pests, such as slugs, grasshoppers, roaches and even rodents.

Natural predators help maintain a natural balance in your garden, thus reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides. Organic gardeners or those who simply prefer to keep the use of toxic, and expensive, chemicals to a minimum should find amphibians form an obliging pest control team.

Wildlife Conservation

Heron.

Night Heron.

A healthy amphibian population doesn’t just help control pests. It also supports other wildlife, including rare birds, mammals and reptiles. The reason frogs often lay thousands of eggs at a time is because, inevitably, many of the tadpoles are eaten long before they mature.

All the tadpoles in a pond cannot become frogs, toads or salamanders, and if they did they would not find enough food. However, those that are eaten sustain populations of animals further up the food chain such as the night heron.

Amphibians themselves are under threat, due to a combination of pollution, disease, climate change and, crucially, habitat destruction. Because most amphibians need both a terrestrial and an aquatic environment to complete the life cycle, the loss of either could be disastrous. Provided the tadpoles are a native species in your area, a garden pond with tadpoles has a valuable role to play in the conservation of local frogs, toads or salamanders.

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