ADF Tadpole Development

  • #1
Have you ever awakened to find the entire water's surface of your ADF tank covered with eggs, but weren't sure how to go about raising the tadpoles. Here is a simple method I've found to work very well.

Carefully, collect the eggs with either a cup, turkey baster, or eye-dropper, and put them in a clean glass jar or small fishbowl containing fresh dechlorinted water that is at the same temperature as the main aquarium. Be sure to pre-wet whatever implement you use to collect the eggs, or else the eggs will stick to it. If you forget, you can just put the whole cup, eye-dropper (with bulb removed), or whatever, directly into the jar and wait a few days for the tadpoles to emerge on their own. The jar containing the eggs should be kept in a water-bath at approx. 74-76 F. You can use a separate aquarium for this purpose, or you can lower the main tank's temperature by a couple of degrees and use it. (For example, I usually keep the main tank at a constant 77-78 F., but lower the temp. to 75-76 F. when I'm using it as a water-bath to raise tadpoles). You may need to set the jar on top of something to keep it's rI'm above the water's surface. Fill a second jar with fresh water and place it in the bath as well. This jar will be used for future water changes, so that any water that is changed will be at exactly the same temp. Tadpoles are very sensitive to temp. changes.

Day 1: The eggs consist of a central nucleus (called the vitellus) surrounded by a thick layer of transparent jelly, which both protects and nourishes the embryo. Initially the vitellus is creamy-white coloured on one side and dark grey on the other, sort of like the hemispheres of the moon, and is approx. 0.75 mm. in diameter. But gradually, over the next several hours, the entire vitellus turns a dark grey colour.

Day 2: By the following morning, however, the vitellus appears light brown and elongated slightly - they sort of look like grains of brown rice embedded in a sphere of clear jelly. If you look very closely with a magnifying glass, you might be able to detect the beginnings of an eye-spot, body, and tail. By evening, these structures are visible to the naked eye, the larvae has turned a darker colour again, and the yolk-sac is clearly visible. Sometimes, a few of the eggs fail to develop (usually unfertilized), sink to the bottom, and begin to grow fungii. If found, these should be removed using a turkey baster.

Day 3: The jelly coating disappears by the third day and the tadpoles emerge. At this stage, the tadpoles swim very short distances, but spend most of their time stuck to the sides of the glass jar. (If you missed any eggs when you collected them, you might also find tadpoles stuck to the sides, plants, or ornaments of the main tank. The adult frogs will eventually find and happily eat these.) It is necessary to begin performing daily water changes to keep the water clean. Remove approximately 50% of the water and replace it with water from the second reserve jar. Keep the second jar refilled with fresh dechlorinated water for future water changes.

Day 4: By the fourth day the tadpoles are free-swimming and begin to feed on infusoria in the water. Some breeders like to add green water or a commercially-prepared product such as Liqui-Fry at this stage, but I've found that adding a sprig of aquatic plant material from one of my other aquariums provides sufficient microscopic foods. At this point, it's time to begin hatching some baby brine shrimp to feed the tadpoles, because by the following day, they will have depleted their yolk-sac completely and will need to eat live culture foods for the next few weeks, if they are to stand much of a chance of surviving. ADF tadpoles are very unusual in that they are fully carnivorous suction-feeders from the very start, whereas the tadpoles of most other frog species are initially filter-feeders. The reason that live culture foods are necessary, as opposed to powdered or frozen, is that non-living foods sink beneath the tadpole's limited feeding range. Initially, tadpoles feed only within a very narrow range of the water column, immediately below the water's surface. Freshly-hatched baby brimp are ideal, because they are extremely phototactic (attracted to light) and tend to congregate just below the surface, precisely where they tadpoles like to feed. BBS is also ideal because they are highly nutritious and able to survive for several hours before succumbing to freshwater conditions, allowing the tadpoles time to feed.

I'll continue tomorrow with a description of the easiest method I've found to hatch BBS and how to feed the tadpoles. . . .

Hatching BBS

Several different methods can be used to hatch baby brine shrimp, but the simplest method I’ve found involves using a San Francisco Bay brand “Educational BBS Hatchery” kit. These kits can be purchased from most pet stores and are reasonably inexpensive (i.e. under $15). They consist of a black plastic hatching vessel with a lid and a clear plastic collection vial. You simply fill the hatching vessel with tap-water, add the package of hatch-mix which is included, stir until the mixture dissolves, and place the lid on the hatching vessel. Then, you fill the collection vial with water, invert it, and push it down into the well of the hatching vessel’s lid. I think it best to fill the collection vial with dechlorinated water rather than tap-water, just so the nauplii, and subsequently, the tadpoles, aren’t exposed to any chlorine, but according to the directions this isn’t necessary. Because they are attracted to light, the BBS swim upwards into the collection vial upon hatching. The emergence of the BBS embryo (or nauplii) from the cyst (or egg) is referred to as the umbrella stage and will begin to occur around 16-18 hours later, if the hatchery is kept at approx. 80-82° (i.e. placed in a water bath) and a little longer at slightly lower temperatures. Because my place of residence doesn’t have many electrical outlets, and those that exist are already over-loaded, I hatch my BBS at room temp, but it takes a little longer

You can either use the pre-measured packets of hatch-mix that come with the hatchery or make your own by combining 1/4 tsp. cysts, 4 tsp. aquarium salt, a pinch of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), a pinch of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to one quart (litre) of water. I prefer to make my own, because the pre-measured packages contain enough BBS to feed an army of tadpoles. But then again, the unused BBS can be frozen for later, and used once the tadpoles have grown large enough to accept frozen foods. The unused BBS can be strained through a coffee filter to remove the liquid, and the filter (now covered with BBS) can be folded, placed in a plastic bag, and stored in the freezer. When you want frozen BBS, just cut off a piece of the coffee filter and thaw it in a little dechlorinated water to reclaim the BBS. The BBS should be fed (or frozen for future use) within the first 12 hours after hatching, because, after this point, their nutritional value begins to decline rapidly. BBS will hatch best at 80-82° F, a pH of 8-9, salinity range of 35-40 ppt and a specific gravity of 1.015-1.020.

BBS are an ideal first food for ADF tadpoles, because the naupliI are extremely attracted to light (highly phototactic), move about in the water column and aggregate just below the water’s surface immediately within the tadpole’s limited feeding range. Also, they are high in protein (55-60 % dry weight measure), highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs), and the necessary amino acids, lipids, enzymes, and vitamins. The naupliI are also ideal because they can survive in freshwater for several hours before succumbing to osmotic shock, giving the tadpoles time to feed on them. And the chitin found in BBS shells is a good source of roughage, which is especially important for carnivores.

Always store cysts in a dark, cool, dry place (the refrigerator is ideal) in a tightly sealed container and use them as quickly as possible, as they have a limited shelf life and hatching rates decline quickly with age. If you have been unsuccessful in hatching BBS in the past - don’t blame yourself - it’s most likely that the cysts were old or had been stored incorrectly. I’ve described here only one of the many methods that can be used to hatch BBS. Although other methods might produce higher yields, I like this method because it is simple, clean, and convenient, and yields more than enough BBS for my purpose.

To be continued. . . .

Pattie G: Always glad to help. I've been following your tadpole thread with interest. Can't wait for photos. Sorry you have lost a couple recently. It's not uncommon. Please don't feel badly. It likely has more to do with the condition of your parent frogs than anything you have done in raising the tadpoles. Even though they might appear to be perfectly healthy, sometimes adult ADFs are infected with certain diseases that make it impossible to raise their offspring to maturity. I certainly hope this isn't the case and that your remaining tadpoles continue to do well.

ADF tadpoles usually do just fine with freshly hatched BBS (best fed within 12 hours of hatching), at least, until they morph and become interested in eating larger foods, such as mysis shrimp or bloodworms chopped into tiny pieces. But, if you are really concerned about nutrition, you could always try pre-soaking their food in a liquid vitamin and mineral supplement, such as "Zoe," which is made by Kent, or one of the powdered supplements made specifically for reptiles and amphibians. It certainly couldn't hurt to try. Or, as others have already suggested, crushed frog bites will help if your tadpoles will eat them, since these foods are usually fortified with vitamins and minerals.

ADFs are just so darn cute! I sure hope yours do well. I'm keeping my flippers crossed. Please keep us posted on their progress. - frogbreeder

Pocket Sized Ninja: If space is limited, for the first few weeks, at least, the main aquarium can be used as a water-bath for raising the tadpoles. Although clean, glass jars or small fish-bowls are the safest, I've found that very clean Becel containers will work equally well, if necessary. Also, the Becel containers float when they are filled with water and their rims remain above the water's surface. So you don't need to set them on something to keep their rims above the surface, as is necessary when using jars. Also, the plastic used in these containers appears to be tadpole-safe, as long as it is washed and rinsed very, very thoroughly. This arrangement will work fine to raise tadpoles for the first few weeks, but, once the tadpoles grow larger, they should be moved to a larger container or small aquarium of their own. - frogbreeder

Using the main aquarium as a water-bath for newly-morphed froglets in a small fishbowl:
Caption 1: "Hey, you haven't seen my tail, have you? I can't seem to find it anywhere."
Caption 2: "So, how's the weather up there?"


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  • Thread Starter
  • #2
ADF Tadpole Feeding Mechanism

ADF tadpoles are unique for a couple of reasons. First, they are extremely small compared to the tadpoles of other frog species. In fact, they are one of the smallest, free-swimming vertebrates ever discovered. And, second, they are predatory suction-feeders, fully carnivorous from the very start, actively tracking their prey and consuming it whole. (Incidentally, adult ADFs are also predatory suction feeders.) Although scientists have known for decades that ADF tadpoles are predatory, little remained known about the exact mechanism by which they consume their prey, until recently. In 2002, biologists from the University of California, Berkley, Stephen Deban and Wendy Olson, used a high-speed video camera with a powerful lens (the type used to monitor fast-moving machinery used in assembly line production) to record this unique feeding behaviour. You can find a copy of their video posted on the web by searching DebanLab.

Deban and Olson observed that the feeding mechanism used by ADF tadpoles closely resembles that used by larval teleosts. If you have successfully bred fish, then, you’re likely already familiar with this particular feeding mechanism. Similar to the larvae of many bony fish species, ADF tadpoles extend their tube-shaped mouth outward and suck in their prey, but they do so much more quickly than most larval fish - in a mere six one-thousandths of a second. Their unique method of feeding is most likely an evolutionary result of their tiny size. The water’s relative viscosity would make it extremely difficult for such a small tadpole to filter feed. Deban and Olson’s work reveals many previously unknown details of the unique feeding mechanism emmployed by ADF tadpoles, and is published in the British journal Nature 420:41-42 (2002), if anyone is interested.

Stephen Deban is currently a professor at the Department of Integrative Biology, University of South Florida, where he specializes in the study of vertebrate morphology and physiological function, especially the musculoskeletal systems of amphibians and reptiles. His laboratory, the Deban Lab, is dedicated to studying the evolution of biomechanical and physiological mechanisms in animals; that is, how animals move and how these mechanisms change through evolution, as a result of environmental factors. Last we spoke, Stephen told me that he hopes to get one of his graduate students interested in working with ADFs; so, hopefully, we’ll learn more about them from a scientific perspective in the near future. Unfortunately, ADFs have been the subject of relatively few scientific studies, compared to the other fully aquatic frog species popular with aquarium enthusiasts, the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis). An enormous amount of scientific data exists about African clawed frogs, likely because these frogs were used in human pregnancy testing during the 1930s and 1940s, but, unfortunately, nearly none exists about the African Dwarf frog (Hymenochirus). To be continued. . . .


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  • #3
ADF Tadpole Development Continued

Days 5 - 6: For the first few days, the tadpoles are relatively immobile and live off their yolk-sac; then, they swim only short distances and survive by eating infusoria or microscopic protazoa in the water. Within the next day or so, by day five or six, however, they begin actively swimming just below the water’s surface, hunting for larger prey. Feeding can begin at this point. The tadpoles require several small meals (4-6 feedings) per day of freshly-hatched BBS, or a similar live culture food. In order to maintain water quality, any uneaten food and waste should be removed from the bottom prior to each feeding using a turkey baster, and the water replenished by adding fresh water from the reserve jar. At this stage, the tadpoles will not eat food from the very surface or from the bottom. They won’t do so until they’re a little older - usually by about three weeks of age. Their feeding range, although initially very narrow, will gradually expand over the next few weeks to include the entire water column. Not until the tadpoles are able to eat from the bottom, should frozen foods such as BBS or daphnia be introduced.

The tadpoles swim by using their tail to steer and propel themselves forward (lateral undulation), much like fish do. At first, the tadpole’s eyes are forward-facing and positioned very close together on the front of their head, just above their mouth. The position of their eyes enables the tadpoles to see clearly at close range and easily track their prey, but as they mature and develop into froglets, their eyes gradually shift, so that they become more dorsally positioned, that is, located more toward the sides of their head. This gradual change in eye position greatly reduces their binocular vision and depth perception at close range, but improves their peripheral vision, enabling them to better detect would-be predators - an evolutionary trade-off, of sorts. Adult ADFs have extremely poor eyesight close-up. Because their close range vision is so poor, adult ADFs will sometimes lunge at food that is directly in front of them several times, before managing to seize it, even though they can smell the food and are aware of its presence. People frequently ask whether ADFs are blind. Well, no, not exactly, but they would definitely benefit from a pair reading glasses.

Once the tadpoles have begun feeding on the BBS, it becomes necessary to perform complete water changes (i.e. 100%) on a daily basis. Filtration is neither recommended nor required at this stage, but from this point onward, water changes must be performed regularly, as it is imperative that the water in the jar be kept as clean as possible. This can be accomplished by simply removing the tadpoles from the jar that they are in and transferring them to the reserve jar, which is already at the same temp. For the first week or so, the tadpoles are still small enough to be gently drawn into a turkey baster and expelled directly into the reserve container of clean water. But, they will quickly grow too large to safely fit through the orifice of the turkey baster without injury. At this point, they are best moved, by gently pouring them out of the jar into a cup containing a little clean water taken from the reserve jar. A turkey baster can then be used to carefully remove most of the dirty water from the cup containing the tadpoles, before gently pouring them into reserve jar. Because they are extremely delicate and can be injured very easily, a net should never be used to catch the tadpoles. The jar containing the dirty water should be cleaned, refilled with fresh declorinated water, and placed back in the water bath, so it’s ready to be used for the next water change.

When raising tadpoles, it’s also wise to avoid over-crowding, since it is believed that the tadpoles emit a chemical into the water, which can stunt the growth of, or even kill, other tadpoles (although I can’t verify this scientifically, it’s certainly plausible). Depending on the number of tadpoles you are raising, it will eventually become necessary to move them to multiple jars or a larger container: a fish-bowl or a very small, unfiltered, bare-bottom aquarium, perhaps. For the first couple of weeks, several dozen tadpoles can be kept in one large jar; by the time they are four weeks old, however, only a dozen or so per jar. (Any unwanted extras can be fed to your fish as a special treat. I have two very large clown loaches, named Hoover and Dyson, and another smaller loach, named Eureka, that go crazy for them, but all my fish like them.) By the time metamorphosis is complete, I would recommend providing at least half a gallon of water or more per froglet.

Week 2: As the tadpoles develop, their tail, which is about twice as long as their body, lengthens and broadens vertically, enabling them to move easily through the water in search of food, and their body begins to fill in and take on a box-like shape. Their colouration gradually changes from dark grey/black to light brown and iridescent areas remain around their eyes and on the sides of their body for a couple more weeks. Their eyes appear to glow. Although they are still breathing through gills, as their lungs are not yet developed enough to breath atmospheric air, the tadpoles occasionally swim to just below the surface and release tiny bubbles. Continue performing regular daily water changes.

When the tadpoles are approximately 10-14 days old, legs buds appear on either side of the base of the tail as a white nub. Although the rear leg buds initially appear to be one structure, located just below the lower edge of the tail, or even part of the tail, the legs separate as they lengthen, and eventually move outwards away from the side of the body, instead of being located directly behind the body. Their bodies become more rounded, and dorsoventrally depressed (relatively flat), and they begin to appear more frog-like than fish-like at this point.

Week 3: The tadpole’s leg buds lengthen and separate from either side of the tail. Small flippers form at the ends of the legs. Some tadpoles are lighter in colour than others and some develop more rapidly than others - this is perfectly normal. Feeding frequency can be reduced slightly at this stage (perhaps to 3 feedings per day). Once the tadpoles are able to feed from the bottom, frozen foods, such as frozen BBS and daphnia, can be introduced, but only feed new foods before a scheduled water change, in case they won’t eat it. Continue performing regular daily water changes. To be continued. . . .


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  • #4
Week 4: Arm buds appear on either side of the body just behind the head. The arms lengthen and hands form; the legs and rear flippers also become more defined. By this point, the tadpoles’ lungs have developed and they begin to breath atmospheric air at the surface. Their circulatory system is clearly visible through the semi-transparent skin of their body and limbs. Continue performing regular daily water changes to keep the water clean.

Weeks 5 - 6 (Metamorphosis): It still amazes me, no many how times I’ve witnessed tadpole metamorphosis, I find it absolutely fascinating to watch. Around the end of the fifth week or the beginning of the sixth, the tail begins to appear ragged along its edges (similar to the condition known as fin-rot in tropical fish, but is perfectly normal in pre-metamorphosis tadpoles). Over a period of 24-36 hours, the tail is gradually resorbed into the body (by a process called apoptosis), leaving only a small stub or tail-bud. (Tail today, gone tomorrow. When our kids were little, I used to teasingly tell them that the tadpoles’ tails had fallen off, just like Eeyore’s. Naturally, they believed me and used to look for the detached tails lying on the bottom.)

Typically, tadpoles will not eat as much during the later stages of metamorphosis. It is normal for them to stop feeding, altogether, at least briefly, while their tail is being resorbed. The transformation from tadpole to froglet is now complete. The froglets, which are absolutely adorable at this stage, measure approximately 1.0-1.4 cm SVL (snout to vent length). In addition to BBS and Daphnia, the froglets can now be fed many of the same foods as adult frogs, but chopped into very, very, very small pieces. New foods are best introduced only prior to a scheduled water change, just in case the tadpoles won’t eat it. Newly-hatched BBS, however, remains a favourite. Eventually, as the froglet grow larger, BBS will be too small to be of much interest to them, and the froglets will prefer larger foods.

The tadpoles begin to shed their skin around this time as well, if they haven’t already done so, but they may not eat the sheds at this point. Personally, I have only witnessed post-metamorphic froglets eat their own sheds, never tadpoles. Remove any uneaten sheds promptly, as these are a great medium for bacterial and fungiI growth. Providing at least half a gallon of water per froglet is recommended at this stage, but more is always better. Usually, I move the froglets to a small, bare-bottomed, unfiltered aquarium, once they have undergone metamorphosis. The water should be kept no deeper than approx. 6-7 inches, so that the froglets can easily surface to breathe. Although most owners prefer to house their frogs in much deeper aquariums, adult ADFs actually do best and behave most naturally when kept in 7-10 inches of water. In the wild, ADFs prefer to live and spawn in very shallow, still water.


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  • #5
As the froglets mature, their features become more defined, their muscles develop and their bodies fill-out. Their individual markings develop, such as the pattern of spots on their back and facial mask. Some ADFs have larger dark spots, while others appear more speckled. At about two months of age, feeding frequency can be reduced to twice per day and at six months of age to once a day. At one year old, feeding can be reduced to 5-6 times per week.

The tadpoles develop rapidly, with many periods of marked growth and a rapid succession of changes until metamorphosis is complete. At times, a tadpole can nearly double in size overnight. The entire process takes only 5 – 6 weeks for the tadpoles to develop from egg to froglet, producing a perfectly formed miniature frog, about the diameter of a penny in length. The froglets and juveniles are irresistibly cute and much like a puppy, their feet and head appear much too large for their body. Over time, however, they gradually become better proportioned. Even at this age, they display many of the same amusing behaviours as adult ADFs and are extremely entertaining to watch. By six months of age, ADFs will have grown to about ¾ inch in length and by the time they are one year old, they will have grown to approx. 1 - 1¼ inch SVL. They are full grown by 18 months of age.

I hope this information proves helpful for anyone wishing to breed and raise these adorable, little frogs. I’ve found this method to be very reliable, but I’m sure everyone has their own way of doing things and that other methods will work equally well. Good luck and happy breeding. – Frogbreeder.


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  • #6
Photos of Adult ADFs

I just couldn't resist adding a few more of my favourite ADF photos. I absolutely adore these little creatures.


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  • #7
Thanks for the great write up and illustrations.

I'm sure it will be very helpful to our members who want to breed ADF's.
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
You're more than welcome. I hope it's helpful. As you know, it's an amazing experience to breed and raise these litlle guys from eggs. Yep, sounds like your female has reached froggypause. They seem to loose interest after a few years, but then again, don't we all.


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  • #9
WOW!!!!!!!!!!! OHHHHHHHHHHH my goodness...THANK U SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much!!!!!!!!!! Awesome job all the way around and thank u for taking the time....greatly appriciated
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
Thanks for the compliments, Lorabell. I have lots of info on ADF care and breeding and will try to post more stuff shortly. I wish you the best of luck breeding your ADFs. May you awaken one day very soon to find hundreds of eggs in your ADF tank so you can give it a try. Happy breeding. - frogbreeder


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  • #11
Great info frogb. I just woke up this morning to about a 100 eggs at the surface of my tank this morning. How exciting. Not sure I know what I am doing but giving it my best first try.
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
Frogee, that's very exciting you've woken up to eggs. Raising them is simple - all they need is clean water and freshly-hatched BBS. Just be sure the water used for water changes is at exactly the same temperature. This seems to be the key - even a degree difference can have a detrimental effect. Good luck. Please keep us posted on your progress. - frogbreeder
Pattie G
  • #13
You are right on the money! My tads are developing exactly as described. We are starting week four. From above they look like tiny little alligators lol. Thanks so much!
  • #15
This information has been my ultimate bible for rearing my first (and possibly soon to be second..) adf tadpole rearing guide across the web... Without this info, I'm pretty sure my tad eggs would have been toast days and days ago... Thank you!!!!!
  • #16
Welcome to FishLore!!
Frogbreeder sure did a great job here.

Be sure to post some pictures in the section of the fourm.
We'd love to see your tank and tads!

Good luck!
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
(Note: When breeding ADFs, it is best to purchase the male and female from different retailers, or at least at different times, if possible, in order to ensure maximum genetic diversity between breeding partners. Frogs purchased from the same retailer, at the same time, will more than likely be siblings and could produce weak, deformed, or sterile offspring, when bred together. In many instances, the eggs produced by siblings are simply not viable.)


In the wild, ADF breeding behaviour usually coincides with the onset of the rainy period during springtime. But, when they are kept in captivity, ADFs will breed readily throughout the entire year, provided they are cared for properly, that is, they are provided adequate water quality and are fed a healthy diet. In fact, in many instances, it takes only a large water change, a slight change in water temperature, or a feeding of high quality live or frozen food to trigger breeding behaviour. If it does not oocur naturally, breeding behaviour can usually be encouraged by gradually reducing the water depth over a period of three or four weeks by approximately one inch per week to a depth of about 4-6 inches, then suddenly increasing the water depth back to normal (i.e. 7-10 inches) and raising the temperature by a couple of degrees (i.e. from 76-78°F to 79-80°F, but no higher than 80°F. as this can be dangerous), and maintaining this temperature for two weeks. This change in water depth and temperature will mimic conditions similar to the onset of the rainy season in the wild, and stimulate egg production in females. Obviously, a fully-submergible filter, rather than a hang-on-the-tank type or HOT filter, must be used in this case, otherwise the filter’s output would create too much water disturbance (ADFs prefer very calm, shallow water). Feeding a good quality diet, high in protein (live or frozen food if possible) will also encourage breeding behaviour.

When they are sexually mature (beginning around six months of age), male ADFs develop dimorphic breeding glands or small nodules on either side of their body, just behind their forelimbs. Although these glands are technically called post-axillary, subdermal, breeding glands, they are more commonly referred to as “white-spots” or “nuptial pads.” Actually, the term “white spot” is somewhat misleading, since these glands are usually pinkish or cream-coloured. During periods of sexual excitement, these glands become enlarged and might appear to have a red centre. Although scientists had long suspected that the white spots of male ADFs played a role in the mating process and were most likely responsible for hormonal production, the exact biological function of these glands remained unknown until very recently, when Christopher Pearl and others at the University of the Pacific demonstrated that these glands release a mate-attracting chemosignal or pheromone, which is specifically designed to attract female ADFs (as opposed to serving some other biological function, such as signalling for species aggregation or indicating the presence of food, etc.).

When males are ready to mate, they will usually establish a territory on the bottom of the tank and vocalize to attract a mate. In addition to vocalization, males sometimes perform a mating dance in which they arch their backs, straighten their forelimbs so that they appear taller and more impressive, stamp their feet, and perform a bucking motion, in order to impress the female. If more than one male is present, they may face-off against each other and engage in a gentle shoving match of sorts. When all is said and done, however, the male who gets the female is the one who manages to amplex her first. Sometimes, both males will attempt to amplex the female at the same time. And, sometimes, in their excitement, males will amplex the female incorrectly. And, sometimes, confused and over-excited males will even amplex each other – oops. Once the male has amplexed the female, little can deter him from his mission. He will not release her until he is ready to do so. (Note: owners should never attempt to separate amplexing frogs, since this could cause injury to one or both frogs.)

Should the female be unwilling to mate, she will avoid the male and attempt to remain hidden, usually with her back against something to prevent the male from amplexing her. Should the female be willing to mate, however, she will present herself to the male and allow him to amplex her. The male will wrap his arms tightly around her midsection, just above her thighs, and bury his head in the crook of her back. During amplexus, the female does all the swimming, carrying the male on her back the entire time, wherever she goes. Although eggs are not released every time a pair of frogs engage in amplexus, should the female be ready to release her eggs (females in their prime will spawn approx. every 3-4 weeks or so), she will periodically swim to the surface to deposit her eggs while carrying the male with her, until the entire spawning process is complete, which can take several hours, or in some cases, even days, but, most typically lasts 8-12 hours.

During the spawning process, when the female swims to the surface - still carrying the male on her back - she will either roll over sideways or do a backward summersault, so that she is upside-down on her back and her abdomen is parallel with the surface. With her tail-bud or cloaca just breaking the surface, she will release one or more eggs at a time, before returning to the bottom. Presumably, the male also releases milt at this time in order to fertilize the eggs. The milt appears as a thin, oily film floating on the surface and is combined with the eggs, as both frogs kick their hind legs in an effort to right themselves and swim to the bottom. This process is repeated literally hundreds of times over an evening of amplexus. Because of the large number of predator species that feed on frog eggs, tadpoles, and young adults in the wild, like most anuran species, ADFs lay an enormous number of eggs at any one time, in order to increase the chances that at least some offspring will survive to maturity.

During the mating process, the female goes about her normal business (swimming, playing, eating, and resting as usual), between trips to the surface to deposit her eggs. Sometimes, the female rests motionless on her side or even upside-down on the bottom. Although it may appear as though the male has injured her, there is no need to be concerned, as she is just in a resting phase and will soon right herself. When the female has finished releasing all of her eggs, she swims to the bottom of the tank and remains motionless and rigid for an extended period of time, signalling to the male to release her. Eventually the male releases the female and both frogs will go about their normal behaviour.

Occasionally, individual eggs will not separate from each other, and will be deposited in groups, rather than one at a time. Occasionally, the eggs fail to separate before being expelled and resemble a string of tiny white pearls. You may notice such a string of eggs trailing behind the female during amplexus. The eggs are formed inside the female in a long stringy membrane (similar to a sausage casing). Eventually, this strand of eggs will catch on something in the tank and be pulled from the female’s body. Usually, such eggs are unfertilized and should be removed from the tank before fungus begins to grow on them.

Healthy, viable eggs are spherical and buoyant, when first released. They consist of a central nucleus (vitellus), which measures less than 1 mm. in diameter. As shown in the photos of a previous entry in this thread, the vitellus is divided into two hemispheres, such that it appears cream-coloured on one side and dark, greyish brown on the other. The “white” of the egg consists of a transparent, jelly-like substance, which surrounds the vitellus, so that, in total, the eggs measure approximately 2-3 mm. in diameter. The casing surrounding the egg provides the embryo with nutrients as well as protects it. The eggs are extremely sticky and will adhere to any surface with which they come in contact. Most of the eggs will be fertilized and float on the water’s surface. Some, however, will be scattered throughout the aquarium, stuck to plants and ornaments. Any unfertilized eggs will quickly become covered in fungus. These should be removed immediately and discarded so that the fungus does not spread and affect the viable eggs. Once amplexing frogs have finished spawning, it is best to remove all of the eggs from the tank as soon as they are noticed. Otherwise the frogs might gorge themselves on them. Should you wish to raise the tadpoles, the eggs should be removed to a separate container and the procedure outlined above can be employed. Happy breeding. - frogbreeder


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  • Thread Starter
  • #17
A few of those frogs who oviously failed sex-ed class:


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  • #18
Thank you Frogbreeder! My babies just reabsorbed their tails.
  • #19
Thanks for you info on the ADF. I had a few, one got sucked up my filter, I felt terrible. I have fixed the filter problem and now have 3. One is mature and two little ones. I've noticed that one of the little ones is very dark and not grey, is this still an ADF?
  • #20
Take a look at the flippers.
If all four feet are webbed, it's and ADF.

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