vegetarian protein for tadpoles (not a euphemism)
March 23, 2017 2:39 AM   Subscribe

I have tadpoles in the garden pond; to minimise cannibalism when they turn to protein diets, I want to supplement their food. As a kid, I used liver-on-a-string, but now I'm a vegetarian so what are my options?

The obvious thing is eggs, but how? I'm disinclined to cook them first because I'm not sure how the denatured protein etc will appear to a tadpole. Current plan is: freeze beaten raw egg & drop small cubes of it periodically in the water for slow release. Do you have better suggestions?
posted by AFII to Pets & Animals (17 answers total)
You can make a very effective mosquito/flying insect trap with a box fan and a screen. Don't use the alcohol if you're going to use the bugs for food; maybe be prepared to detach, fold, and bag the screen before turning off the fan.

If you do this _away_ from the pond, so that you're not keeping insects from laying their normal frog-food-egg stuff in there, you could capture the bugs from the screen and use those.

If you have a _friend_ with a mosquito or gnat problem, you could visit that friend, set up the fan for an hour or so, have some lemonade, then take the fan, the bugs, and your friend's gratitude with you when you leave.
posted by amtho at 3:34 AM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I know that insects aren't vegetarian, but you wouldn't be contributing to factory farming practices, and you would be giving the tadpoles their natural diet while alleviating the suffering of the insect's victims.

I've thought about this trap for a while; I think if I were going to build one, I'd use an additional pre-screen layer set at least 1.5" before the fine screen, with larger mesh, to avoid trapping dragonflies, praying mantises, moths, etc.
posted by amtho at 3:37 AM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: haha I am such a sap I spend a lot of time rescuing insects from the pond. But I would be OK with 'relocating' our clutches of midge larvae from the water butts etc...
(eta I'm in the UK so I don't have much of a mosquito/biting insect problem, most of my insects are decorative or important to the garden!)
posted by AFII at 4:44 AM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

This page recommends boiled lettuce.

I searched for [what to feed tadpoles]
posted by amtho at 7:04 AM on March 23, 2017

Response by poster: without wanting to threadsit - boiled lettuce & other vegetables are the normal feeding reccs for tadpoles in tanks (& not at all necessary in a pond full of weed!), but additionally they need a protein boost when they start forming legs, and that's what I'm asking about specifically here.
posted by AFII at 7:19 AM on March 23, 2017

On the one hand, my knee-jerk reaction to this was "okay, you may be vegetarian, but the tadpoles aren't, just give them liver." On the other, it would be cruel of me to disparage you for what are no doubt carefully considered personal beliefs, and you probably don't have liver hanging about, is the problem, and you probably aren't likely to buy a whole calves liver for the express purpose of feeding tadpoles.

So how about - ask neighbors and friends to save you the gizzards and giblets from when they get whole chickens to roast. Yeah, there are some superchefs who would be saving these for soup stock, but I'd wager most people just throw that packet away. So if they give them to you instead, then you get the protein boost for the tadpoles, they are spared the fuss of not knowing what to do with the giblets, and everyone wins.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:34 AM on March 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

ask neighbors and friends to save you the gizzards and giblets from when they get whole chickens to roast.

In the UK the chickens don't come with the gizzards heart and liver in a little bag. They come clean, which is a bummer as I usually make the gravy from them, but can't as they aren't included. Oddly they are included with the frozen turkeys though, but the ducks and geese don't have them either. I think your easiest thing to do (other than just letting them go cannibal) will be the denatured unfertilised chicken fetus.
posted by koolkat at 9:24 AM on March 23, 2017

I'd think twice about doing this - I would guess that tadpole cannibalism is a population control mechanism. If you mess with it, don't you run the risk of then having too many frogs or toads for the local ecosystem to support?
posted by Kriesa at 9:26 AM on March 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

Maybe you could use cheese? Or something nut-based, like peanut butter? Or tofu? I don't know if they'd nibble on those, but you could see.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:37 AM on March 23, 2017

In the UK the chickens don't come with the gizzards heart and liver in a little bag. They come clean, which is a bummer as I usually make the gravy from them, but can't as they aren't included.

....Huh. Interesting.

Well, the idea may still be good in concept, just maybe ask for regular meat scraps rather than gizzards specifically.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:59 AM on March 23, 2017

this is gross, but maybe use roadkill?
posted by The otter lady at 10:40 AM on March 23, 2017

Response by poster: I... did not realise this question would be so challenging. I appreciate the lists of things that are protein but let's rephrase as: what, in my vegetarian cupboard, is safe and profitable for me to feed to tadpoles (who mustn't eat each other as they have already been depleted by An Accident).

ideally I'd like this not to involve me having to actually butcher a dead squirrel that I have somehow scavenged off the road and/or convince my neighbours I am indeed the street weirdo by begging for meat scraps. I like frogs but not that much
posted by AFII at 10:58 AM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Tofu on a string maybe? It's at least a nice solid chunk of protein mass. Honesty, I'd try cooking the eggs first and seeing if they'd eat that, maybe an entire hardboiled egg on a string. Putting in frozen cubes of egg feels like a good way to dirty the water when it starts melting if they don't eat it, and you can't get it back out if they don't.

If you don't mind ordering something and don't care about brine shrimp vegetarian wise, order cubes of frozen brine shrimp (UK link), staple of aquarium feeding.
posted by foxfirefey at 11:30 AM on March 23, 2017

Oh hey looks like there's even a specific food for late stage tadpoles from Ecopond!
posted by foxfirefey at 11:33 AM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

not in your cupboard:

- food bugs from pet stores, but they might be too large (you could, uh, break them up -- but I think most of them are delivered alive, so maybe not so fun).

- something from a bait shop?

- maybe cat treats or kibbles? Do you have animals?

This is a pretty specialized question. I don't know if soy protein or gluten would be safe for the little guys, and amphibians are delicate creatures. Maybe you should go ahead and contact an amphibian zoologist at a university, mentioning specific foods you're considering. I would even ask before giving cat treats - there might be a lot of carbohydrate in those, and you don't want to foul the water.

Thanks for looking out for them. I love amphibians; I wish I knew more about them, but I know it's been tough for a lot of them lately.

If you want to take extra good care of them, maybe optimize the amount of shade, hiding places, etc. in there, and/or see if there are fish that will try to eat them. Maybe you could make a safe "nursery" area.

I know that isn't really what you're asking, and truly I don't have this problem (I wish I did), but I wish I could help more!
posted by amtho at 11:57 AM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another idea, which I hope you'll consider: do you have neighbors with kids? Kids _need_ to learn about the ecosystem by getting their hands dirty. Maybe you could convince a neighbor family to contribute some cooked protein bits, walk the kids through cutting it up finely enough, and let them watch the tadpoles eat it... and then let them visit every other day for a while to watch the little frogs develop and learn what outside feels like :)
posted by amtho at 12:06 PM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Honestly getting some brine shrimp or whatever is the local equivalent to bloodworms from an aquarium shop is really your best bet here, if you aren't keen on buying liver or something similar. As a vegan, I can totally dig it, but the problem with any vegetable protein in an aquatic environment is that they tend to be very carby as well. Tofu, mentioned further up, is more carb than protein. You risk messing with the pH of the pond if you dump too many carbs in there - it's going to get broken down by bacteria, resulting in problems with the pH and oxygenation of the water.
posted by Jilder at 3:49 AM on March 25, 2017

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