Amphibians 102

Chapter 1


What would a pond be without at least an occasional visit by a frog or two? Not only do they add to the sights and sounds of the pond, they are valuable for insect control and, maybe most importantly, as bellwethers of the general health of the pond and quality of the water. Because frogs and other amphibians breathe through their skin, they are very sensitive to poor environmental conditions, responding to degraded water quality almost immediately. A healthy frog population is one of the best indicators of a healthy pond.

Frogs are valuable for insect control and add to the general health of the pond and quality of the water

Frogs come in all colors, shapes and sizes, and are found on every continent except Antarctica. Here in North America we have over 90 species of frogs, ranging from tiny tree frogs the size of a large thumbnail to enormous American Bullfrogs that eat other frogs, mice, fish – even small birds! All share a couple of interesting traits you should be aware of:

Frogs live to sing! What we call croaking is a sweet serenade that attracts mates and scares off other suitors. Their (often very loud) vocalizations can be annoying when they’re in the mood for love. Unfortunately for folks that prefer their peace and quiet, there’s really no way to get them to stop calling, the future of their species depends on it. You can try to make the pond less inviting by removing all the plants in and around it, but that kind of defeats the purpose of having a pond in the first place, right? Either be prepared to try to catch and move them somewhere else (difficult at best) or better yet, just get used to the glorious chorus.

Many frogs (and most other amphibians) secrete toxins through their skins to deter predators. Some, like the gaily colored tree frogs of the Amazon, are toxic enough to tip poison arrows. If you happen to handle ANY amphibian, it’s a very good idea to carefully wash your hands afterwards. You REALLY don’t want to touch anything sensitive after catching Kermit. I scared the heck out of myself one day after rescuing a common everyday Green Tree Frog from a swimming pool in Florida as a kid. Didn’t think much of it, went back to swimming, until just by wiping my face a few minutes later some minimal residue of the secretions from the frog’s skin got into my eye, effectively and painfully blinding me for 2 hours afterwards.

Other minor issues - Frogs can easily get caught in skimmers and pumps as they look for places to shelter, and there’s nothing sadder than that pair of long white legs sticking out from the pump intake. Consider a stiff mesh Pump Bag if ‘frog sushi’ continues to be a problem. Frogs can sometimes make a mess digging around in aquatic potted plant containers. Top the pots with a larger variety of gravel too heavy for frogs to move, 1½” in diameter or larger. Some folks find the large masses of gelatinous eggs they lay unsightly – net them out and send to the nearest elementary school teacher.