FROGS AND BACKYARD WATER GARDEN PONDS

By: Mike Gannon | Posted On: January 29th, 2016 | 17 Comments on FROGS AND BACKYARD WATER GARDEN PONDS | In: KOI FISH, KOI PONDS, NATURAL PONDS, POND MAINTENANCE, POND PREDATORS, WATER GARDENS

Let’s jump into the subject of frogs in the backyard water garden pond. Many pond owners will find themselves hosting a frog or more that has somehow found its way into your pond. Even in areas that seem to be void of anything froggy, if you build a pond, they will come; …invited or not!
The presence of frogs adds another dimension to the pond keeping lifestyle. They add some personality too. Sometimes pond keepers introduce frogs or tadpoles, but frogs always seem to find our ponds on their own too. How do they find our ponds anyway? Frogs are more than just a pretty face and voice that our backyard ponds feature; frogs add to the diversity of species that our ponds support along with our fish, plants, insects, and other wildlife. They help create a more complete eco-system. So what can we expect from these visitor-cum-resident of our ponds? For some the frog is a welcome presence, for others not so much. It seems that it has always been this way.
Frogs have an ancient history and struggle with mankind, even to the point of plaguing the ancient Egyptians. Frogs have been with us since our most ancient histories, stories, fairy tales, myths, and superstitions. These days frogs conjure up the contemporary image of sitting on a lily pad sounding off with intermittent peeping, croaking, and groaning; lazing the days away. We don’t worry too much about magical frog potions these days, its alot more fun for us to laugh at them in Budweiser commercials while sitting on our couches. But there is much more to these formidable backyard pond inhabitants, so get off the couch and step up to the pond.
Frogs come in many shapes, sizes, and colors across a broad spectrum of habitats around the globe. All frogs start their life in the water but frog habitats go well beyond the pond, being found above and below ground, above and below water, in trees, grasses, jungles, cities, numerous other combinations of habitats, and even invading our homes; but always near water. The frogs’ struggle continues to this day with global populations of frogs declining at an alarming rate, from factors like habitat loss, pesticide use, and sometimes losses without explanation. The backyard pond could play a role in the conservation of frog populations. The reality that frogs have been around 190 million years and are disappearing before our eyes is a heartbreaking statistic. Let’s keep frogs with us a while longer…
Frogs are amphibious, should be the first clue that frogs are not lazy little critters hanging ’round the pond, but amazingly resilient. Frogs easily transition from skillful swimmers submerged below water to fully adept land rovers negotiating land, rocks, plants, and trees with great ease and leaping great distances with great speed. Many frogs have the ability to change color on demand. Frogs use these natural born skills for the purpose of hunting. Yes, frogs are voracious carnivorous predators and a long muscular tongue to help capture prey. Like a true predator frogs have amazing almost 360 degree eyesight. Their excellent hearing comes not only from the huge eardrums mounted on the side of their heads, but they hear through their skin too! Frogs are mostly nose in their body make up, and have a piercing sense of smell. Because frogs have no teeth, they swallow their prey whole. Adult frogs will hunt and eat insects, worms, snails, dragonflies, mosquitoes, and grasshoppers. Larger frogs will also go after small animals like mice, snakes, birds, other frogs, small turtles, and even small fish from our ponds if they can fit in their mouths. Fish caught by frogs will generally be sick or weakened fish. Healthy backyard pond fish like koi, goldfish, and orfe don’t have too many worries from frog predation and the mixing of these species is generally compatible; with some interesting interactions from time to time, like frogs “riding” on the back of large koi! There’s no promise of Sea World in your backyard, but, with some time, effort, and lots of patience, frogs will even adapt to hand feedings being lured in with nice juicy nightcrawlers (watch those fingers!).
Frogs have plenty to worry about too; bigger frogs want to eat them! I doesn’t matter that their skin is toxic and they taste horrible. Herons, raccoons, snakes, turtles, fox, big fish, possum, French restaurants, and others want to EAT them! Dogs and cats just want to play with them, …to death! So let’s not make this all out to be a pleasure cruise, it ain’t easy being green (I apologize for my need to use that most obvious phrase…).
Frogs are mostly solitary, only congregating during breeding season. Males become territorial during this time and are vocal about it. Lots and lots of frog calls are happening at this time, and it can get loud. The larger the pond the more territory frogs will have to share, the more frogs to enjoy! Once frogs are established they may reproduce in the pond and sustain the population year after year. Fish and even other frogs love to eat the egg sacks. Egg sacks of frogs can be recognized by their round clusters and jelly like appearance, toad eggs are laid in long strands. It is not unusual to find the inside of a skimmer box covered with eggs at this time. Ten days or so after the eggs are laid the tadpoles will begin hatching. Tadpole hatching is again a good time to be checking the skimmer.
To keep your pond frog friendly be sure to add plants in the pond and around the pond, especially grasses. Provide areas with slow water flow, frogs like quiet water. Provide some shelter within the pond like a simple clay pot. If you want to keep it real frog friendly don’t keep your pond “too clean”, and try adding a 6″ deep tray of compacted soil covered with gravel mulch as a place to dig in for the winter months. Dedicated frog ponds, without fish, can be easily constructed with minimal investment. Some of the more common species you can expect in North America would be pickerel frogs, leopard frogs, green frogs, bull frogs, and peepers; but other species shouldn’t surprise you. It is recommended to allow the frogs to find you, and only keep species native to your immediate area. If you build it, the frogs will come.
During Spring months the cheerful peeping of frogs is one of the early indicators that the warmer weather has arrived and the pond is waking up from its winter slumber. Summer months are prime season for frog watching! The antics never stop. Autumn time be sure to check pond netting for the occasional frog stuck on top of the net instead of in the pond! During winter months resident frogs will often climb into pond skimmers to enjoy the warmer pocket of air inside the skimmer box. Remove pond skimmer lids slowly during colder temperatures so as to not startle the frogs. Startled frogs can lead to clogged pumps, and messy situations! Some frogs can actually go into a state of freezing during winter months and thaw as temperatures allow, which is a rare survival skill in nature.
Keeping frogs in your backyard pond can be greatly rewarding on many levels, and at the most basic level it is great fun for children and adults of all ages to see that frog croaking away on a lily pad. It is one of the quintessential pond experiences for any pond keeper going back eons. Given our long shared history, of frog and man, let’s all give a hand in keeping our friends around just a bit longer by creating habitat for them in our backyard ponds and welcoming them. We can help the frogs even if its just a little bit. And if all goes well, maybe that frog will turn into a prince for you!
The LOVEYOURPOND Blog is written by Mike Gannon of Full Service Aquatics located in Summit, NJ. Mike is an award winning pond, water garden, and water feature builder. Always “In The Pursuit Of All Things Aquatic” Mike has been a lifelong hobbyist and providing professional services since 1995. Mike is the creator of The Pond Hunter video series seen on Youtube and has made several television appearances on Networks such as HGTV and the DIY Network. He also hosts the Pond Hunter Radio Broadcast. You can see what else Mike is up to at the following sites:

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Written by Mike Gannon

Mike Gannon

The LOVEYOURPOND Blog is written by Mike Gannon of Full Service Aquatics located in Summit, NJ. Mike is an award winning pond, water garden, and water feature builder. Always “In The Pursuit Of All Things Aquatic” Mike has been a lifelong hobbyist and providing professional services since 1995. Mike is the creator of The Pond Hunter video series seen on Youtube and has made several television appearances on Networks such as HGTV and the DIY Network. He also hosts the Pond Hunter Radio Broadcast, a show on everything aquatic, every other Wednesday at 8pm EST. You can see what else Mike is up to at the following sites:


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    17 Comments on FROGS AND BACKYARD WATER GARDEN PONDS

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  1. Leslie Gascoigne Says:

    on February 28, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    Hi Mike,
    I live in Carpinteria, CA and have a small pond in my backyard in an old claw foot tub. 15 years ago when we first put it in, I brought tadpoles from the local creek. Over the years, we’ve enjoyed the sounds and occasional sightings of the tree frogs. As you know California (especially southern) has been experiencing a drought. We just had some recent rain and out frogs were going off about two to three weeks ago. It was almost deafening. Now, mysteriously, nothing. My neighbor across the street and down 2 houses also set up a pond. His are still going off and he has tadpoles. I’m very worried. I have a psychotic neighbor whose yard borders ours; the pond is on the fence line. She has poisoned some our native plants in the past. I don’t want to be so paranoid, but is there something she could have done to her yard/fence line or thrown into our pond that would kill off multiple frogs? Is there a way to test the water? I miss them terribly.
    Thank you!

  2. Mike Gannon Says:

    on February 28, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Hello Leslie,
    I’m sorry to hear the frogs have gone away. I enjoy them very much as well. It is hard for me to say what it could be, especially if you are in the area of the heavy rains CA is getting. Weather could be playing a role. If it is the neighbor I can think of lots of things to put into the water to kill off or keep frogs away, especially if the neighbor is prone to using poisons on things they don’t like. However, if you live in an area that frogs generally do very well, then you may be able to change out all the water and wait for more frogs to come back and repopulate. Good luck! -Mike

  3. daniel patterson Says:

    on May 20, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Damn if some neighbor put poison or pesticide in my pond to kill off my plants and frogs I’d literally go on a rampage. NO ONE messes with my pond!!!! If I were you, I would relocate your pond, or build a new one away from the fence line. Damn I’d literally bug out if that were me. Good luck!

  4. John James Says:

    on May 22, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    We have a .3 acre pond near our house on a 90 acre farm in southern Indiana. When i trim the grasses on the inside of the dam, I leave about 1 foot of vegetation at the water’s edge for frogs, etc. and this band of green is 6”-1ft. high. My wife says the band of higher vegetation needs to be broader (e.g, several feet) but I worry about appearance and trees and shrubs getting a foothold in the dam. How wide do you think this band of higher vegetation at the pond’s sedge should be, ideally, for the amphibians? thanks, John james

  5. Mike Gannon Says:

    on May 30, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    Hello John, I would probably keep and area from 1′-3′ wide. -Mike

  6. Bhanu Kapil Says:

    on May 26, 2017 at 3:58 am

    Hi. I just found your wonderful blog and have a quick question. A pond (small) outside my landlady’ back door, which did not have a frog in 18 years, now has a loud amazing bullfrog. Can just one bullfrog or regular frog (we haven’t seen it) survive? And how did it get here? Nobody has frogs anywhere around. Also, it feels magical. But that is separate. Should we get another frog from somewhere to keep it company?

  7. Mike Gannon Says:

    on May 30, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    Hello Bhanu. Frogs seem to find ponds magically! I don’t know how they do it. I would not add anything and let nature takes it course. Good luck! -Mike

  8. julie Says:

    on June 18, 2017 at 8:11 am

    I have a koi fish pond want to enclose it so I can put my frogs into it can you put frogs in with koi fish

  9. Mike Gannon Says:

    on June 29, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Hello Julie. Yes frogs are a common site and resident at many koi ponds. You may have to pay a little extra attention to providing them with food if it is an enclosed area. Have fun! -Mike

  10. Gene Marriott Says:

    on June 28, 2017 at 12:35 am

    Mike , can an adult bullfrog that has been living in an old swimming pool for years be relocated to a small backyard fishpond 12′ x 16′ x 4′ with about 30 fish ranging in size of 3-4 inches all the way up to 2 feet mostly koi and goldfish. The pond is about 9 years old with a waterfall. grasses and lilies we already have frogs and at least 1 bullfrog.

  11. Mike Gannon Says:

    on June 29, 2017 at 10:55 am

    Hello Gene. Sure the bullfrog can be relocated, whether it stays or not is another story. Bullfrogs are pretty mobile and will go where they want to be! Good luck. Mike

  12. Karen Says:

    on July 15, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    I live in upstate NY – zone 6 – south of Lake Ontario. I want to put in a pre formed kidney shaped pond in my back yard – maybe 5′ x 3′. I basically want this as a frog & toad “bog” – not interested in having fish. I will also provide a recirculating pump & plants for shelter & “ladder” rocks for the frogs, etc to have access in & out. I have been reading about ALL different ways & shapes & sizes of ponds, and looking up things on YouTube. I unfortunately have garter & milk snakes around my property, not as much as when I first moved in, but I worry that putting in my pond will attract more snakes to the area, and they will prey upon the frogs that happen along. I have loved frogs & toads as pets when I was young, but I do not like snakes, although I will not kill them.
    will my idea of a smallish pond help the frogs & toads in my area, or just provide a buffet for the snakes I have around here? Would my pond do more harm than good?

  13. Mike Gannon Says:

    on July 17, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    Hello Karen, although from time to time there is the possibility that a snake may take a frog I would still plan your pond. The frogs need the habitat and they will reproduce more so than the snake could ever eat. I don’t think it will become a “snakey” destination. You are technically doing a service for not only frogs but many other species even if it ends up as part of the circle of life. Good luck! -Mike

  14. Ro Says:

    on July 25, 2017 at 2:46 am

    I think we have a bullfrog living in our backyard, man-made pond on Long Island in NY. This is the first year we have had any frogs. The first time I noticed it was about 2-3 weeks ago. There is only one. He/SHe sits on the edge of the pond mostly on the rocks and takes a dive into the pond or hovers just below the water level with its eyes above the water level. It also seems to have made itself a ‘nest’ of dried pine needles outside of the pond. At first we were thrilled to have this new resident in our pond. However, my concern after researching what kind of frog it is…I’m afraid it will eat our goldfish. we do have many smaller ‘baby’ fish about 2-3 inches in length. I am pretty sure it IS a bullfrog, as it is mostly green, brownish on its back and a pale yellow belly with bright orange eyes. Is there anything we can leave out for food to avoid it from being tempted to eat our fish?

  15. Mike Gannon Says:

    on August 2, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    Hi Ro. A bullfrog may go after your fish but not always. Even if food is left out it will not give any degree of assurance that one of your fish may not be dessert! I would try to remove it if it is a big concern or just let the frog do its thing since most of what it will be eating and hunting will not be your fish. Good luck! -Mike

  16. Karen Says:

    on July 27, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    Hi Mike – Karen again.. another issue…I just got my preformed pond, it’s 80 gallons, 18″ deep, x 60″ x 42″. While digging for the pond, my handyman dug down to the septic box about 8″ & couldn’t go any further down, so the pond will have to sit on that, so we’ll have to build up the surrounding space with a combination of soil & curved landscape pavers. This is really the only area we can put the pond on, it will have a platform deck right next to it, and a wooden walkway on the other side, My question is – will the frogs find it even if it’s a raised pond? I intend on making it as accessible as I can with the pavers & rocks & soil. I also got water plants for the inside for cover, and there is a lot of other trees & shrubs in the area, plus I will put in plants around the pond itself. I worry that the frogs won’t be able to find their way into the pond with it being raised, but that’s my only option. Your thoughts? Also – should I put gravel/rocks on the bottom? I do not plan to put fish in there – but it will have filtration.. thanks Mike…

  17. Mike Gannon Says:

    on August 2, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    Hi Karen, welcome back! I don’t think the frogs will have too much issue finding the pond. I have seen frogs occupying some of the oddest places and some of them certainly elevated! If you are not having success, you could always introduce tadpoles and allow them to grow out in your pond. Have fun! -Mike

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