The presence of frogs is a good indicator of the overall health of an ecosystem. However, many frog populations, along with other native animals are being lost and/or habitats polluted under the ever increasing expansion of new residential areas and city centers. As a result, frogs are forced to try and find alternative suitable habitat in our cities and urban backyards.
Building a frog pond can be a great way to attract frogs to your backyard while also providing an alternate source of water for other species.
By providing suitable habitat with clean unpolluted water, rock or logs, protection from predators, food and suitable local native plants your backyard will soon be croaking with frogs.
Some simple ways to encourage frogs to visit or move in include building a frog pond, adapting an existing wet boggy corner of your backyard, converting a fish pond or modifying a water feature and even converting your in ground swimming pool!
In addition to well structured vegetation many ground dwelling frogs may require additional shelter and protection on the ground. Some ideas include providing safe, cool retreats such as:
- logs and branches, particularly hollow logs
- moist thick leaf-litter
If you want to obtain logs and natural materials for your garden try contacting a tree removal company or arborist in your local area, they maybe happy to give away some logs or branches to help replace wildlife habitat. Never remove or take logs and rocks from bushland areas as you maybe taking away somebody else’s home. It is also illegal to remove plants, plant material and rocks from bushland, reserves and parks.
Frogs also require unpolluted water and a shaded pond to breed in. If you are keen to build your own backyard frog pond, the following simple steps and links will help get you started. Before you begin, ensure you check with your local council regarding laws surrounding water depth and safety fencing.
Creating a frog pondMany of the common species of frogs found in urban areas will breed in any available water, from a bucket, old bath tub, garden water feature, child’s wading pool to a purpose built vegetated pond. Your design can be as elaborate or simple as you choose.
Purpose built frog ponds can be formally constructed with bricks and raised partly above ground as a feature or simply be a depression in the ground lined with a plastic pond liner to help retain water. You can also build a small container pond for a balcony or deck using plant pots (ensure you fill the drainage holes with silicon and seal the pot with a non-toxic pot sealer), large bowls, plastic container and even a child’s sandpit shell.
Pond Design and Location
- The repetitive calls of frogs during the night can be very loud during the summer mating period. So ensure you select an area that is not near a bedroom window or likely to create conflict with an adjoining neighbour.
- Utilise any existing damp areas in your backyard if suitable.
- Ensure the pond will have at least 75% shade for most of the day. Tadpoles are heat sensitive and will not survive if exposed to prolonged heat and sunlight.
- Any container or plastic liners used in your frog pond should be free of chemicals or detergents.
- Ensure any storm water run off (from your or adjoining properties) potentially containing pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers will not flow into your frog pond.
- Not all frogs have the same breeding requirements so it is important to provide variable habitat. You may consider varying the depth in different parts of your pond or changing the density of your aquatic vegetation.
Pond Water and Frogscaping
- Water depth within your frog pond should be at least 30cm and filled with rain water or tap water that has been left in direct sunlight for 5 -7 days to breakdown the chlorine. (It is not recommended to use any chlorine neutralising chemicals).
- Place clean river sand and pebbles in the bottom of your frog pond and larger rocks around the outside.
- If establishing a frog pond in a pot or container, place rocks and logs in a way that provides adult and juvenile frogs with both a dry refuge to climb onto from within the pond and safe easy access out of the container (pond).
- Include some native water plants within your pond. Some native waterlilies, rushes and sedges can be planted directly into the sand or into a pot placed in the pond. Aquatic plants within the pond will help to keep the water cleaner and also provide shelter and resting opportunities for frogs and tadpoles.
- Algae will grow on aquatic plants, rocks and logs within the water and will provide a food source for tadpoles. Tadpoles will also feed on decaying plant matter that falls into the pond.
- Plant a variety of local native plant species of various heights and forms and group ground covers to form dense clumps. Include species such as Lomandra, Themeda, Juncas, Blechnum and Alpinia around the edge and outside of your frog pond and include some local native shrubs and trees to provide shade, shelter, and vantage point for calling.
- Flowering plants will attract insects for your frogs to feed on.
- A dense vegetation buffer around a frog pond will also assist as a barrier to cane toads.
- Never plant exotic water plants in your pond. Exotic water plants such as water hyacinth and salvinia and many of the species sold from pet shops for fish tanks can choke our dams and waterways and deplete available oxygen, killing our native aquatic invertebrates and wildlife.
- In addition to larger rocks around the outside of your pond, place several small logs and branches in the pond with one or both ends gently sloping out of the water to allow frogs (especially ground dwelling frogs)and metamorphosing tadpoles to climb out of the water and exit the pond.
- As tadpoles begin to develop legs and start breathing air, they need safe resting places such as logs and rocks just above the water level.
Check out our recommended list of native plant species for your frog pond.
Common Garden Chemicals can Kill
- Whichever method you choose to use it is important to remember that frogs have thin skin that can readily absorb common garden chemicals so avoid the use of chemicals in your backyard and especially where there is potential for run off into your frog pond. Like many other smaller species of wildlife, frogs can also become very ill and even die if they eat insects that have been poisoned with pesticides and other garden chemicals. To maintain their health and ensure survival of frogs in your backyard you will need to avoid using chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides and switch to animal or plant-derived organic fertilisers.
- The chlorine in treated tap water can also harm frogs and tadpoles. Never fill up your frog pond directly from the tap water. If your pond needs “topping up” or filling it is recommended to fill an open container with tap water and leave it in the sun for at least 5 – 7 days. This will help to break down the chlorine.
Natural Mosquito ControlFrogs and older tadpoles will eat mosquito larvae during the wet seasons when they are active. However the inclusion of 3 or 4 small native fish such as the pacific blue eye (Pseudomugil signifier) will feed on mosquito larvae all year round and not eat all your tadpoles. Native fish can be fed with regular fish food. Tadpoles will also happily eat fish food flakes.
Pond plantings such as mat rush (Lomandra longifolia), will also attract insects that in turn will eat mosquito larvae. One such species is dragonfly larvae.
- Keep cats and other pets inside or within a secure enclosure at night, especially during the warmer months when frogs are most active.
- Never translocate frogs or tadpoles as this can spread disease and introduce species that are not indigenous to your local area.
To find out about common backyard frog species, check out our Living with Wildlife page.
Links and Other Resources
For Further Information
challenges, tools and games.
Useful Tips and Facts
- Create urban wildlife corridors and stepping stones to larger local bushland or parkland areas.
- In nature there is no such thing as waste everything is linked and contributes to the cycle. As a plant reaches the end of its life cycle it is not discarded by nature, instead it provides habitat for animals and food for micro-organisms as it lies on the ground, the waste from the micro-organisms, bacteria and fungi feeding on it replace nutrients and organic material to the soil for new plants to grow.
- Plant local native species
- The best way to attract native wildlife to your backyard is to provide a variety of healthy natural foods in the form of seeds, leaves, flowers, nectar, pollen, fruits and nuts throughout the year.
- The use of pesticides and herbicides can damage your soils and kill non target species. The poisoning of insects with chemicals can also cause larger species relying on those insects as a food source to become sick or even die from eating poisoned insects.
- To create habitat for smaller native birds you can grow shrubs close together to create dense corners or pockets in your garden which will provide protection and refuge from larger aggressive birds such as noisy miners
- Wattles (Acacias). While most wattles only live between 6 - 10 years, they are an important pioneer species which colonise disturbed areas, where other plants find it hard to grow. They improve soil conditions enough to allow other species to germinate and thrive by fixing nitrogen into the soil through their roots and adding high levels of organic leaf litter.