How to Identify Cane Toad Tadpoles from Frog Tadpoles

Looking at the Finer Details: Tadpoles vs. Toadpoles

These can get a little tricky to identify and if you're not sure, we recommend that you leave them alone. If there is any possibility that they might be Australian frog tadpoles, it's better to let them metamorph and then identify them. There are some subtle distinguishing characteristics between toadpoles and tadpoles, however, so if you're good at observing fine details, you'll be able to pick out which is which. (We apologise that some photos are missing - we'll get them included as soon as possible - but we didn't want to hold up the rest of the information in the meantime!)

Do not try to identify toadpoles at night - they change colour at night and look just like Australian frog tadpoles. Here are some daytime differences between toadpoles and tadpoles:

Frog tadpoles Cane toad 'toadpoles'
most species are brown or have blotches, stripes, spots, see-through bits or other markings on the body and tail; the tail fin is visible and usually has some kind of markings or spots (photo to come) are all black during the day and have a thin, black tail muscle but their tailfins are so clear, it's hard to see them at all unless the toadpole is held up close
are smaller than 30mm when they're young but if you see any tadpole longer than 35mm, it's a frog only grow to about 30mm total length before they metamorph (change into toads)
like to shelter under leaves and stay near the bottom, sit in one spot for long periods, swim independently instead of schooling (photo to come) sit in full sun during hottest time of day; no attempt to hide; often flick tail quickly even when not swimming forward; tend to swarm together in schools, especially along the edges of shallower water
when viewed from overhead, the body is oval, round or has an irregular shape when viewed from overhead, the body is almost diamond shaped
some frog metamorphs can be less than 10mm but most are bigger and are pale or have markings similar to adults of their species; this one is the Marbled Burrowing frog which also has a black tadpole but it grows up to 80mm long the metamorph is only 10mm long and is black for the first few days; with a magnifying glass, you can see that the eye has that football shaped pupil and the hard ridge of skin over the eye just like the adult