Sep 112008

Like a famous American frog once said, “It’s not easy being green”, and this is particularly true for our amazing Australian amphibians. Although we have been blessed with a unique frog diversity (Australia is home to over 200 frog species), loads of them are croaking at an alarming rate! Of our frog species, about 43 of them are listed as endangered or vulnerable, and three are presumed extinct. These guys are hopping mad about habitat loss, and they need our help! So, set aside a piece of your patch, and get frog bog building!

Getting Started – Frog Bog Basics

There are a few things we need to be aware of before we consider frog bog construction. Frogs, like us, need moisture, food and shelter, so consider this when placing and designing your frog bog. Ideally, a frog bog would be located in an area of the garden that receives some shade and some sun (about 70% shade and 30% sun). This will ensure that a little bit of algae grows, which is necessary for happy hoppers, and the fallen leaf litter will provide a bit of sustenance for tadpoles in the pond.

While we are talking shelter, the adult frogs need dedicated areas adjacent to the pond where they can hang out! Providing rocks, logs, leaf litter and appropriate shrubs will keep the frogs happy and you will be rewarded with a chorus of frog song all night! While we are talking about the frog song, consider your neighbours when locating the frog pond and keep the bog well away from their windows – especially bedrooms. Frogs can croak and sing all night and nothing says neighbourhood dispute like a badly placed bog!

In the moisture stakes, a good, frog attracting pond needs a total of about 1m³ of water, so consider this also before picking your spot. Frog ponds need to vary in depth, with a deep section of at least 50cm (more on that in the Design and Construction section), so be aware of underground pipes and tree roots in the planning stages. When designing a frog pond, it’s a good idea to consider utilising the natural slope of your block, wherever possible.

Placed in lower areas of your garden, the pond may be fed naturally by runoff rainwater, but the other advantage is that the surrounding ground will stay damp. This makes perfect frog habitat because Australian frogs don’t live in water all the time. In fact, they are used to their watery habitat drying out during summer and so take to the shelter of lush grasses and plants. If designing your pond this way, be aware that many fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides can do dreadful things to frogs, tadpoles and their food sources, so limit your chemical use in the patch!

Get Building – Design and Construction of your Frog Bog

Now that you have located the perfect spot for your frog pond, it’s time to get building. One of the most important aspects of frog bog design is variation in depth. You see, tadpoles need sections of deep water (about 50cm minimum) to keep them cool, and sections of shallow, pooled water. Frogs and tadpoles also need sloped sides on the pond to allow them in and out, and these must not be too steep (they only have tiny legs after all!) or too slippery!

There are a number of pre-made fibreglass ponds that can be simply dug into place, and you can place rocks and logs in one end to create a shallow section. Edges and base can be hidden and the pond softened with the inclusion of rocks and pebbles, and, when the plants go in and around the pond, it will look as though it has always been there!

Another simple method of construction is to excavate a suitable sized hole, with varying depths, and lay a good quality pond liner in it (check with your local garden centre for the best product). The edges and base are also hidden with rocks, pebbles, logs and vegetation. The design below shows the ideal layout of a frog-friendly pond.

Fill ‘er up – Putting Water in the Pond

Might sound simple, but filling up frog ponds can be a bit tricky, especially if your tap water is chlorinated – as it is in many parts of Australia. If this is the case, the water must be allowed to stand, for about 5 days, in a clean container or bucket before it is introduced to the frog pond, to minimise any risk to resident tadpoles and frogs. Water from metal tanks should be treated in the same way, as frogs can be quite sensitive to chemicals that are present in some metal water tanks. Oh, and if you need to top up an inhabited frog pond, don’t just blast the water in. Tadpoles can become over-buoyant if the water contains too much oxygen, so a steady trickle is ideal!

Plants for the Pond, and the Patch

Frogs and tadpoles need a variety of plants at their place, both in and out of the water. Ideally, plants should be indigenous to your local area, and include shrubs, grasses, ground covers and water plants. This combination of plants provides not only shelter and food for tadpoles and frogs, but will attract insects and bugs… notch frog tucker! Where you are located in Australia will determine which plants are the most appropriate for your bog, but below is a rough guide to some common Aussie plants that are perfect for frog ponds.

Plants for the Shallow End – include Tussock Sedges (Carex sp.), Sedges (Cyprus sp.), Jointed and Common Rush (Juncus sp.) and Nardoo (Marsilea sp.)

Plants for the Intermediate and Deep Zones – include Marsh Flower (Villarsia exaltata), Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), Tassel Sedge (Carex fascicularis), Jointed Twig-rush (Baumea articulata) and Water Ribbons (Triglochin procerum).

Native Plants for the Pond Edge – include Lilly Pilly (Acmena smithii), Dwarf Baeckia (Baeckia sp.), Dianella sp., Purple Coral Pea (Hardenbergia violacea), Mat Rush (Lomandra longifolia), Native Violet (Viola hederacea), Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra), Weeping Grass (Microleana stipoides), Wallaby Grass (Austrodanthonia spp.) and assorted Grevilleas and Bottlebrush (Callistemon sp.) to attract insects. Don’t forget to mulch these plants with a nice layer of chunky leaf and wood based mulch (not pine bark or redgum).

Be aware that there are many exotic water plants that are terrible environmental weeds, so be very discerning when you buy, and do a bit of research. Also, avoid plants that form a mat on the top of the water (like Duckweed and Azolla). This stuff makes it difficult for tadpoles to get enough oxygen.

Ponds Can Cop a Caning

As a native Queenslander, I know only to well the horrors of the Cane Toad, and their uncanny ability to seek out frog ponds, pools, dog bowls, and, on one occasion, the hallway in my childhood home! These guys are nasty, and love nothing more than moving into your frog pond. So, there are a couple of things you can do to prevent the Bufus marinus displacing your Kermits.

Firstly, if you live in an area inhabited by cane toads, consider building a raised frog bog with overhanging vegetation. Frogs will be able to access it, but it will certainly prove difficult for the Cane Toad. Secondly, keep an eye out for their eggs in the pond… they are a distinctive blackish “necklace” and will be found clinging to vegetation in the pond. Remove these from the pond, and stick them out in the sun to dry, as this kills off the awful toad spawn. If you are concerned you may be removing frogs eggs, fear not… only cane toads will lay the distinctive necklace of eggs.

Oh, and if you are roving about at night on the hunt for toads, forget the golf club and consider freezing them instead. This is the most humane way to dispose of these hideous creatures, just avoid their poison gland on their backs (best to wear gloves).

Now, what about the frogs?

Okay, there is one rule to remember here… if you build it, they will come! There is no need to head down to the local waterway and collect tadpoles, and, in most places, this is illegal and can draw a hefty fine, so please don’t do it! Frogs will seek out a well designed and well positioned bog, and, although it won’t happen overnight, it will happen!

Once they have moved in, you can pretty much sit back and enjoy. Try and keep pets away from the pond (they do tend to munch frogs), and, don’t clean the pond out too often… this upsets the little ecosystem, and can do more harm than good. Tadpoles can be fed to supplement their algae and insect diet, and the best thing to give them is a bit of washed and boiled lettuce! Sounds revolting, but these guys love it. Don’t go overboard, just a bit now and then.

Oh, most fish and tadpoles don’t really get along that well, so it is best to avoid putting fish in your frog pond altogether. There are a few native species that can co-exist happily with frogs and tadpoles, so ask your local aquarium, or get in touch with your local frog society (check the links below).

Now all that is required is to sit back on a delightful spring evening, and listen to the sound of our amazing native frogs calling well into the night!

Frog Links


Tadpole photo courtesy of
A cute Peron’s Treefrog Tadpole (Litoria peroni)
Native Violet (Viola hederacea), an excellent plant for around your pond
Eastern Common Froglet (Crinia signifera), a regular pond visitor to much of Eastern Australia
Frogs in the Pond!!

  28 Responses to “Frog Ponds”

  1. Hiya, so you don’t have to put any native fish in at all, and the frogs will control the mosquito larvae? No cane toads in Ballarat but mozzies can be a big issue in standing water. BTW I just found this site and will certainly be adding it to my favorites, thankyou.

  2. Great Site. Ihave 2 ponds and was going to put a pump in and have a waterfall between them but a friend told me not to because the tadpole will get caught in the pump. any suggestions? Ken

    • To exclude tadpoles from the pump simply make a wire ‘balloon’ shaped basket to go over the pump inlet and fit the foot of a stocking over it. Make the basket big enough so the suction won’t hold the tadpoles against the mesh. You could also use aluminium or bronze fly mesh and no stocking. You would need to clean the ‘tadpole barrier’ from time to time.

  3. We live in an area with a never-ending supply of cane toads. I have to go toad hunting around the frog pond every night. There are lots of tadpoles in the pond and I hate the thought of toads eating the little frogs as they come out of the water. I’m thinking about fencing the pond to keep the toads out. Would that work? You mention a ‘raised frog bog with overhanging vegetation’. Exactly how would you build that, and how does it keep toads out?

    • The only real method of controlling toads is by exclusion (barrier). There is a very good article by Biodiversity NT regarding toad control which you will find very helpful. The link is – It is about Cane Toad Strategies.

  4. I have a water feature in my suburban back yard. It’s a decorative feature with a slow flowing fountain in the middle. The water flows over the bowl, into a reservoir then gets recycled back through the fountain etc. There’s a fair bit of algae in the bowl despite the pump as the water feature is a bit temperamental and it gets left off at times until I fill the reservoir again.(I think it has a leak) Yesterday I discovered about 5 fairly good sized tadpoles inside! Is there anything I should be doing to help these guys along? ( I rescued a lovely small frog from our laundry toilet some months back and released it in the ficinity of the water feature)

    • Algae will be providing food for the tadpoles so a bit is alright. Your aim is to provide a balance in the pond which will provide a habitat so that the frogs will do well.

  5. We are renovating our pond which we built a few years ago as our old liner had split. The frogs came and have hung around even when the water got very low. Should we be worried about mosquitos breeding?

    • If the frogs are still around you shouldn’t have a problem. IF they move on you could pour a small amount of olive oil on any remaining water to form a film that would suffocate any mosquito larvae.

  6. after a 2 year wait for frogs to arrive, we finally heared one , it has been here for a week now but we havnt heared it for 2 days, what might be the reason and what could we do about it please

    • Your frog may be still there but not croaking or he may be itinerant and has moved on. Ensure you have provided shelter and protection from predators, simulating the condition where frogs do well in the wild. This will also encourage a food supply for them as well.

    • Hi Lyne w, we have frogs and they come and go. We did not hear our family for several months and thought the worst, but, alas, they came back. So don’t panic. They will return.

  7. I’ve just installed a 185L pre-formed pond with a shallow section and a deep section. Following your excellent instructions, I have old untreated wood and large stones around the edge, pond plants and various indigenous native plants surrounding it.

    Do I need a pump to keep the water circulating?

    There’s the beginning of an algae build-up after only a week and a half – is there a frog-friendly solution?

    Many thanks!

    • Some algae are essential for a healthy balanced pond and is also a food source for tadpoles, but if it is on the surface you could scoop some off. You wouldn’t normally need a pump as frogs and tadpoles normally live in still or gently flowing water. also has a good article on algae in ponds.

  8. Hi there
    I have just built a frog pond and its raised about 300 mm of the ground will the frogs be able to get in the pond

    • Probably, but it could be helpful to place some rocks outside the pond to provide a “stairway”

  9. we build a frog pond…and …the frog came!!!!
    But a couple of questions…
    Where did the frog come from? Did it hitchhike..there are no there frogs around here, that I can hear…
    It only sounds like one…how will he find a mate?


    • Frogs will migrate over quite a large area, especially when conditions are right; cool damp nights, etc. They will not breed until conditions are right – water, food supply, etc. it is a good sign if you have one frog that you know of. Maintain habitat for it and shelter from predators and hopefully with his croaking on a quiet, damp night he will attract a mate.

  10. I have a small pond which overflows into a bigger pond. Originally I had a fountain that took water from the lower bigger one to the small one via a trickle of water when the pump is on. I was thinking of making the bigger one into a bog garden which may be dry sometimes in summer although I do have a plastic tank which I could use to keep it moist. The ponds are filled by the rainwater from part of the roof. I used to have fish but the herons found them.
    Can you suggest plants that wouldn’t mind being dry occasionally in summer but could stand wet feet in winter, at the moment I have about 15-20cm of water in the big pond in an area about 75cm x 1m. I live in an area that gets frosts near Mt Macedon but I’ve never seen the ponds frozen. There are lots of frogs, I don’t see them much but can hear them a lot.

    • Does you mean ornamental with flowers or indigenous grasses and sedges? Some of the smaller iris species like Iris unguicularis (I. stylosa) would fit the bill for decorative ornamentals.

  11. Can we make a pond out of an old concrete wash basin?

  12. can you put frogs in where Koki fish are

    • The frogs might survive but eggs and tadpoles probably wouldn’t as Koki are omnivorous and would eat anything that would fit in their mouths.

    • You can get a large plant pot and put it in the pond so the lip is just above the water level. The tadpoles can live safely in there until they are big enough to cope with the fish outside. You have to of course put a few plants etc in to create a teddy-friendly habitat!

  13. Hi There – I have moved my frog pond into a different location (but still in the same vicinity) and I have heard them crocking where their new home is, will the frogs find their new home? I would hate to lose them.

    Thank you.

  14. Thanks for this great info. We are so excited that within an hour of filling up our pond we had a frog visit and another one hop on by a couple of hours later.

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