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Tadpoles vs. Frogs: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on December 20, 2023
Tadpoles are the larval stage of frogs, living in water with gills and a tail, while frogs are the adult stage, living on land and water, with lungs and legs.

Key Differences

Tadpoles are the aquatic larval form of frogs, characterized by their long tails and gills for breathing underwater. Frogs, in contrast, are the adult form, adapted for life both in water and on land, with developed lungs and legs.
In their early life stage, tadpoles primarily feed on algae and plant matter, whereas adult frogs have a carnivorous diet, often consuming insects and small animals.
Tadpoles undergo metamorphosis, during which they develop limbs and lose their tails, transforming into adult frogs with distinct anatomical changes suitable for terrestrial living.
Tadpoles have a more streamlined body for swimming, while frogs possess a stout, well-developed body with powerful hind legs for jumping and swimming.
The habitat of tadpoles is exclusively aquatic, whereas adult frogs are amphibious, capable of living both in aquatic and terrestrial environments.

Comparison Chart

Stage of Life

Larval, aquatic
Adult, amphibious

Physical Features

Gills, tail
Lungs, legs


Algae, plant matter
Carnivorous, insects, small animals


Undergo metamorphosis
Result of metamorphosis


Aquatic environments
Both aquatic and terrestrial

Tadpoles and Frogs Definitions


Tadpoles have gills for underwater breathing.
Tadpoles breathe through gills in water.


They have lungs for breathing air.
Frogs breathe air on land.


Aquatic larval stage of frogs.
The pond is full of tadpoles.


Frogs have powerful jumping legs.
Frogs leap to catch prey.


Tadpoles undergo metamorphosis.
Tadpoles lose their tails during metamorphosis.


Adult stage of amphibians.
Frogs are common in wetlands.


They primarily feed on plant matter.
Tadpoles graze on algae.


Frogs live in water and on land.
Frogs can be found near ponds and in gardens.


Tadpoles have a streamlined body.
Tadpoles swim effortlessly with their tail.


Frogs have a carnivorous diet.
Frogs eat insects and small animals.


The aquatic larva of a frog or toad, having gills, a long, laterally compressed tail, and in early stages, no limbs. During metamorphosis of a tadpole into an adult, legs and lungs develop, and the tail gradually disappears. Also called polliwog.


Any of numerous tailless aquatic, semiaquatic, or terrestrial amphibians of the order Anura, characteristically having a short vertebral column, a large head, long hind legs used for leaping, and a tadpole stage as larvae.


Plural of tadpole


Any of various usually aquatic members of this order having smoother skin and longer hind legs than the toads.


What do adult frogs look like?

Adult frogs have developed legs, lungs, and a stout body.

What is a frog’s habitat?

Frogs live in both aquatic and terrestrial environments.

What are tadpoles?

Tadpoles are the larval stage of frogs, living in water.

How do tadpoles breathe?

Tadpoles breathe underwater using gills.

How long do tadpoles take to become frogs?

The time varies, but it usually takes several weeks to months.

How do frogs reproduce?

Frogs lay eggs in water, which hatch into tadpoles.

What do tadpoles eat?

Tadpoles primarily feed on algae and plant matter.

Can frogs breathe underwater?

Adult frogs cannot breathe underwater like tadpoles.

Do frogs hibernate?

Some frog species hibernate during cold months.

How high can frogs jump?

Some frogs can jump many times their body length.

Do tadpoles have legs?

Tadpoles develop legs during metamorphosis.

What is metamorphosis in tadpoles?

Metamorphosis is the process where tadpoles transform into frogs.

What predators eat frogs?

Birds, snakes, and larger amphibians prey on frogs.

Are all tadpoles the same species?

No, tadpoles belong to different species of frogs and toads.

Do tadpoles have eyes?

Yes, tadpoles have eyes, essential for navigation and feeding.

What colors are frogs?

Frogs come in various colors, often green, brown, or gray.

How do tadpoles survive in winter?

Tadpoles can overwinter in ponds or slow down their development.

Can frogs change color?

Some frog species can change color for camouflage.

Are tadpoles social?

Tadpoles can be seen in groups, but they are not truly social.

Do all frogs make noise?

Many frog species are known for their distinctive calls.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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