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Growing and cooking taro by Ray Grogan


My favorite animals for the ponds are tree frogs. Tree frogs do not like fish, but a few can squeak by. In Iowa I am trying to get the gray tree frog going (no success yet). (This beautiful picture was scrumped off someone else’s site – my apologies.)



A note about some frogs you may not want: As a frog-lover I hate to say this, but you or your neighbors may tire of bufos (big toads, in Hawaii), or bullfrogs. Bufos tend to have “orgies” that wreck your pond and fill it with zillions of tadpoles. Bullfrogs have a loud rumpa-rumpa sound that some people don’t like.


Both these frogs generally can’t climb into buckets.  But if you surround the buckets with rocks or something, then the frogs will get in and breed.



Fish are critical if you are not going to carefully be "fish-free". And we must delve more into mosquitoes.



The picture above is a little pixilated, but you can sorta see a large “I” larva near the bottom, and another at the water surface. There is a “comma” in the middle.




Feeding fish – Fish will do just fine on algae and whatever else lives in water. There is no reason to feed fish outdoors. If you do feed them they will grow almost uncontrollably. Indoors, in the long Iowa winter, I do feed once a week or less, and just a little. As spring approaches I may feed more, to get a few extras to stock the outside ponds when things thaw. The skeeter larvae will be there instantly.


Watching for mosquito larvae. It is very handy to place something white (like an old china plate) under the water. Otherwise, against the darkness, they can easily elude you. And occasionally all your fish will disappear. (Dragonfly larvae are often the culprit, but they are also good mosquito eaters, so an excellent tradeoff.) Some ponds can go years without either fish or mosquitoes, and others will be colonized instantly.

Since your taro is growing in a pond of sorts, you can have all sorts of water creatures if you so desire (and some whether you like it or not). This crawdad came from our turtle pond (background – also had taro there). I see crawdads in regular taro patches, and I don’t think they hurt anything. I don’t put them in my little ponds.



This wee frog is the “poison-dart frog” from Manoa valley in Honolulu. I have had great success with these guys. To get them started, find a natural area with them, and find or leave a bucket of water (ideally full of algae, their food). Eventually the frogs will colonize it. You will see the tadpoles. Tree frogs are the only frogs that can climb up the bucket, so you won’t get toads and bullfrogs, etc. Take the tadpoles home (where ideally you already have a bucket of algae water, fish-free) and grow them into adults. You may have to repeat a few times, and may have to maintain a fish-free pond at first.


(A fish-free pond is a little spooky, skeeter-wise, but I have had good luck. Skeeters mostly seem to like isolated water that does not have all of their predators in it. If you have what I call “shrimpies” – they may be copepods – you will generally not have mosquitoes. Start your fish-free pond with lively pond water, etc., as opposed to hose water. Toss in a little fish food or cat food or something once a week or so.)


The poison-dart frogs do not start out in “water” in the usual sense. They start in little pockets of water on fallen leaves and such. Then, and ~only if it gets pretty dry, do they move the pollywogs into your ponds. The adult frogs carry the large pollywogs on their backs. So you might have lots of frogs and never see their pollywogs. You can hear them if you listen carefully – sort of a soft cricket sound. These frogs eat lots of ants.

Here is another attempt to show you a poison dart frog. I see them all the time but they hop away when I get the camera close.
I also wanted to add that the polywogs can co-exist with fish, at least to some degree and in some situations. It may be only if the polywogs get pretty mature in the leaf litter first, and only move in with the fish once they are a little tougher. And if the fish are small and well fed. (This last summer our "fish-free" pond had lots of both 1" fish and polywogs changing into frogs.)

"stealth" fish - I think real name is darter


There are three stages to mosquitoes before they buzz in your ear.


The eggs – sorry, no pix – are usually laid on the surface of water in “rafts”. These are about the size and shape of an apple seed, black, and repel water.


In a week or so you get wrigglers, tiny at first. These are “I” shaped, and not a problem yet. Fish love them. They feed by filtering your water – they can make murky green water crystal clear if you give them a chance. These filter-feeders can be killed with “Mosquito Dunks” or similar products that use a bacterium called “bt”.


In another week or two you’ll get “commas”. Now go on red alert. You are just few days from an adult mosquito, and your options are now limited. The comma-stage larvae don’t seem to feed, or at least don’t seem to be killed by the “Dunks”. Small fish can’t handle them, so you have to go to at least about a 2” fish. I often just throw the water out onto the driveway if I find commas.


Kinds of fish. (Almost all fish love mosquito larvae –  try any kind you have.)




Guppies – shown in picture of aquarium taro. These common “minnows” are in streams, and often sold in pet stores as “feeder fish”.  Cheap and easy.




Red moons – They look like orange guppies to me. Main advantage is that you can instantly see them in the water to know your fish are still alive. As long as your fish are OK, skeeters are not a worry.




Stealth fish – (not their real name - they are darters of some kind). These are by far my favorite if I can see the fish. For some reason they seem full of personality and intelligence. To get them find a gravelly stream and look on the bottom. They are hard to catch – they hide and dash between the rocks. A concrete boat landing or ford is a good place to catch them. The picture above (with the dime) is not great but the best I have.


Dragonflies   Besides tree frogs, the other reason to go fish-free is dragonflies and damselflies. These guys eat adult mosquitoes, and their very presence seems to scare mosquitoes away.


I haven’t found a good consistent way to raise them. Occasionally I find their larvae (little stealthy killer rocket bugs that live underwater) in swamps and ponds. I bring them home and feed them extra fish or tadpoles. I think the little damselflies are the most likely to stay close to home, and hunt mosquitoes in the smaller, shadier places.


The only suggestion I have now is have several ponds going on to maximize your chances of both attracting dragonflies and to keep all of your critters alive and safe from their feeding.

Click here for some new pictures of critters http://picasaweb.google.com/raygrogan1/TaroCritters#

On to dryland taro