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Can Frogs Breathe Underwater? (Can They Drown?)

Adult frogs can breathe underwater using their skin to absorb oxygen from the water. However, if there is not enough oxygen in the water, they can drown.

Can Frogs Breathe Underwater
Frog Mouth

When frogs undergo metamorphosis (changing from tadpoles to frogs) they develop lungs that work similarly to human lungs. They take in air through their nose and then move the air by lowering the floor of their mouth to the lungs. These lungs don’t work underwater.

Underwater, they use their skin to absorb the oxygen into their bodies, allowing them to stay underwater for hours. They can also last underwater for several hours before they need to get out.

Can Frogs Breathe Underwater?

Frogs cannot breathe underwater as they have air-breathing lungs, however, they can use their skin to absorb enough oxygen from the water to be able to stay underwater for several hours.

Frogs will go into the water from time to time to keep their skin moist. The most important reason for that is that they need to keep their skin moist so that it absorbs oxygen from the air, which enables the frog to breathe and survive normally.

If a frog’s skin gets too dry, it can die. Frogs also have lungs like humans, and if their lungs get filled with water, they can drown underwater.

It can also happen if there is not enough oxygen in the water, which might mean an early death for the unfortunate frog. For this reason, frogs prefer highly oxygenated waters that provide them with enough oxygen.

The breathing of a frog underwater using skin can be compared to other animals using gills. While gills allow other animals such as fish to live underwater, the skin of the frogs is a slightly different process.

Frog skin has small pores and receptors for oxygen which allows the oxygen to enter the frog’s bloodstream and thus allow it to survive.

Some frog species can live underwater for weeks or months, while others need to surface regularly to breathe a lungful of air.

For example, the Titicaca water frog spends all of its life underwater. They do require oxygen-rich waters, though, like Lake Titicaca, which is the habitat for these frogs.

A frog in a puddle
A frog in a puddle

Can Tadpoles Breathe Underwater?

Tadpoles spend all their time underwater, as they have gills as well as a special organ called the LLS (lateral line system), which enables the tadpoles to breathe easily underwater.

Tadpoles don’t yet have lungs as adult frogs do. These will only start developing as frogs age and start transforming into adult frogs. In the meantime, tadpoles will rely on their gills to survive and breathe underwater.

Once the frog grows up, it will start to lose these gills and it will start developing lungs.

Frogs lay eggs underwater, which is where these eggs will attach themselves to roots and another vegetation underwater, which is meant to keep the eggs safe from predators.

Only a handful of these eggs will hatch and tadpoles will emerge from these eggs. Once that happens, the tadpoles will stay underwater until metamorphosis.

Once the tadpoles are spawned, it will take roughly 14 weeks for them to turn into frogs, which is when they will leave the water and spend more time on land.

They will develop lungs and they will start breathing differently, as their gills will also transform into the skin. The frogs will then start using skin to breathe underwater.

Some frogs also take longer than others to transform. For most frogs, though, they will start developing their front and hind legs first, and then their lungs will also start developing. And once that process is complete, the frog is now ready to leave the water and live life on land.

A tadpole swimming in a tank

Related Article: Can Frogs Breathe Underwater?

Can Frogs Drown?

Frogs can drown if they don’t have access to air, or they can’t get enough oxygen from the water. This happens in poor-quality waters where frogs don’t get enough oxygen to survive. 

Because they need oxygen to breathe through the skin, they prefer waters high in oxygen. Frogs also have lungs, so if these lungs get filled with water, the frog can die. 

Another possible reason for a frog drowning is a lack of oxygen in the water they are in. Even aquatic frogs, like the Lake Titicaca frog seen above, are prone to drowning because of this. 

Essentially, they will need constant access to oxygen when they use their skin to breathe. 

Their organs and their body would stop functioning without access to high-quality oxygen they can get from water, so if they can’t take it in through their skin, they can potentially drown.

Frog pet owners need to make sure that they provide the frog with a good source of high-quality water rich in oxygen.

Some frogs like to spend a lot of time underwater and this water needs decent levels of oxygen. You can do this by regularly cleaning the water and measuring the oxygen levels.

Aggressive frog
Aggressive frog

How Long Can Frogs Stay Underwater?

Most frogs can spend several hours or even days underwater, depending on the species and the oxygen levels of the water. Some frogs can spend weeks and even months underwater before they come out, while aquatic frogs living in oxygen-rich environments can spend their entire lives underwater.

For example, Siberian wood frogs can stay underwater for up to 100 days, while other frogs might only be able to stay underwater for a few hours or days.

This will vary based on where the frogs live, the quality of water they are in, and their breathing mechanisms, which vary from species to species.

Conclusion

Frogs use two ways of breathing: underwater, they will use their skin to get oxygen from the water and absorb it, allowing the frog to survive underwater for quite a long time.

On land, frogs will use their lungs to breathe. They will push the oxygen to their lungs by lowering the floor of their mouths. Some frogs can survive several days underwater, some may survive several months, too.

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