Predictions about population and community dynamics are usually based on lab experiments. Because the results are difficult to transfer to natural conditions, the major purpose of this study was to test the effects of biotic and abiotic factors on tadpole populations in a natural environment. We stocked six ponds, created the previous year, with known numbers of Rana esculenta and R. lessonae tadpoles and followed their development over several months. When compared among ponds, tadpole density correlated positively with the nitrate:phosphate ratio. This suggests that water chemistry may have affected survival, either directly or indirectly via productivity. Within ponds, both species showed a clear preference for the shallow zone. This behavior probably reflects a preference for warm water close to the surface, rather than avoidance of predators, because relative densities of odonates also increased from deep to shallow zones. This study is one of few that not only considers the distribution of the anuran tadpoles but the distribution of their predators as well.