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Poison Dart Frog tadpole care, feeding/food

This is a discussion on Poison Dart Frog tadpole care, feeding/food within the Breeding, Eggs, Tadpoles, etc forums, part of the Dart Frogs (Dendrobatidae) & Mantellas (Mantellidae) category; ( For thumbnail / Ranitomeya specific raising information, please read this other article ) I've been keeping amphibians since I ...

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    John Clare
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    Talking Poison Dart Frog tadpole care, feeding/food

    (For thumbnail / Ranitomeya specific raising information, please read this other article)

    I've been keeping amphibians since I was a small child, and I've kept and bred many frogs, newts and salamanders over the years. Recently I decided to finally delve into dart frogs, having avoided them due to having lived in so many places over the last 10 years. Here I would like to share with you how I keep my dart frog tadpoles, and what I feed them.

    I've spent the last few minutes reading about how a lot of dart frog hobbyists mix and grind down various recipes of algae (chlorella and/or spirulina) and various fish food pellets in an effort to get optimal growth and prevent Spindly Leg Syndrome (SLS - a developmental issue that leads to poor development of the limbs, usually the forelimbs and subsequent inability to move properly and feed). Side note: the groundswell of opinion about SLS is that it's caused by a nutritional deficiency of the parents, not the tadpole.

    Speaking of which, why do so many frog hobbyists like to powder/grind food items that contain mostly water-soluble ingredients that they subsequently add to water? The smaller the particle size, the (exponentially) larger the surface area, and therefore the faster the nutrients are lost to solvation. Tadpoles have rasping "beaks" for a reason .

    I maintain larger Dendrobatid tadpoles (Dendrobates tinctorious and similarly sized species) singly in 24 oz (710 mL) sandwich meat containers. I fill these almost to the brim and I don't use a lid - I've never seen frog tadpoles try to jump out of the water! In order to consistently control the water content and quality, I use distilled water with 4 drops of API electro-rite per litre (~ 1 quart) of water, and also 4 drops of Tetra Blackwater extract per litre of water. Electro-rite is intended to replace the natural salts that are found in water but lost when water is distilled, or when it is passed through a Reverse-Osmosis water filter. Blackwater extract is usually created from concentrating water that has a lot of dried/dead leaves in it, making a "tea" - most commercial blackwater products are actually made using peat, but it's very similar. You could use dechlorinated tap water (using a proprietary aquarium dechlorinator product), and some people use tap water that has been left to stand for a few days, in order for any chlorine to dissipate. If you use the last option, keep in mind that some municipalities add ammonia to their water as well as chlorine, which makes "chloramines" - these dissipate very slowly and usually require treatment with a dechlorinator to be made safe.

    I add a couple of pieces of dried Indian Almond Leaf in order to provide nutrients to the water (helping to balance the distilled water), tannins (the brown pigments from the leaves, which can help reduce the incidence and growth of fungus), and also as cover for the tadpoles, as well as an occasional snack. I also add a little java moss (Vesicularia dubyana, an aquatic plant) to each container, so they have an ever present source of fresh vegetable matter if they want a nibble.

    I feed about twice a week, with 1-2 HBH "Tadpole Bites" (available at Petco in the US) at one feeding, and then the next feeding I will add 2-3 of the small size New Life Spectrum pellets, which have the added bonus of natural pigment enhancers. I also add a sprinkle of powdered spirulina every week (this is a kind of algae that is used in a lot of health food products, and it is available at most health food shops in a dry, powdered form, suitable for feeding to tadpoles).

    I change about 3/4 of the water in each tub once a week, replacing it with the same water recipe (distilled + electro-rite + black water extract). I make sure the new water is at the same temperature as the old water, prior to changing the water, so as not to shock the tadpoles.

    I maintain my tadpoles at between 75 °F (24 °C) and 78 °F (26 °C).

    Now I'll show you how I maintain the temperatures for the tadpoles, and I'll show how I make sure the tadpoles/froglets do not drown when they metamorphose.

    Here's my rearing setup. Before I describe it in detail, I should state that this works for me but that there are many ways of rearing dart frog tadpoles. Also, this approach is practical if you don't have a lot of tadpoles at one time. If you have a bunch of tadpoles, you may consider other methods or putting more than one tadpole in each container. While Dendrobates tinctorius tadpoles secret growth inhibitors that can slow the growth of their siblings, keeping more than one tadpole together seems to give overall slightly larger tadpoles at metamorphosis.

    The water conditions, additives, leaves, food, etc. for all of this is covered in the first post of this thread, so be sure to read that first.

    Here is the good old 58 qt / 55 L Sterlite container again, this time for tadpole rearing:



    What you're looking at is a piece of "egg crate" (diffuser used for fluorescent lighting) cut to the inside dimensions of the box and resting on top of 5 pieces of white PVC tubing. You can see the water level of the container itself - this is just tap water and is the heating "medium". The tadpoles don't live in this water, they live in the containers you can see resting on the egg crate. However, just in case a tadpole or froglet ever escapes, I've added dechlorinator to the tap water as a precaution.

    The main body of water is heated by a Visitherm 50 watt heater set at about 78 °F (~25 °C). Incidentally, that wattage of heater is overkill for the water it's heating - you could easily use a 25 watt heater instead - I just use whatever is spare. The heater is placed in the middle but near to one side, elevated on its suckers so that water can flow around it. Convection seems to be enough for the water temperature to remain fairly even throughout.

    As you can see, I leave the lid on the sterlite container to ensure that there is almost no loss of moisture. This enables me to avoid using the lids on the small containers inside the big one. The small containers are filled almost to the top - their extra level of water enables them to be weighed down enough to not float around in the big container.

    Here's a view of a tadpole container (that's a Dendrobates azureus tadpole, just getting its back legs):



    You can see the Java moss and Indian Almond leaves in there.

    When tadpoles sprout their front legs I transfer them to a container like this:



    It's held at a 30/40 ° angle (either wedged between other containers or put a piece of pipe under it), approximately like this:



    You can see that there's just a little water at one end, with some Indian Almond Leaves in there to provide the "frogpoles" with cover while they absorb their tails, and there is sphagnum moss in the "dry" area for them to hang out in should they leave the water. The lid is placed on this container at all times when it is unattended - there's a hole in the middle to allow air exchange. I check metamorphosing containers every day.

    Here's a view inside:



    And here are the occupants, 2 "Giant Orange" Dendrobates tinctorius:



    Incidentally, as soon as the froglets have just a nubbin where their tail was, I transfer them to a mini frog enclosure (not described in this thread).

    It takes between 10 and 12 weeks for D. tinctorius tadpoles to metamorphose in this setup.

    I hope this is helpful to others!
    Last edited by John; September 19th, 2010 at 08:17 PM.
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    Default Re: Poison Dart Frog tadpole care, feeding/food

    Thanks John, Very informative. So what kinds of dart are you keeping now?
    Kurt Kunze
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    Default Re: Poison Dart Frog tadpole care, feeding/food

    nice guide. i find that the most helpful things i do are adding leaves or other hiding spots, (stopped using blackwater extract and use only the almond leaves) keeping them in the incubator, to keep temps right, and doing water changes.

    food;
    hbh
    spirulina tabs
    secret variety of fish flake

    james

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    Default Re: Poison Dart Frog tadpole care, feeding/food

    Nice post John.

    my first post....gotta see how my icon looks on your site.....here goes.....

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    Default Re: Poison Dart Frog tadpole care, feeding/food

    Welcome Phil. That's a tiny avatar .

    Kurt: I have:
    2.2 Imitating Dart Frogs (Tarapoto race), Dendrobates/Ranitomeya imitator - also a bunch of tadpoles
    0.0.3 "Citronella" Dendrobates tinctorius - pretty sure a male and two females
    1.1 Blue Poison Dart Frog, Dendrobates tinctorius "Azureus" - sold to me as a breeding pair
    1.1 "Patricia" Dendrobates tinctorious - I really like these
    0.0.5 Yellow race Phyllobates terribilis
    2 Azureus tadpoles that Richard Lynch gave me with the Azureus pair
    2 metamorphosing froglets of "Giant Orange" Dendrobates tinctorius, and a tadpole with big legs - also from Richard

    I've come to the conclusion that while I like Azureus, they're my "least favourite", and since my space is quite limited I'm trying to sell the pair on.

    Back to the subject of this thread, I hope to post some photos and info on my tadpole rearing approach, keeping the temperature stable and getting the tadpoles to metamorphose without drowning (piece of cake!).
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    Default Re: Poison Dart Frog tadpole care, feeding/food

    VERY nice setup John. Great photo thread for new hobbyists.

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    Default Re: Poison Dart Frog tadpole care, feeding/food

    If I had the room I would take the azureus off of your hands.
    Kurt Kunze
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