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Thread: Blue-legged Mantella (Mantella expectata) Care Sheet - by Joshua Ralph

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    Default Blue-legged Mantella (Mantella expectata) Care Sheet - by Joshua Ralph

    Blue-legged Mantella
    Basic & Advance Husbandry
    by
    Joshua Ralph


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    Scientific name: Mantella expectata.
    Conservation Status:
    Endangered.

    Micro-habitat: Leaf litter / Wet Canyons / Rocks & Crevices / Foliage & Shrubs.

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    Colouration of the legs change dramatically, this could be mood, breeding or moisture dependent.
    Temperature Ranges -
    Basking Zone (Substrate surface temperature
    °C): 27°C
    Ambient (Air) Temperature in Summer (°C):23˚C - 27˚C
    Ambient (Air) Temperature in Winter (°C):
    18˚C - 20˚C

    Photo-period Activity:
    Diurnal (Day Time Active) in captivity -
    10:14 Winter Period.
    12:12 Summer Period.


    Humidity Parameters:
    During the winter period, humidity should be provided in the form of a light spray once every other day, to prevent individuals from drying out (70-75%) humidity is advised).

    During the summer period, humidity should be provided more regularly than during their winter period, this also provides the stimulation to breed the specimens you have, if all else is correct. (80-85% humidity is advised).

    Water Parameters:
    A water bowl isn’t strictly needed however if you do decide to use one then make sure its shallow and that there is something placed in the middle to allow the frog to climb out easily, due to this species being not particularly efficient at swimming and can easily drown in small amounts of water.

    Water quality is very important as amphibians have very delicate skin which absorbs water through their skin (known as Porous or Permeable skin) so extra care must be given when using water. It is highly recommended that, Rain Water should be used (If Safe) or RO (Reverse-Osmosis) if available. If tap water is used, de-chlorinating the water and checking the temperature is the same as the tank will reduce stress on the individuals.

    Dietary Requirements:
    Adults & Offspring -
    Blue-legged
    Mantella, along with the rest of the genus, are insectivorous in their feeding habits, and require a similar diet to that given to poison dart frogs. They are fairly undemanding in terms of what they will eat, with variety being recommended in any event – the main requirement is that their food needs to be small enough to be swallowed easily.

    Suitable Livefoods that can be provided to species are:
    ■ Flightless Fruitfly (Drosophila Melanogaster)
    ■ Tropical Springtails (Folsomia candida)
    ■ Tropical Dwarf Woodlice (Trichorina tomentosa)
    ■ Pea Aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum)
    ■ Lesser Waxworms (Achroae grisella)
    ■ Newly-hatched Waxworms (Galleria mellonella)
    ■ Hatchling Black Crickets (Gryllus assimilis)
    ■ Hatchling Banded Crickets (Gryllodes sigillatus)


    Flightless Fruitfly (Drosophila Melanogaster)

    Feed daily if individuals look under weight however feeding for normal weight individuals should be provided 3 times a week during the ‘Summer’ period. Approximately, 10 individual feed items (regarding Flightless Fruit fly and Hatchling Crickets) should be given each feed. However, less the amount when feeding things such as Waxworms which contain a high fat content.


    Whenever possible, Livefoods should be dusted with a suitable vitamin and mineral supplement or gut-loaded prior to feeding. Some of these invertebrates, such as the tropical dwarf woodlice can be included in the vivarium, helping to keep the substrate clean, often being referred to as ‘custodians’ for this reason, with the frogs snapping up individuals that cross their path, as would happen in the wild.


    Tropical Springtails (Folsomia candida)


    Particular care, though, should be taken with Crickets, because they can bite the frogs and represent a hazard if they remain in the Terrarium. Never be tempted to release a large number there – only provide them in small numbers, so they should all be eaten quickly by the frogs.


    Enclosure / Exhibit:


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    The best type of accommodation for keeping the individuals in would be an all-glass Terrarium. The size required will be influenced by the following factors:

    1. The species that you intend to keep.
    2. How many individuals you have.
    3. The ratio of the sexes.

    A 400mm (16in) cube vivarium would easily house 3-4 individuals comfortably but ideally, a larger 800mm (32in) enclosure is needed for more than four individuals. The extra space will help to prevent individuals becoming too dominant, and bullying others, as can happen in more restricted surroundings.

    It is now common practice that, keepers tend to house their specimens in enclosures containing live plants, and these can look stunning, with suitable lighting, both for the frogs and to ensure good plant growth. A 2.0% or 5.0% UV strip bulb should be incorporated into their quarters therefore, with a day/night light cycle also being set up, on a timer if necessary.

    Live Plants:

    Live plants can be purchased from specialist suppliers, who can offer what are effectively ‘organic’ or untreated plants in safe soil. The list of plants that can be used includes:


    • Baker’s Anthurium (Anthurium bakerii)
    • Fuchsia begonia (Begonia foliosa)
    • Snakeskin plant (Fittonia verschaffeltii)
    • Devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
    • Pearl laceleaf (Anthurium scandens)
    • Bolivian inch plant (Callisiar repens)
    • Creeping fig (Ficus pumila)
    • Fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus agittata)
    • Japanese wood fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)
    • Heart fern (Hemionitis arifolia)
    • Rabbit’s foot fern (Phlebodium areolatum)




    Snakeskin plant (Fittonia verschaffeltii)


    Please do not use live plants that are sold generally at various Supermarket shops, as these are often treated with various chemicals, in terms of fertilisers and pesticides. These are likely to be harmful, both for the frogs as well as their invertebrate prey too. Be sure to discard any soil on such plants, before setting them in the vivarium, and wash off the leaves and stems as well, in a clean bowl of tepid water.

    Substrate:
    As a substrate for the enclosure, a mixture of Sand and coir compost that can be purchased in brick form can be used in combination with sterilised leaf litter (30/70 Sand to Soil Ratio). Live mosses such as Kyoto Bonsai moss or Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana) should also be provided, to provide a constant source of both moisture and hiding places for the frogs.

    Breeding & Other Comments:

    Gender Identification
    Before you can breed a species, you obviously need to be able to have access to sexed specimens, which will give you the ratios that you would need, to have success. There are many different methods that you could use to identify the correct genders of specimens, however none are completely accurate. Here is a small list of visual and auditory methods which are all Sexually Dimorphic;


    • Size Difference,
    • Mesonephric / Wolfian Ducts
    • Egg Gravidity / Egg Detection
    • Colouration
    • Auditory Behaviour / Calling


    With some species within the genus, the signs of sexual difference can be quite obvious, like with the Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) which shows tremendous differences in size, as females tend to be a lot larger in both girth and length in comparison to the males who are more slender and petite. However, some species are near enough impossible to sexually identify, such as the Brown Leaf Mantella (Mantella betsileo) which show differences so subtle, that they are more often incorrectly sexed.

    Blue Legged Mantella males tend to be slightly smaller by 9mm or so, and tend to have much brighter colours; however this is not entirely accurately a majority of the time.


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    Male (Right) you can see is clearly a lot smaller than the Female (Left)


    Auditory behaviour or Calling is one of the most common methods people use to differentiate the sexes, as males use calling for advertising their presence to females, but even this method has its own draw backs, due to the pure shyness of some species within the genus, and their reluctance to call in the presence of humans.


    However, you can still have the ability to sex your specimens using this method, either by individually housing, temporarily, your individuals and waiting for them to call or by using CCTV cameras which are set to record, allowing the option to playback and view the captured footage.


    Ratios Needed.
    With most breeding projects of many species of Amphibia, you may find that having the correct ratio may in fact be vital to the success or failure of the breeding of your Mantella. Having a larger quantity of males would, of course, increase the chances of a successful breeding dramatically however it doesn’t mean that a pairing wouldn’t be successful, just a reduced chance.


    Ideally, you would have a higher chance of success with a ratio of four males to one female, or even higher than that, depending on of course the size of the Terrarium they are kept in. Remember, it will not always be a single male specimen, who will fertilise spawn, there could possibly be one or two individuals to fertilise the spawn.

    Stimulating Breeding.
    Like most species of Amphibia, the Blue Legged Mantella require certain reproductive triggers to encourage them to breed and these factors are nearly, always changes in seasonal conditions/patterns. However, not every species is the same with their reproductive triggers or behaviours some differ almost entirely in the way their breeding response kicks in.

    In the way of stimulating your specimens to breed, you will need a lengthy process to cycle the individuals through a winter period for up to two to three months. This not only provides stimulus for breeding behaviour, but also providing a natural climate variation as they would receive in the wild.
    Along with this change in climate, you can also provide more differences such as lowering the temperature, the amount of dietary items given, the amount of light that the specimens will receive and, of course, lowering the amount of humidifying they receive.

    In regards to the Blue Legged Mantella, breeding is rarely achieved within the captive environment however it is not unheard of.

    WARNING
    Please ensure that all individuals are fully prepared for this preparation, as this can be stressful for the animals.

    Humidifying – Winter.

    In regards to what the humidity should remain at, the optimum amount should be about 70-75% which should be provided in the form of a light spray every other day (once on the spray days. This will provide the required triggers to mimic the build up to their summer period of plentiful precipitation, and the spraying that is provided, of course, prevents the specimens from drying out completely.

    Temperature – Winter.
    In regards to temperature, 18˚C – 20˚C is thought to be the best and highly recommended temperature requirements for the species; however it can rise to approximately 21˚C during their winter period.

    Feeding – Winter.

    The dietary schedule should be altered completely for this breeding preparation, to mimic the lack of food that would be available for the individuals during their “rest” period. Lower not only the quantity you feed them but also how often you feed them, which can be twice a week if needed. (Please heed warning above, do not attempt this if the specimens are not fully prepared prior.)

    When the time is right, you can slowly bring an end to the winter period and start to build an increase in all the previously lowered habitat stimuli.


    Humidifying – Summer.

    In regards to what the humidity should remain at and built up to, the optimum amount should be about 80-85% which should be provided in the form of a medium/heavy spray every day for 3 times day.

    Temperature – Summer.
    In regards to temperature, the temperature can be slowly risen back to 22˚C - 27˚C to show the difference, yet again, in climate and season. This should be done gradually, not immediately due to the shock and stress this could provide to the individuals.

    Feeding – Summer.
    The dietary schedule should be altered and resumed as normal with the increased amounts of dietary items and variation, but with a gradual increase over the course of a week.

    After a few weeks, you will begin to see a difference in the individuals, especially the females who will even show signs of being gravid, due to the spawn being clearly visible through their skin on their abdomens. You will see white markings which will be spherical in shape, in their abdomens.


    Rearing Notes:
    Spawn.

    Egg disposition is a lengthy process, which can take up and above 14-15 weeks in total, after providing the specimens with their breeding seasonal changes. The spawn itself, will be found in spaces that are quite near water sources, sometimes directly next to water bowls, typical upon rocks or pieces of slate that are set at an angle to allow the tadpoles to fall into the water source. However, do not remove straight away and leave up to 3 days before removing it, due to the possibility that a male has yet to fertilise the spawn. If, after a few days (up to a week) the Ovum starts to turn a Brown/Tan colour, they have not been fertilised and must be removed immediately.

    When it is time to remove the spawn, they should be placed into a prior-prepared Tadpole rearing enclosure, which can have a few variations of how this can be provided. The most common Tadpole rearing tank is simply placing the spawn onto a clump of moss (if not already done in the Terrarium) which is placed onto a body of water, or near the waters edge but making sure the spawn isn’t touching the water. This will allow the tadpoles, when the time is ready, to simply exit the egg sac and fall into the water body. Eggs hatch out approximately 3-4 days after fertilisation.

    WARNING
    – If the spawn has been left in the enclosure with the adults, make sure you remove the tadpoles as the adults sometimes can perform cannibalism.



    Tadpoles.

    For up to 5-6 days, the Tadpoles will not need to be fed at all, and more than likely will not feed if dietary items were provided. The specimens can be housed together and normally seem to prefer being housed communally, as cannibalism is not a great threat with the species.
    When providing an enclosure for rearing the tadpoles, a Plastic Hagen or Faunarium can be used with or without lid, with a shallow water level of only a few inches of water. Plants such as Pothos and also Clumps of Moss can be provided to allow the individuals to hide if they wish too; this also prevents the tadpoles from becoming too stressed.

    The most important thing to check is the Water quality. Tap water can be used from some areas, provided that it is treated with a tap water conditioner to remove chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals or you could simply leave it to mature for approximately 24 - 48 hours. There are other forms of water that can be used such as Rain Water (if safe), Bottled Spring Water and also Reverse Osmosis (RO) water. Please note that the water quality of the Rain Water must be checked to make sure it is safe, this can be done with water testing kits.


    Water Changes.
    Care must be taken to make sure Water Quality is not lowered and cleaning must be provided regularly in the form of a minor water change, every other day. Water filters can be provided, however the strong currents produced by these devices can actually cause many health problems and even fatalities, especially during the first couple of weeks after the Tadpole has hatched.

    Water Temperature.
    Water temperature must be controlled and monitored closely, and should remain within the 22°C to 24°C temperature mark. However, make sure that it doesn’t fluctuate too much and remains at a constant ideal temperature.

    Feeding Tadpoles.
    You can use such feeding products similarly used with Tropical Fish and Aquariums, such as “Tetra Pro Algae” and “Tetra Min – Baby”, which can be mixed together into a pulp and made into smaller pellets. However, other foods can be used though, such as Bloodworm, Daphnia and Shrimp pellets which can be fed every day or every other day.

    Tadpole Growth Rate.
    Regardless of being from the same clutch, Tadpoles can actually morph at many different rates. At about the 16-17 week mark, the first of the offspring will begin to grow their front legs and hind legs and slowly start to take their first steps out of the water. Once this begins, they should be moved over to a separate rearing enclosure that has either a very low water depth of less than an inch or perhaps a container placed on a tilt which has a water section (shallow one of less than an inch) and a land section. This will allow the individuals to choose when the time is right to finally leave the water. Please ensure that a lid is now provided for the container to prevent the offspring from escaping.

    Froglets.

    Mantella viridis individual 2 days after morphing

    Soon after the tail has been absorbed, the metamorphosis process is complete to the beginning o their terrestrial form. The individuals with approximately be 7mm in size and will require regular feeding on a daily basis (if the dietary items from previous feeding haven’t been fully consumed) with a wide range of items.





    Such items include;
    ■ Flightless Fruitfly (Drosophila Melanogaster)
    ■ Tropical Springtails (Folsomia candida)
    ■ Tropical Dwarf Woodlice (Trichorina tomentosa)
    ■ Pea Aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum)
    ■ Hatchling Black Crickets (Gryllus assimilis)
    ■ Hatchling Banded Crickets (Gryllodes sigillatus)

    However, not all these items can be used and some specimens may require the smallest dietary items possible, which are commonly provided in the form of Tropical Springtails.

    Handling etc:

    Like with all Amphibians, handling should be kept to a minimum due to their delicate skin and due to their size, it is not advisable unless absolutely necessary.



    You can handle amphibians but only when you need to or for a short period of time, make sure you do the following:



    • Rinse your hands with plain water, don’t use soap or anything. Scrub them well.
    • Dry them and wet them with normal water or just simply not dry your hands.
    • Pick up the animal, if handling for a little while then keep a container of cold water with you so you can keep dunking your hands.
    • Put the specimen back then wash your hands with soap to stop disease and cross contamination.



    Make sure that you have nothing on your hands such as After Shave, Perfumes, Alcohol, Alcohol Gel, Soaps and any sort of chemical as this can seriously harm them.

    Recommended Reading:
    “Introduction to Mantella” – Joshua Ralph.
    “Mantellas” – Marc Staniszewski.

    Copyrights -
    Information © Joshua Ralph, 2014
    Photographs © Joshua Ralph, 2014

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