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Thread: A few dart frog questions?

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    Default A few dart frog questions?

    Hi guys! Poison dart frogs are easily among my favorite frogs and I've been strongly considering one for quite a while. I do have frog experience. I have a pacman frog and two tomato frogs and many years ago when I was younger I had a red-legged running frog. I've heard though that dart frogs can be more difficult to care for because of their smaller size and humidity requirements so before I get one there's a few things I would like to know. I have done some research but would like to get some direct answers here as well.

    First of all I know that they are harmless in captivity because they don't have access to the special insects they eat in the wild that make them toxic but just to be safe I want to make sure that applies to all species. There's no species that retains natural toxicity is there?

    Secondly the ones I've been seeing at the reptile expos I've been going to are quite young and tiny so I was wondering that since one of the last expos in my area for the year is coming up next week and I still have to plan a permanent enclosure that if for the time being while I figure out space if a small dart frog would do okay in a plastic critter keeper at room temperature? So long as I kept it moist and provide a hiding spot and some plastic plants?

    Are they difficult to feed? For one thing is it hard to get them to eat? I've had that problem with my pacman frog on occasion. Also do they need to eat tiny things like fruit flies and springtails their entire lives or will they be able to take small crickets and similar sized insects as they get bigger? For that matter I've never quite understood how you are supposed to feed fruit flies to something. Do you just shake a few in there or do you gather up a certain number and put them in a dish or something? Wouldn't they be hard for the frog to see among substrate?

    How hardy are they? Do they have any common health issues they are especially prone to compared to other frogs? According to my research they can live anywhere from 4-20 years. Is more than 10 years common? I know they don't take up much space but I'm hesitant to get animals that live too long because I can only keep so many things at once and there's a lot of variety I want to experience caring for in my life.

    Do they need any special heating or lighting? Do they need a place to to bathe or swim? Maybe just a dish to soak in like most frogs?

    Finally the last thing I want to know is if it's okay to keep different species together in a large enough enclosure? I read you should avoid mixing species but I've always wanted to put a variety of these colorful frogs together, especially the blue poison dart frog and the black and yellow one. Is it really that much of a problem? I mean if they can live in groups with enough space anyway and they aren't toxic in captivity I don't see why it would be so bad to keep different species of a similar size together? Especially when they have pretty much the same habits for the most part.

    Thanks guys! I know it was long but I'm really considering getting one incredibly soon and I would love to hear back from anyone who has some advice. I noticed there hasn't been much activity in this section as of late so I sure hope somebody sees.

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    100+ Post Member JimO's Avatar
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    Default Re: A few dart frog questions?

    See responses in different colored text below.

    Quote Originally Posted by Allthingswithscales View Post
    Hi guys! Poison dart frogs are easily among my favorite frogs and I've been strongly considering one for quite a while. I do have frog experience. I have a pacman frog and two tomato frogs and many years ago when I was younger I had a red-legged running frog. I've heard though that dart frogs can be more difficult to care for because of their smaller size and humidity requirements so before I get one there's a few things I would like to know. I have done some research but would like to get some direct answers here as well.

    Hi and welcome to Frog Forum. I've kept and bred many types of dart frogs for over 12 years, so I might be able to answer your questions. First, I don't find dart frogs difficult to keep at all, if provided with the right enclosure, food, etc.

    First of all I know that they are harmless in captivity because they don't have access to the special insects they eat in the wild that make them toxic but just to be safe I want to make sure that applies to all species. There's no species that retains natural toxicity is there?

    Only a few of the species in the genus Phyllobates are dangerous, with P. terrillibus and P. bicolor being two of the most common in the hobby. Other species have different levels of toxicity and different toxins in the wild and some, such as R. imitator, are not toxic at all. All captive-bred specimens should be free of toxins. Adult wild-caught frogs lose their toxicity in captivity in the absence of the food from which the toxins are derived. I stay away from most wild caught specimens these days for a lot of reasons, but I suppose there could be some residual toxins in wild-caught specimens if they aren't held in quarantine long enough.


    Secondly the ones I've been seeing at the reptile expos I've been going to are quite young and tiny so I was wondering that since one of the last expos in my area for the year is coming up next week and I still have to plan a permanent enclosure that if for the time being while I figure out space if a small dart frog would do okay in a plastic critter keeper at room temperature? So long as I kept it moist and provide a hiding spot and some plastic plants?

    Juveniles of the larger species like the blue (D. tinctorius 'azureus') and green & black (D. auratus) are typically sold at reptile shows and they can be pretty hardy. I've kept juveniles in critter keepers temporarily and they do well with plenty of springtails and smaller wingless fruitflies (Melanogaster). Be sure to dust with calcium at every feeding and with a vitamin supplement (with Vitamin A) every week or two. I use Repashy Vitamin A plus for vitamin supplementation. I put damp sphagnum moss on the bottom, with some leaf litter for cover. Plants aren't necessary for the species mentioned because they are largely ground dwellers. They just need plenty of hides.

    Are they difficult to feed? For one thing is it hard to get them to eat? I've had that problem with my pacman frog on occasion. Also do they need to eat tiny things like fruit flies and springtails their entire lives or will they be able to take small crickets and similar sized insects as they get bigger? For that matter I've never quite understood how you are supposed to feed fruit flies to something. Do you just shake a few in there or do you gather up a certain number and put them in a dish or something? Wouldn't they be hard for the frog to see among substrate?

    I have never had trouble getting most dart frogs to feed, but the base diet of the species mentioned will be fruit flies. They are easily cultured so you don't need to buy new cultures very often. They also eat a lot of them, so feed frequently (once a day, maybe 20-30 flies per juvenile and at least twice that for adults. If you have the time, break the feeding into two or more times a day when you can. They can get freaked out if too many flies are in the enclosure and are crawling on them.

    How hardy are they? Do they have any common health issues they are especially prone to compared to other frogs? According to my research they can live anywhere from 4-20 years. Is more than 10 years common? I know they don't take up much space but I'm hesitant to get animals that live too long because I can only keep so many things at once and there's a lot of variety I want to experience caring for in my life.

    If well cared for, most species will live 10+ years. It's definitely a commitment, but they aren't very labor intensive. The cost common problems are calcium and vitamin A deficiencies.


    Do they need any special heating or lighting? Do they need a place to to bathe or swim? Maybe just a dish to soak in like most frogs?

    They thrive in temps between 65F to 80F but can tolerate lower temps. Higher temps are dangerous. I've known people to buy frogs at a show only to lose them during the drive home due to a hot car.

    Finally the last thing I want to know is if it's okay to keep different species together in a large enough enclosure? I read you should avoid mixing species but I've always wanted to put a variety of these colorful frogs together, especially the blue poison dart frog and the black and yellow one. Is it really that much of a problem? I mean if they can live in groups with enough space anyway and they aren't toxic in captivity I don't see why it would be so bad to keep different species of a similar size together? Especially when they have pretty much the same habits for the most part.

    This is a VERY controversial issue in the dart frog community. There are so many great looking species and morphs that we try to avoid crossbreeding at all cost. The hobby has been pretty good about keeping bloodlines free of crosses. However, and this is where I can get in trouble with my fellow dart frog keepers, mixing species can cause stress on the frogs, particularly that don't do well in groups of their own species. D. tinctorius typically do best as a single pair or maybe 2 males and one female (if they are raised together) but females will not get along. The opposite is true for O. pumilio. Aside from the breeding controversy, I have seen frogs mixed for display and as long as there is no indication of bullying, they can do as well as groups of the same species. Signs of bullying are very subtle and the only indication can be that an individual doesn't grow much and stays hidden. A bullied frog usually dies eventually. As a general rule, you should have one square foot of surface for each adult of the larger species.

    Thanks guys! I know it was long but I'm really considering getting one incredibly soon and I would love to hear back from anyone who has some advice. I noticed there hasn't been much activity in this section as of late so I sure hope somebody sees.

    I hope this helps. Good luck.
    I used to think that I had to understand in order to believe, then I realized that I must believe in order to understand - Augustine

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    Default Re: A few dart frog questions?

    I have two types of D leucomelas, and lost 2 of the smaller ones in the heat wave this summer. I feed mine mostly on tropical wood lice, that I breed, and those anoying little flies that likes to feed on the poop from my African giant land snails. I have a couple of tiny plastic boxes where I get those flies to breed and then I swap out the lid for lids with holes in them and place them in the enclosures for the frogs to feed on. I have tried to feed them buffalo worms but they weren't really interested. I guess the worms doesn't move the proper way for the frogs to hunt them.

    One of my leucomelas is a male and have this wonderful call that isn't anoying at all.

    I find them easy to keep and they quickly learn where their food is. The only thing I can't do is dust the food since the wood lice are moved on a piece of bark and the flies crawl out of their boxes on their own. I do feed the wood lice calcium though so they should be high in that anyway... I hope.

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    Default Re: A few dart frog questions?

    Thanks JimO! This was so informative and I appreciate so much. You were extremely helpful! One question though when it comes to the interbreeding risk. Wouldn't they need a large area of standing water to breed for tadpoles? Regardless they seem a lot easier than I thought and as they don't take up much space I can probably just get additional critter keepers for addition frogs! I actually did end up bringing one home today from the expo, a slightly older blue one and he or she seems to be settling into the new habitat very nicely and is active and curious. I went with a a small 5 gallon tank my cousin loaned me and it's filled with moist substrate, lots of moss and a plastic plant to hide under. I even got some springtails that apparently will help keep the tank clean. I have a little bit of plastic wrap on the top to hold in humidity like I do with my pacman frog and tomato frogs. Your guidance here is going to help a lot! I'll post some pictures later!

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    Default Re: A few dart frog questions?

    Thanks Reptilian Feline! I'm sorry about your loss, that's always such a shame when with sensitive and fragile species. They sure sound easy to feed though! I sure hope the one I just got learns to call like you said. I'd love to hear it! Occasionally one of my two tomato frogs croaks but I can never catch which one is doing it

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    Default Re: A few dart frog questions?

    If you have a male and he feels at home he will "sing" for you

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    Default Re: A few dart frog questions?

    Actually, most dart frogs lay their eggs on damp surfaces, like fallen leaves in the wild. After they hatch, the parents let them climb on their backs and transport them to a pool of water. In captivity, most people put a petri dish in the vivarium and cover it with a "coconut hut" for them to lay and fertilize the eggs. A coconut hut is a half coconut shell with an opening cut on one side. The eggs are removed and the tadpoles placed in a grow-out pool after they hatch. Anyway, if you don't remove the eggs and there is no pool of water, the tadpoles won't survive.

    There are great tutorial videos on YouTube showing how to breed them and raise the tadpoles. Black Jungle Terrarium Supply has a really good series on caring for dart frogs. This is the one on caring for tadpoles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5sb6epTqzo


    Also, you should plan on one square foot of space for each adult frog, so a 5-gal container might not be big enough for one frog, but it's definitely too small for more than one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Allthingswithscales View Post
    Thanks JimO! This was so informative and I appreciate so much. You were extremely helpful! One question though when it comes to the interbreeding risk. Wouldn't they need a large area of standing water to breed for tadpoles? Regardless they seem a lot easier than I thought and as they don't take up much space I can probably just get additional critter keepers for addition frogs! I actually did end up bringing one home today from the expo, a slightly older blue one and he or she seems to be settling into the new habitat very nicely and is active and curious. I went with a a small 5 gallon tank my cousin loaned me and it's filled with moist substrate, lots of moss and a plastic plant to hide under. I even got some springtails that apparently will help keep the tank clean. I have a little bit of plastic wrap on the top to hold in humidity like I do with my pacman frog and tomato frogs. Your guidance here is going to help a lot! I'll post some pictures later!
    I used to think that I had to understand in order to believe, then I realized that I must believe in order to understand - Augustine

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    Default Re: A few dart frog questions?

    Oh wow! That is actually really cool! I don't really know if I'd personally breed them but I'd love to see that. I'm totally going to watch in the minute. That is really unique! I love the thought of the parents carrying them. And yeah the 5 gallon is a temporary arrangement for the most part and he's pretty small. I'm thinking of looking for at least a 10 gallon or maybe even one of those special made terrariums that open from the front. I use those for my bearded dragon and tarantulas.

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    Default Re: A few dart frog questions?

    This is one of my favorite photos. It's a male pumilio and two of the tadpoles have climbed on his back with two others waiting. This species actually raises its own tadpoles in bromiliad pools. The tadpoles can only survive on unfertilized eggs that the mother lays in each bromiliad. These are small species - with adults about the size of juveniles leucomela or auratus. I had pretty good success with this pair.

    Name:  Pumilio Cristobal with 2 tads A2 Cropped.JPG
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    I used to think that I had to understand in order to believe, then I realized that I must believe in order to understand - Augustine

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    Default Re: A few dart frog questions?

    Wow that is incredible! What an amazing shot! It's not often I've seen parental care in amphibians. The only other one I knew about until now was the African bullfrog

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