Beginners Guide to Dart Frog Care: top 10 secrets to success – part 1

Written by on January 7, 2015 in Captive Care with 0 Comments
The stunning Blue Dart frog, Dendrobates tinctorius ‘Azureus’ - one of the easiest species to keep. Photo: Cliff

Keeping and breeding poison dart frogs in captivity is a fascinating and rewarding hobby.  They are also just as safe to keep as other tropical amphibians, as once in captivity dart frogs lose their ability to make poison.  Their wide variety of vivid colors and behavior patterns provides ample selection to choose from, with many enthusiasts ending up with extensive collections.  It is import to remember that even though they lose their toxicity in captivity handling should be avoided, as this can cause stress and their delicate skin can easily be damaged.  They should therefore be seen as display animals, with the vivariums in which they are kept creating the center piece for any room – lushly planted with bromeliads and beautiful orchids, with the ‘jewels of the rainforest’ hopping around inside.

If you are thinking about keeping dart frogs for the first time these top 10 secrets to success will start you off in the right direction.  The guide has been broken down into three parts as follows;

Part 1 – Choosing what to keep:

  1. What to keep
  2. Where to buy
  3. Housing

Part 2 – Getting the micro-climate right:

  1. Vivarium location
  2. Lighting
  3. Heating
  4. Misting
  5. Food

Part 3 – Vivarium design:

  1. Interior design:
    • Substrate
    • Background
    • Hiding places
    • Plants
  2. Further research

Part 1 – Choosing what to keep:

1-what to buy
1. What to keep: Out of the 8 groups of dart frogs the larger and bolder Dendrobates are the easiest to keep.  This includes the stunning Blue Dart frog, Dendrobates tinctorius ‘Azureus’ , Green Dart frog, Dendrobates auratus, and Bubble Bee Dart frog, Dendrobates leucomelas.  Many advanced hobbyists keep the ‘thumbnail species’ belonging to the groups Oophaga and Ranitomeya.  This is at least partly due to their fascinating parenting skills and multiple color morphs, and includes the popular Strawberry Dart frog, Oophaga pumilio.  Captive bred Golden Dart frogs, Phyllobates terribilis, also make great subjects.

2. Where to buy: While some pet stores stock dart frogs most hobbyists buy their frogs from one of three sources;

  • specialist dart frog breeders
  • trade shows
  • directly from each other through forums and local hobbyist groups

Out of the three, buying from a breeder is the easiest option for someone just starting with the hobby.  Many breeders have great online stores where frogs can be bought and then shipped, and questions answered.

Wild caught specimens should not be purchased.  Most dart frogs are listed as endangered species, and even if this was not the case wild caught frogs often carry parasites and other diseases which can shorten their lifespan and infect other frogs in your collection.

3. Housing: Dart frogs need to be kept in well planted specialist vivariums, sometimes also referred to as a terrariums, equipped to control the internal micro-climate to suit their particular needs.  There are several manufactures of vivariums with glass construction being typical, including large front doors from easy access, equipment mounting locations and built-in ventilation grills.  The overall dimensions of a vivarium depends on the species, number of individuals being kept, and whether your primary intent is to try and breed them or have a ‘show tank’.  Vivarium sizes can therefore range anywhere from 10 gallons to 100 gallons or more.  The behavior of the particular dart also need to be considered as some are ground living, Dendrobates and Phyllobates, whereas others like the Oophaga and Ranitomeya thumbnail species love to climb – the latter needing a taller home, with the ground area being less critical.


Read the next in this series:  Part 2 – Getting the micro-climate right
Photo credit:  Cliff

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