Beginners Guide to Dart Frog Care: top 10 secrets to success – part 2

Written by on January 13, 2015 in Captive Care with 0 Comments
The Bumble Bee Dart frog, Dendrobates leucomelas - one of the easiest species to keep. Photo: Dennis

This is the second of a three part series looking at the top 10 secrets to success for keeping poison dart frogs in captivity.  Part 1 introduced some ways of selecting which species to keep, where to purchase them and what kind of vivarium to keep them in.  Now it’s time to make sure all the correct equipment is in place to create the perfect micro-climate to keep your darts frogs health and hopefully eager to breed.

Part 2 – Getting the micro-climate right:

1-what to buy
4. Vivarium location: Dart frogs may be tropical but they must not overheat.  A vivarium should not to be placed in a room that has an ambient temperature that may exceed the desired temperature for the frog.  Attics should therefore be avoided, whereas basements or converted garages can often make a good choice provided they have good insulation and air quality is carefully controlled.  It is also critical to keep the vivarium away from direct sunlight, including low winter sun angles, as this can quickly overheat the internal temperature turning it into a death trap.
1-what to buy
5. Lighting: As darts are diurnal getting both the correct photoperiod and light spectrum correct is key.  Darts typically need 12 hours light per day. Many species will tolerate this being extended up to 14 hours, allowing the proud hobbyist to enjoy them into the evening.  The light spectrum is as important to plant health as it is to the frog.  Plant health is a good indicator that the vivarium’s micro-climate is also good for your frogs – a bit like having a canary in a coal mine.  Compact fluorescent lights are typically use, with LEDs becoming more popular.
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6. Heating: Darts are best kept in a room with an average daytime temperature of about 20 ºC / 70 ºF, dropping slightly at night.  If this is the case the vivarium’s internal temperature can be easily increased from the excess heat coming from compact fluorescent lighting, without the need for additional heaters.  If this is not the case thermostatically controlled heat pads can be placed under the enclosure. A daytime temperature range of 22 ºC – 28 ºC / 72 ºF – 82 ºF is typical but dependent on species being kept.  If the room may overheat during summer months air conditioning should be installed, or a different room location selected.  With larger collections having a dedicated frog room makes sense, where the room temperature as a whole can be carefully regulated, together with air quality by using a filter.
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7. Misting: Like all tropical frogs, maintaining high humidity is critical.  With many species it is also important to vary this throughout the year mimicking seasonal dry and rainy seasons found in their natural habitat, stimulating breeding behavior.  Regular misting also helps clean the enclosure of feces, controlling disease, plus keeps the bromeliads’ wells topped up with fresh water which many darts use as mini ponds or even use for breeding.  While a regular plant mister can be used if you only have one small vivarium, installing a misting system is recommended.  These can be timed to come on at multiple times during the day, ensuring plant and animal health even when you are on vacation.  Foggers are also sometimes used to boost humidity.  Using purified or distilled water is also a good idea, this preventing misting heads from becoming clogged over time as well as minimizing unsightly white deposits on the glass.  A regular supply of this can be easy produced by using a reverse osmosis water filter system.
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8. Feeding: Running out of feeder insects is an easy yet preventable way to lose your precious frogs.   In captivity adult darts are typically fed flightless fruit flies.  These can be ordered online and sometimes are available from pet stores.  Ideally, however, you breed them yourself ensuring there is always a plentiful supply – this will also save you money.  Kits are available to get you started and it is important to ensure you raise them on a specialist high quality diet, ensuring your frogs are eating nutritionally rich flies.  These should also be dusted with specialist vitamin and mineral supplements before feeding.  You should also think carefully about who will feed your collection when you go on vacation before you ever start with the hobby – getting this wrong is another preventable cause of frog deaths.

Read the next in this series:  Part 3 – Vivarium design


Photo credit:  Dennis

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