Preparing for Dart Frogs
by Zach Brinks
When it comes to keeping poison dart frogs at home, it’s hard to be over-prepared. Some serious time should be spent researching your future acquisitions, and some serious thought should be given, as these colorful frogs can easily live over 10 years. Below are some great articles we’ve put together that future frog owners should find especially helpful.
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First things First
As a great starting point, the Josh’s Frogs blog post ‘So You Think You Want Dart Frogs?‘ presents some of the challenges and planning that must go in to dart frog ownership. This article is a great first read for those just starting to ponder jumping into the hobby.
After you have researched some of the basics surrounding dart frog care, the next logical step is to select what species of poison dart frogs you want to work with. On www.JoshsFrogs.com, we have 3 great articles about the more common dart frog species found in the US hobby. The first and most useful is entitled ‘Hopping Into The Hobby‘ and discusses the care of the three most popular (and easy to keep) species of dart frogs: Dendrobates tinctorius, Dendrobates leucomelas, and Dendrobates auratus. These species of dart frogs are particularly hardy, widely available as captive bred specimens, and easy to keep.
The next two articles cover frogs typically left to those with a little frog experience under their belts, but novices can be successful with them with little additional effort. ‘Three Thumbs Up‘ explores Ranitomeya ventrimaculata, Ranitomeya lamasi, and Ranitomaya imitator - species of thumbnail dart frogs in the hobby. These small frogs seldom exceed 1” in length, and actually lay eggs to feed their tadpoles. ‘The Other Bates‘ discusses frogs of the genus Phyllobates and Epipedobates – frogs that are a little less common than the more well known Dendrobates, but just as fascinating.
Phyllobates terribilis is considered a frog of intermediate difficulty
based on it’s sensitivity to warmer temperatures.
After you’ve decided what dart frog species you want to start out with, the next logical step is to build them a home. Typically, dart frogs are housed in vivariums – enclosures planted with live plants that replicate the jungle habitat of these colorful frogs. Many people utilize aquariums or other glass enclosures for vivarium construction. We prefer Exo Terra Glass Terrariums for their durable construction, ease of access via front doors, and a vent below the door to promote proper air circulation.
Exo Terra Glass Terrariums make great vivariums.
‘Vivariums: From the Ground Up‘ does a good job explaining the substrate levels of a vivarium, what to use, and why. We’ve created a kit providing all of the required substrates for a naturalistic vivarium, sold on www.JoshsFrogs.com as our Tankless Dart Frog Habitat Kits.
Familiarizing yourself with how a vivarium works, such as water movement
or purposes of different substrates, goes a long way towards creating a successful vivarium.
Next, you’ll have to light your vivarium. Dart frogs do not require any special lighting, but your plants will need a sufficient source of lighting in order to thrive. The Josh’s Frogs blog ‘Let There Be Light!‘ compares and contrasts various common methods of vivarium lighting, and allows you to make an educated decision on how to light your future vivarium, based on your own needs and circiumstances. Our website provides a wide array of vivarium lighting.
LED Bulbs are one of several lighting
options for the home vivarium.
After the lighting has been decided upon, it’s time to put some thought into planting your vivarium. The articles ‘Terrarium Plants 101‘ and ‘Growing Moss Like A Boss‘ cover the basic types of vivarium plants, and how to incorporate them into your project. Josh’s Frogs also provides Live Vivarium Plant Kits, tailored to specific sizes of vivaria.
Tropical vivarium plants create a lush jungle
atmosphere that both you and your frogs will enjoy.
Once your vivarium is up and running, both the temperature and humidity will have to be monitored to insure that conditions are ideal for dart frog care (generally 65-80F and 80-100% humidity). Temperature can be measured by a temp gun, digital thermometer, or analog thermometer, with either of the first two being preferable. Humidity is measured with a hygrometer – we offer both digital and analog hygrometers, but the digital ones are much more accurate. Alternately, a combination monitor, such as the Exo Terra Digital ThermoHygrometer can be used to measure both at once. The articles ‘Keeping It Cool‘ and ‘Heating your Vivarium‘ will instruct you on how to adjust the temperature of your vivarium until it’s just right.
Fruit flies are a popular staple of a captive dart frog diet.
Now that your future frogs have a place to live, it’s time to figure out what they’ll eat, and how you can provide them with enough food to thrive. There are two common species of fruit flies – Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila hydei. The Josh’s Frogs blog post ‘Which Fruit Fly is Right For Me?‘ compares and contrasts the two, allowing you to make an educated decision as to which species is more appropriate for you. The article ‘Josh’s Frogs Fruit Fly Overview‘ shows how we go about making fruit fly cultures at Josh’s Frogs – last year, we shipped out over 30,000 32oz cultures! We offer fruit fly cultures on www.JoshsFrogs.com, as well as culture kits that allow you to make your own at home!
Springtails are easy to culture and make a great addition to any vivarium.
Other sources of food include microfauna, such as springtails and isopods. The articles ‘Microfauna: Part I‘ and ‘Microfauna: Part II‘ cover the culturing of each of these microfoods, respectively. Often, both critters are added directly to the substrate in the vivarium, and work to keep the enclosure clean, while providing the dart frogs with additional food.
Josh’s Frogs Complete Dart Frog Care Kits
If all of this is a little overwhelming, Josh’s Frogs has taken the guess work out of keeping poison dart frogs, and now offers Josh’s Frogs Complete Dart Frog Care Kits, which include everything that’s been mentioned in this article – an enclosure, substrate, plants, lights, and a fruit fly culturing kit!
As you can see, there is a lot involved in keeping poison dart frogs at home. That’s not saying keeping them is hard – dart frogs are by far one of the most simple and low maintainence pets I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. After the proper research, keeping a large naturalistic vivarium containing these jewels of the rainforest is a very straight forward endeavor.