by Zach Brinks
Epipedobates trivittatus ‘Huallaga Canyon’
Introduction and Natural History
Epipedobates trivittatus, also known as Ameerega trivittata in the new literature, is a large (adult female Epipedobates trivittatus can reach nearly 3″ in length!), active Dendrobatid frog found in Suriname and Peru, which is where most of the Epipedobates trivittatus in the hobby come from. Epipedobates trivittatus also occurs in Bolivia, Guyana, Colombia, and Venezuela. Some relatively new literature reports that Epipedobates trivittatus occurs in French Guiana and Ecuador, as well. Epipedobates trivittatus tends to inhabit low lying drainage areas of the Amazon Basin. Epipedobates trivittatus is considered a species of least concern by the IUCN Redlist. In the pet trade, Epipedobates trivittatus is known as the 3 striped poison arrow frog or the 3 striped dart frog.
Epipedobates trivittatus has experienced an interesting and history when it comes to naming. Originally described as Hyla trivittata by Spix in 1824, Epipedobates trivittatus has been renamed multiple times since then. Originally, what we now refer to as Epipedobates trivitattus (actually Ameerega trivittata) was described as two separate species!
Hyla trivittata – Spix, 1824
Hyla nigerrima – Spix, 1824
Hysaplesia trivittata – Schlegel, 1826
Hysaplesia nigerrima – Schlegel, 1826
Dendrobates trivittatus – Wagler, 1830
Dendrobates nigerrima – Wagler, 1830
Dendrobates nigerrimus – Wagler, 1830
Dendrobates obscurus – Dumeril and Bibron, 1841
Hylaplesia trivittatus – Knauer, 1883
Dendrobates tetravittatus – Miranda-Riberio, 1926
Phyllobates trivittatus – Silverstone, 1976
Ameerega trivittata – Bauer, 1986
Epipedobates trivittatus – Myers, 1987
Phobobates trivittatus – Zimmermann and Zimmermann, 1988
Ameerega trivittata – Grant et al, 2006
Epipedobates trivittatus occurs in many different color/pattern morphs from several different populations throughout it’s range. Many pictures of the Suriname morphs can be viewed on the Simply Natural Dart Frogs website, where Marcus Breece used to import and breed various types of Epipedobates trivittatus. At Josh’s Frogs, we work with Epipedobates trivittatus ‘Huallaga Canyon’, which originates in Peru and was imported by Mark Pepper of Understory Enterprises. Common near human habitation, Epipedobates trivittatus is an easy to keep captive, but can be a bit more demanding than other poison dart frogs when it comes to breeding.
Being large frogs, Epipedobates trivittatus should be housed in larger naturalistic vivaria than what is required from most poison dart frogs. At Josh’s Frogs, we house a group of 5 adults (we believe 3.2) Epipedobates trivittatus in a 140 gallon vivarium, although a 20L vivarium is suitable for 2 or 3 trivs. Epipedobates trivittatus are capable of jumping quite a long distance, so house them in the largest vivarium you can.
140 gallon naturalistic vivarium for Epipedobates trivittatus at Josh’s Frogs.
With naturalistic vivaria, substrate typically consists of a 2” base layer of Josh’s Frogs False Bottom, followed by substrate barrier, then a well-draining substrate such as ABG mix in a 2” layer. On top of this, long fiber sphagnum is placed in a thin layer, followed by a hearty coating of leaf litter. The substrate can be seeded with various species of microfauna, including springtails and isopods, which are cultured and sold specifically for such applications.
Epipedobates trivittatus appreciates lower lighting levels.
Densely plant smaller vivaria with live terrarium plants, as this will help make the poison dart frogs feel more secure. Low/dim lighting levels are appreciated, as is a temperature range of 70F-80F. A water feature is not necessary to keep Epipedobates trivittatus, but may help in breeding. Trivs will eat your typical dart frog fare but tend to prefer slightly larger prey items as adults, such as hydei fruit flies, bean beetles, isopods, phoenix worms, and crickets. In the wild, Epipedobates trivittatus lives primarily in the leaf litter, and a dense layer of leaves at the bottom of the vivarium will be appreciated.
Breeding Epipedobates trivittatus can be tricky at times. The first step is to insure you have at least one male and one female Epipedobates trivittatus. Even though they can breed at a younger age, sex is generally more apparent when the animals reach 18-24 months of age. At that time, males will appear shorter and slimmer than females, which will be larger at more pear shaped. To help sex dart frogs, check out Josh’s Frogs Guide to Sexing Dart Frogs. Aggression has been reported between the same sexes, but generally does not harm either animal. Epipedobates trivittatus does well in groups. Raising up a group of Epipedobates trivittatus greatly increases the chances of getting at least one breeding pair of animals. Josh’s Frogs recommends raising up a group of at least 4 frogs if you have a large enough enclosure.
There is some evidence that a water feature may contribute to breeding success with Epipedobates trivittatus. In the wild, Epipedobates trivittatus can be found near streams and temporary bodies of water, so this does make sense. At Josh’s Frogs, we have a pool of water measuring approximately 18″x12″. Our first Epipedobates trivittatus tadpoles were discovered feeding on algae in the pool – up until then, we didn’t even know the poison dart frogs were breeding!
Epipedobates trivittatus seems to appreciate a water feature in the vivarium.
Epipedobates trivittatus lays rather large egg clutches consisting of between 20-30 eggs, although we’ve gotten a clutch of nearly 50 eggs on occasion. Adult Epipedobates trivittatus males may guard their egg clutch, potentially protecting it from females that would eat the eggs, and routinely watering it to keep the eggs moist. Eggs are laid most often on a petri dish under a coco hut, but sometimes are deposited on stout, broad plant leaves. Utilizing a petri dish makes it easy to remove and incubate eggs outside the vivarium, allowing you to have more control over your Epipedobates trivittatus’ breeding.
Epipedobates trivittatus generally will utilize petri dishes under a coco hut to lay their eggs. Here, the coco hut was removed in order to take the picture.
A typical Triv egg clutch.
Typically, about half the eggs hatch out after approximately 2 weeks into tadpoles. In nature (and in the vivarium if you don’t pull the eggs!), the male Epipedobates trivittatus will scoop the tadpoles on his back and carry them to a water source, where they are deposited. At Josh’s Frogs, we remove the eggs before they hatch and rear them artificially. Epipedobates trivitattus tadpoles are raised communally in large dishwashing bins, with approximately 20-30 tadpoles in 2 gallons of water. Alternatively, we have had success keeping Epipedobates trivittatus tadpoles individually in 16oz tadpole cups. Tadpoles receive a 90% water change once a day with tadpole tea. This consists of reverse osmosis water that has been boiled with indian almond leaves to release tannins into the water. Alternatively, blackwater extract can be added. Josh’s Frogs maintains it’s dart frog tadpoles at approximately 74F. Epipedobates trivittatus tadpoles are fed daily with a high quality tadpole food. Josh’s Frogs uses and recommends HBH Frog and Tadpole Bites that have been coated in a dusting of Sera Micron. Josh’s Frogs has used this tadpole food with poison dart frog tadpoles for many years with great success.
Male Epipedobates trivittatus will give their tadpoles a piggy back ride to a water source, where they will complete metamorphosis. Source.
At Josh’s Frogs, we house trivittatus tadpoles communally.
In about 4-6 weeks, Epipedobates trivittatus tadpoles will develop back legs, followed by visible front legs about 2 weeks later. Both sets of legs develop at the same time in poison dart frogs, but the front legs do not emerge from under the skin until later. When front legs are visible, we remove the tadpole from the communal rearing bin and place it in a petri dish with a bit of water. This petri dish is placed in the rearing bin where we will raise the froglet to sellable size. After the froglets have left the petri dish, it is removed. At Josh’s Frogs, we use 128oz containers to raise 2 froglets to at least 2 months old. Bins contain about 1″ of New Zealand long fiber sphagnum, springtails, and a cutting of pothos or wandering jew. Froglets also readily take Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies right out of the water.
Epipedobates trivittatus 1 day out of the water.
Epipedobates trivittatus 2 weeks out of the water.
Epipedobates trivittatus 1 month out of the water.
Epipedobates trivittatus froglet rearing container at Josh’s Frogs.
Epipedobates trivittatus was once considered a difficult poison dart frog to keep and breed. Although captive breeding still cannot be called easy, captive care of the three striped poison dart frog is more straightforward than ever. Josh’s Frogs is proud to be able to offer healthy, captive bred Epipedobates trivittatus to amphibian enthusiasts all over the United States.
Wikipedia – Ameerega trivittata. – Link to article by Grant et al. concerning most recent reclassification of Epipedobates trivittatus to Ameerega trivittata.
American Museum of Natural History – Ameerega trivittata. – Good information on the taxonomic history of Epipedobates trivittatus.
Dendroboard – Epipedobates trivittatus care sheet. – The largest english language dart frog forum on the internet.