First it's important to say that poison dart frogs require ingestion of alkaloid rich insects to maintain their skin toxicity and without them loose all ability to produce their skin toxins. In the poison dart frogs natural habitat there are plants that produce alkaloids to prevent insect devastation.
Some insects have evolved to the point that these type of alkaloid rich plants actually benefit the insect and in turn provide alkaloid rich insects which the poison dart frogs eat and in turn manufacture their skin toxins with. As these alkaloid rich insects are not available in a captive environment the dart frog looses it's ability to make their skin toxins, which in the wild are their only real line of defense.
All dart frogs at A-1 Reptiles are captive bred here at our facility. We do not deal in wild caught imports of any kind.
Poison dart frogs require a natural terrarium setup with humidity levels above eighty percent. A terrarium setup will include moss, plants and some type of drainage system whether it's a hole in the bottom of the tank or low end area where excess water can be siphoned or vacuumed out.
All dart frog keepers have their own way of creating a natural terrarium setup and what works best for them. Some keepers make false bottoms and PVC pipe in creating their dart frog setups. I prefer the more natural looking setup.
These terrarium setups are tiny little self contained ecosystems. Layers of the materials describe below form a drainage system from which animal waste and water filter through the layers and the plants absorb the waste and water.
We set up forty-fifty gallon tanks with multiple froglets and rear them together. Single adult pairs can be housed in ten gallon tanks. Some specie of dart frogs can be aggressive. There seems to be less aggression present if froglets are raised together verses adding them as larger from at different intervals.
In setting up a natural terrarium we first use hydroponic clay pellets. They should be rinsed thoroughly and free of dust. These can be purchased at any company that sells hydroponic supplies such as "Garden Indoors" in Columbus, Ohio. Put approximately two inches of hydroponic clay pellets in the bottom of the tank.
Next add a layer of coco chips approximately two-three inches in depth. Coco chips can be purchased through any orchid supplier such as oakhillgardens.com.
Thirdly add a layer of sphagnum moss. I like the New Zealand moss that Cal-West Orchids carries.
Next towards one end of the tank pull back on each end the layer of sphagnum moss and coco chips to provide and indent. On top of this indent place a piece of plastic screening. On top of the plastic screening put a handful of natural rock aquarium gravel. This indented area will act as a reservoir to hold excess water which can be siphoned or vacuumed out when ever the water level is to high. By to high I mean not more than a quarter inch of water should remain in the reservoir at any time. Poison dart frogs are not swimmers and can drown in water over their head.
When siphoning excess water from the reservoir gently pull back the aquarium gravel until the plastic screen is exposed and siphon the excess water out either with a meat baster or a small shop vac. I prefer to use a shop vac with the small attachment. The shop vac makes short work of siphoning out excess water. Small shop vac's can be purchased at and hardware store such as Lowe's.
You are now ready to plant the tank. It's best to buy plants that tolerate high humidity levels such as small tropical plants, bromeliads, philodendrons. Make sure all plants are rinsed thoroughly and free of any dirt particles.
Pull back the sphagnum moss and coco chips and some of the hydroponic clay pellets and place the plant into this hole and then pull the materials back around the plant and tap the materials back into place lightly. The more plants the better. These plants will such up water from beneath the layers and also give off valuable amount of oxygen.
When raising specie of dart frog together there may be aggression among them. Aggression can be one from continually riding the back of another. The aggressor should be removed to another tank. Some specie of dart frog are more aggressive than other. The azureus are known to be aggressive towards other females. Frogs that are allowed to remain and stress out their fellow inhabitants may stress them to the point of death.
With keeping humidity levels around eighty percent your inside aquarium temperature should be kept around seventy-eight deg f. These poison dart frogs are indigenous to areas of the world where the temperature does not fluctuate.
Plant grow lights should be suspended above the tank. This creates a daily light cycle for the frogs as well as keeping the plants inside the terrarium healthy. Monitor your inside tank temperature as lights can cause an increase in temperature. Plants grow lights can be purchased at Lowe's Hardware for a cost of approximately $12.
Now that your terrarium is set up your ready to buy your poison dart frogs.There are so many beautiful dart frogs available on the captive produced market today. I recommend starting with a hardy specie, easy to breed and recommended for beginners (Leucomelas).
As young dart frogs are not sexable I would start out with purchasing five to ten froglets to place into your new terrarium. These froglets will grow to their adult size within a twelve month period.
As the dart frogs mature sex distinction can be seen between the males and females. The male poison dart frogs have wide fingers and wider toe pads as seen below. The female poison dart frogs have slender fingers and narrower toe pads.
After the dart frogs have reached their maturity you may separate them into other tanks into breeding pairs. Egg laying areas should be provided. We use petri dishes with halved coconut shells placed over the petri dish with a small half circle in one side so the dart frogs can go in an out easily. You can also purchased suctioned cup film canisters as seen below and these will act as egg laying sites as well.
Some poison dart frogs are seasonal breeders or will begin to breed after a rainy season. Spray the tank once daily for two weeks. Following that time period spray the tank twice daily for two weeks. This will simulate a rainy season and hopefully induce the dart frogs to begin breeding. Remember to siphon off or vacuum the excess water from your pond area or the dart frogs may drown. Remember the dart frogs are not good swimmers and will drown in standing water above their head.
Upon finding the poison dart frog eggs they should be removed for incubation. Some froggers will leave the eggs in and let the male tend them as they do in the wild.
Remove the dart frog eggs and if layed in a petri dish just remove the petri dish and put a new one back in its place. Take a plastic sandwich tray with lid as seen below. Put into the bottom of the tray a wet paper towel. Use RO water only. Then place the petri dish on top of the wet paper towel. Pour enough RO water into the petri dish just so it touches the dart frog eggs. Then snap on the plastic lid onto the plastic container. Place the tray inside an incubator at seventy-eight deg f. Check the petri dish often and make sure as the water evaporates around the eggs that the water is replaced so the dart frog eggs do not dry out.
The tadpole will develop over a couple of weeks. As soon a tadpole has hatched remove them to their own container with about one inch of RO water and a sprig of sphagnum moss. As the tadpole develops you may increase the water level in the cup to a depth of two to three inches. Young tadpoles can be carnivorous so it's best to raise one tadpole to a container.
Tadpoles should be fed one to two times per week and I recommend buying a product called "Tadpole Bites." These can be found online from any company that carries dart frog supplies.
Some dart frog keepers change their water on regular intervals and some never change the water while tadpoles develop. I recommend pouring a little water out once weekly and adding fresh RO water in it's place. Water should not be allowed to remain cloudy.
After twelve weeks the tadpoles will begin to grow legs and begin absorb their tail. This can be a critical time in the young dart frogs life because they can drown if they are not able to climb out of the water. As they develop their legs decrease the water depth and put in more sphagnum moss so they are able to climb out of the water when ready. As soon as they leave the water they are ready to be moved into a poison dart frog terrarium. The tail will continue to be adsorbed. Congratulations you are at the end of your endeavor.
Flightless fruit flies, springtail's and pinhead crickets are a recommended food source for new dart frog babies. Make sure insects are dusted with half calcium power with D3 such as Rep-Cal and a good reptile vitamin such as Herptivite or Nekton-Rep. Use fresh calcium and vitamin mix each day prior to feeding time. Baby dart frogs can be fed every other day.
If you are acquiring young dart frogs for breeding purchases the chart below will help you in deciding how many froglets to buy to improve your chances of obtaining a pair to start a successful breeding project. Also, keep in mind that after you have obtained a pair from your grouping the additional larger frogs will sell for a much higher price.