Home :: Thumbnail Frogs

Thumbnail Frogs

This group of diminutive frogs is one of the most fascinating and sought after of all the dart frogs. Ranging from barely a half inch long to just under an inch, these tiny frogs are among the more challenging of the dart frogs to keep and breed. However, if kept in the proper environment and under the right conditions, many will breed quite readily, and, if one watches closely, they will show some of the more interesting behaviors of the dart frog family.

Thumbnail frogs are generally considered to be any small dart frog that is not an eggfeeder, or an Epipedobates. In the wild, thumbnail diversity is at its greatest in eastern Peru, with some species existing in Ecuador, Brazil, and even as far east as French Guiana. At least 20 or so species and forms of this group of frogs are available in the US hobby, but the range that exists in the wild is much larger, and more forms are being discovered regularly. There is a very confusing array of variants, so be prepared for the fact that there is not a lot of accurate information regarding the forms and their relation ships to each other!

Thumbnail frogs mature very young, with four month old calling males not uncommon in some species. Most thumbnail species are full grown by eight months, and here at least, they seem to live to be six to ten years old regularly.While they are often somewhat shy, when they are involved in courtship, breeding or other “frog business”, they can sometimes be closely observed, and if kept in small groups, territorial skirmishes and fights over egglaying sites can also be watched. Many of the frogs in this group are very territorial so if you wish to keep them in groups, make sure you are well aware of all the possible consequences.

Many thumbnail species are what are known as “non obligate eggfeeders”, as opposed to the true egg feeders, or “obligate egg feeders”. This means that if left to their own devices, the female frog will feed the tadpoles unfertilized food eggs. In many cases this will be done under the males watch full eye, in fact the male usually orchestrates the feeding, by calling the female to the particular leaf axil or film canister to lay the eggs for the tadpole.

While many people automatically consider most thumbnail species to be “arboreal”, or tree dwelling, the vast majority of species actually spend most of their time on the ground, or in low lying vegetation, and retreat to trees or low bushes to spend the night, or to escape from threats, including periodic flooding of the forest floor. This is actually pretty similar strategy to most other dart frogs that I am familiar with, so while thumbnail frogs often enjoy low vegetation in their tanks, and will often use this vegetation to lay eggs on, and sleep there, it doesn't seem to be necessary to provide them with more height than the standard 20 gallon tall tank provides, about 18 inches. However if you have a tall tank in your plans, some of these species will be very enjoyable to watch as they climb through the upper reaches of a 30 to 40 inch high tank.

Many thumbnail species can be very shy, and a good deal of thought should be put into whether these shyer species of frogs are right for you. Additionally of course they are a bit more difficult to care for, and should be considered only after you have some experience with other larger species of dart frogs. On the bright side, there are several species which are not particularly shy at all, and these are generally the best ones to start with.

Over all this group of frogs is where many hobbyists spend their time and energy, after getting the hang of things with the larger and simpler dart frogs. The great variety and wonderful colors and patterns just reinforce the fascinating behavior and life cycle of these gorgeous rainforest jewels!


Listed below are the Poison Dart Frogs that we are Working With.