Phyllobates terribilis

What an incredible natural history this frog has! A large dart frog, in fact it is probably the largest dart frog, if you go by body mass. Solid in color, and very bold, this frog must make an astonishing sight in the wild. Its habitat is on the western coast of Columbia, in a relatively small area around the Saija River. This area is very wet rainforest, getting about fifteen feet of rain a year.

This frog was only identified by science in 1966, when Dr. John Daly collected them during a mission to find frogs with potential for pharmaceutical use. The story of this expedition is an amazing one. Since the frogs were discovered, the poison they produce has been the subject of much study and conjecture. Batrachotoxin, the primary poison they secrete, is produced from poisonous compounds in some food item they eat. While it was long thought that this food item was ants, evidence is now suggesting that a small beetle may be responsible for this poison. This speculation was the result of the finding that several species of bird in New Guinea have the same poison in their feathers, and that they feed on a beetle that is related to one that exists in Columbia.

Unfortunately it has been hard to pin this down, since for the past 20 years or more Columbia has been an increasingly dangerous place to be, and not much study has taken place there. This is especially unfortunate for us froggers, since a great variety of dart frogs occur there, including D. histrionicus and D. lehmanni.

Terribilis occur in at least three different color forms in the wild, and there is more than color that separates them, small differences in size also seem to characterize them. The three color forms that are well documented are mint green, orange and yellow. The mint green is the most common in captivity, and the largest. Oranges are not too hard to find, but can be uncommon at times, and the yellow form is not usually very easy to find. For many years there existed some confusion between bicolor and terribilis in the hobby, with many orange bicolor being sold as terribilis. There are some very nice almost solid orange bicolor out there, and either deliberately or as the result of honest mistakes, they have been sold as orange terribilis. There is also some speculation that an intermediate form of Phyllobates may exist in the wild, neither bicolor nor terribilis, and that some of the importations may have contained this form of Phyllobates. This speculation primarily concerns the smaller form of orange terribilis/larger form of orange bicolor sometimes offered. More indepth analysis of the toxins of all the frogs involved will have to be done before all this is worked out, and so it will remain a bit of a mystery until things in Columbia settle down a bit.

Over all these are awesome terrarium animals, very bold and usually happy in groups. The fact that they can eat very large food items helps as well….who knows, when we find out for certain what they are eating in the wild that makes them so toxic, it may be a larger beetle than other dendrobatid frogs could eat!
More general terms are often used for this frog. Western Columbia
Terrarium Preferences
low to mid seventies, very sensitive to high temperatures High Terrestrial frogs, but will climb.
Visibility in the tank
Groups of these compatible
1.75 inches to 2.25 inches A very bold frog Yes, this frog does well in groups.
Experience Level
Compatible with other species?
Beginner. Yes, should be okay with other species if not crowded
Breeding :
Status in Hobby
While best results will probably be achieved in pairs, this frog often can be bred very well in groups. P. terribilis “Mint” is currently well established in the hobby, other color forms are less well established
Our Availability
Links for this frog
Regularly available. Click here to check availability

A courting pair of terribilis