Beginner Dart Frog Questions and Answers

Are Dart Frogs Poisonous?

I am a Beginner With Dart Frogs, and Want to Learn all About Them Before I Get Started. Is There a Good Book That I Can Buy, or Where Can I go to Get This Information?

What do Dart Frogs Eat?

Can I Feed my Dart Frogs With Crickets From the Local Pet Store, or do They Need Some Special Food?

I Really Don't Want to do the Fruit Fly Thing. Are There Any Dart Frogs Which Can Eat Crickets From The Pet Store?

Why do You Call Your Young Frogs Juveniles? I Thought a Baby Frog Was a Froglet?

How Many Frogs Can I Keep in a Tank Together?

Which Dart Frogs Can I Keep Together, and Which Will do Well in a Group of Their Own Species?

Can You Suggest Some Combinations of Dart Frogs That Might Make Good Tankmates?

Why Don't You do any Hybridizing of Dart Frogs?

What Other Kinds of Animals Can be Kept With Dart Frogs?

My Frog is Acting Sick. It is Thin and no Longer Active. Whats Wrong With it?

My Last Frogs Got Sick and Died, Can I Put my New Frogs in That Tank, or Does it Have to be Broken Down and Cleaned First?

What Kind of Lighting do my Dart Frogs Need?

What Temperatures do my Dart Frogs Need?

What do I Need to do for my Frogs After They Arrive?

A Lot of Books Recommend That I Quarantine my New Arrivals, do I Need to do This?

A Lot of Places Recommend Bed A Beast Coco Husk for the Substrate, But You Don't. Why Not? What Kind of Substrate Should my Tank Have?

Why do I Need a Glass Lid For my Tank?

My Dart Frog Got Out of its Tank. What Should I do?

Do I Really Need to Keep my Frogs in a Sweater Box when I First Get Them?

Are Dart Frogs Poisonous?

This is undoubtedly the most common question I get from people about these frogs, which is not surprising, considering that the frogs poisons are part of their mystique. Dart frogs are of course famous for their poisons, but it turns out that in captivity they lose these poisons. This is due to the fact that dart frogs require certain chemicals in their diet, called precursors, which are used by the frog to create the toxins they normally secrete. These chemicals are not found in the diet of the frogs in captivity, in fact scientists are not exactly sure just what these compounds are and how the frogs obtain them in the wild yet.

Captive bred dart frogs contain absolutely no poisons, so stick with buying captive bred frogs and your frogs will be completely harmless. Wild caught frogs retain the poisons in their skin for some time, but weaken fairly quickly. Most of the frogs that are occasionally available as wild caught frogs are not all that poisonous, in fact only three species out of over 150 existing dart frog species are truly dangerously poisonous in the wild, and those frogs are currently never exported from their country of origin, Columbia.

I find it ironic that many people are wary of dart frogs, due to their toxic reputation, when they may already own toxic frogs of other species, and many of the frogs and toads that are offered for sale in the hobby actually are poisonous, both in the wild or captivity.

Amphibians produce poisons which are secreted in their skins. They are of course not venomous, which refers to an animal that can deliver poisons through some active means such as biting or stinging. In some cases the poisons are present at all times in the mucus of the skin, but in most cases the real high level of poisons are produced when the frog is stressed, generally by an encounter with a predator or other attack, perceived or real.

A few facts-

*Most, if not all amphibians secrete some level of toxins in their skin.

*Dart frogs are unusual in that they require certain components in their diet to produce poisons, most amphibians produce the poisons regardless of diet.

*Many dart frogs are not particularly toxic in the wild, at least compared to the most poisonous of other frogs and toads.

*Amphibians such as fire belly toads, Cuban tree frogs, and a variety of toads, produce potent toxins that can cause serious illness and even death in people and their pets.

*The Marine toad, commonly sold in the pet industry is extremely poisonous, and has been known to release sufficient poisons to kill a dog that simply picks it up in its' mouth.

*A salamander native to the US Pacific Northwest, Taricha granulose, or rough skin newt, is one of the most toxic creatures known. It contains significant levels of tetrodotoxin, a toxin similar to that found in puffer fish, and is available in pet stores for children to keep as pets. Click here for more on this, or just do a search for Rough Skinned Newt poisons and see what you find.

I am a Beginner With Dart Frogs, and Want to Learn all About Them Before I Get Started. Is There a Good Book That I Can Buy, or Where Can I go to Get This Information?

Unfortunately I do not think there is a good book out there for beginners, one which will cover the basic information about how to get started with dart frogs. There are some fairly good books out there, but they do not do a very good job covering the basics, and instead are interesting for the pictures of unusual dart frogs, and natural history information, etc.

Actually I think the best place to learn all you need to know about getting started with dart frogs is right here! And there is nothing to buy, the information is free. I have made it a point to try to cover as much ground here as possible, and I think that most of the basic information, as well as quite a bit of more advanced information is here. After you have read through all the information on these pages, if you have any questions I will be happy to help further. There are other good sites out there with more information as well.

What do Dart Frogs Eat?

Dart frogs eat small insects. Dart frogs will not eat anything that does not move, so live food is a requirement. A variety of insects are used to feed dart frogs in captivity, the most common being crickets and flightless fruit flies. Other foods are termites, (you can collect these your self if you are so inclined) confused flour beetles, ants, and just about any other insect small enough for a dart frog to eat.

Can I Feed my Dart Frogs With Crickets From the Local Pet Store, or do They Need Some Special Food?

Dart frogs are of course fairly small, and on top of that, they are adapted to eat a very small prey. Unfortunately very few pet stores carry the correct size cricket to feed dart frogs, and if you happen to be one of the lucky ones who does live near enough to a pet store that carries the week old crickets that the frogs need, you will find that the cricket habit is an expensive one! While the size of the cricket a dart frog can eat is quite small, the frogs appetite is not! I would estimate that a growing or adult dart frog could easily consume 100 to 200 crickets in a week, give or take a few.

As you may be guessing by now, feeding your dart frogs is probably the single biggest obstacle to over come in order to be successful keeping them. However there is a fairly easy solution, and that is culturing flightless fruit flies. Flight less fruit flies are easy to culture, and relatively inexpensive. They also put you in charge of your own food supply, so you are not reliant on a pet store having the right size cricket, or vulnerable to having shipments of feeder insects come in frozen or baked due to extreme temperatures.

As you may guess, we offer a full line of fruit fly culturing supplies!

And a note on “pinhead” crickets. This term is greatly misused by many pet stores and hobbyists. A pin head cricket is a cricket that hatched within the last 24 hours or so. They are very, very small, and very delicate. Only a handful of dart frogs require them, and then only the baby frogs need them. These would some of the tiny thumbnail species of frogs. However many pet stores call the ¼ inch or even half inch crickets that they sell “pinheads”. I don't know why, but it makes for confusion. Dart frogs typically eat about a one to two week old cricket, and there is not all that much difference in the size cricket a baby frog can eat and the size an adult eats. Most of my baby frogs, at about one week old, would be able to eat a five to seven day old cricket, which is quite a bit larger than a pinhead. Most of my adult frogs eat 12 to 16 day old crickets, which are about 1/8 th inch.

I Really Don't Want to do the Fruit Fly Thing. Are There Any Dart Frogs Which Can Eat Crickets From The Pet Store?

There are several species of dart frogs which are capable of eating some pretty large crickets, most notably the Phyllobates terribilis and bicolor. Other Phyllobates and many Epipedobates species will also knock down some pretty big crickets. Full grown terribilis in particular can eat ¾ inch crickets, although a more manageable size for them would be ½ inch. When eating food of this size, these frogs only need a few crickets, so they could be fed with crickets from most pet stores.

Of course there is still the juvenile stage to get the frog through, they will need to eat quarter inch crickets, approximately, when you get them, if you get them from us, so keep this in mind…..

Why do You Call Your Young Frogs Juveniles? I Thought a Baby Frog Was a Froglet?

Here at Saurian Enterprises, we are proud of our reputation for selling large juvenile dart frogs, not froglets. Our juvenile frogs are generally about four months old, and typically are over one inch long. This is a frog that has made it past the delicate baby stage, and is much more likely to do well in the care of a beginner, or any one for that matter.

Dart frogs can be broken down into four different life stages, after the tadpole stage. These are froglets, juveniles, sub adults, and adults. Froglets are zero to about two months old. Juveniles are from about two months to around six or seven months old. Sub adults are from this age on to about a year or so, and of course adults are next. A baby frog, or froglet, is one that is still about the same size, or a little larger than when it morphed, or emerged from the water. Dart frogs go through a delicate stage when they don't eat a lot and just kind of tread water as they make the transition from life as a tadpole to life as a frog. Then they begin to eat well, but still don't seem to put on much size for a couple of more weeks. By now they are about four to six weeks old, and still not much bigger than when they emerged from the water. By the time they are about ten weeks old, they are finally putting on some size, and may be about ¾ inch long.

Keep this in mind when price shopping for frogs, the mortality rate is much higher among baby frogs than it is among juveniles, and some vendors sell some very small frogs, for pretty low prices, so know what you are getting!

How Many Frogs Can I Keep in a Tank Together?

There is not a simple answer to this question, several factors need to be considered when deciding how many frogs can be housed together. Among the relevant information needed to make the decision are questions like what is the temperament and habits of frogs will you be keeping, their size, whether they tend to climb or be more terrestrial, and how much time you will have to keep up with feeding and observing the frogs to make sure all is going well with each of them. All this being said, the general rule of thumb is that you need an absolute minimum of five gallons per frog. If you are planning to keep a group of frogs in a single tank, always try to squeeze out the funds for a larger tank, the frogs will appreciate it in the long run!

One thing people sometimes over look is the fact that the gallon size of the tank is not always a good indication of how many frogs you can keep in the tank. The best example of this is the 55 gallon tank. This tank is four foot long and 12 inches wide, and about 18 inches high. In my opinion, it should be treated as a thirty gallon, for most frog species, as it does not have a large enough floor space to allow different frogs to create territories. Whenever you are setting up frogs in a tank like this, you should do your best to utilize the back of the tank and create ledges for the frogs to use on the back wall. I would much rather have a 40 gallon “breeder” tank to work with than this tank, it is much more “frog friendly”, even though it is 15 gallons smaller. (A forty gallon breeder style tank is 3 foot long by 18 by 18)

Which Dart Frogs Can I Keep Together, and Which Will do Well in a Group of Their Own Species?

There are two different questions here, but they are closely related. First you have the person who would like to get some dart frogs, and has their eye on a particular species. They want to put four to six of them together in a tank, and enjoy. There are also many frog hobbyists who are most interested in keeping a variety of frogs in a tank, rather than focusing on keeping, and possibly breeding one species.

Both situations are possible, but while this can be done, it should be done with care. As you may have already read here on my site or elsewhere, the Dendrobates tinctorius and D. azureus dart frogs usually do not do well in groups, as adult frogs, primarily females, may attack, or otherwise harass to death other females in the tank. (See the caresheet on D. azureus and D. tinctorius for more on this) However they generally only bother females of their own species, so keeping two azureus with some D. auratus shouldn't cause a problem. (Remember though that in this regard D. tinctorius and D. azureus should be considered the same species, as they will fight and interbreed just as if they were all the same species)

And there are many other dart frogs available, and while they often show some of the same tendencies, they do not generally cause quite as much of a problem. All the other larger frogs I sell will be much better candidates for keeping in a group…these include the auratus, galactonotus, P. terribilis, and D. leucomelas.

These species of frogs will often fight over territory, and may eat each other's eggs or wrestle to the point of preventing breeding, but they do not usually cause a threat to each other's health. However, remember that these frogs need plenty of space, so if you are trying to keep four or more of these frogs, you will need a good size tank. A twenty tall is a minimum for four frogs, and a thirty may be better if your choice if you can afford it, or if you are getting a larger frog like the P. terribilis. If you are interested in mixing three or four of two different frogs, a larger tank, such as a seventy five gallon or so is a good idea. Again, I urge you to go slowly, in particular as a beginner -get to know these frogs needs and life style well before trying large tanks with lots of frogs.

A few other things to think about include the fact that it is not a good idea to try to add frogs to your established tank as you can afford them, or as they become available. Tanks tend to settle out and reach equilibrium. The frogs in the tank establish territories, and develop a pecking order among themselves. When you add new frogs to the tank it upsets the balance and can result in a sudden decline in some or all of your frogs. If you must add new frogs to a tank, my suggestion is to disrupt the tank a bit at the same time. Try doing a major overhaul and cleaning, and then adding the new frogs at the same time as you put the existing frogs back in the tank. Put things back differently than they were. And never put baby or juvenile frogs in the tank with the adult frogs, this generally leads to the death of the smaller frogs. Frogs being added should be at least sub adult size, or near the same size as your current inhabitants.

Can You Suggest Some Combinations of Dart Frogs That Might Make Good Tankmates?

The sexed pairs that we offer make a great focal point for a tank, and I think a pair of D.azureus along with two or three Bumble Bee Dart Frogs (D. leucomelas) is a striking combination. The forty breeder is a good size for this group. Many other frogs can stand in for the two species in this combination, such as replacing the Orange galactonotus with Green and Black D. auratus, or substituting a pair of cobalts for the azureus. Another choice might be a group of Phyllobates terribilis, along with a thumbnail frog such as D. imitator. The terribilis is a rather sedentary frog, and very terrestrial in our tanks here, and generally completely ignores other frogs in the tank. Of course thumbnail frogs are best left until after you have some experience with other larger dart frogs.

One form of mixing which should not be done is the mixing of different color or locality forms of the same species. This is due to the likelihood that they will interbreed, and produce undesirable crosses, which generally don't look as attractive as either parent, and which lead to confusion and can later contaminate the “gene pool” of both morphs, when they are accidentally bred back into “true” morphs.

Why Don't You do any Hybridizing of Dart Frogs?

Two different types of “cross breeding” can be done with dart frogs. First, some dart frog species will breed with others, for instance, the whole tinctorius group can be bred amongst itself, so leucomelas and auratus for example will interbreed in some cases. However, this is not particularly common, and is not the main issue of concern with "hybridizing".
The other much more common form of interbreeding which occurs is crossing two frogs of the same species but of different morphs or localities. If you have done any looking around on line at the forums on dart frogs out there, you may have come across a discussion of this subject, and if so you will have found that it is strongly frowned upon by most serious hobbyists. Fair enough, but why? This is a complicated question, or at least the answer is complicated. Many other related hobby groups, such as corn snakes or leopard geckos, thrive on new color forms and genetic mutations, but very little of this has been done by the dart frog hobbyist.

A variety of reasons account for this. First might be that dart frogs exist in a confusing array of morphs to begin with, and to cross them merely adds to the confusion. A second reason is that so far dart frog crosses which have occurred have a disturbing habit of showing up later on being mis identified as a true morph. People simply don't do as good a job keeping up with what the frogs are in this hobby, so you wind up with a tinctorius or auratus which is the result of breeding two morphs together, which is being called a true morph. It is then bought by a hobbyist who may not be knowledgeable enough to tell what it is, and bred to other frogs which are truly the morph they are supposed to be. In the long term this muddies the waters considerably, and leads to further degradation of the bloodlines. Many of these frogs come from fairly remote areas that are still relatively safe from development and habitat destruction, but others come from areas that are already gone, and all the frogs of some morphs which exist are in captivity. This is particularly true of some D. pumilio and D. auratus forms. For the sake of the preservation of these morphs it is critical that they not be interbred with frogs from different localities.

What Other Kinds of Animals Can be Kept With Dart Frogs?

Generally speaking it's a bad idea to try to keep other animals with dart frogs, in particular if you are a beginner, and if your tank is smaller than about 60 gallons….which it probably should be if you are just starting out.

I know there is a lot of interest in putting animals like Red Eye Tree frogs, Day Geckos, Anoles, and various other creatures in a tank with dart frogs, and I am often asked why can't I house them with my dart frogs? They all come from similar habitats don't they? Yes, they do come from similar habitats, in fact I am sure that there are lots of locations where you can find Anoles and Red Eye tree frogs within the same area as dart frogs, but in confines of your twenty or thirty gallon aquarium, its not that easy to meet the specific requirements of both different species.

In the wild the larger habitat in general is made up of different areas called micro climates, or micro habitats. Consider a common slug, and a butterfly. The slug lives at the soil level, in a dark cool and moist spot, especially during the day. 18 to 36 inches away a butterfly sits on the flower of a plant, in full sun, with breezes blowing around it. Neither could survive in the others preferred environment, and creating both in a small environment is difficult. This is a bit over simplified, but the same general principles apply here. Dart frogs require very high humidity to be out and about, and I know of very few creatures which can tolerate the continuous moisture and lack of air movement that will make your first dart frog tank a success. Like wise, dart frogs require a particular size prey, and the larger size crickets that red eyes and some of the lizards will eat can be disruptive and stressful to the frogs. Most of the lizards will require a spot where they can raise their body temperatures into the upper nineties, which is going to be hard to do in a dart frog tank.

Obviously it is possible to over come these problems, and offer a good habitat for both dart frogs and other creatures, but it will be much easier to do after you have a good grasp on the dart frogs requirements, and in general it is only possible in a larger tank.

So, once you have gotten the hang of caring for dart frogs, and you still want to put a mixed species tank together, here are a few suggestions for animals which can be kept with dart frogs.

First, one type of animal that can do very well in a dart frog tank are fish. If you can set your tank u