Dart Frog Breeding Questions

My Frogs Lay Eggs, But They Always Go Bad. What am I Doing Wrong?

I Have a Pair of Dart Frogs, But They are Not Breeding. What Can I do to Make Them Breed?

My Froglets Are All Emerging With Spindly Leg Syndrome, is There Any Thing I Can do About This?

How do I determine the sexes of my dart frogs?

What is courting, and how can I tell if my dart frogs are courting?

If I get several young frogs, what are my chances of getting a pair?

My Frogs Lay Eggs, But They Always Go Bad. What am I Doing Wrong?

Dart frogs can be prolific egg layers, but fertility problems are common, and most frogs will lay infertile, or bad eggs at some point, if not most of the time. There are probably a lot of reasons for this, and most of them lay out side of the keepers control.

In particular dart frogs often lay bad eggs when they are young frogs just starting to lay eggs, and also sometimes when they are beginning another cycle of egg laying they lay a bad clutch or two first before following up with good clutches.

Some of the reasons that dart frogs eggs go bad, that are within the control of the keeper, and their solutions, follow. First, eggs should be removed from the tank within twenty four hours of being laid. While it is counter intuitive, eggs left in the tank for a few days have a much higher rate of going bad than ones pulled right away.

A second cause of eggs being bad, and particularly eggs being fertile but dying before they emerge as tadpoles, is poor supplementation of the adult frogs diet. Good quality fresh vitamin and calcium supplements should be used regularly, probably at every feeding. We recommend Rep Cal and Herpti-Vite.

A third cause is the eggs being laid in, or subsequently submerged in, water. Many people assume that being frog eggs they need water, but with the exception of the ventrimaculatus group of thumbnail frogs, dart frog eggs should be lightly wetted with a little water around the edges of the clutch.

Those are the main controllable causes of egg infertility and bad clutches that I can think of, a few minor ones include things like the clutch being disturbed by tank mates, or the eggs being laid in dirty areas. Sometimes, tinctorius and azureus eggs will be bad when the clutches are produced at higher temperatures, such as the low eighties. This effect can probably be found in other dart frogs, but I have personally experienced it with these frogs. You can remedy this by lowering the temperature. Breeding dart frogs, and their eggs and tadpoles, should be kept at temperatures in the mid seventies for best results. Beyond this, if the eggs are going bad, your best recourse is to wait for the pair to begin producing good eggs, or try switching frogs around.

I Have a Pair of Dart Frogs, But They are Not Breeding. What Can I do to Make Them Breed?

While you do have some influence over your frogs, and whether they will breed or not, beyond getting the conditions right, you really can't do much to “make” them breed. This is the down side to animals that breed in a sporadic fashion, and are not strong seasonal breeders.

Frogs such as tinctorius, azureus and auratus tend to breed fairly readily, and after four to six months together, as adults, it is reasonable to expect that some breeding activity will have occurred. However if it has not, there is not a sure way to make them breed. You can try things like drying them out a bit, by opening up some of the lid of the tank, and spraying less often, for about a month, and then seal the tank up and increase the spraying. At the same time drop the temperatures. This may get them going, particularly if you can time this to take place around the beginning of a rainy period in your area.

Temperature fluctuations seem to be very discouraging to frog breeding, so try to keep your range of temperatures fairly constant. For instance, lets say that for a few weeks your temperatures in the room that your frogs are in is about 75 during the day, and drops to about 70 at night. Then, winter sets in, and the room temp drops to the upper sixties and the night time temp drops to the low sixties. Frogs that were breeding will most likely stop within a few days of this change. If kept at these temps, (remember the tank temps will run five degrees or so warmer during the day when the lights on) the frogs may begin breeding again, but it will probably take them a month or two. With this in mind, I think its important to provide relatively stable temps, on a day in day out basis, to get your frogs to breed.

Beyond this, the most important thing is patience. Some frogs take a long time to finally start breeding, and there really doesn't seem to be much to do about it. Occasionally shaking things up by adding new frogs or switching frogs around may bring the desired results, but you should give your frogs long stretches where the tank is not disturbed in a fundamental way to encourage stubborn breeders, such as D. galactonotus, and some of the rarer tinctorius morphs.

My Froglets Are All Emerging With Spindly Leg Syndrome, is There Any Thing I Can do About This?

Spindly leg syndrome is a bane to frog breeders. The term refers to the failure of the front legs to develop normally, and instead develop into stiff useless little sticks, or spindly legs. Unfortunately it is not uncommon. The frogs that result from it are doomed, and should be euthanized. My suggestion is to put them in the freezer while they are still tadpoles. At first you may not be able to visually identify the problem in a tadpole, but after you have seen it a couple of times you will know it when the frog pops its front legs out, or sometimes when they fail to.

There are a variety of causes of spindly leg, some we can fix and some we haven't identified. The causes we can fix are temperature of the tadpole water, condition, diet and supplementation in the adults, and the tadpoles diet.

Tadpole water temperature might be the most common source of a problem, the tadpole water should be accurately measured, particularly if you raise your tadpoles without a lid on the container they are in. This can allow evaporative cooling to lower the water temps down to five or more degrees below room temperature. Keep tadpoles water in the mid seventies for best results.

Another common cause of problems is stale food. Vitamins and mineral oxidize out of foods, and then are not available for the tadpoles to use in developing their legs. Flake foods in particular are prone to this, so if you are using flake food, make sure its fresh. Store it in the refrigerator, particularly if you are going to be using the food for more than a few weeks, and buy the food at a store that sells a lot of it.

Sometimes female frogs that have been producing good tadpoles and froglets will suddenly begin producing spindly leg babies. This might be a good time to stop this female from laying eggs, by removing the male for a few months. During this time, make sure she gets a good diet, and that the diet is well supplemented with good quality vitamin and calcium supplements.

How do I determine the sexes of my dart frogs?

Unfortunately it's not all that easy to tell what sex dart frogs are, particularly baby and juvenile dart frogs, which are generally impossible to sex. Of course this is most often the age of the frogs offered for sale in the frog hobby, so you are often forced to buy frogs that are of unknown sex. This is frustrating in some cases, particularly if breeding is your goal, or if you are concerned about squabbles between tank mates of the same sex. So, one of the most important facts about your individual frogs, their gender, will be a mystery for you to solve. Below I offer a few pointers to help you figure this out.

Male frogs are smaller than females . A useful point, but remember this is really only reliable once they are full grown, as another obvious cause of differences in size are age and rate of development. Adult dart frogs of most species are subject to this rule, but not every specimen, or, more to the point, not every male and female of the same species follows this rule, and in many cases the differences can be small and difficult to distinguish. Particularly useful with tinctorius and azureus.

Female frogs and male frogs have different body shapes. Males tend to have a more flattened body shape, particularly when they are walking. Sitting upright makes males look more “female like”. Same with females, only opposite, when a female dart frog walks about her body flattens out and she looks more like a male. Females have a deeper body shape, but this aspect of their appearance is emphasized when they are sitting still, in an upright position. See images here for illustrations. This section really applies to D. tinctorius and D. azureus most completely, and then to the auratus, leucomelas, and some what to both D. galactonotus and the Phyllobates group. D.pumilio and thumbnail frogs do not show this difference in body shape, although in many cases the females are “fatter” than males.

There is a difference in size and shape of the toes on the front feet of males and females.

In the male frog, the pad at the end of the front toe is widened, whereas the females have a more narrow toe tip. Basically the females still have a widened toe tip, but the males are typically wider. Females might average toepads that are 1.5 times wider than the toe, while males would run 2.5 to 3 times wider than the toe. Unfortunately, this “rule” is far from a rule, and is frequently broken. For instance, out of every ten males and ten females, there can be expected to be some overlap, where one female with wide toepads might have wider toepads then the narrowest of the male toepads. But in that same group there would be five or six of each sex that could be strongly suspected just based on their toepads.

This information applies to the tinctorius and azureus species in particular, but the trait can be seen to some extent in auratus and leucomelas, but not most other species. In the tinctorius and azureus, the reliability varies from one morph to another, but is a very helpful tool in determining the sexes of these species.

Female frogs will fight with female frogs, and male and female frogs will court.

If you happen to have any adult dart frogs of known sex, particularly tinctorius and azureus, they can be used to help you sex your frogs. A female frog in an established terrarium, particularly if its breeding with a tankmate, can generally be relied upon to give a defense of her territory if any new female frog comes along. She might also begin to court any new male put in the tank. The frogs to be sexed need to be approaching maturity for this test to be safe, and please don't put the frog in the tank and walk away, if you are going to get a response from the tanks inhabitants it generally wont take more than fifteen minutes for it to happen. Allowing a young frog to be bullied for a few hours to a couple of days could ruin a frogs health and cause it to die.

You can also introduce two frogs of unknown sex to a neutral tank, and see what happens. They need to be old enough to be interested, which is typically eight to twelve months old. The less vegetation and decorations in the tank, the better, as a sparse tank will help to encourage the frogs to interact, and allow you to clearly observe them. An empty tank with a glass lid is perfect as long as they do not seem to distressed by the lack of cover.

Male and female frogs will court. You can use the test above, but put a suspected female in with a male.

Males will sometimes attack other males, so if you put an unknown frog in the tank with a known male and it aggressively chases the new frog around, then you can guess that the unknown sex frog is probably a male.

What is courting, and how can I tell if my dart frogs are courting?

Courting is the mating dance of dart frogs. The specifics differ from one species to another in subtle ways, but most dart frogs have fairly similar courtship practices. In most cases females are the aggressors, and will follow the males around the tank. The male will, if interested, call occasionally, and perhaps hop of calmly, stopping a foot or so away. The female follows, generally approaching the male on his flank, from behind. She sits there, and strokes his flank in quick motions. These little strokes are given two or three times a minute or less, typically. As she strokes him, he will call once a minute or so. The calls, particularly of the tinctorius and azureus, are very quiet, you would generally not hear them unless you happened to be sitting right next to the tank, and it was very quiet in the room. You can tell if the male is calling even if you can't hear him, by watching him. He will appear as if he is straining to defecate, the flanks deflated looking, and the throat pouch will be expanded.

This sort of behavior will go on for anywhere from a few hours, to a day or two, but generally will end in egg laying. The male will lead the female to a chosen spot, generally a secluded spot on the tank floor, and the female will lay a clutch of eggs. The eggs will typically be laid on some smooth surface such as a leaf or a Petri dish or margarine lid. This can take several hours for larger clutches. In some cases, the male may leave the hut or breeding site during the egg laying, but will generally return to fertilize the clutch. Eggs will typically be fertilized by the time the day is over.

If I get several young frogs, what are my chances of getting a pair?

There are tables which you can consult which show the mathematical chances of getting a pair from a given number of frogs, but typically these do not reflect the fact that in different species the sex ratio is skewed towards one sex or the other. In the larger species of frogs such as tinctorius azureus and auratus, the ratio seems to be skewed towards females, and maybe 65% of frogs are females. The opposite seems to be true for many of the smaller frogs, the thumbnail species and pumilio.

So, statistically, based on the sex ratios being 50/50, if you buy two frogs, you have a 50% chance of getting a pair, three frogs is 75%, four frogs is almost 90%, and so on….So, if getting that pair is important to you, then get as many frogs as you can afford, it will take many months for you to figure out what you have, and you don't want to have to start over again! Generally you will find a market for the “leftover” frogs, and you should be able to trade or sell them to other hobbyists.