If you’re an avid reptile and amphibian enthusiast, then chances are that you’ve found yourself in absolute awe of the poison dart frog.
These creatures are truly spectacular, and allow us to get up close and personal with the tropical rainforest.
Many people choose to keep these amazing creatures as pets, as they do really well when kept in captivity.
This is great for lovers of all things exotic, as the prospect of owning one of these frogs is incredibly exciting.
If you want to know everything there is to know about keeping poison dart frogs as pets, look no further.
Simply keep reading below to find a handy care guide that covers everything from habitat, to feeding, to temperature conditions.
What Are Poison Dart Frogs?
Before we jump straight in with the answers to these questions, let’s take a closer look at this species of frog.
Many people believe that this species of frog is indeed poisonous, but this isn’t always the case.
In fact, some aren’t harmful to human beings at all, depending on the variety of poison dart frogs.
Although some that you might find in the wild could prove to be poisonous, the ones which are bred in captivity are free of any toxins.
This is because poison dart frogs will only release the harmful toxins after they’ve eaten wild insects.
After they’ve been held in captivity for a long time however, and fed a diet of regular insects, they’ll cease production of the poison.
It is difficult to tell when they’ve stopped producing the poison, so it is recommended that owners wear gloves.
If they’ve been bred in captivity however, and fed a regular diet from the time they were born, they won’t produce any poison at all.
Many people trading poison dart frogs will leave the ‘poison out of their name to avoid confusion.
This means that when you’re on the search for your frog friend, they’ll probably just be advertised as dart frogs.
There are three different types of dart frogs that you’ll come across when you’re first looking to purchase. One of the most common ones being dyeing poison dart frogs.
These are easily recognizable due to their intense, yellowish backs. They are native to South America, and are considered to be an ideal choice of amphibian pet for beginners.
Another type of poison dart frog on the market is the green and black poison dart frog. These have a striking, turquoise and jet black body that is stunning to look at.
They are known for being incredibly shy, much more so than their larger counterparts mentioned above. They will enjoy a vivarium with plenty going on, so that they can hide if need be.
Another variety is the bumblebee poison dart frog. This variety of dart frog is black and yellow, as you might have guessed, and is quite large in size.
This variety of frog is incredibly confident, and enjoys living with others of the same species.
The males have a particularly loud mating call, so it’s important to take this into consideration if it might prove to be an issue.
These three varieties mentioned above are considered best for beginners, as they’re all hardy and aren’t too difficult to maintain.
How To Properly Set Up An Enclosure For A Poison Dart Frog
One of the key things that you should be thinking about immediately if you’re considering getting a poison dart frog, is their enclosure.
The habitat setup for poison dart frogs can prove to be quite difficult for new owners.
In fact, they’re famously tricky to take care of, purely because of the requirement for high levels of humidity, and the expense of the items.
Therefore, those who are considering owning a poison dart frog need to be completely serious about the venture, as it will take a lot of time and dedication.
In terms of the items that you’ll require, your first purchase should be a terrarium. This is the area in which your poison dart frog will live.
Depending on how many dart frogs you’re planning on owning (most people opt for two), you’ll require a terrarium that is around 18 x 18 x 18.
This should be sizable enough for most species of dart frogs. However, this number will go up depending on how many of these frogs you’re planning to house.
Another thing that you’ll need for your terrarium is substrate.
Substrate is incredibly important for your dart frog’s environment, as it helps to hold in moisture, which is crucial for maintaining that humid environment.
There are lots of different kinds of substrate that you can choose from which are incredibly easy to obtain.
Some of the most common kinds of substrates that owners choose for their dart frogs include gravel, moss, orchid bark, potted soil, and coconut husk.
These last two are probably the most popular out of all the different types of substrate, purely because they’re inexpensive and easy to get.
The only thing to bear in mind is that substrates such as these two will become moldy over time, and will require replacement. Otherwise, they could prove harmful for your frog.
If you want a substrate that is less hassle, opt for gravel instead.
The amount of substrate that you include in the habitat will need to be thick, in order to keep the environment humid and absorb the moisture.
You should always make sure that the terrarium that you’ve bought for your poison dart frog contains a drainage layer.
This drainage layer will help the water drain below the substrate layer.
The next most important thing to consider when setting up your poison dart frogs habitat is the temperature.
Getting the temperature correct for your frog’s habitat is crucial, and this should always range between 68 and 76 fahrenheit.
If you go over this number, and begin to enter the 80s, this can be incredibly harmful to your poison dart frog.
In fact, anything above this number will likely prove fatal to your dart frog, and so keeping an eye on the temperature is imperative.
Likewise, dropping the temperature too low can also prove to be fatal, and so the ideal temperature always needs to be kept level in their enclosure.
Before you purchase your poison dart frog, you’ll need to make sure that you have an appropriate thermometer on hand so that you can measure the temperature.
Another thing that needs to be taken into consideration when owning a poison dart frog, is the lighting conditions within their enclosure.
When purchasing poison dart frogs, the primary reason why most people are attracted to them is because of their amazingly vivid colors.
In addition to this, people also love to observe them, and see how they act. It’s like owning a little piece of the tropical rainforest right in your home.
This means that if you want to get the most out of your poison dart frog, you’ll need to make sure that the terrarium has enough plants and substrate.
The more plants and substrate that you include in your tank, the more likely your frog will feel at home, and exhibit some behaviors that they might in the wild.
So, in order to keep your plants as healthy as possible, you’ll require exceptionally good lighting.
When it comes to choosing the perfect lighting for your terrarium, we recommend choosing Bio Dude And Glow, or Grow LED.
These will help to keep your plants as fresh and healthy as possible.
Make sure that when you’re using these LED lights, however, that their temperature doesn’t overheat the tank, which could prove fatal for your frog.
In addition to this, you should always follow a light and dark cycle in the enclosure, so that your frog feels as though they’re living in natural conditions.
This cycle should last for 12 hours, and be automated so that it follows the same pattern each day.
Decorating The Terrarium
When it comes to adding additional items to the terrarium, owners have a lot of different options.
The most important items will be made up of natural plants, which will help to give your dart frog confidence as they feel like they’re living in natural conditions.
So, some of the most common natural items you can get for your dart frog’s home are cork bark, branches, moss, pebbles, and water features.
Essentially, anything that helps to create a natural environment.
You’ll also need to make sure that you add plenty of live plants too, and these typically include ivy philodendron, nest fern, boston fern, and urn plants.
These will all help to contribute to the humidity of the environment, and make you poison dart frog feel as comfortable as possible.
The next thing that we need to move on to discuss is the water in the enclosure. This is one of the most important things when it comes to caring for your poison dart frog.
Because amphibians have incredibly porous skin, it means that they absorb a lot of water. Therefore, the water that they’re surrounded by will need to be incredibly clean.
In order to make sure that you get the highest quality water, you’ll need to choose one that is dechlorinated, meaning that it contains no chlorine.
As many of you reading this article will already know, the water that we get from our taps has had chlorine added to it by the water companies.
It is considered to be completely safe for human beings to drink and shower in, but for amphibians, this isn’t the case.
This is one of the reasons why dart frog owners will choose to wear gloves when handling their pets.
As we mentioned before, they have incredibly porous skin, and so any chemicals, dirt, or debris found on human hands could prove to be toxic to them.
The same goes for the water used in the enclosure, as despite the fact that chlorinated water is okay for human beings, it isn’t for your poison dart frog.
It is relatively easy to dechlorinate the water for your dart frog, all you need to do is purchase a dechlorinating agent.
Some of the most popular brands on the market include Reptisafe, or Springwater.
The next thing that we need to discuss in terms of your frog’s habitat, is the humidity within the terrarium. This needs to be optimal in order for your frog to thrive and survive.
The humidity will need to be perfect at all times, and this is actually one of the reasons why poison dart frogs are so difficult to care for.
You’ll need to make sure that you always keep the humidity levels at around 80 to a hundred percent. The latter being optimal.
This is why the substrate is so important for keeping your frog safe, as it adds and retains humidity within the terrarium.
In addition to this, you might want to think about adding a glass top to your container, in order to trap all of the humidity inside.
You can also use a fogging feature which you can purchase in order to keep the conditions humid too.
Bear in mind that these can prove to be expensive, but they’re most certainly worth it when it comes to keeping your enclosure at optimal humidity levels.
Make sure that you’re regularly checking to make sure that the tank is as clean as possible, as having a glass top can cause things to get moldy.
Cleaning the tank is integral for your poison dart frog’s health.
What Does A Poison Dart Frog Eat?
Now that we’ve spoken about the main features that you should consider in terms of habitat when owning a poison dart frog, we can move on to discuss their diet.
This is actually considered to be one of the things that poison dart frog owners consider to be the most difficult.
Instead of dead insects, the ones which you’ll be required to feed your frogs will need to be alive. These can be incredibly difficult to source, and not everyone has access to them.
Some of the most common insects that you can feed your poison dart frog include flightless fruit flies, baby crickets, isopods and springtails.
You should always make sure that you have a supply of fresh insects in order to feed your poison dart frog, and oftentimes this means raising a colony yourself.
If you discuss this with the poison dart frog breeder that you’re planning on acquiring your pet from, they will be able to provide you with guidance on how to do this.
Most people will breed a colony of flightless fruit flies, as they’re pretty easy to raise.
You should also consider obtaining isopods, not only because they help to give your frogs the nutrients they need, but also because they help to break up droppings, and any plants that are becoming moldy in the tank.
This essentially means that they help to keep your frog’s terrarium as healthy as possible, and help to purify it by getting rid of decaying items.
Bear in mind however, that you can’t rely on these to be your poison dart frogs main diet, as they’re not big enough to satiate them.
In addition to woodlice and springtails, which are the isopods that keep your tank clean, you can also opt to add in an earthworm.
Earthworms also do a great job of cleaning your tank, which will help to make your life a lot easier in the process.
Bear in mind that unlike the other isopods, your poison dart frog won’t be interested in eating these.
Therefore, choosing just one or two worms to live in your tank will be more than enough.
How Often Should I Feed My Poison Dart Frog?
As well as figuring out what exactly you’re going to feed your poison dart frog in order to keep them healthy, you’ll also need to figure out the appropriate feeding schedule.
This will be species dependent, and larger varieties of dart frogs will need to be fed more frequently.
In general though, if your dart frog is younger, they’ll require feeding around 4 to five times per week.
Once they’ve reached adult stage, they’ll only require feeding 2 – 3 times a day, as they’ve already done the majority of their development.
The amount of food that they require in each of these sittings is quite significant however, and some people may be surprised to find that they actually eat 50 bugs or more for larger species of poison dart frogs.
Generally however, regular adults from the species will require around 30 bugs per session.
Younger poison dart frogs will typically only require somewhere between 10 to 20.
It’s easy to gauge whether you’re feeding your frogs too many bugs, because when you go to supply them with their next fill of bugs, you’ll see some leftovers around the terrarium.
By observing how much your dart frog eats, you’ll be able to alter the amount for the next time.
The same goes if you witness your frog going through all of the flies at a speedy rate, perhaps this might mean that the next time you’ll be required to provide them with more.
Don’t get too worried about being exact about the specific number you’re giving them, just observe how they eat and eyeball it.
You’ll be able to gauge whether the number is right or not yourself.
Vitamins And Minerals
As well as providing your poison dart frogs with all of the different items that they need to stay well fed, you’ll also need to provide them with some supplementation.
There are various vitamins and minerals that your dart frog will need, and so paying attention to this is important.
Both Vitamin A and calcium will prove to be important for the health of your dart frog.
It’s pretty easy to give them these supplements, all you need to do is break open a capsule, and scatter it over their food before giving it to them.
In the wild, they’d be able to acquire these vitamins themselves because they have a more varied diet, but wingless fruit flies just won’t do when it comes to the health of your amphibious pets.
Bear in mind that when you’re giving them these vitamins that you don’t overdo it. Giving them too much supplementation can be toxic, especially Vitamin A.
Vitamin A should only be given to your frogs once per week. This will be more than enough.
In order to make sure that your vitamins are as potent as possible, you should always store them in the refrigerator rather than on the counter at room temperature.
As well as this, you should also remember that your poison dart frogs supplements will lose their potency after a while.
Most supplements have an expiry date, and although this differs based on the specific vitamin or mineral, most will be ineffective after six months.
Make sure that when this 6 month mark comes up, that you purchase some new supplements for your frogs diet to make sure that they get the appropriate nutrients.
Can You Keep Different Species Of Poison Dart Frog Together?
A question that many people ask when it comes to keeping poison dart frogs as pets, is whether or not different species of dart frogs can be mixed together in the same terrarium.
Perhaps you’ve recently visited an enclosure where they’re keeping a variety of different species together, and you’re wondering if you can replicate this in your home.
The thing that you need to remember is that the people who are working in these enclosures are highly experienced in taking care of different species of frogs, as well as other related species too.
They know all the ins and outs of mixing different species together.
This means that it’s not recommended that a beginner tries their hand at mixing different species of dart frogs together.
To begin with, it’s incredibly important to note that poison dart frogs are highly territorial.
This means that they could become incredibly stressed, and subsequently aggressive when forced to live alongside an amphibian from a different species.
You’ll often find that because the dart frog is in such a small space within the terrarium, they might feel like they need to fight others for territory.
This issue would not be as prevalent in an enclosure, because they’d have a lot more space for the dart frogs to roam around in.
In addition, you also need to realize that different species of poison dart frogs will have come from different parts of the globe.
This means that some of them may contain specific parasites that could potentially infect the ones from opposing species.
Each species will have a very specific genetic makeup, which will mean that they will have built up a tolerance to certain bacteria, but others may not have depending on where they’re from.
Also, when you’re on the lookout for poison dart frogs, you’ll notice that there are hybrid species on sale, and these generally don’t sell as well as the pure members of the species.
If you yourself purchased two different species of dart frogs, there is a chance that they could interbreed.
If this were to happen, it could prove to be potentially problematic, as you’d not only have to care for more frogs, which can become incredibly costly, but if you were to decide to sell them, you’d find this difficult.
Many people want to purchase one specific variety of dart frog, and don’t want it interbred with others.
How Do I Handle My Poison Dart Frog?
Another frequently asked question by dart frog enthusiasts, is how they’re supposed to handle their pet once it’s arrived.
As we mentioned above, many owners will choose to wear gloves when handling their poison dart frogs, as if it’s recently been transported from its native region, it might still contain some of the natural poisons.
Wearing some gloves to protect yourself from these potential poisons is incredibly important.
Another good reason to wear gloves if you plan on handling your poison dart frog is because you might have some bacteria on your hands that could prove harmful to them.
As we mentioned before, dirt, debris, and all manner of different items could be dangerous when absorbed through their incredibly porous skin.
Washing your hands before handling could be even more dangerous to your dart frog, as the chemicals from the soap that you’ve used could be too sensitive for their little bodies.
Generally, we wouldn’t really recommend handling your dart frog at all. Despite the risks mentioned above, they’re also incredibly sensitive creatures.
They’re bodies are very small, and picking them up and handling them could prove to be too much.
In addition, dart frogs become stressed when being picked up, and this could also be bad for their health. This doesn’t mean however, that you should avoid handling them completely.
You’ll be required to do so when you clean their habitat, which should be done on a regular basis to make sure that the conditions are optimal.
As we mentioned before, you’ll be required to remove any moldy plants or other items that could prove to be harmful to your pets.
In order to move your dart frogs, you can gently transport them to a smaller, separate container whilst you’re conducting your cleaning.
Some Interesting Facts About Poison Dart Frogs
Now that we’ve covered all of the key points related to keeping poison dart frogs as pets, we can move on to discuss some fun facts about these animals.
To find out some things that you might not have known about poison dart frogs, simply keep reading below.
- There are over 170 different species of dart frogs. Many of you out there might not be aware of the wide variety of different dart frog species in the tropical wilderness, primarily because only three of these species are kept as pets.
- They are considered to be poisonous rather than venomous. Many people won’t actually know the difference between the two, but essentially, venom is passed through bites (Check out Frogs: Biters Or Not?), such as you might find with a snake. Poison, rather, happens when you lick or consume another animal. The latter is how poison dart frogs transmit their poison.
- Poison dart frogs will never use their poison as a form of attack, but rather, as a form of self defense. For example, if a dart frog is feeling particularly stressed, they’ll secrete poison out of their glands, which will then be inflicted upon any attackers.
- They are aposematic. This means that they are colored incredibly brightly in order to ward off potential attackers.
To sum up, caring for poison dart frogs (Also check out What Are The Most And Least Forgiving Frogs For Beginners) is no small feat. You’ll need to make sure that you have the correct habitat, which includes optimum humidity levels, temperature, lighting, plants, and water.
As well as this, you’ll need to make sure your frogs have access to a supply of live bugs.