Most dart frogs reach breeding age around twelve months, Ameerega a bit sooner; terribilis up to two years. Once you have a confirmed pair there are a few things you can do to increase the chances your pair will breed. In nature dart frogs typically have a dry season and a wet season. Increasing the amount of misting to two to five times a day and increasing the amount of feeding and a variety of feeders will usually stimulate a pair to breed.
Proper nutrition and vitamin supplementation prior to breeding is important. Our frogs are supplemented twice a month with additional Vitamin A in the form of retinol, which is a usable form. There is much evidence that frogs do not have the ability to convert beta carotene into a usable form of vitamin A. Offering a fatty food, such as termites, flour beetle larvae or fruit fly larvae seems to produce larger and more frequent egg deposits.
I have good success with separating the pair from one another for a few weeks and then reintroducing the male to the females tank. Better yet is introducing a different male to the pair or playing a call of another male will also stimulate activity.
D tinctorius are best to maintain in pairs or a 2.1 group, meaning two males and one female. D auratus, P terribilis, D leucomelas, A galactonotus, Ameerega and others do fine in small groups.
Dart frogs do not perform amplexus when mating. In fact aggression and wrestling between same sexes might be misinterpreted as amplexus. Typically only males call and the female will show her interest by stroking or petting the males back. Less often a female will embrace the male frog. After some courting, the male frog will lead the female to a suitable place to deposit eggs. For larger frogs this will usually be a protected dark hollow with a smooth surface for laying eggs. We provide cocohuts or some other shelter over a petri dish or plastic lid.
The male will introduce his sperm to this surface first and the female will then lay her eggs in the same place. It was often thought that if the egg cluster was pulled from the enclosure too soon, the male would not have a chance to fertilize the eggs. Many people recommended waiting at least 24 hrs or longer. We now know the males were not returning later to fertilize the eggs, but to hydrate the eggs to keep them moist until they can hatch. This is why it is important to always have a supply of fresh water in the enclosure. This can be just a few ounces in a small bowl. Dart frogs do not require running water or other large water features to breed.
It is not necessary to pull the eggs from the enclosure to hatch and rear yourself. Actually, you will miss one of the most satisfying parts of the hobby, which is seeing the male frog transport his tadpoles after they hatch to a source of water.
Each egg is surrounded by it’s own individual protective membrane. If the eggs are pulled from the enclosure, they must be continuously hydrated until hatching. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the dish and just touch the sides of the egg clutch. Daily misting and keeping lightly covered will maintain the humidity and provide enough water for the eggs to swell and develop. In just a day or two you will notice a ridge form on the surface of the egg, indicating the egg is fertile
As the cells continue to divide the embryo will take on it’s recognizable C-shape. In a few more days the gill filaments will form, these will be reabsorbed near the time of hatching and gill slits will form. Eggs generally take 12 – 18 days to hatch. When the tad is ready to hatch it will release an enzyme which causes the egg membrane to deteriorate. You will notice the tad is able to straighten out and eventually break free of the gel. It is important to add enough water to the petri dish by this time to ensure the tad is completely submerged and can get enough oxygen thru it’s gill slits.
The yolk sack will still be present and will continue to nourish the tad for the next few days. You will need to move the tadpole to a rearing cup within a day or two. 8oz deli cups work well for most tads, which should be reared individually except for P terribilis and Epipedobates which can be raised communally.
I like to prepare my rearing cups at least a week before the tads hatch. This gives the cups some time to establish a film of beneficial bacteria, which will help to eliminate tad waste and provide an additional food source for the tad. To each cup I add about 1 square inch of Indian Almond leaf (provides tannins, a beneficial bacterial slime and conditions the water), a small section of live water plant ( provide oxygen and eliminates waste) and about 1 inch of fresh dechlorinated water. I keep all my tad cups loosely covered to reduce evaporation and keep any airborn contaminants and dust out. I use a turkey baster to gently move the tad from the deli dish to rearing cup. It is important to be sure the water temperature of both containers are the same. 77°F is ideal, but they can tolerate temps from 65° - 80°F
The tad will not move much for the first few days after hatching. It is still absorbing it’s yolk sack and should not be fed for at least three days. The first feeding should be a very small amount of Sera Micron or other fine fry food. About the amount that can rest on top of the head of a pin. As they grow they can be fed more and varied foods. I use tadpole bites and various flake and pellet fish foods.
Tads are generally fed two or three times a week. Partial water changes every few weeks is beneficial but not mandatory. I usually just suck out the heaviest of waste particles and about 25% of the water with the turkey baster and top off with fresh tempered water.
Rear legs usually form around 6 weeks or so, followed by front legs a few weeks later. Once the front legs pop, tads will stop eating, their gill slits will close up and they will begin breathing air. This is a critical time, they must have a way to make their transition onto land. Froglets can and will drown if they can’t get out of the water.
Creating moss huts with Leucobryum albidum, commonly called pincushion moss. These huts are made by gluing dry, dormant moss crumbled to remove the soil; onto black deli containers. Silicone should work, maybe gorilla glue or thickened epoxy. I used thickened vinyl ester boat resin. I let it cure for a few days, until the styrene smell completely faded.
This hut has only been watered once and place in the light for a few hours, the first day. We'll see how it progresses.
Place live sphagnum on coconut shell. Have someone help you stretch out a hair net, wrap around the shell and tie off underneath. This will hold the sphagnum in place for next few weeks while the sphagnum grows in and thru the hairnet. Mist daily with spring or distilled water.
Make sure you have plenty of light for at least 12 hours a day.
This will work well with many types of live moss, try java moss, christmas moss, riccia fluitans.
Bean Beetles (Callosobruchus maculatus) also known as cowpea weevil; is not a true weevil, but instead a species of bruchid beetle.
They make great feeder insects for medium to larger species of dart frogs and are very easy to culture. All you need are some insect cups and dry black eyed peas; and of course some beetles to start a new culture.
The adult stage of these beetles is only about a week to ten days, but can be extended a bit if the adults are allowed to feed on cotton balls soaked in sugar water. Adults begin laying eggs on dry beans within ten hours of emerging from the bean. Adults can fly, but rarely do so.
The larvae bore into the bean after hatching and live within the bean for about 4 weeks, before pupating and then emerge as adults by chewing their way out of the bean.
The easiest way to remove the beetles from the beans, is to replace the standard insect lid with a lid that you have installed a mesh screen just smaller in size than the beans. Just invert the culture over another empty insect cup and shake out the beetles, leaving behind the beans.
Bean beetles can be dusted with supplements the same way you do for fruit flies.
New cultures should only be made up by adding beetles to a new cup of beans. Cultures can mold if too many beans are added to one cup. 1 1/2 inches per cup is best. The metabolism of the larvae in the beans can generate quite a bit of warmth and moisture. Cultures will produce faster if maintained close to 80°F. I store my cultures on top of my light fixtures for extra warmth, just be sure they don't get too hot; >85° or so.
You may be able to get up to three generations of beetles produced from single culture before the beans are depleted. Each subsequent hatching will be smaller and fewer beetles do to the lack of available food.
Confused Flour Beetle larvae make a good occassional feeder for our frogs.
Most frogs don't really like the adult beetles, because they produce a quinone gas that apparently doesn't taste too great.
Adults can live 3 years and the entire life cycle, egg to adult is about 5-6 weeks at 77°F, cultures produce faster at temps up to 90°F. A week or two after starting a new culture, just sift out the adults for another culture. It usually takes about 4 weeks to get good size worms for feeding out.
Mesh screen sifter and 8 oz culture. Culture media is whole wheat flour and 10% Brewers Yeast. Keep your cultures dry and well ventilated. They can't climb glass or smooth plastic, but the adults can fly a short distance if they can get on top of something to leap off.
Each teaspoon of media will produce at least this amount of larvae, sometimes alot more. 1 pound of media can produce 1500 larvae. It is best to sift your cultures every week to keep from having too many pupate and turn into more beetles. After a few weeks you can add adults again and a little fresh media to restart you culture.
I keep 4 shoebox size cultures going at a time, the first one has beetles laying eggs, the second one the larvae are too small to feed, third and forth get fed out.
These larvae are ready to fed out and can be dusted with suppliments if desired. They are about 45% protein and 35% fat.
I only feed out about once a week, they are too fatty for continuous feeding, but can help to put weight on skinny frogs. There will be some dry larvae skin sheds and sometimes a little frass mixed in with the larvae. I usually take the sifted worms outside and blow this away with a couple light puffs of air.
If you get a lot of adults mixed in with the larvae, you can drape some paper strips over the edge of your worm cup into a larger container to allow the beetles to climb out.
The frogs won't really know what to make of them the first time you feed them out. I've seen some frogs spit them out the first few tries. But once they're use to them, they'll usually come running when you place a lid in their tank.
Larvae don't do well in high humidity or if they get wet. Any that get out of the lid will perish in our vivs if they don't get eaten with an hour or two.
The fruit flies we feed our frogs have been genetically engineered to be either flightless, or wingless. Culturing fruit flies is very easy, but you'll have to obtain a starter culture of flies first, and some appropriate containers for your new cultures. Most people use 32 oz deli cups with special ventilated poly fabric insect lids. You can also use canning jars by replacing the seals with a coffee filter held in place with the lid ring.
Many vendors sell pre-made fruit fly media (food) and complete culturing kits. But, you can mix up your own media from ingredients found at your local grocer. More on that later.
Here's the basic steps to start a new culture from an existing starter culture.
Mix the 1/3 cup dry media with 1/2 cup of hot water. The consistency should be like stiff oatmeal, you should be able to turn the container upside down without the media falling out or running down the sides.
Sprinkle a small pinch of dry bakers yeast on top of the media, about 15 - 30 grains. Adult flies feed on yeast and it stimulates the flies to lay eggs. It also outcompetes other mold spores, helping to limit any mold growth in your cultures.
Then add a baseball size ball of excelsior or a few folded coffee filters into the media. This serves as a substrate for the maggots to climb out of the media and pupate on.
Allow the culture to reach room temperature, before adding flies. You should add between 50 - 100 flies for each culture. Cultures should be maintained between 70 and 80 degrees for best production.
The cultures should be placed on mite paper and in an area where they will not dry out. Mite paper can be made by spraying paper towels with mite spray and allowing it to dry thoroughly, or you can purchase shelf liner paper that is already impregnated with insecticide.
In a week or so, the maggots will be ready to begin to transform into flies. These cultures are 8 days old, as you can see their are plenty of pupae; which will hatch out in another few days. Ready to be fed out and used to make new cultures. It is best to dispose of all cultures when they reach 30 days old to prevent mite infestations. The containers and lids can be bleached and rinsed for reuse many times.
Here is the simplest fly food recipe I have used.
6 Parts Instant Potato Flakes
1 Part Brewers Yeast
1 Part Powdered Sugar
Some people add some cinnamon to their cultures to make them smell a little better.
Commercial Fly Food usually contains a mold inhibitor, methylparaben. You can add about a tablespoon of vinegar per culture to keep them from molding.
If you have difficulty finding any of these ingredients, let me know and I can help you out.
Wanted to share my scuba powered mist system, it uses no pump.
I know it wouldn't be cost effective for most you, but since I dive alot, I have a bunch of extra equipment and usually a few tanks which are still part full after a dive. I connect the low pressure side of a regulator to the system.
I can mist 16 tanks about 200 times on a full scuba tank.
The grey PVC pipe holds about 30 ounces of water which is enough to mist 16 tanks for about 30 seconds.
The manifold has 12 connections to standard 1/4" micro tubing. I Tee off 2 nozzles at the end of each line at the vivs. So it could do up to 24 nozzles if the pressure doesn't drop too much.
The aluminum coupler and black cap are 2" camlock fittings. I just unsnap the cap, remove the pipe, fill with RO water and replace.
The nozzles are purple fogger nozzles rated at 0.9 gals per hour, water droplet size is suppose to be about 60 microns.
It's kinda hard to get a decent photo of the mist, but it is real floaty.
This system is nearly silent and no vibration.
I am considering adding a larger reservoir and a timer to automate misting several times a day.
Dart frogs are diurnal. They are active during the day and sleep at night. Lighting should be maintained on a 10 - 12 hour cycle. Dart frogs are not aquatic but they do require 70 - 100% humidity to maintain moisture in their skin and regulate their temperature. Aquariums with a tight fitting glass lid and vivariums are the most common enclosures used for housing dart frogs. These enclosures should be maintained at 70° to 80°F. Temperature can be maintained in a variety of ways. Such as adjusting the amount of light and height and ventilation of fixtures, adding ventilation and internal circulation thru the use of electric fans. Most dart frogs appreciate a small amount of ventilation and frequent misting.
Consider installing a misting system on a timer if you have multiple tanks,
although hand misting works just as well. Many people use a simple spray bottle or garden sprayer. Distilled or reverse osmosis de-ionized water is best for misting tanks, to reduce buildup of deposits on the glass.
Most dart frog habitat experiences two wet and two dry seasons per year. Breeding takes place at the beginning of and throughout each wet season. Frequent misting; as much as three to four times a day usually stimulates breeding.
Dart frogs are able to lay a new clutch of eggs every 7 - 14 days. It is important to provide a dry period, by reduced misting after several months to discourage breeding and allow the adults to recoup and build up body mass.
As always, proper feeding and supplementation is very important. Vitamin A can be depleted thru long periods of breeding, resulting in low clutch size, non-viable eggs, and deformities in tadpoles such as spindly leg syndrome.
The most frequently asked question is “Are poison dart frogs really poisonous?” .
In the wild, yes; most pdf’s do contain batrachotoxin that is secreted thru their skin. There are more than 175 species of frogs that have been categorized as poison dart frogs. The toxin is believed to be absorbed from their diet in the wild of beetles, ants, mites and other insects that have fed on alkaloid- rich plants.
The most toxic species is Phyllobates Terribilis, the original golden poison dart frog. This is the species the Choco Indians of Colombia are so famous for using to dip the points of their blow darts. The poison would stay active for over a year, and was potent enough to kill a panther within minutes.Phyllobates Terribilis is considered to be the most poisonous vertebrate in the world. In captivity, wild caught pdf’s lose this toxicity within a year or so.
Captive raised pdf’s do not produce batrachotoxin. In captivity pdf’s are fed genetically engineered flightless or wingless fruit flies, pinhead crickets, bean beetles, flour beetle larvae, springtails, termites and other appropriate size insects.
In captivity these frogs can live and breed for 20 years or longer. They typically mature in 1 to 2 years.
An interesting fact about pdf’s is that most do not lay their eggs in water, but instead on a leaf or in a secluded bower. Egg clutches can be anywhere from 2 – 20 eggs or more depending on the species.
Usually the male, although it can be both sexes; will protect the eggs until they hatch, usually 10 -15 days, then he transports them to a water source on his back.
These tadpoles are about 10 days days old, if you look closely, you can see their gills (red filaments) are formed but not yet absorbed.
The tadpoles instinctively know to squirm up onto his back when
he comes to collect them, and may remain there for more than a day; until he delivers them to a suitable water source.
Tadpoles generally take 8 to 12 weeks to fully develop (morph) into froglets, when they emerge from the water to land. Although pdf’s are capable of swimming they avoid large bodies of water. Occasionally they will sit in small puddles to regulate their body temperature or when they are not feeling well, but for the most part they don’t ever decide to go for a swim.
Here is my male Dendrobates Tinctorius Patricia transporting a tadpole.