How to care for your new Dart Frogs:

Caring for your new poison dart frogs isn't terribly complicated, and when done properly, will reward you with years and years of happy and healthy frogs.  If you are lucky enough to have a mating pair, they will reward you with eggs, tadpoles and baby froglets, which they will raise on their own if you don't care to intervene.

First and foremost, the easiest way to harm or kill your frogs is too much heat and/or too little water.  While not hard to maintain, these little frogs can be very sensitive to high temperatures and low humidity levels.  As these frogs are found naturally in the humid rain forests of South America, they need their keepers to provide them with similar conditions while in captivity.  Caring for them in a Frog Forest Designs natural vivarium is a perfect way to give them the habitat they'll need to live in and thrive.  Here is a brief list of Do's and Don'ts when keeping poison dart frogs in captivity:

How to care for your new Vivarium:

It's easy to properly care for your new vivarium in order to help ensure both flora and fauna thrive in their living ecosystem!

Fully planted, ready to GO and GROW vivariums offered by Frog Forest Designs are unique habitats that come as a fully complete setup with all you need to watch your new slice of rain forest grow, flower and thrive.  Each Frog Forest Designs vivarium comes with all the necessary tools to water, light and monitor the array of plants within.  You will want to do the following to ensure your plants stay happy and healthy:

  • Keep your included daylight fixture on a 12 hour cycle.  You can achieve this simply by purchasing an inexpensive timer and setting the light to come on at sunrise and go off at sunset.  For example; 7:00 am light is set to turn on and 7:00 pm light is set to turn off.
  • Use your included sprayer to heavily mist the tank at least 1-2x per day to water the plants.  The plants may or may not be fully rooted and acclimated at the time of purchase (some take longer than others), so watering more often may be beneficial to help them root.  Once the plants are fully established and growing, they will naturally help maintain humidity within the tank, and less watering will be required.  
  • Do not use commercial fertilizers if you plan to keep frogs or other animals inside the vivarium.  If you plan to keep live animals in your vivarium, their waste acts as a great natural fertilizer for the plants.
  • Keep an eye on the included thermometer/hygrometer display to maintain proper temperature and humidity levels.  These tropical plants will thrive in temperatures ranging from 70° - 85° and a high relative humidity level of 60-90%.  The light above the tank will give off a small amount of heat, but the easiest way to control the temperature is to keep the room thermostat set within a comfortable range.  Use more frequent or less frequent misting depending on your humidity reading.
  • The microfauna (springtails and/or isopods) included in your living ecosystem are like little tank janitors that will help breakdown and consume plant and animal waste inside the vivarium.  You can also give them a special treat of fruit and vegetable shavings such as watermelon rinds, potato slices, carrot shavings, avocado skins, and bananas.  They'll even eat tropical fish flakes and dog food!
  • Keep the plants trimmed and pruned if they start getting overgrown.  Even though we choose plants which are sized to properly fit within each vivarium, under optimal conditions they will continue to grow for years and years.  Trimming and pruning will also make for easier viewing of any critters living inside!
  • Your vivarium will have a built in drainage layer under the substrate, which is a very important part of the design.  Water from misting will eventually drip down into the substrate and drain through it, ending up in the drainage layer below.  This drainage layer helps ensure the substrate does not get over-saturated or soggy, and helps keep the humidity within the tank.  Depending on your misting schedule, the water in the drainage layer may need to be drained from time to time.  You can use a simple turkey baster (or similar device) to siphon excess water out via our special "Riverbed" design in the front bottom of your tank.  You do not want the water in the drainage layer below to reach the bottom of the substrate, which can easily be monitored just by looking at the side of your tank.

FOOD:  Flightless Fruit Flies (Drosophila sp.) are the main staple in a captive dart frog's diet.  Most dart frogs only eat very small insects not much larger than 1/8" overall.  Smaller frogs (like thumbnail species) will eat D. melanogaster flies, while larger frogs (like most Dendrobates) will eat the larger D. hydei flies.  It is also good to supplement other types of insects in their diet from time to time, such as small isopods, springtails, bean beetles and pinhead crickets.  All food should be dusted with a vitamin supplement at each feeding.

VITAMINS: There are several vitamin supplements that are great for poison dart frogs in captivity.  Adding these vitamins help balance their diets and gives them the nutrients they would normally receive in the wild.  A good Calcium supplement is key, and should be used at every feeding.  Repashy Calcium Plus and Rep-Cal Calcium are both great options.  As well as adding Calcium to their diet, it is also a good idea to add in some Vitamin A once or twice a month to help breeding frogs produce healthy offspring.  We use Repashy Vitamin A Plus once a month, rotated into our supplement schedule.  While not a necessity, Astaxanthin is great for color enhancing to keep your frogs vibrant and bright!

LIGHTING: While lighting is beneficial for every living being, it is not a huge factor in dart frog care.  Most dart frogs in the wild live under the forest canopies, and don't always get a lot of full sun exposure.  While we're not saying to keep them in the dark, a good light source is not as important to the frogs as it will be to the living plants in your vivarium.  The frogs also do not need the UVB spectrum of lighting that many reptile brand lights provide.  A simple LED or florescent light works just fine for the frogs, and one rated at 6500K is best for optimal plant growth.  The lights provided with our complete tank setups are perfectly designed for both the frogs and plants.

TEMPERATURE:  As mentioned above, higher temperatures can be fatal to most dart frogs.  Living under forest canopies in the wild provides them with plenty of shade and cooler temperatures, even though they live in relatively warm areas.  Most frogs will appreciate their temperatures to stay around 75° F during the day, with a drop to around 65° F at night.  These temperature are OK to fluctuate some, but you want to avoid lows under 60° F and highs above 80° F for extended periods.  The easiest way to control the temperatures inside their tanks is to keep your room thermostat set in the ideal range.  Keep in mind that more than a few hours of 85° or more can be deadly.

HUMIDITY:  Originally living in tropical rain forests, you can easily see that dart frogs in captivity would require a nice, humid habitat to thrive in.  Ideally it is best to keep their humidity between 60-90% RH at all times.  It's very easy to achieve this by simply misting their tanks once or twice a day, in order to keep those levels of humidity.  Our all-glass tanks are perfect for maintaining a high humidity level.

If you follow the information and instructions listed above for maintaining your naturalistic vivarium and care for your poison dart frogs, you should have no trouble keeping both for many years.  Once you get these practices nailed down and implemented routinely, the overall maintenance will be minimal, and you can enjoy your plants and animals without the major hassles that come with many other pets.  

While the above information is meant as a very brief explanation of proper husbandry for your plants and frogs, it is not a comprehensive list detailing all the information that is useful in this hobby.  Each Frog Forest Designs vivarium setup will include detailed written instructions on maintaining your vivarium.  If you purchase a vivarium with frogs, you will also get a more detailed care sheet for the frogs.

Please feel free to contact us anytime if you have any further questions about vivarium or dart frog care, and we will be more than happy to help!

Here is a list of several online website resources that are extremely knowledgeable and helpful:

Dendroboard  - an amazing online forum with a vast wealth of knowledge about dart frogs & everything related to them

Saurian Enterprises - one of the top most reputable poison dart frog breeders that have been a key factor in making the hobby what it is today

Understory Enterprises - another top breeding and importing organization for dart frogs

Josh's Frogs - a staple business that has really benefited hobbyists by providing tons of info and supplies

Dart Den - another great online forum resource for dart frog information - a very well written blog page with loads of really great information on poison dart frogs - a great website with many helpful articles and information on frogs and enclosures

The Simple Do's:

  • Do keep your temperature between 70-80° during the daytime and 60-70° at night
  • Do keep your humidity level between 60-90% inside the vivarium at all times
  • Do feed your dart frogs every 2-3 days (every 1-2 days for younger frogs)
  • Do dust your frogs' food with vitamins at every feeding
  • Do avoid unnecessary handling of the frogs

The Simple Don'ts:

  • Don't let it get too hot (above 85°) or too dry (below 40% RH) inside the vivarium
  • Don't handle your frogs like you would a normal pet
  • Don't mix different species of frogs in one vivarium
  • Don't forget to add vitamins to their feedings
  • Don't use fertilizers or other harmful chemicals (cleaners) in or on your tank housing frogs