The Poison Dart Frogs also known as Poison Arrow Frogs are found in the rainforest of central and South America. Many are found in small isolated areas where distinct colors and markings develop over time. They sport bright warning colors to warn potential predators that they are toxic. Most live in the leaf litter of the forest floor and venture into low-level vegetation.
While the poison dart frogs do indeed secrete toxins that are used by indigenous people to coat the tips of their blow gun darts they don't actually produce it themselves instead they concentrate naturally occurring toxins found in the insects they eat. Their captive diet does not contain the toxins so they do not secrete them.
Caring for Poison Dart Frogs is not particularly difficult if the keeper understands what these colorful little pets need. There are some aspects of their care that are just not negotiable. They are an acceptable climate, Proper diet and a clean properly stocked enclosure.
Each species will have very specific preferences as far as exact temperature and humidity levels but just about all will do well with a day time temp in the mid 70's dropping no lower than the high 60's at night and minimum humidity levels of 80% in their enclosure.
Humidity is measured with a device called a hygrometer. These come in both digital and analog styles. The digital varieties frequently have a built in thermometer. The amount of air movement and the materials, particularly the substrate, influence the ambient humidity in the enclosure. Hand misting with a spray bottle is one method used to introduce moisture as needed. Another more convenient method is to use an automated misting system; these make it easier to maintain a steady level.
Flightless fruit flies make up the bulk of the diet of most captive dart frogs but crickets are fairly common too if the right size can be found. Prey should be about 10-15% of a frog's snout to vent length.
Other small insects such as springtails, pill bugs, beetle larvae, termites, Aphids and waxworms can be used as a treat to add some variety to the diet. Some of these are fairly easy to culture which not only ensures a steady food supply but also eliminates the risk of chemical contamination associated with wild caught prey.
Springtails and pill bugs often become established once added to the enclosure and help reduce mold problems by feeding on the decaying organic materials. High fat insects like waxworms, termites and a number of the beetle larvae while useful in conditioning frogs to breed should be fed in moderation as they can lead to obesity and other health problems.
No matter how varied the diet captive amphibians and reptiles are prone to vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can lead to deformities and other health problems. Commercially available supplements usually in powder form should be used to "dust" feeder insects prior to feeding to help prevent these deficiencies.
The easiest way to determine how much to feed is through trial and error. Start off by adding a few less prey than you think the frogs will eat. If none are left after feeding than add a few more the next time. If you find some still uneaten in the enclosure remove them and add a few less the next time.
Excess prey, especially fruit flies, can stress the frogs by crawling on them if left in the enclosure. Remember young growing frogs or froglets also have growing appetites so this test should be preformed regularly until the frogs are grown.
The amount of cleaning and maintenance required on an enclosure is largely determined by it's design and stocking. As far as stocking goes the general rule of thumb is 5 gallons of volume per frog making the standard 10-gallon aquarium just right for a pair of frogs. Some species like the Green & Black Dart frog (D. auratus) or Bumblebee Dart frog (D. leucomelas) are communal while others like the Dyeing dart frog (D. tinctorius) are territorial and aggressive. This needs to be taken into account when stocking larger enclosures.
When designing your enclosure there are a few considerations that can make maintaining the enclosure much easier. Constructing a false bottom with a layer of gravel or screening below the substrate allows excess liquid to drain out of the soil reducing mold and bacterial growth. The use of live plants and decomposers like springtails or pill bugs sets up a natural cycle for breaking down waste and converting the excess organic materials into less reactive compounds that are not as suitable for mold or bacterial growth.
Misting should be done daily and used to rinse down plants and ornaments in the enclosure. Noticeable fungal or mold growth, sharp or sour odors and the majority of terrestrial frogs consistently perching on plants or ornaments are all indicators of cleanliness issues in the enclosure.
While not strictly necessary for frog survival even though they are diurnal or active during the day supplemental lighting is required for live plant growth. Full spectrum fluorescent or the newer led lights are recommended to avoid the heating and drying effects of incandescent bulbs. A natural day length or photoperiod is a major factor in the regulation of a number of daily biological processes. Most animals also use the rhythmic seasonal cycle of increasing and decreasing day length as their calendar triggering specific behaviors like breeding, hibernation or molting. A 12-hour day and night is recommended.
Well that touches on most of the areas of frog keeping that typically cause problems but all of the information is general in nature. Almost all of these little beauties come from small isolated habitats and have developed to meet the various little differences in the microclimate of their native range there are also differences in behavior and attitude that make mixing species or even morphs more complicated than just picking some that will look good together. There is one more major consideration when housing frogs together that is size. Simply put frogs will usually eat just about any small living creature they can fit in their mouth including that cute little strawberry dart frog that you thought would look so good with your nice big yellow Phyllobates terribilis.