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Poison Dart Frogs as Pets: Caretaker Guide

yellow dart frog

Having poison dart frog as pets is a big responsibility. Even though these amphibians are quite popular, their unique needs and complex care requires special attention and setup. They should be housed in an enclosure that provides them with a proper temperature gradient, humidity, and light. In order to reduce the risk of infection from bacteria found in their native environment, aquarium set-ups should be disinfected between each use.

Are you ready to take on these responsibilities? If so, keep reading to learn more about poison dart frogs and how to take care of them.

Dendrobatidae spp.

Dendrobatidae is the scientific name for the poison dart frog species. Dendrobatids are native to equatorial rainforests of Central and South America, and are the second largest family of frogs in the world.

One major reason they are such popular reptile pets is due to their bright colors such as red, orange, yellow, blue, and green. They can also be jet black with hints of these vivid colors speckled throughout their bodies.

Most of the dendrobatid species are known to be very friendly towards humans, and can become tame without much effort.

Preparing a Poison Dart Frog Enclosure

When it comes to an enclosure for a poison dart frog, all of the following things should be taken into consideration. First and foremost, you need to get a tank that’s an appropriate size. 

That means, for a single baby frog a temporary one foot wide by one foot long container will suffice, but for full grown frogs you’ll want at least ten gallons per from. So, for two frogs consider a twenty gallon enclosure or for four frogs aim for a “40 breeder” or a forty gallon tank. 

And yes, that means you can house more than one poison dart frog in the same enclosure.

Substrate for Poison Dart Frogs

The substrate is what’s at the bottom of your enclosure. It is important for the caretaker to understand the habitat requirements of their specific pet, in this case, your frogs.

It is recommended that the substrate should be easy to clean and sanitize. For example, glass and ceramic tank bottoms should be avoided due to their inability to be properly disinfected. What’s more, some species of frog can’t break down silicon-based materials like silicone rubber. Using these types of materials will lead to an unnatural environment which could cause health problems for your dart frog.

Recommended substrates include non-organic materials such as aquarium gravel like you would find in a fish tank. That’s because poison dart frogs require a very humid living environment, and organic substrates can quickly rot creating an unsafe living space.

Lighting & Heating for Poison Dart Frogs

Poison dart frogs are typically easy to handle when it comes to lighting and temperature. They come from hot, steamy rainforests, but they are typically found in the forest floor, where the lighting is dimmer, and the temperature is lower.

So, how do you recreate this in your enclosure? Believe it or not, it’s fairly simple.

First and foremost, regulating their temperature is most important. Dart frogs need a temperature in the 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit range. Depending on how warm you keep your home, this might be extremely easy to maintain with out much outside help. If you live in a cool climate and keep your house on the cooler side, you can always supplement the enclosure temperature with a heat lamp.

You need to be careful that you don’t get the temperature too high though. 85+ degrees Fahrenheit can be deadly.

Don’t Forget About Humidity

Drat frogs thrive in high humidity (90%+) settings. This will be difficult if there isn’t ample water in their tank. Having clean water in the tank is important for more than just humidity though. These frogs hydrate themselves by absorbing water through their skin, so having plenty of water serves multiple purposes.

What do Poison Dart Frogs Eat?

Besides maintaining a healthy enclosure environment, as the caretaker you need to provide your pet frog with plenty of nutrition. This is done by providing them food that fulfills their dietary needs.

Poison dart frogs are insectivores. As the name suggests, that means they only eat insects. Other reptiles that eat insects like geckos and bearded dragons are easy to buy for as they can eat everything from small crickets to large hornworms. But, due to dart frogs’ size, you are quite limited.

The most common insect for feeding pet poison dart frogs are fruit flies. While fruit flies aren’t the easiest frog food to find in some smaller pet shops, any larger chain as well as any shop that deals with reptiles will have them. Plus, you can always order some online.

You might also want to considering supplementing their diet with calcium and a reptile multivitamin.

Are Poison Dart Frogs Dangerous?

With their bright reds, vivid greens, and oranges, and a name that contains the word “poison”, this is a very fair question. This amphibian is as fascinating as they are dangerous. In fact, their poison is one of the most dangerous toxins found in nature!

But, the frogs you would keep for pets are not exactly the same as those found in nature.

In reality they are the same animal. But, what’s different is their diet. Captive frogs do not eat the same insects as those in nature. It’s those insects which contain certain chemicals that dart frogs can use to create their toxin.

As long as you purchase your poison dart from from a reputable dealer that only handles captive-bred frogs, you don’t have to worry about their dangerous toxin. That mean 100% absolutely avoid anyone trying to sell you a wild caught poison dart frog or frogs. It’s just not worth the very real risk.

Conclusion

While not the easiest reptile pet to care for, they are on the easier side. Their heating and lighting requirements are fairly simple to meet. They have easy diets to manage. And, they don’t any difficult upkeep.

The hardest thing is to ensure their enclosure stays clean and they have plenty of access to clean water.

Whether you want to make a poison dart frog your first reptile pet, or you want to add another species to your family, they’re an excellent option you’re sure to enjoy.

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