The term “dart frog” refers to hundreds of different species of tropical frogs from Central and South America. This care sheet covers the essential basics of care that can apply to most species. Individual species should be researched independently for any nuances in their care. Please check the links at the bottom of the page for more resources for dart frog care and vivarium set up and maintenance.
While Dart Frogs are not poisonous in captivity, it is not advised to handle them. They are sensitive animals and unnecessary handling can cause stress. They can also absorb chemicals through their skin from your hands, which can harm them. Dart frogs are a display only pet.
Each species and individual morphs of dart frog should be housed independently. Interbreeding will occur between different species/ morphs and hybrids are seriously frowned upon in the dart frog community due to the threatened nature of wild frogs.
For small to medium species, a 10-20 gallon tank can house 1-2 adults, with 5-10 gallons for each additional frog. Larger species should be provided with at least 20 gallons. When it comes to frog enclosures, bigger is always better, so provide the largest enclosure you can. Some species will climb and enjoy a taller enclosure, but most species require an enclosure with a sufficiently large footprint.
Many species do well in groups. However, with some species males or females may “fight” or compete with each other for access to mates and breeding sites or eat each other’s eggs. If any animosity is noted in groups, they must be separated. We generally prefer 1.1 pairs.
The easiest, and most visually appealing way to keep dart frogs is in bioactive vivariums. A bioactive vivarium is an enclosure containing a miniature ecosystem, comprised of live plants for decoration, hiding places and humidity control, detritovores and beneficial bacteria/fungi in the soil layer to manage frog waste, and your main inhabitant- the frogs. Leaf litter is an important part of this set up- it provides the frogs hiding places and protection from the soil layer and provides the detritovores refuse to consume and break down in to the soil. Either leaf litter and/or live moss should be used to cover the substrate, frogs should not be exposed to bare substrate.
Dart frogs are active during the day and a 12 hour on/off light cycle is required. UV lighting is not a necessity like it is for tree frogs, but some keepers think it is beneficial. UV can be provided if desired. Broad spectrum lighting will show off the frogs’ colors and allow for plant growth. There are many different lighting options on the market, from LEDs to T5 High Output florescents. Lighting with a range of 5000-6500K (6000K is natural daylight) will work nicely for most vivariums. We prefer LED lights as they are very energy efficient and long lasting. We currently use Tincman Herps mixed spectrum 6500K LEDs.
Humidity and water
High humidity is required, around 70-90+%. This is easy to achieve by limiting ventilation by either installing a glass lid or covering the screen lid with glass or plastic, and misting. Use distilled water to mist to avoid accumulation water spots on the glass. Many species enjoy water features or soaking in a water bowl, but it is not necessarily required. If a container of water is provided you need to use dechlorinated tap or bottled spring water and must be changed frequently and kept clean. Stagnant, dirty water can cause bloat and bacterial infections.
Most dart frogs prefer temperatures in the low 70s, around 72-75 F. Temperatures in the 60s can be tolerated for short periods of time, but temperatures above 80 can quickly become fatal.
Feeding and Supplementation
Dart frogs prefer smaller foods such as fruit flies and springtails. Some species, such as those in the genus Phyllobates, will eat much larger insects like crickets and even spiders. We primarily feed melanogaster and hydeii fruit flies, but also small isopods and small worms such as phoenix worms as a treat.
Juveniles should be feed every 1-2 days, and adults can be fed every 2-3 days. I like to set up a feeding station by placing a slice of banana on a petri dish and placing the flies on this. This keeps the leaf litter free of any excess vitamin powder and gives the frogs a place to congregate for feeding.
Insects must be dusted with vitamin and mineral supplementation. Supplementation is extremely important. Neglecting to dust your feeders can cause your frogs to become ill and possibly die. We use a complete vitamin and calcium supplement- Repashy Calcium plus at every feeding. Repashy Vitamin A plus (for breeding frogs only) and Repashy Super Pig/Tincman Herps Natural Rose are used once a week on alternating weeks. The minimum accepted supplementation regimen is to use Calcium Plus, or a similar product such as Dendrocare, with every feeding. For best results for frog coloration and breeding, we use the additional products as well. To dust the insects, place them in a bag or plastic cup, sprinkle with the supplement and gently shake the container to coat the insects.
These are the basic supplies you will need to set up and maintain a dart frog and its habitat. I don’t recommend keeping dart frogs any way other than bioactive.
-Tank with glass lid or screen lid covered with glass or plastic
-Thermometer/hygrometer (digital is best)
-Bioactive soil kit- drainage layer (Hydrogrow), substrate barrier, soil (Terra Flora), sphagnum moss, leaf litter.
-Bioactive cleanup crew: springtails, isopods, BioShot.
-LED light/light fixture
-Hardscape items/hides- cork bark, ghostwood branches cocohuts, etc.
-Misting bottle (or misting system) with distilled water.
-Fruit fly culture kit (optional, fruit flies can also be purchased in various pet stores and online)
-Supplements- Repashy Calcium Plus, Repashy Vitamin A Plus, Repashy Super Pig
Thank you for reading our care sheet. There is never just one way to do things and your research should never stop after one source. Please see the following links for more information.
The Bio Dude Vivarium Supply
Dendroboard Dart frog forum