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.
First and foremost, a note on mixing species: Don’t. Each species of dart frog should be housed independently. Interbreeding will occur between different species 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. 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 sitrs 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 in the soil layer to manage frog waste and fungal growth, and your main inhabitant- the frogs. For instructions on set up and maintenance, please see the links at the bottom of the page.
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 LEDs.
Humidity and water
High humidity is required, around 70-90+%. This is easy to achieve mainly by limiting ventilation, but misting will also be required. Use distilled water to mist to avoid accumulation water spots on the glass. Humidity as low as 50% is survivable for short periods of time if water is provided, but should not be a regular occurrence. 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.
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
Most 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. Juveniles should be fed every 1-2 days, and adults can be fed every 2-3 days. You can set up a feeding station in your tank by placing a small piece of banana in so the flies congregate around it. 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 Calium Plus) at every feeding, and a Vitamin A supplement, (Repashy Vitamin A Plus), once every 2 weeks for our breeding frogs. We also use two carotenoid supplements: Repashy Super Pig every two weeks, and Natural Rose weekly. The minimum accepted supplementation regimine is to use Calcium Plus (or a similar product) with every feeding. To dust the insects, place them in a bag or plastic cup, sprinkle with the supplement and give the container a little shake to coat the insects.
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