Poison dart frogs (Dendrobatidae) are 1/2”-2 ½” diurnal frogs native to the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. The most common dart frog genus is Dendrobates, although dart frogs belonging to other genera are available as well. “Poison” dart frogs in captivity are not poisonous, as they get their poison from their diet. So when they are fed a nontoxic captive diet, they become harmless.
Dart frogs come in a variety of bright colors and patterns, which makes them very appealing as pets. However, they are very sensitive, with special needs. Generally speaking, this is an intermediate- to advanced-level pet frog.
A group of 3-5 of the smallest dart frogs (often called “thumbnail frogs” due to their tiny size) can be kept in a 10 gallon tank, but larger enclosures are preferable.
Dart frogs are generally terrestrial, although this doesn’t prevent them from climbing on plants and other decor in their enclosure. They require high humidity close to 100%, so a planted vivarium and a water feature will help maintain that kind of environment. For the frogs’ health, the water should be free of chlorine and chloramines, and distilled water should not be used. While it’s important to maintain good ventilation, most dart frog keepers cover part of the enclosure’s mesh top with glass or plexiglass to help maintain humidity.
The enclosure should be planted with vegetation that enjoys a moist, high-humidity environment, such as mosses, orchids, and bromeliads. This requires an appropriate substrate. You will need an expanded clay ball and mesh drainage layer, topped by vivarium soil mix. You will also need clean-up crew organisms and other measures as appropriate for a self-sustaining, minimal-maintenance bioactive setup.
Heating and Lighting
Dart frogs need daytime temperatures in the high 70’s. They will tolerate a temperature drop into the high 60’s at night, although supplemental heat can be provided if needed via ceramic heat emitter or deep heat projector. It’s important to avoid temperatures above 80°F to prevent heat stress or stroke.
Dart frogs require low-intensity UVB lighting, plus grow lighting for the plants. Fluorescent tube bulbs can be used for both, although you will need two separate bulbs for each purpose. UVB bulbs decay over time, so you will need to replace it every 6 months.
Lights should be run on a timer so they are on for 12 hours/day.
Food and Supplementation
Dart frogs are insectivores, which means that they primarily eat insects. Given their small size, they need very small feeders, but don’t underestimate them — they can eat a lot relative to their size! Dart frogs are primarily fed flightless fruit flies, but should have a varied diet including other small feeders, including pinhead crickets, isopods, springtails and dubia nymphs.
Dart frogs require calcium, vitamin D3, and other vitamins/minerals for best health. Lightly dust live prey with supplement at every feeding.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. If you are new to dart frogs, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets.