Dart Frogs and the Science of Terrariums

I’ve had a 12x12x18″ Zoo Med tank sitting in my garage for some time, and I decided it was time to put something amazing in it. A quick search on Craigslist revealed some dart frogs for sale nearby, specifically some dendrobates leucomelas, also know as yellow banded dart frogs or bumblebee dart frogs. Dart frogs have always fascinated me, but I’ve never know what was needed to care for them and thus never got in to the hobby. However, Mark, the man selling the frogs, was very helpful and answered most every question I had about tending to the frogs. He even sent me home with some substrate so I could create my habitat for them before purchasing them.

I learned a lot about terrariums in one evening. The most fascinating part was how similar they are to aquaponic systems in that they resemble a complete ecosystem. By creating a false bottom with expanded clay or rocks and then layering substrate on top, you create a replica of the forest floor. The false bottom allows water to collect in the bottom, which then evaporates and adds to the humidity of the tank. The water then condenses on the sides and on the plants and falls back down to the false bottom, where the cycle begins again. You can also add critters, such as springtails, to a tank top help break down the solid waste form the frogs. They also may provide a tasty snack for the frogs on top of their typical meal of wingless fruit flies.

Here is my temporary home for the frogs until I can build them a full terrarium, complete with a false background.

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And here are the little frogs in their new home. Aren’t they just the cutest!

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Can you spot all three fogs?

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