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Sexing & Breeding Dart Frogs

Sexing can be a difficult task, even for the most experienced of breeders, but there are some distinct signs you can try to identify. It is best to wait until the frog reaches sexual maturity to identify the frog’s sex. Some Poison Arrow Frogs take six months to sexually mature while others can take up to two years. Males are usually smaller and thinner than females. Males also have larger toe pads due to the fact that they transport their young on their backs to areas of substantial standing water, although this is not true with every species. Males call while females do not (males have vocal sacs, which females lack) and males guard egg-laying sites. Potential breeders need to be aware that first clutches of eggs are often infertile.
 
Some frogs will breed year-round but I recommend providing your frogs with seasonal variations. It is important for the frogs’ health to give them a break for a few months out of the year. This is best achieved by lowering the ambient temperature in the cage by 3-4 degrees and reducing the humidity by 10-15 percent. If you are not breeding your frogs, obviously this is not relevant to their general health.

Place an identified sexed pair into an enclosure with suitable egg laying sites and with appropriate temperatures and humidity. It always helps to increase the incidences of spraying the enclosure with water to two times a day to simulate the wet seasons. Place half of a coconut hut in an area where the frogs feel secure but where it is easy for you to access. Place a Petri dish with filtered water underneath the coconut hut. Replace water daily if eggs have not been laid. 


Males will call if they find the site suitable for egg-laying and will often call for hours out of the day. Females will approach and respond to the males calls by dancing, vibrating their feet and batting or stroking the males. The courtship is fascinating to watch. If the female is receptive, she will approach the hut and the male will follow. The male then pins the female down while she lays her eggs in a gelatinous mass. By pinning the female down, the male has a higher probability of fertilizing the eggs. Make sure to leave the eggs in the enclosure until both frogs leave the hut because the male will still be fertilizing the eggs for hours. Females will eat other females’ eggs if you are group breeding, so set up plenty of egg-laying sites.

Egg care

When you remove the eggs take care to remove them from the enclosure gently. Cover the petri dish with plastic wrap to ensure that the eggs do not dry out. It may be necessary to add water to the petri dishes containing eggs. The eggs should always remain 80-90 % submerged in water. Be careful not to spray the eggs when getting them moist because frog eggs are very fragile and are not meant to be misted with water. If the eggs are misted, a water droplet can fall on them and they can become concaved and die. Any eggs that become discolored, usually a grayish coloration, are infertile and should be carefully removed with a razor blade or plastic spoon. The eggs will collapse when the tadpoles are ready to emerge, usually in 1-2 weeks. Sometime the tadpole needs assistance exiting the gelatinous mass. This can be done by gently removing the gelatin from around the tadpole and lightly spraying the mass with water or using a razor blade to cute the mass until the tadpole is free. 

When the tadpoles are free, separate them into their individual containers. Many Poison Arrow Frog tadpoles are carnivorous and should always be reared segregated from other tadpoles. Be sure to color code the tadpoles’ petri dishes and containers so that you can track the parentage of the frogs.
 
In the wild, the males, and sometimes the females, moisten the eggs by producing mucous. When the tadpoles emerge, the male frog, in most cases, transfers the tadpoles onto his back and into a suitable water source. Males and sometimes females guard their eggs.

Tadpole Care

keep tadpoles in plastic cups, the larger the cups are, the fewer the times you have to change the water. Tadpoles should always be reared separately to ensure that no cannibalism occurs.
Make sure to use filtered water so that there are no chemicals, as many chemicals can have an adverse effect on a froglet’s development. I use tannins in my water because it is a natural way to fight infection and bacteria and the tannins add extra nutrients to the water. Water changes are required anywhere from every other day to once a week, depending on the size of the tadpole’s enclosure. 
  
You can feed tadpoles blood worms, brine shrimp, algae wafers, chlorella, or spirulira. All of these items can be purchased at a local fish store or online.
 
Fish flakes and other processed fish foods may be used, but I recommend my food sources because they are more nutritious, and therefore ensure healthier frogs. Egg yolk, boiled cabbage and cottage cheese can be used to rear tadpoles that are egg feeders. Once all four legs have emerged from the tadpole, I transfer the tadpole into a larger container with little water and chunks of cork bark. The cork bark floats, giving the froglets opportunities to get out of the water. Be aware that the froglets can drown once they have gotten to a certain point in their metamorphosis. When you see the froglets consistently on a cork piece, take the new froglet out and place it into a baby cage. Full metamorphosis should take about 2-3 months. Keep the tadpoles’ water around 72-75 degrees F. High water temperatures will speed up the metamorphosis which may result in under-developed froglets.

Froglet Care

Froglets will not eat for anywhere from a few days to a week after emerging from the water because they are still absorbing the nutrients from their tails. They do not need food during this period, so don’t be too concerned if you can’t get them to eat. Feed the froglets fruit flies or other very small species; springtails may be required. Make sure the small frogs’ food sources are easy to access—don’t make your froglets hunt for their food. 

House the froglets in small and very simple enclosures which will make the baby frogs much easier to observe. Don’t overcrowd the froglets because that can stress them to the point of death. Froglets are small enough to feel comfortable hiding in leaf litter and other cuttings of broad leaved plants (I use pothos and creeping fig because they are hardy, readily available, and inexpensive), cork bark pieces and bromeliads. If you plan to sell your froglets, it is recommend waiting 12-16 weeks at least before you sell them. The larger the frog, the hardier they will be. Also, keep same-sized juveniles together and, finally, make sure you have enough room if you’re planning to breed.

Cross Breeding

The problem with cross-breeding is that it contaminates the blood line that is available in the pet trade. Cross-bred frogs can become sterile, limiting the number of frogs that are capable of reproducing. If the frogs do not become sterile, then they can be bred with pure-blood, further contaminating bloodlines. My best recommendation is not to house species such as auratus, azureus, leucomelas, and tinctorius in the same enclosure. These species are too closely related.