I have been keeping exotic animals for quite some time now and I am fortunate enough to share my hobby with my kids. They love animals and welcome any chance to be around them. One such occasion was a recent Reptile Expo that we went to. I had no intentions of purchasing anything, we were just going to have a fun day out the house and see what different reptiles the vendors had at the expo. That quickly changed when the first vendor table we saw had Poison Dart Frogs. My 4 year old Ariyana saw a bright blue frog and couldn’t take her eyes off it. Even after we had moved on to other tables all she kept mentioning was “Did you see the blue one? Daddyyy, can we get the blue frog?!?!” After we had our fill and was gearing up to leave, I knew I was never going to hear the end of this “blue frog”. So, we made our way back to the table. I spoke with the vendor a bit about how to care for one while the girls looked at the frogs again. He mentioned that it was fairly easy to keep and with a glance at the girls pouty little faces I said, “You can each choose one.” A duo of “yaysss” rang out and with that we jumped right in; pun intended.
My 2 year old, little Sophia was undecided and looked at all of the possible options. Frogs colored yellow, red, green, blue, orange and almost any color combination you could imagine. She finally yelled out, “dis one”. It was a little orange and black frog – (a Dendrobates. leucomelas)
I paid and out the door we went. Home, the task of making a home for their frogs begun. The plan was to build something small to hold them for a few days until I could build a larger, more permanent home. I had a 2.5 gallon tank lying around and figured it would be a good temporary home for them.
This was great because it also came with a glass lid. These frogs have high humidity requirements. They need to be kept between 80-90% humidity so they can stay moist.
The next step was to start with a layered substrate. Because if it’s going to get wet in there, you want something at the bottom to keep the water away from the where the frogs would frequent. I had some clay hydroton, but you can use gravel or small rocks. Sophia was way too happy to do the pouring. lol
Next you want to start arranging your plants. I had some clippings of a live plant from another of my terrariums, but you can use fake plants; sold at your local pet shop. I find live plants to be a bit more rewarding.
Next, you want to get a nylon screen material (something like what a screen door is made out of). You want to make sure it’s not metal because this will be getting wet and you don’t want any rust accumulation issues. The screen I purchased from my local Home Depot was about $6. Cut it to the size needed to cover the entire bottom layer. You will be putting another layer above it and the screen will keep the two from mixing together.
At this time you want to decide what your main layer will be. You can use organic potting soil, Atlantic Botanical Garden (ABG) mix and in this case I went with Sphagnum moss. It can be purchased at your local pet shop or online. I like it because it holds moisture very well. You want to soak it in warm water, this will make it easier to work with and also make it frog/reptile-ready. Once it’s soaked you want to take handfuls and squeeze it firmly to drain any excess water. Place above the screen in a nice even layer. After layering your Sphagnum moss you will want to get the next layer ready. For this tank we will be using a nice leaf-litter and I have some live-moss lying around.
Same as the Sphagnum moss, you want a nice even layer with the leaf-litter. This is just dried leaves and twigs. You can purchase it at your local pet shop or online. Or you can also go out and collect your own leaves to save yourself a few bucks, making sure to collect in a chemical and pesticide free area. As an added precaution you want to place them in an oven safe bag and bake at 300* for 5 minutes to kill off any unwanted/harmful micro-wildlife. At this point you are 90% done. Now you want to add any gauges you have ( like a hydrometer gauge that will measure humidity and a thermometer gauge which will measure temperature). You want to keep your poison dart frogs cool at around 70-75* so there is no heating requirements for them. This is about the time you can add hiding places in the form of coconut hides, or pieces of drift wood. This will give the frogs a place to retreat/hide and add another athletic element as well.