Other common names: Imitating Dart Frog; Imitator Poison-dart Frog
Scientific name: Ranitomeya imitator
The Mimic Poison Frog is a small and colorful poison dart frog which is native to northern Peru, and which was first described to science in 1986. Ranitomeya imitator lives in trees and plants above the forest floor, and is active during the day. The Mimic Poison Frog is distinguished by the way it mimics the color and patterns of other poisonous frog species which inhabit the same location. There are many different natural color morphs of this species, depending on its location.
The Mimic Poison Frog is protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), however large numbers of Ranitomeya imitator have been illegally exported from Peru to Europe and North America. The Mimic Poison Frog is currently classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), "as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category."
Appearance / health:
The Mimic Poison Frog is a very small frog, with males ranging from 17 - 20 cm (0.7 inches) in length, and females between 20 - 24 cm (0.8 inches). Size varies depending on sex and genetics. Similarly, coloration/pattern differences range from orange reticulated bodies with blue legs, to green and black reticulated bodies, with many more variations throughout this species. Some more sought after R. imitator morphs include: “intermedius”, “baja huallaga”, “veradero”, “nominal form”, and “banded”.
Behavior / temperament:
These frogs take a lot of time, patience, and respect. Like all amphibians and especially dart frogs, these are not to be handled. They are much too fragile and flighty for safe handling and it will cause added stress that is not needed. Always corral them into a cup with a ventilated lid when doing tank maintenance. When raised in captivity, Poison Dart Frogs are not poisonous, but they are very fragile to catching diseases from our hands.
A pair of adults may be kept in a 10-15 gallon aquarium. More frogs need increased tank size so keep groups of 3 or more in a 20 gallon or above tank. A secure lid is needed.
Temperatures should be kept between 72 to 80F with humidity levels between 80-100%. These frogs do best with a tank set up with a false bottom (see the forum topic of “Building a False Bottom Tank”). Homemade or store bought misting systems are recommended since these frogs need to be misted regularly (thus the need for a false bottom). Live or fake plants can be used, but remember if using live plants the use of a UVB light will be needed. Some ideas for live plants: Bromeliads, Ferns, Mosses, Begonia, Orchids, Creeping Fig, Pothos, and various others. Hiding areas should be provided in many areas throughout the tank, especially if you have a group larger than 2 frogs. The most commonly used hide for poison frogs are coco huts which can be found in nearly any pet store. Of course, other hides may be used. A very shallow water dish (a jar lid or petri dish) can be used for the frogs to soak themselves. Spot clean as needed. Any water used in the tank should be dechlorinated or left out for 24 hours prior to use.
Adult frogs are only able to take small foods. Flightless fruit flies (Drosophila hydei) and 2 week old crickets are suitable for adults. Froglets and juveniles will need flightless fruit flies (Drospphila melanogaster) and pinhead crickets. Adults and juveniles also can eat springtails. Tadpoles must be offered spirulina, chlorella, flaked fish food, daphnia, and bloodworms (in the wild, the female frog would produce unfertilized eggs for the tadpole to eat).
Breeding is quite easy with most species within the imitator group. They are known to be monogamous, though some have success with 1 male and 2 females. Once you’re sure you have 1 male and 1 female, watch for the male calling near a spot he deems fit for egg laying. If the female is interested she’ll follow him around the tank and stroke his back, and if she approves, will eventually lay eggs. The parents will take care of the development. Just make sure to either have bromeliads or film canisters with a suction cup mounted in different arrangements throughout the tank filled with a bit of water for egg laying/tadpole rearing containers, and water sources. The female will deposit infertile eggs to feed her tadpoles. If you prefer to raise them on your own that is something I’d wait to hone your skills on before trying. Other than that just wait for little versions of the adults hopping around in the tank.