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Red-headed Poison Frog

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Other common names: Crowned Poison Frog; Rana Venenosa

Scientific name: Dendrobates fantasticus / Ranitomeya fantastica

The basics:
The Red-headed Poison Frog is a small and colorful poison dart frog which is native to the San Martin region of northern Peru. Dendrobates fantasticus lives in trees and plants above the forest floor, at elevations from 500 - 800 meters, and is active during the day.

The Red-headed Poison Frog is protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), however large numbers of Dendrobates fantasticus have been illegally exported from Peru to Europe and North America. The Red-headed Poison Frog is currently classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), "as Near Threatened given that it has an extent of occurrence estimated to be about 5,318 km2, it is known from 13 locations, it is not considered to be severely fragmented, and there is continuing decline in the area, extent and quality of its habitat in northern Peru and a decline in the number of mature individuals due to collection for the pet trade, making it close to qualifying for Vulnerable (VU)."

Appearance / health:
R. fantastica are also quite a large species of Ranitomeya with adults reaching up to 20mm. Stereotypically, most specimens have a red-orange crown, black bodies, and blue-white reticulations that depend on where they’re from(higher or lower elevation). The highest degree of variability in coloration tends to occur around the transition zones between lowland and highland morphs.

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.

Housing:
Since R. fantastica morphs range from Highland to Lowland your choice for a suitable tank will depend on where your specimens are from. For instance, the lowland morph would be better suited for more terrestrial area than vertical. However, the Highland morph would prefer the opposite. Therefore, I would suggest a 20 gallon tank, at least, for either morph. The difference in construction would be in the arrangement of the tank. I would construct a 20 gallon in a horizontal orientation for the lowland morph and for the Highland morph I’d construct a vertical 20 gallon tank. For the morphs that fall in between make sure to do your research and build it accordingly. It’s quite obvious how to construct a horizontal tank, as you’re simply laying the tank in the way it’s built to be used. Although, getting a sealed glass top or a screen top that’s covered to prevent moisture loss is a good idea. In order to construct a vertical tank you’ll need to either purchase a vertical kit or do it yourself. To do it yourself you’ll need cut glass, some acrylic parts(found at Josh’s frogs), and 100% silicone sealant. Instructions can be found online doing a simple search or referring to a future publication on this site.

Substrate choices include:
ABG mix
Peat moss/orchid bark
Jungle Mix
Cocosoft/Orchid bark
Or a mixture of and/or peat moss, orchid bark, coco chunks, leaf litter, sphagnum moss, and tree fern fiber.
I’d suggest Google searching “ABG mix” and mixing a substrate similar to that.

As far as plants go the tank should include bromeliads, some vining plants(philodendrons, pothos), ferns, begonias, and some ground cover. It’s really your choice but make sure that all plants are frog safe and do not contain pesticides or fertilizers.

You may use film canisters stuck to the glass using a suction cup as water areas and egg laying spots. You may usually be able to ask your neighborhood photography store for extra canisters, as they generally give them to you for free. Be sure to provide a lot of leaf litter to hide under and wood to climb on. Malaysian driftwood, Ghostwood, and Mopani wood are good choices, though I prefer Malaysian driftwood for it’s anti-molding qualities.

As far as plants go the tank should include bromeliads, some vining plants(philodendrons, pothos), ferns, begonias, and some ground cover. It’s really your choice but make sure that all plants are frog safe and do not contain pesticides or fertilizers.

You may use film canisters stuck to the glass using a suction cup as water areas and egg laying spots. You may usually be able to ask your neighborhood photography store for extra canisters, as they generally give them to you for free. Be sure to provide a lot of leaf litter to hide under and wood to climb on. Malaysian driftwood, Ghostwood, and Mopani wood are good choices, though I prefer Malaysian driftwood for it’s anti-molding qualities.

Finally a false bottom should be considered, unless you prefer to deconstruct your tank a lot in order to clean it. Not including one allows for the water sprayed into the tank to move down and rest at the bottom of the tank, thus becoming stagnant. Stagnant water will act as a breeding ground for all types of bacteria. A false bottom is a way to separate the standing water from the substrate, and allows for easier removal of this water.

Two ways to build a false bottom are:
1. Put about a 2-5” layer of hydroton on the bottom of the tank while separating the substrate from the hydroton using window screening that is put on top of the hydroton and anchored down by the substrate on top.

2. Use PVC pipe cut into “pillars” of around 2”-4” in height, spread them evenly and silicone them to the bottom of the tank, cut a section of “egg crate” ceiling tile to fit perfectly the dimensions of the bottom while covering the egg crate with the screening, and lay the screening covered egg crate on top of the PVC pillars. Finally put your substrate on top. This allows you to view the water level so that you can syphon out the water using 1/4” tubing once it gets higher than you prefer.

Care is quite easy once you have your tank setup properly and follow these simple rules. The first issue to address are your water choices. Using either Reverse osmosis, aged tap, or treated water is essential for misting. Misting should be done around 1-2x’s every 1-3 days so that the relative humidity within the tank is roughly 40-100%. Do not use water straight from the tap, baby water(that contains flouride), or untreated water. My preference is Reverse osmosis water as it is absolutely pure. You may find it at some Grocery stores, most Aquarium shops, or pet stores. Regardless, make sure to change water dishes every few days, as well as making sure that there isn’t any foul smell coming from the tank. If so, think about cleaning the tank thoroughly without using any types of soaps or cleaners. A 10% bleach/water solution or simply water and a razor blade will do just fine.

Either way, the goal is to maintain an internal temperature within the tank of around 68o-82o during the day with a 10o drop at night. In order to attain this temperature place any florescent light around 2-4” above the tank or a 25 watt-50 watt heating bulb around 4”-6” above the tank. Check to make sure you’re hitting the right temperature, as all houses may differ depending on season. Be sure to then make adjustments as needed. The light cycle should be set for 12hrs. on/12hrs. off schedule.

Finally, the last rule is to not handle your frogs, or at least, not more than 1-2 times a week for short periods of time. Remember that their skin is semi-permeable which means that the bacteria on your hands, or anything else, could be absorbed directly into your animal. This may result in death or disease in your animal which can be easily avoided.

Diet:
All dart frogs in the thumbnail group will feed on Melanogaster fruit flies as the main part of their diet, although a varied diet is essential to help keep your frogs healthy.

The most common feeding insects are:
Fruit Flies (Melanogaster or Turkish Gliders for small darts)
Springtails
Isopods
Bean Beetles
Rice Flour Beetles
Firebrats
Termites
10 day old crickets (only for larger dart frog species

Generally, you should feed around 10-20 flies/frog every 1-4 days while dusting the flies every 2-3 times per week with a high quality vitamin/calcium supplement. Repcal, Herpovite, Dendrocare, Repashy, and Nekton are all high quality supplements to use. Also, make sure that you have a multivitamin with calcium and D3 or purchase a calcium supplement with D3 separately. Finally, add some springtails and isopods to act as a cleanup crew, some variety in their diet, and to help turn dead leaves and flies into soil. The other mentioned feeding items should be researched prior to including in your frogs diet.

Breeding:
Breeding can be a little tougher for R. fantastica, in some cases. Generally, they are quite shy while courting and gradually become bolder once transporting tadpoles. One key element of promoting breeding in R. fantastica is by keeping a heavily planted tank, including a lot of ground cover, feeding heavily, misting often, give lots of egg deposition sites, and keep the tank in a low traffic area.

As with most Ranitomeya, the male will call from a egg deposition spot(though R. fantastica have very quiet calls), if she’s interested she will follow him and they will then lay around 4-6 eggs. The eggs will hatch and then be transported by the male to a rearing container or bromeliad to morph into small froglets.

Written by Matthew Olsen

wonderful

beautiful frog

challenging

shy frog

interesting

lowland species, quality multivitamincalcium supplement, semiarboreal tank

Health Tip

Red-headed Poison Frog

From Oct 9 2012 4:23PM

4/5

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