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Reticulated Poison Frog

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Other common names: Vents; Dendrobate À Ventre Tacheté

Scientific name: Ranitomeya ventrimaculata

The basics:
The Reticulated Poison Frog is native to several tropical lowland forests in the Amazon River basin. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the wild population of Ranitomeya ventrimaculata is "listed 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 Reticulated Poison Frog is 15-20mm in size, and has five bright yellow or orange-red stripes on its back.

Housing:
For housing a pair of Ranitomeya ventrimaculata, I’d suggest a 10 gallon tank at the very least, however a 20 gallon tank or larger is generally what I prefer. It’s a great idea to convert the horizontally oriented tank to a vertical oriented tank using cut glass, some acrylic parts, and 100% silicone sealant. Instructions can be found online doing a simple search or looking on sites like Josh’s Frogs, Black Jungle, Dendroboard, or DartDen.

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 Ranitomeya ventrimaculata is no harder than any other thumbnail dart frog. Providing only a few necessary provisions are all you need to help spark breeding behavior in most frogs.

Generally, the males will first look for a proper egg deposition site (film canister, bromeliad, leaf, etc.) . Next, he will begin to call from that site until the female decides if the site is good enough for her tastes. If so, she’ll follow him around and may stroke his back. Upon noticing her interest he will then lead her into the egg deposition site where she will lay her eggs and he will fertilize them. After the eggs develop into viable tadpoles the parents will take them, one by one, to a tadpole rearing site(film canister, water dish, bromeliad) and continue to feed them infertile eggs until the tadpoles morph into their adult form.

You may choose to raise the tadpoles on your own or you may opt to let the parents do so. The choice is up to you although tadpoles seem to develop more quickly and larger than tank raised tadpoles. It is also a more dangerous process as we are more likely to accidentally kill a tadpole than a parent would be.

Here are the “need to knows”, or at least, what’s worked for me in the past and present as guidelines to breeding dart frogs.

1. Make 100% sure you have 1 girl and 1 boy. It may sound dumb, but there aren’t any more sure fire ways of sexing these frogs than by watching a male call and a female follow him into a container and lay eggs. Even though there are markers and/or morphological differences, it’s very hard for almost anyone to use them to sex frogs so accurately that there isn’t any margin of error.

2. So many objects can be used as egg deposition sites, it’d surprise you what have been some of the best things to use as such. I’ve had success with everything from your tried and true film canisters, old vitamin containers, pvc piping, prescription jars, to candy containers. You’ll find some things just work better than others for certain pairs of frogs. So mix it up by the way of container type, orientation, placement, color, filled with water or dry, and anything else you can think of. Just make sure to rinse thoroughly, and make sure there aren’t any residues in any of the containers you use.

3. Keep an eye on your frogs behavior and comfortability within their habitat. A happy frog is usually a bold(er) frog, not a skinny scared frog. Remember, wide open tanks may be preferable to some people so they can more readily view their frog, although a wide open tank may stress out your frog in many ways. In the long run a heavier planted tank should help keep your frogs a bit bolder, encourage more breeding, and maintain a better record of health.

4. Healthy parent frogs equal healthy babies. Vitamin supplements are key, especially good ones. I highly suggest Repashy, Nekton, Dendrocare, and Rep-Cal. Just make sure to get a multivitamin and calcium/D3 supplement whether separate or together.(Vitamin A is great too). Feed a variety also, for small frogs use small food like springtails for more calcium in their diet.

5. Increase the average amount of feeding and misting that you do during your breeding season by about 30-50 percent. All animals goal is to time their offsprings hatching/morphing out at the time of the year when food is most abundant. The rainy season is the most abundant for dart frogs because more rain means more food and more water means more breeding sites. Also, keep the lights on for 12 hrs and then off for 12hrs.

6. Leave them alone if you notice a lot of calling, then suddenly a bit less or none at all. They may be courting and laying eggs, so try not to bother them. Doing so could result in negatively reinforcing breeding. I don’t mean you have to be extremely quite or anything, just don’t go rearranging the tanks looking for them all the time.

Generally, the males will first look for a proper egg deposition site (film canister, bromeliad, leaf, etc.) . Next, he will begin to call from that site until the female decides if the site is good enough for her tastes. If so, she’ll follow him around and may stroke his back. Upon noticing her interest he will then lead her into the egg deposition site where she will lay her eggs and he will fertilize them. After the eggs develop into viable tadpoles the parents will take them, one by one, to a tadpole rearing site (film canister, water dish, bromeliad) and continue to feed them infertile eggs until the tadpoles morph into their adult form.

Written by Matthew Olsen