The first thing we need to clarify is the difference between a froglet,
a juvenile, a sub-adult, and an adult dart frog!
It sounds fairly obvious, but there is a great deal of confusion and these terms are often confused and used inappropriately.
A froglet is used to describe a tadpole that has just completed metamorphisis until it is approximately 2 months of age.
A juvenile is a frog that has grown out of the froglet stage, but has not yet reached sub-adulthood. This is usually from 2-6 months of age for larger
frogs (azureus, auratus, tincs, leucomelas etc.) and perhaps 2-5 months for thumbnails. A frog from 6-10 or 12 months should be considered a
sub-adult. A sub-adult frog will begin to show signs of sexual maturity, including more obvious changes in body structure, fighting between same sex frogs,
and the start of calling behavior in males. Thumbnail species often mature more quickly, and can be considered sub-adults from about 5-7 months of age.
Finally, an adult frog is one that can be considered sexually mature. For the larger species this usually means a frog that has reached an age of 12-18 months of age, and
for thumbnails 7-12 months. Of course, there are always exceptions to these general rules and some frogs may mature much more quickly or much more slowly than
average. It has been my experience that frogs that mature quickly and begin to breed at an early age tend to produce significantly more infertile or otherwise
inferior clutches of eggs before they successfully produce healthy offspring. Alternatively, it has also been my experience that frogs that mature more
slowly (albiet within the above mentioned time frames) tend to produce viable offspring more quickly and oftentimes with the first clutch. That said, I suggest
patience when raising up your frogs for breeding purposes. It's not always easy to wait, but I find it much more rewarding to find good eggs rather then clutch after clutch
of infertile eggs that fail to develop.
I would like to point out that first time buyers may not be sure what to look for when choosing their first animals and should be aware that some sellers
may offer very small and/or very young froglets for sale. While it is certainly possible to have success when purchasing these frogs the stress of being relocated, and in some cases shipped across the country, can take a heavy toll on the very young. That said, I encourage buyers to find a reputable
breeder from which to purchase. At a minimum, I recommend that frog be at least 2 months and preferably 3-4 months (Juveniles) at the time of purchase. A 3-4 month
old juvenile will be a MUCH sturdier animal and much more forgiving of the stress of shipping and any accidental beginner mistakes.
The frogs offered for sale here at JL-Exotics are well started juveniles and should be expected to thrive with the proper care and feeding.
I would also like to point out that very little about raising, keeping, or breeding frogs is carved in stone. There are many different ways to
accomplish these tasks and there is often no "right or wrong" - only what works and what doesn't. There are several basic concepts that we will cover in
this caresheet, but what works for one hobbiest may not work as well for another. That said, I would encourage everyone to do as much research as possible
and to speak with as many successful breeders as possible. The methods I use have proven to be effective for me, but your results may vary. If you do find
yourself having trouble feel free to shoot me a note. I am always happy to share my experience with folks and often times I learn just as much as I teach!
Housing Young Frogs
Young frogs are not naturally skilled hunters. They need time to develop those skills,
so it's best to keep your young frogs in a relatively small enclosure. This will help them locate food more easily and should ensure that
they can find enough food readily available. A small shoe box sized plastic tub is ideal. Small 2.5 or 5 gallon aquariums will also work nicely,
but a glass lid will be required for any aquariums to ensure adequate humidity can be maintained. Tropical frogs do not require ventilation, other then
the occassional opening of the tank so don't bother with installing air holes or screen sections. I wouldn't recommend anything larger than a 10
gallon tank initially, but if given enough attention any sized tank can work. I've recently see clear plastic 190 oz. containers gaining popularity
for growing out froglets. I've used shoe boxes, small tanks, and the 190 oz containers and they all work nicely. Using such small quarters will
help you observe the animals and help you witness if they are eating properly or alert you to any unusual behaviours that may signal
something is wrong. Your grow out tanks don't need to be fancy. A simple lining of damp paper towel, a few plant cuttings, and a suitable
number of hiding locations (leaves, coconut huts, film canisters, and overturned plastic tubs all work nicely for this task) are all that is required.
Be sure to keep your container(s) in a location that is quiet and with consistent and stable
temperatures. Room temperature is usually ideal and dart frogs will generally do best if kept in the low to mid 70's. Temps above 80 and below 65
should be avoided. You'll want to keep stress to a minimum, so resist the temptation to pull them out a look at them too often. Once or twice
a day is fine. Frogs are like fish, they are made for looking and not for touching!
You can use aged tap water or bottled spring water to mist the enclosure and moisten the paper towels/substrate. If necessary, a de-clorination
product can be used if your water is heavily chlorinated or you don't have time (or patience!) to let the tap water age properly (24-48 hours).
I've used a commonly available product called Amquel PLUS successfully for this purpose. The frog should be checked at
least daily to feed and mist to maintain humidity. Be aware that even plastic shoe boxes with tight
fitting lids do have some level of airflow that
can allow moisture to escape in dryer environments. The paper towels should be changed regularly (weekly is usually ok) and any feces rinsed
away and removed.
I prefer to use a thin layer of sphagnum moss instead of the paper towels as it seems to maintain moisture better and provides more natural
places for young frogs to burrow in and hide. In addition, the moss does not require such frequent replacement and can be sprayed down to flush
waste from the surfaces for a few weeks before replacement is necessary. I recommend keeping your young frogs in their grow out tanks for
at least the first month and preferable two. Generally speaking, when you see that your young frogs are plump, active, and effectively hunting
for stray fruit flies between feedings they are ready for a larger more naturalistic home.
Feeding Young Frogs
Some people prefer to provide several smaller meals to their young frogs thoughout the day. This can
help reduce the possibility that the frogs will become stressed by excess food items in the tank. Unfortunately, few of us have
a schedule that would allow this! I find that daily feedings are more than adequate and even skipping an occasional day here and there
does not seem to have any ill effect. Consistency is key though, so do try and get into a routine of daily feeding and your
frogs will be sure to flourish. As previously mentioned, enough food items should be provided to allow the frogs to forage
throughout the day, but not so many that the frogs are overwhelmed with food items crawling all over them. This can stress them
quickly to the point of death. After a few feedings you will begin to get a feel for the appropriate amount. If there are no food
items left the next day then feed a bit more. If the tank is overrun with food, cut back. Ideally, there will only be a few food
items left before the next feeding.
Now that we have covered the frequency of feeding your young frogs, we need
to discuss WHAT to feed them. The most commonly used food item is flightless fruit flies. Take note, there are several
different types of fruit fly and they are not all created equally! There are a number of genetically engineered strains of
Drosophila melanogaster that are suitable for feeding young and/or small frogs. Both flightless and wingless strains
may be used. I prefer the wingless strain for freshly morphed froglets as they are slightly smaller (without wings) and tend
walk rather than hop or take short flights. They also tend to stay on the floor rather than climb to the upper reaches as the
flightless strains tend to do. Frogs simply love the small size and slow ant like walking movements of the wingless fruit flies.
The flightless strain of fruit flies are excellent for slightly older frogs that have begun to develop their hunting skills.
The flightless strain also tends to be more prolific (you'll get more flies from each culture) than the wingless, so if you have a
number of frogs to feed they are certainly worth adding to your feeder collection.
NOTE: DO NOT MIX YOUR FLIES!!! IF YOU MIX ANY OF THE MELANOGASTER
STRAINS IN THE SAME CULTURE, OR LET A WILD FRUIT FLY INTO A CULTURE, THEY WILL CREATE WILD TYPE (I.E. FLYING)
If you have a spouse or family member that is not crazy about having "bugs" in the house in the first place
a culture full of flying fruit flies will make you VERY unpopular. Few people can be expected to tolerate
a swarm of fruit flies landing in their water or marching across their plate at the dinner table. PLEASE - be careful not to
accidently mix your flies.
Don't let the above warning scare you from culturing your own fruit flies
They really are an ideal food source, are easy to culture, and are by far the most economical food source for your frogs.
For more information on the types of fruit flies commonly available and detailed instructions for culturing you own supply
of fruit flies please see my caresheet dedicated to
fruit fly culuturing.