The strawberry poison frog (Oophaga pumilio) is a brilliant red frog from tropical regions of the world. They are fascinating to watch, and stay small. This species can be difficult to keep, and is more of an amphibian for advanced or serious reptile collectors. This frog is found in Costa Rica and Panama, feeding on small invertebrates.
Most of these poison frogs are red, but there are variables in color, and more morphs are being created. Adult dart frogs get ¾ to 1 inch long, and can live for several years.
Handling and Aggression
Strawberry poison dart frogs are fast, small, and slippery. They are best left alone because they do not like being handled or grabbed at. It would be extremely easy to lose one because it slipped out of your hands.
Because of their small size, they need small food they can swallow easily. Fruit flies and pinhead crickets are ideal for an adult frog. When dusted with pure calcium supplement once a week, they make an ideal staple.
Most poison frogs will take food every 3 days, but if there are still many prey items in the tank after three days, wait until they are consumed before feeding more.
An adult or pair can live comfortably in a 10 gallon enclosure. Do not house males together unless it is the breeding season, because of unnecessary fighting. This tank that they are kept in should be high instead of long with a secure screen over the top to prevent escape.
A couple pieces of cork bark or coconut huts work well to provide small, damp spaces for a dart frog to rest in during the daytime. The leaves and cover of live or fake plants works well too.
The basic paper towel substrate works fine and are easy to clean, but many keepers like the more natural look of mosses and orchid bark. Orchid bark or bed-a-beast mixed with sphagnum moss works well as a substrate.
Since the strawberry poison frog likes it humid, a drainage layer beneath the 2-3 inches of substrate is required. This layer should consist of and inch of pebbles or pea gravel. On top of this a fine mesh sheet should be placed over the rocks, letting water get in and keeping the upper substrate out. This bottom layer is not needed if you are using paper towels.
Room temperature, about 70-80 degrees is suitable for a strawberry poison dart frog. This means that heating devices are not normally required, and temperatures can drop 10 degrees at night. If heat is a problem, a low wattage bulb works well. Poison frogs need a photoperiod of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark.
Humidity and Water
Amphibians absorb things through their skin and so dechlorinated, purified spring water needs to be used when misting. The enclosure should be misted thoroughly nightly. A large shallow water bowl that the frog can stand up in is a must. These frogs cannot swim, so keep the water shallow.
Paper towel substrate needs to be replaced when soiled, and loose substrates every six months. Spot clean daily, and be sure fresh water is provided at all times.
Very few keepers are able to successfully breed this species and it takes very much effort. Of all the eggs a female can lay, only a fraction will hatch, even in the hands of an experienced keeper.
In October or November, make the photoperiod gradually slower, and drop the temperatures 10F. They will go into more of a dormant stage at this time, and will not eat as much, and the tank should be misted every other day. Then, in April, bring the temperatures back up and increase the photoperiod length back to normal.
In the wild, the rainy season would begin, and this is what tells them it is time to mate. The cage will need to be misted down a couple times a day for three weeks. During this time the female will find a spot to lay her eggs somewhere tucked away with enough water. Soon after, the male will fertilize them, and will keep them hydrated and protected until they hatch.
You may have to experiment over many years to find out what works best and to be successful.
When the tadpoles emerge from their eggs, the mother takes over, and they cling on her back as she carries them to the water. These creatures are delicate, and should not be handled with your hands. Put a few rocks in the water bowl so when they are ready to emerge from the water, the froglets will not drown.
Feeding is not a problem because the female lays unfertilized eggs next to each tadpole that are meant as food, and will not become future siblings.
The strawberry poison frog is a difficult, but satisfying reptile to keep and breed. They rarely get to an inch long, and are aggressive feeders. These animals are beautiful, and if you can provide the proper care, they are very enjoyable and a great part to any collection.
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