Dendrobatid Frogs - Species

he following is not a comprehensive list of these frogs, but an introduction based on my personal experience with those I have kept. The locations in the picture captions refer the to natural range of the frogs; all of these were photographed in my collection and almost all were captive bred.


Dendrobates

The genus Dendrobates was the first to be described and, until recent revisions, included many of the other frogs in the family. The five species still in the genus are medium to large (for poison dart frogs)  and are all relatively easy to keep and breed.  These are best kept in pairs only and a 10-20 gallon tank provides plenty of room for a pair.  They are all predominantly terrestrial so floor space will be utilized more than height unless different levels are built into their terraria.  They all flick their tongue to capture tiny insects and even the largest tinctorius need fruit fly sized food. Most of these are outgoing frogs which will easily be visible in  the terrarium and are the best choice for most beginning hobbyists.

  All of the Dendrobates are closely related and can hybridize if mixed.  With the possible exception of truncatus and auratus in northern Colombia, none of their ranges overlap in the wild.  


Dendrobates leucomelas is native to parts of Venezuela and neighboring Guyana, Brazil and Colombia.  The usual phase is black with irregular, spotted yellow to orange bands.  Forms with solid yellow bands, broad, finely spotted bands and green toes are also out there.  These are medium sized for poison dart frogs.  In my experience they range from 30-35 mm as adults. The banded form gets somewhat larger.

These are one of the best beginner frogs, they aren't overly aggressive and can be kept (but not bred) in groups.   Compared to most other species, they are less likely to die when exposed to too warm or cold temperatures, when allowed to get drier or when not fed adequately for a while.  These are also fairly bold frogs which can be seen frequently and don’t dart for cover as fast as some other species.

While all these frogs are somewhat seasonal in their breeding, leucomelas are more strongly seasonal than their relatives.

 
 












  Dendrobates leucomelas

  Venezuela
   












  Dendrobates leucomelas

   ‘Banded’
   Guyana
 









 
  Dendrobates leucomelas
  'Fine-spotted'
  Bolivar, Venezuela
   
 
   

Dendrobates auratus is the Central American representative of the genus and ranges from Nicaragua to a tiny corner of Colombia.  They are quite variable with most being green or blue and black, but can be shades of brown and white as well.   These are a medium sized poison dart frog.  Some forms like the ancon hill are  a little smaller than the leucomelas (reach about 25mm).  The other forms tend to be around 30-40 mm with the green and bronze tending to the higher end of that range.

These are another of the best beginner frogs.  Just like leucomelas, they aren’t overly aggressive and can be kept (but not bred) in groups.   They are also capable of surviving occasional high and low temperatures,  a bit drier conditions and less food on occasion.  Unfortunately many forms of auratus can be quite shy and disappear for long periods in their tanks.  The darker colored Panamanian varieties such as the blue, ancon hill, and Taboga have been shy for me and the brown forms have that reputation as well.  The green and black frogs from Nicaragua and Costa Rican stock have been less shy.  The Panamanian green and bronze form has been especially outgoing for me.  


 
 












  Dendrobates auratus

  ‘Green and Bronze’
  Panama
 



  












  Dendrobates auratus

  ‘Campana’
  Panama
 
















  Dendrobates auratus
  ‘Blue’
  Panama
 

 












  Dendrobates auratus

  ‘Hawaiian’
  Originally: Taboga Panama
 












  Dendrobates auratus
  ‘Green and Black’
  Costa Rica
   
  










  Dendrobates auratus

  ‘Ancon Hill’
  Panama
 
  















  Dendrobates auratus

  ‘Portobelo’
  Panama






Dendrobates truncatus from Colombia, is very similar in its needs and behavior to the auratus.   The yellow form I have kept has stayed a little smaller at 25 mm while the blue have gotten more like 30 mm. These have been quite shy, though the yellow are proving to be prolific for me.



 
 












  Dendrobates truncatus
  ‘Blue’
  Colombia
    












  Dendrobates truncatus

  ‘Yellow’
  Colombia





Dendrobates tinctorius (including azureus which used to be considered a separate species) are colorful, very bold and, under the right conditions, very productive breeders.  They are often kept as first frogs and often do very well, but aren't quite as tough as the leucomelas and auratus.   The forms most frequently kept in the hobby now originated in Suriname, but these also live throughout French Guiana and in a small sliver of the northern edge of Brazil.  

 These come in a wide variety of colors and patterns.  Most have a black background.  Some combine this a single shade of blue, white, yellow or orange.  Many are three colored combining black with some shade of blue on the belly, legs and/or sides with yellow or white stripes on the back.

These get to be big frogs, but come out of the water as froglets that are just as small as their smaller relatives.  They are less tolerant of poor conditions and extreme temperatures than auratus and leucomelas, but more forgiving than many species from the other genera.     These eat only small food, but need a lot more of it than smaller frogs. I have seen many of these kept by beginning hobbyists which have been stunted by not being fed with sufficient frequency and quantity through critical growth periods and seriously underweight adults which never fully recovered from periods of starvation when novice keeper's fruit fly cultures crash.

These frogs are exceptionally bold and will often sit at the front of their tank almost begging for food.  They are also less tolerant of each other than many species and should be kept only in pairs.  Females especially are very aggressive toward one another and if more than one female is kept together one will usually die.


 
















   Dendrobates tinctorius
   ‘Oyapok’
   French Guiana
 


















    Dendrobates tinctorius
   ‘Matecho’
    French Guiana
 













    Dendrobates tinctorius
   ‘Giant Orange’
   French Guiana
   














    Dendrobates tinctorius
   ‘Yellowback’
    French Guiana
 
 













    Dendrobates tinctorius
   ‘Saul Yellowback’
    French Guiana
   













    Dendrobates tinctorius
   ‘Citronella’
    Central Suriname
   














   Dendrobates tinctorius
   ‘Suriname Cobalt’
    Northern Suriname
 


 














    Dendrobates tinctorius

   ‘Suriname Cobalt’
    Northern Suriname
   















    Dendrobates tinctorius
   ‘Powder Blue’
    Northern Suriname
   
















    
Dendrobates tinctorius
   ‘Patricia’
    Central Suriname
   











Dendrobates tinctorius
   ‘Brazilian Yellow-head’
    Northern Amapa, Brazil
    
 











   Dendrobates tinctorius
  ‘Oelemarie’
   South-east Suriname
 
 














    Dendrobates tinctorius
   ‘Alanis’
    South-east Suriname
 















    Dendrobates tinctorius
   ‘Infer-Alanis’
    South-east Suriname

 
 
















    Dendrobates tinctorius
   ‘Green Sipaliwini’
    Southern Suriname
     














    Dendrobates tinctorius

   ‘Blue Sipaliwini’
    Southern Suriname
 
 












    Dendrobates tinctorius
   ‘Azureus’
    Southern Suriname
   





Adelphobates

Adelphobates galactonotus used to be considered a member of Dendrobates and has many characteristics in common with those species.  These are from the Brazilian Amazon and those  most commonly kept are black on the legs and belly with a solid yellow, orange or red back.  Solid or nearly solid white and orange forms are also out there and a range of other colors have been suggested as occurring in these in the wild.

These are reputed to do well and breed in groups, I have had them breed in pairs and in groups of five, but not in threes and fours (probably not for any real reasons).  For me they have been much less prolific than the Dendrobates or Phyllobates species.  They are medium sized frogs; mine have reached from 30-35 mm.  They have been less long-lived for me than the Dendrobates species, but have otherwise thrived under similar conditions.  Among the most outgoing poison dart frogs, these are just as bold as tinctorius.  They spend much of their time sitting at the front of the tank waiting for food and rarely run for cover when their tank opens.  


 


 











    
    Adelphobates galactonotus
   ‘Yellow’
    Para, Brazilian Amazon
   
 













   
Adelphobates galactonotus
   ‘Red’
    Para, Brazilian Amazon
 
 















    Adelphobates galactonotus
   ‘Orange’
    Para, Brazilian Amazon
 





 















    Adelphobates galactonotus

   ‘Solid Oragne’
    Para, Brazilian Amazon
 





Phyllobates

    This is a relatively small genus of frogs from Colombia and parts of Central America.  These are the frogs that give the whole group its name as they are the ones that are dangerously toxic in the wild and are used by certain Native American groups to poison their blow-gun darts.  In captivity they do not seem to produce these potent skin toxins, but it would be wise to touch them only with caution, especially if feeding field sweepings or other wild insects.

     Many of these have proven very productive in captivity, they don’t breed as regularly as some other species, but they lay large clutches (at least for this family) and most have adapted well to captive conditions.  They will take larger food than many other frogs making it easier to feed the adults and can be kept in groups without problems.   Most are very outgoing.  In my experience they are more sensitive to dirty enclosures and to high temperatures than the Dendrobates and have not done well when raised alongside species from other genera.


Phyllobates bicolor is a large and bold frog which is dangerously toxic in the wild.  These are generally yellow to orange, usually with dark green to black back legs.  They originate in Colombia along the western side of the Andes.  These get relatively large for poison dart frogs (up to 40 mm).

These frogs are very outgoing and are often visible and audible as they call frequently.  These also do well and breed well in larger groups than the other frogs.  My breeding group consists of 12 adults and over many years I have not seen any negative effects of keeping this many bicolor together.

These can take larger food than the Dendrobates.  They will use their tongue to catch small food, but will also use their front legs to stuff larger food items into their mouths.  Adults are quite capable of eating ¼ inch crickets and may take them even larger, but this can lead to impaction and other health problems.  I feed them a mix of ¼” crickets and D. hydei, giving them predominantly fruit flies when i have plenty and buying crickets when I am running short on the flies.

 
 













    Phyllobates bicolor 
    Orange
    Rio San Juan Area, Colombia



Phyllobates terribilis is very similar to bicolor in its needs, but gets bigger, up to 45 mm and very heavy-bodied.  In the wild it is even more toxic.  These large, bold, impressive frogs come in bright orange, yellow or greenish white.  They have proved less easy to keep and breed than the bicolor, but the mint form has begun breeding consistently for me.



   










    Phyllobates terribilis 
   ‘Mint’
    Rio Saja Area, Colombia
   









    Phyllobates terribilis 

   ‘Yellow’
    Rio Saja Area, Colombia




Phyllobates aurotaenia is a much smaller species (approximately 25 mm in my experience) from Colombia which retains the striped pattern the larger species show as juveniles and is a mostly black frog with green, yellow, or orange stripes down each side of its back and blueish specking on the legs.

These have requirements similar to the other Phyllobates species, except need smaller food to accommodate their smaller size.  These have proven rather reluctant breeders for me when compared to the bicolor.

 
 










    Phyllobates bicolor 
    Green-Banded
    Western Colombia




Phyllobates vittatus is another small striped Phyllobates, but comes from Costa Rica.  It has a black back striped in bright orange and blueish legs and belly.   In my experience it has gotten slightly larger than aurotaenia (to about 30 mm), but remains much smaller than the bicolor or terribilis and needs similar    It has a reputation as being easy to breed and prolific, but the few I have kept have not born this out.  Phyllobates lugubris is a very similar frog which has sometimes been confused with vittatus and would seem to be identical in its captive requirements.

 
 










    Phyllobates vittatus 
    Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica
 







Ranitomeya


    This genus includes the smallest species in the family and some of the smallest frogs period.  Before Grant’s recent revision these were considered the ventrimaculatus  (or vent for short) group within Dendrobates and the genus Minyobates.  These are also sometimes referred to as thumbnails because of their small size, but this is an imprecise term which is sometimes also used to refer to the small Oophaga species.  Like the Oophaga many of these species provide food eggs for their tadpoles, but with these species this appears to be more of a supplement than a requirement and their tadpoles can be reared separately like those of the other members of the family.

   There are two groups within this genus.  The first group from west of the Andes, mainly in Colombia, but extending into Central America, used to be considered part of Minyobates.  While there are some colorful and interesting species in this group, very few are available to the hobby.  The second group from east of the Andes are widely kept.  They reach their greatest diversity where the Amazon Basin meets the Andes in Peru and these ‘vent group’ frogs include all of those described below.

    These need small food.  Adults can take D. melanogaster, but froglets usually need really tiny food like springtails to get started.  Unlike all of the previously covered species, these are primarily arboreal and will appreciate taller terraria.  They shelter in bromeliads in the wild and will use them for egg laying sites and hiding places in the terrarium.   Their cages need to be especially tight; their small size means that they can escape from even tiny gaps.  Tall cages are often designed to open from the front and this makes servicing them much easier, but they can be nervous and bounce out of their tank and into whatever tiny crack they can find as soon as the door opens, so I find that if a front opening terrarium is used it is safer to have multiple or small doors so the whole front isn’t ever open at once.  Most of these are shy frogs and even the boldest species are active mostly in the morning.


Ranitomeya amazonica was recently revised to include many forms that used to be considered ventrimaculata (or vents for short), this species includes forms from a vast range across the Amazon basin and onto the Guiana shield.  The first type seen in the hobby is typical of many of these frogs and originated from French Guiana.  It has a black background color with white to grey or greenish reticulation on the legs and narrow, sometimes irregular yellow stripes on the back.   These are very small, rarely exceeding  about 15 mm.

    These frogs seem to do well when kept under good conditions and provided with plenty of food and breed more readily than many other Ranitomeya.  Unfortunately this is a  very shy frog and disappears fast when it sees movement outside its tank.  One lone male that has done well for me for many years, I only see a few times each year.

    Peruvian forms of the species like the one from the Iquitos area have a similar pattern, but often with more orange stripes and have a reputation of being a little larger and a some a little bolder than the French Guiana vents.


 
 















    Ranitomeya amazonica
    French Guiana


Ranitomeya sirensis is a very striking frog with a black and yellow to red (usually striped) back and black spotted legs.  The forms in the hobby were until recently considered a separate species R. lamasi a name which is still frequently used. The most often seen form, from Panguana, Peru has narrow yellow stripes across its back.  The rare and expensive ‘standard lamasi’ form has very wide yellow stripes.  An orange form is also commonly kept and some are even striped with a brilliant red.  These are also small (up to maybe 18 mm).  Given the right conditions, these have proven easy to keep, but unfortunately very shy and skittish like many of the vents. My orange frogs have been less shy than the yellow Panguana morph.


 
 














    Ranitomeya sirensis 
   ‘Panguana’
    Peruvian Amazon
      













    Ranitomeya sirensis 

    Orange ‘lamasi’
    Peruvian Amazon
 
 








    Ranitomeya sirensis 
   ‘Panguana’
    albino
   





Ranitomeya variabilis is classically a metallic yellow to green (yellow on the head becoming greener on the back) frog with black spots.  I have kept a form from the INIBICO project which gets a little over 15mm and a southern form that gets a little larger.  Like most of the Ranitomeya listed here comes from the Peruvian Amazon.  This frog has a reputation for doing well in groups compared to some of the other species in the genus.  It is also a little more outgoing than many of its relatives and though nowhere near as bold as many of the larger frogs, mine are frequently out in the open, often on the front pane of their terrarium in the morning.

Some of the striped frogs from Peru such as the Borja Ridge locale that used to be considered ventrimaculata then amazonica have recently been reclassified as variabilis.


 
 
















    Ranitomeya variabilis 
   ‘INIBICO’
    Peruvian Amazon
   
 






   
Ranitomeya variabilis 
   ‘Southern’
    Peruvian Amazon


Ranitomeya imitator is an exceptionally variable species which mimics certain forms of ventrimaculatus, variabilis, or fantasistica.  The most commonly seem form is, like the most common variabilis, a yellow to green frog spotted with black.  The orange and black fantastica/summersi mimics were previously known as a different species, intermedius, and that name is often still used for them. The varadero form has black legs with white markings and a black and orange striped back.  Mine have all stayed in the 15-18 mm range as adults.

   All of these seem to do well compared to some of their relatives; they are less shy than amazonica or lamasi, but less outgoing than most of larger genera.  These are frequently recommended as a first Ranitomeya.  They are one which is often available and will be visible often enough to be interesting.


 
 











    Ranitomeya imitator 
    Peruvian Amazon
 











    Ranitomeya imitator 
   ‘Varadero’
    Peruvian Amazon
 
 















    Ranitomeya imitator 
   ‘intermedius’
    Peruvian Amazon
 






 
















    Ranitomeya imitator 
   ‘Banded’
    Peruvian Amazon




Ranitomeya vanzolini is a small spotted frog which was only recently become available and has done well for many frog keepers making it relatively easy to obtain. I have heard that it does well both in pairs and groups and it seems somewhat less shy than some of the other small Ranitomeya.

 
 















    Ranitomeya vanzolini 
    Peruvian Amazon





Ranitomeya reticulata is an especially small, but gorgeous species with a bright orange back and chin and the rest being black reticulated with white.  They stay under about 15 mm.  Wild caught and F1 frogs did not do well for me  in the mid 90s, but a new group of froglets have made it to adulthood without any problem. They have a reputation for being a little more challenging for thumbnails and their current high price reflects this.


 
 
















    Ranitomeya reticulata 
    Peruvian Amazon





Ranitomeya benedicta is a recently described species on the larger end of the size range for Ranitomeya (often exceeding 20 mm) which along with summersi, were previously included with fantastica.  They have a very intense orange on the head which contrasts with predominantly black body.  The Shucushuyacu form I recently started to keep has some blueish white marbling on the black body, while a more recently imported form from Papa Hermosilla has an almost solid black body.  Compared to its relatives (fantastica and summersi) benedicta appears to be the easiest form to keep and breed and while it is still not really common, it is becoming easier to get.

 
 













    Ranitomeya benedicta 
   ‘Shucushuyacu ’
    Peruvian Amazon




Oophaga


    These are the obligate egg feeders which exhibit a very strong degree of parental care, providing unfertilized food eggs to feed their tadpoles.  Unlike the Ranitomeya their tadpoles will not easily accept any substitute and must be reared by their parents, making them more difficult and much slower to reproduce in captivity.  These frogs (especially the males) have a reputation for being aggressive to one another and even to other species.  I have never tried keeping them in anything but pairs.  There are two groups within this genus, pumilio and related species from Central America and histronica and its relatives from west of the Andes in Colombia and Ecuador.

   Like the Ranitomeya, these are more arboreal frogs, though in my experience the histrionicus group is more terrestrial than pumilio.  Tall tanks with bromeliads are the best way of housing these.


Oophaga pumilio are becoming regularly available, but remain expensive because of their breeding habits.  They are being exported from Panama as ‘farm raised’ animals and are one species which may be likely to be encountered as imports as frequently as domestically raised stock.

    These are very variable in color, almost any color and many different combinations can be found in the north-west corner of Panama, but through most of its range this is a predominantly red species often with blue or black legs.  These are small (usually in the 20 mm range as adults), but many varieties are bold frogs which, unlike most of the Ranitomeya, are often visible sitting out in the open in their tanks.

    Like the Ranitomeya these need small food (usually D. melanogaster as adults and springtails as juveniles).  When full-sized and well acclimated, these are relatively hardy frogs. However, raising the froglets causes some special challenges as their tiny food is very hard to supplement with calcium. Standard practice now is to raise them in the vivarium along with their parents for from a few to several months.  In the past tricks like using calcium gluconate dripped onto their back to help them survive the first few months seemed to help. As their needs have become better understood, farm raised imported frogs have been doing better and near adult size CB frogs are becoming more regularly available. Be careful of recently imported frogs which are often stressed and infected/infested with various pathogens or small CB frogs of this species.

The escudo form of pumilio  appears to be a different species which stays significantly smaller, but appears to breed as well many of the standard forms of pumilio. Oophaga granulifera, arboreus, vincenti and speciosus are all closely related, but uncommon and expensive in the US hobby.


 
 























    Oophaga pumilio 
   ‘Solarte’
    Cayo Solarte, Bocas del Toro, Panama
     


















   
    Oophaga pumilio 

   ‘Bastimentos’
    Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro, Panama
   








    Oophaga pumilio 
   ‘Cristobal’
    Isla San Cristobal, Bocas del Toro, Panama
   







    Oophaga pumilio 

   ‘no-spot Bastimentos’
    Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro, Panama

 
    











   Oophaga pumilio 

   ‘Drago Colon’
    Isla Colon, Bocas del
    Toro, Panama
 








Oophaga pumilio 
 'Chiriqui Grande
 Chiriqui Grande
 Bocas del Toro, Panama





    
 
 















 Oophaga pumilio 
 'Salt Creek' 
 Isla Bastimentos, 
 Bocas del Toro, Panama 
    












   
Oophaga pumilio 
 ‘Almirante’
  Mainland, 
  Bocas del Toro, 
  Panama
 


 








  

    
Oophaga pumilio 
  ‘Black Jeans’
  Siqurres, Limon 
  Costa Rica
 












Oophaga pumilio 
   ‘Blue Jeans’
    Costa Rica




  
 













Oophaga sp. 
  Isla Escudo, 
  Veraguas,                Panama



 
  














Oophaga histrionica, sylvatica and lehmanni share pumilio’s tadpole raising strategies, variability of color and pattern and boldness, but are significantly larger and come from the western side of the Andes.  I was able to keep some sylvatica (they were then  considered D. histrionicus) when they were still coming out of Ecuador and they were one of my favorite frogs.  They had gorgeous bright red-orange coloration and the boldness of the most outgoing pumilio almost always being visible in their tank.  I am starting to work with a red-headed histrionica from Colombia and a variable yellow to red sylvatica.  While breeding these species is happening more regularly now, they are uncommon and expensive in the American hobby at this point.


 
 












    Oophaga histrionica 
   ‘Red-headed’
    Valle de Cauca, Colombia
    














    Oophaga histrionica 

   ‘Red-headed’
    Valle de Cauca, Colombia
 
   











    Oophaga sylvatica 
   ‘Paru’
    Esmeraldas, Ecuador
 










   Oophaga sylvatica
  'Valley morph' 
  Santo Domingo, Ecuador







Ameerga


I have kept only Ameerga trivittata.  This is a large frog which regularly gets from 45-50 mm.  Wild specimens from Suriname with two narrow stripes of green, yellow-orange or red are regularly available, but like all wild-caught frogs, cannot be recommended for most hobbyists.  Some captive raised Peruvian forms have more recently become available and often have much more bright green on their backs.  These are active and skittish, mine have occasionally damaged their noses on the tank sides and lid.  They are often out in the front of their tanks, but disappear fast when I approach their rack.  They need more room than many of the other poison dart frogs.  These have done well in groups, but the few I have kept have not bred for me.  Like the larger Phyllobates species, these will take larger prey than other Dendrobatids and quarter-inch crickets are easily taken by the adults.  Ameerga bassleri has also become more available recently and seems to be very similar to trivittata in its care.


 

















    Ameerga trivittata 
   ‘Yellow’
    Suriname
 















    Ameerga trivittata 
   ‘Green’
    Suriname



Epipidobates


I have kept Epipidobates tricolor when wild caught specimens were one of the main Dendrobatids available.  These are bronze with bright lime green stripes or mottling on their back and red flash marks at the base of the back leg.  The wild adults bred well, but I had much less luck getting a second generation from these which seems to have been a  common experience as they went from being very common to much less frequently seen.   These were small and active frogs which called frequently, but could be quite skittish and were not as bold as many of the Dendrobates and Oophaga species.  They did well for me and like leucomelas and auratus seem to be a species which is more tolerant of missed feedings and getting hotter or drier than ideal.  The name Epipidobates anthonyi was recently resurrected for some of what was considered tricolor and seems to have identical requirements, but is usually striped in red and white, blue or beige.  I have a few of these, but have not yet seen any breeding.


 
 









    Epipidobates anthonyi 
   ‘Santa Isabel’
    Ecuador
   









    Epipidobates anthonyi 

   ‘Zarayunga’
    Ecuador
 
 














    Epipidobates tricolor 
   ‘Morsupaga’
    Ecuador
   


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