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The term dart frog or poison arrow frog refers to a large number of species of frog the families Dendrobatidae and Aromobatidae found in Central and South America. The family consists of over 250 individual species of which some species have several distinct morphological forms.

They acquired their colloquial name from the use of the poison of some species by Emberá and Noanamá Chocó Indians on their hunting darts. About a third of frogs within the two familes produce potent toxins, more specifically lipophilic alkaloids, normally excreted from glands in the skin. The range of alkaloids excreted by the frogs varies greatly in both type and potency.
The most potent of these toxins, batrachotoxin (pictured below), is a cardiotoxic and neurotoxic steroidal alkaloid found in frogs of the genus Phyllobates.

There has been much debate regarding the source of this toxin although it was generally agreed they were sequestered directly from insect/athropod prey. Subsequent research has cited ants, melyrid and coccinellid beetles, siphonotid millipedes and oribatid mites.

Given the source of their toxins is dietary frogs lose their potency when fed on non-toxic insect species in captivity although wild caught specimens may retain some toxicity for a while.

As you would expect from a family of many different species covering such a large geographical area these frogs come in many different sizes and from varying habitats (from lowland scrub and forest to high altitude forests). This variation in size (from thumbnail species of 1cm or less to large species of up to 6cm) will determine the type of feeder insects you use with your dart frogs.

I have inclded here a number of easily available and easily cultured feeder insects suitable for dart frogs.


So often the food of choice for use with larger amphibians and reptiles crickets can be used as a food for dart frogs as well. The two most commonly available species are the tropical house cricket (Gryllodes sigallutus) and the black field cricket (Gryllus sp.).
For dart frog use the size of cricket used obviously depends on the size and habits of the species kept but generally speaking hatchling and 1st instar crickets are used. These can be bought from livefood suppliers or you can breed them yourself. I myself have never bred crickets for livefood use but you will find a guide on this forum.

Crickets do have the advantage over some other feeder insects as they can be gut loaded so providing maximum nutritional content for your frog.
There are however disadvantages to their use and some owners of dart frogs do not use them at all. Small crickets and particularly hatchlings are extremely prone to drowning even in small volumes of water and so may not be suitable for heavily misted vivaria. Crickets can eat vegetation, bite frogs and there have been anecdotal reports of crickets being a vector for parisitic worms in frogs. That being said crickets are used by a number of dart frog keepers as their primary feeder insect.

Fruit Flies (Drosophila sp.)

By far the most popular feeder insect in dart frog husbandry they are easy to breed at home and a number of species are available depending on your own preference.
The two most commonly used species are differentiated by their size, namely the small fruit fly (D. melanogaster) and the giant fruit fly (D. hydei) and the decision to use one or other is based mainly on the size of your dart frog. D. melanogaster can also be found in many froms, including vestigal winged, wingless and glider varieties.
There are are number of methods used to culture fruit flies but there are a few basic principles:
Firstly you need a suitable culturing container. Culture pots specifically designed for fruit fly culturing can be bought from livefood suppliers (a few links have been included below this article) but they can just as easily be cultured in glass or plastic pint cups with tights or net curtain securely attched over the top with elastic bands. The container must be adequately ventilated to prevent stagnation and mould formation.

Next you need a culture medium. Again a number of ready mixed formulas can be bought from livefood suppliers but perfectly adequate culture medium can made at home. the recipe I use a slightly modified version of the one advocated on Alan Cann's excellent website and consists:
1 cup fine porridge oats
1/3 cup dried potato flakes (not powder or granules as these can contain dairy products which make the culture stink to high heaven)
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dried bakers yeast
Enough orange juice to make the medium moist but not sopping wet (a little dry medium at the bottom is good as the medium becomes more liquid with time)
I also add 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar which I have found to reduce mould formation (although you can buy Nigapin which is a mould inhibitor) as well as vitamin drops or multivitamin powder.
Place this in your container to a depth of about 3-5cm (depending on size of your culture pot).

Next you need a suitable material to place on top of the culture medium which will provide structure for the maggots to pupate on, raffia or wood wool is perfect for this and is easily available.

After letting your culture medium ferment slightly (normally about a day) you can add your flies from your starter culture. I add at least 100 flies but usually more, if you do not add enough you will not have enough maggots produced to work through the medium and prevent bacterial and fungal overgrowth, resulting in a poor or crashed cultures.

Keep your cultures at around room temperature. Any higher may lead to drying out of the medium. The first generation of melanogaster will appear 7-10 days and hydei slightly longer (14-18 days).

A feature of D.hydei is that the male flies take about week in order to become fertile so either use a mix of old and new flies to seed a new culture or wait until after the first flush of flies.

Other species of fruit flies commonly used are:
Drosophila funebris - a species very slightly smaller than D.hydei and noticeable by their bright red eyes. Culture as D.hydei.

Drosophila mulleri - a wingless species very slightly larger than D. melanogaster resembling an ant more than a fly. Culture as D. melanogaster.

Drosophila buzzatti - a vestigal winged fly (so flightless) cultured as D. melanogaster but slightly larger in size.

One disadvantage of fruit flies is that cultures can crash for apparantly no reason and so it is always wise to have more cultures than your anticipated need. Another is that unlike crickets you are unable to gut load them prior to feeding to your frogs.
Mites represent the biggest problem associated with fruit fly culture. They compete for food with the flies/larvae and some mites actively harm the insects themselves. Keeping cultures on mite paper or in shallow pans of water can prevent spread between cultures. Often mites arrive in starter cultures or from older cultures and dusting your flies prior to seeding a new culture can prevent spread this way. Some evidence has shown mites can be reduced by misting your cultures. On every forum dedicated to dart frogs you will find many many discussions about reducing or eliminating mites in cultures.

Springtails (Collembola sp.)

Springtails are hexapods frequently found in soil, leaf litter and other decaying material where they eat detritus and microbes. They are found worldwide in temperate and tropical areas and a number of species are used in dart frog husbandry as both feeder insects (especially useful for newly morphed froglets too small to take fruit flies) and as tank custodians to dispose of rotting material, mould and debris.

The species most commonly used are:

Tropical springtails (Folsomia candida and Seira sp.) preferring temperatures around 25C
European black springtail (Tomocerus longicornus) thriving at room temperature.

They are easily cultured and require little attention. You need an unventilated container ( I find empty 2L empty ice cream tubs ideal) and a base mixture of half coco fibre and half coarse orchid bark (you can but ready made culturing media) and a starter culture. Once the starter culture has been added this media needs to be kept moist but not wet, misting every couple of days is fine but allowing the media to dry out will kill the culture.

Feed the springtails on small amounts of vegetable matter and/or fine porridge oats (with added vitamin powder). I also place lumpwood charcoal on top of the media - springtails will gather on this and you simply tap them off the charcoal into your vivaria. Premixed springtail food is available from many suppliers.

Bean Weevils (Callosobruchus maculatus)

Also known as the cowpea weevil or bruchid beetle these weevils are a useful and easily cultured feeder insect around 4mm in size and useful for feeding to larger dart frogs such as Dendrobates tinctorius and Phyllobates sp. They make a good back up in the event of a fruit fly culture crash.

They are devilishy easy to cultivate. First you need a ventilated container and some dried black eyed beans. The adult weevils are nectar feeders but the developing larvae feeds on the beans. Fill your container with 2cm of beans from your starter culture and on top add 2cm of fresh dried beans. On top add any adults from your starter culture. Place the container in a warm place (25-30C) such as an airing cupboard. The adults and any emerging from lay there eggs on the beans and container walls and within 2 or 3 weeks you should have a new generation of beetles but will be much longer at cooler temperatures. A piece of kitchen paper placed in the culture pot makes it easier to extract the weevils for dusting and feeding to your frogs.
Warning: These weevils can fly!

Grain Weevils (Sitophilus granarius)

These are smaller than the bean weevil and are suitable for smaller dart frogs. Their culture is the same as that of the bean weevil but with grains such as wheat or pearl barley.

Lesser Waxmoth Larvae (Achroia grisella)

Most amphibian and reptile keepers are familair with the greater waxmoth larvae but these are generally too big for dart frogs. the larvae of the lesser waxmoth are much smaller (10 - 20mm) and make a nice treat for larger darts such as D. tinctorius.

First you need a suitable container - I use the large plastic containers used in sweet shops to hold sweets. In the plastic lid cut out a ventilation hole and on this glue some very fine wire mesh (the larvae can easily chew through most things - including clothes!).
Place your culture in a warm, dark place and after a few weeks you should have a media teeming with larvae.
You can use excess larvae and adult moths to start new cultures.
In this place a mixture of porridge oats, wheatgerm and wheatbran (in proprtion 1:1:1) and then enough honey and glycerine until you get a relatively dry cumbley consistency. some people advocate the addition of beeswax to new cultures but i have never done this (in the wild both forms of waxmoth are major pests of beehives0.
Add this mixture to the culture vessel to a depth of about 8-10cm and on top of this add your starter culture.
Place a crumpled piece of kitchen paper on top of this to provide an increased surface area on which the lavae can pupate.
Keep your culture in a warm, dark place and after a few weeks you should have a culture teeming with larvae.
You can use any excess larvae or adult moths to start new cultures and by using an amount of your original culture medium you will also tranfer eggs to boost your culture too.

When feeding these to your frogs place in a lipped feeding bowl (such as that used with mealworms) as if placed directly in your vivarium these larvae will just burrow into the substrate.

These larvae are high in fat and so are not recommended for regular use but are good as a treat and in aiding weight gain in thin frogs.
Please note that these larvae can cause damage to clothes if allowed to escape and breed in your house!


Woodlice can be cultured as a food but also make great tank custodians.
Tropical and temperate species are available although the tropical species tend to be smaller and more suitable for feeding dart frogs.
They are cultured in a similar vessel to the springtails and a similar medium but with the addition of dead leaves on top.
Place pieces of cork bark in the container to act as hides and feed on vegetable peelings (although again commercial food mixes are available).
Place culture in a warm dark place and mist regularly (like springtails cultures will not thrive in dry conditions).
Cultures may take a while to establish but once they do will produce large numbers of small soft woodlice which will be relished by your dart frogs.
Woddlice will congregate on the underside of bark pieces so these can simply be tapped off into your vivaria.


These are not as widely cultured as other dart frog foods but make an good alternative.
They need dry conditions with temperatures around 35C to breed.
Place in a suitable container (a plastic tub with tight fitting lid with ventilation holes) with a base of egg crates and kitchen paper with slightly damp cotton wool balls on which the females lay their eggs. Add your starter culture and feed on tropical fish flakes.
The culture may take a while to establish as maturity takes a few months to achieve but the culture will boom after this if breeding temperatures are maintained.

Other feeder Insects

Confused Flour Beetles (Tribolium confusum) are cultured for their small (~4mm) larvae which will be taken by many medium and larger dart frog species. Cultured on a dry mix of flour and yeast with a small amount of vegetable matter for moisture. Larvae are obtained by sieving the culture medium but caution must be taken as these have been associated with allergies and those with existing asthma or allergies are best avoiding them as lots of other alternative feeders are available.

Aphids and blackfly can be used from the garden but obviously only harvest from non toxic palnt species and in areas free from insecticides or pesticides.


Being invertebrates feeder insects do not have have a sufficient calcium:phosphorus ratio and so for healthy dart frogs you need to supplement the feeder insects with calcium and other multivitamins. Whilst some extra nutrition can be achieved using gutloading in crickets it is still necessary to use a calcium/multivitamin supplements. This can either be in liquid form and added to the misting system or spary bottle you use to maintain humidity or more commonly through duting feeder insects regularly with a suitable calcium/vitamin duting powder.

Livefood and Culture Supplies

Feast4Frogs - Cultures Avaliable
Dartfrog - Livefoods
Livefood UK Crickets Locusts Mealworms Reptile vivarium supplies mail order

Hope this has been useful!

242 Posts
wow amazing thanks! i wants those froggies :) :flrt::flrt:
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