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Red Headed Poison Dart Frog

Red Headed Poison Dart Frog
Ranitomeya fantastica

A shy diurnal semi-arboreal species of thumbnail dart frog endemic to northern and central Peru. This species can be found in primary and secondary forest, often using tree holes, bromeliads, and pitcher plants for breeding.

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What do Red Headed Poison Dart Frogs look like?

Red Headed Poison Dart Frogs are a small sized species, reaching a length of around 2cm. This frog is variable in colour, depending upon the locality. The Varadero displays a vibrant orange head and front legs, often with unique black spots or stripes. The base colour of black is marbled with a metallic cobalt blue which runs from the back, down the hind legs and feet. Females are usually slightly larger than males, and males will tend to sing to attract a mate.

Where are Red Headed Poison Dart Frogs from?

They are endemic to Peru, found in lowland rainforest areas near to streams. They are considered endangered in the wild due to habitat loss.

How do I keep Red Headed Poison Dart Frogs?

These frogs are shy and semi arboreal, meaning that they will readily climb. Though these frogs are small the glass terrarium should have plenty of space. We recommend a minimum of 45 x 45 x 45cm (18 x 18 x 18”) for two frogs, though larger and taller is always better - especially if you plan on keeping more than two. Sexed groups can cohabit and are best kept as pairs, or trios with one female to two males; as females can express dominant behaviour towards one another, in competition for males, often eating one anothers eggs.

During the daytime the Red Headed Dart Frog requires ambient temperatures of around 18-26°C when they are most active. At night time, temperatures can be as low as 18°C, to simulate the natural temperature drop which they experience in the wild as the sun sets. Heating by way of a basking bulb is best as it warms the air temperature, whereas heat mats provide surface temperature only and can quickly dry out the substrate if used underneath. To ensure your frogs are maintained at the optimum temperature, all heat sources must be controlled using a suitable thermostat. They are notoriously sensitive to warmer temperatures, so care must be taken during the summer months to not overheat the terrarium.

Dart frogs require access to low level UVB lighting that sits within the parameters of Ferguson Zone 1, mimicking the exposure they have in the wild. This should be on for 12 hours during the day and turned off at night. UVB helps them to produce vitamin D3 which is essential in the absorption of Calcium - keeping their bones healthy and strong. The rainforests of Peru are naturally humid, the humidity levels in the wild will fluctuate and can rise and fall between 70-100%. The chemicals in tap water can cause health problems for amphibians so we always recommend using treated tap water, bottled, or rain water. Misting the enclosure using a spray bottle or mist system, dampens the substrate decor and foliage. Doing this both morning and late afternoon helps maintain humidity levels and a shallow water dish can be added, which will be readily used by the frogs. Adults will carry tadpoles on their backs to deposit them in plants such as Bromeliads. Some owners choose to build a waterfall within the terrarium, (making it a paludarium) which again, helps to maintain humidity without the need to mist as often. 

These frogs do best in a live planted bio-active terrarium, they can be shy to begin with and often hide amongst the plants. Dense foliage offers the frogs plenty of hiding places, and also vertical height which will be readily used. Cork bark and vines also work well, adding height to the natural look of any rainforest habitat. For bio-active setups, adding in a drainage layer before a soil based substrate to cover the floor and then a layer of leaf litter and moss on top can help to retain moisture and aid plant growth. We suggest looking at the natural habitat of these frogs in Costa Rica and aim to recreate a small piece of the rainforest in your own home- The only limit with a natural terrarium is your imagination!

Dart frogs have a fast metabolism and will need feeding daily, they are tiny with huge appetites! They will primarily eat Fruit Flies(which can be cultured to maintain a constant supply) and hatchling crickets, these are nutritious and encourage natural hunting and foraging behaviours. The frogs will also prey upon other small insects such as clean up crews such as Springtails and Isopods.

On all live feeds, it is important to use a good quality supplement powder to provide an essential calcium and vitamin boost to your dart frogs. The easiest method of application is to use a spare live food tub to dust the insects lightly in supplement. We advise dusting your insects on every feed, alternating between calcium and vitamin powders according to manufacturers recommendations.

Did you know... Poison Dart Frogs are NOT poisonous in captivity! They are so named because of their toxins being used by natives to lace the tips of darts for hunting. Their natural diet consists of ants, millipedes and mites which are extremely high in alkaloids; these toxins are accumulated in the skin of the frog. The captive diet of poison dart frogs lacks any alkaloids, meaning they pose NO risk to humans.

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