Below is my effort to share my experience with breeding a frog that has been really tough (at least for me). My goal is to share my experience so that maybe other people can start breeding these gorgeous frogs. Also, I want to show folks that sometimes breeding dart frogs is hard, there can be lots of bumps along the way, and that it's a process learning how to do it effectively. I wouldn't say I have been very successful, but I am getting closer all the time. If you have experience with breeding Abiseo or other pepperi, please let me know so I can learn from your experience, too. You will see that I still have a long way to go.
I have had a pair (started as a trio but lost one of the females) since Summer of 2017. Breeding has been an absolute uphill battle. First, the second female just wasted away and died - could have been aggression or some sort of ailment, but fortunately it didn't seem to transfer to the other two. Following that, I had a pretty long time where they would lay eggs but only occasionally would they be fertile. I upped the Vit A and changed around some supplements and after a year or more, they started to lay fertile clutches much more often. Then, it was a matter of figuring out how to raise the eggs up to tads and froglets. For a long time, the eggs were fertile but I didn't do the right things with the tadpoles. I tried raising them in cups like I do all my other dart frogs. That didn't work very well, though I did manage to raise 3 healthy froglets that I have since given to a breeder who already had one or two males (sex on the froglets was unknown). Following that phase, I had another problem where the eggs were fertile and I would leave them in the tank for the male to take care of (as, I understand, Ameerega are supposed to do). Well, I lost maybe three clutches due to what I can only assume was egg eating. I have no idea who was doing it or why (there is only one female in the tank!), but I lost a lot of good eggs that way.
Several months ago, Tijl posted his Hahneli thread here on Dboard and that gave me some clues as to what to try next. Not everything has been the same with how Tijl (very successfully) raises his Hahneli, but there were enough similarities that I was able to sort of use some of his techniques to figure out arearing method that seems to be working for me. I now have maybe 4 - 5 young froglets, 12 older tads in the water and another 10 that have hatched recently. The conversion rate from egg to healthy froglet is still not what I would like, but I am getting some froglets for the first time in 3 years.
Here is what is working for me:
1) My pair are in a 90 gallon (18x48 footprint, 24" tall?) with a running water feature. It's a stream that they have access to that runs maybe a foot and a half kind of along the back of the tank. Here is the build thread:
I almost always DO NOT recommend that people put water features in dart frog tanks, but most (all?) Ameerega live along streams and I had read that running water stimulates breeding. I don't know if this is true because I haven't tried to breed them without it, but I do know that they have breed in this tank with a running water feature :-) The water feature and the fact that the tank opens at the top makes that tank much wetter than most of my dart frog tanks. I also have extremely bright light on this tank just coincidentally and it grows a lot of moss, baby tears, and bromeliads, among other things. I don't test it, but I am guessing humidity is usually in the 80s and 90s. I have an internal fan blowing all the time and I have vents in the back up near the where the fan is, but I keep them partially covered. The tank also has a canopy that has fans blowing in and out of it to control temperature of the lighting.
2) I feed them every other day - mostly melos with some hydei and occasional bean beetles. I am currently supplementing them with a rotation of TincMan's calcium and Egg Rite (Vit A) one day and DendroCare with Natural Rose (natural pigment/vitamins) on the other day. I supplement them every single time I feed. I think if I rotate Repashy products in there, I would probably be fine, too, but I have been having good success with this regime, so I am sticking with it.
3) They breed about every 6 weeks or so, I am guessing. I haven't really kept rigorous records. When the male starts calling a lot, it usually means that breeding is going to happen soon (or that there is a front coming through). I don't see the male quite as often as I see the female. When they are going to breed, I will see the male in the hut (half coconut with a butter lid under it). If I see him in there, he is usually either sitting on eggs or he will be in the next day or so. Once the eggs are in there and he is sitting on them, I lift the hut off and he bolts. I then replace the butter dish and steal his eggs. He had his chance. He probably resents me for it, but he should have been doing his job and he didn't, so it is what it is. He can take it up with the frog board of ethics.
4) I leave the eggs on the butter lid and put the lid in a plastic container with a flat bottom. I fill the container just enough to come up over the lip of the butter lid. I also put water in the lid. I cover the top with plastic so that it's basically sealed. I want the water level to stay as close to the same as possible so that I don't have to disturb them by putting more water in. I also don't want to forget to top it off and have them dry out so I just try to seal it for a couple of weeks. At this phase, I will commonly lose 10% to 50% of the eggs depending on how good the clutch was. Clutch sizes start around 20-25.
5) After a week or two (see above about my lack of rigorous record keeping), the eggs will hatch on their own, every time. I know that Tijl has to poke the eggs to free his Hahenli tads. I don't seem to have to do that. They all seem to hatch on their own without my intervention.
6) After they hatch, I leave them in the butter lid water for a couple of days so they can get their bearings. They seem very fragile at this stage and transferring them to the tad tank too early seems to be hard on them. Plus I am lazy and don't get around to transferring them right away sometimes. After a couple of days, I take them and move them to a 10 gallon tank I have set up for this purpose. This tank has maybe 3 inches of water in it and an internal pump that circulates the water and is the bacteria medium holder. I have it turned way down. The tads are really awkward and can't control their movement very well if the current is too strong, especially at first. So, for the first week or two, I will put them in a breeder net, inside the 10 gallon. This is so that they don't get blown all over the tank and so that the larger tads don't eat them. This happens with my Terribilis tads, too. They are super vulnerable to predation for the first week or so, then it's all good. This is another phase where there is a bit of attrition. Maybe 25% of the little bitty tads will die in the breeder net. The ones that remain seem more solid, though.
7) The next part is pretty standard. I feed the tads a combination of Dart Frog Connection tadpole bites I got from Taron at a show and TincMan's tadpole bites. The tads will eventually pop back legs then front legs. I have to be pretty vigilant when they get close to popping front legs because they don't seem to appreciate any of the places I provide for them to climb out of the water. I have to fish them out with a net and move them to a tilted de-tailing tank. Again, there is some attrition while they are growing as tads. I don't have enough clutches under my belt yet to figure out what this attrition level is. I can say that for my last couple of clutchs, I am guessing the total attrition rate after hatching is maybe 50% to 75%. It seems to be getting better as I figure things out.
8) Once the little fellas make it to froglets, they are pretty much like any other froglet I have raised. They have their own 20 Long that I put them in and they seem to grow fairly quickly. They are pretty shy, so I don't see them often. No idea how many remain in the tank at this phase. They are gorgeous, though, much more attractive than their parents.
My goal for the froglets in the foreseeable future is first, for them to be given to anyone that already has Abiseo so that we can deepen gene pool. Second, I would give them to anyone that has a proven track record in breeding (non-Chrome Bassleri) Ameerega. If you or someone you know falls into that category, please don't hesitate to contact me. If you ever see me offering these for sale, that will hopefully be a good sign because it will mean that I have given away enough that I don't worry as much about them disappearing from the hobby (or, pessimistically, I wasn't able to find ideal homes for all of them...).
Tijl, I want to again say thanks for sharing your experience with the Hahneli. Hopefully you can see where your methods helped me and you might be interested to see where I do things differently.
My Abiseo would think that this last pic looks delicious!