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Old 06-10-2010, 03:56 PM
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INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND:

All of the information provided in this reference page has been compiled by me, but I did not write it. (Save summarization in the Q&A section). The majority was written by Ed, who is a well known and very experienced herpetologist and zookeeper. He is likely the most experienced person on this board when it comes to multispecies enclosures. Some information from other individuals has also been quoted and included in this page and is cited appropriately.

When referring to mixed enclosures, the use of the word mixed is an inapt description as this indicates that the animals are together in a homogenized fashion. Because this is not what typically happens, ‘multispecies’ is a better description of the properly set-up enclosure and will be used throughout this write-up.

Multispecies enclosures are becoming more and more common with the larger and better Zoos (including some of those at the forefront of dendrobatid breeding such as NAIB) and Aquaria. Many of the multispecies enclosures at these institutions have been present for years (some for more than a decade) with little to no problems and on some occasions house multiple generations of the animals on exhibit.

There are a lot of potential problems that get thrown whenever multispecies enclosures are brought up on various forums (not just this one). These include, among potential others:

1) The spatial requirements of the animals are violated
2) Pathogens
3) Stress

SPATIAL REQUIREMENTS:

This is an issue where some hard and fast numbers have become predominantly quoted in the hobby. Usually, people speak about 5 gallons per frog. To make this simple, I am using the assumption that the 5.5 gallon tank is the standard for the 5 gallons that is the commonly used reference.

Within the 5.5 gallons of space, the space used by the frog (I am going to use a Tinc. as a standard for the larger dart frogs) is typically very different than the space allotted. In a typically planted setup, the frog will only use the bottom of the tank most of the time. So the actual total space used by the frog can be calculated by the surface area of the bottom of the tank (8 inches by 12 inches) and, say, 3 inches of head room for the frogs to hop. A 5.5 gallon tank contains 960 cubic inches so the frogs only really use 30% (288/960 = 0.3) of the available space or about 1.65 gallons.

What this means is that people have to pay attention to how the tank is portioned out for the frogs. With the set-up described above (5.5 gallon tank) there may be between 4 to 5 inches (subtracting for bottom of the tank) of height in the tank that is not used by the dart frog. This would indicate that another species could inhabit that niche if the owner of the enclosure was so inclined. In a manner similar to aquariums, people can look at the enclosure as having an upper portion, a middle portion, and a lower portion. In most of the smaller enclosures, this will only be two levels. The other space designates a niche that can potentially be used for a different species. This is where multispecies enclosure planning begins. The person needs to be aware of how much space is really being utilized in the enclosure by the animals. This will give you the first step on the path to the next choice if you wish to keep multispecies enclosures.

To repeat, I am looking at a conservative minimal spatial availability, not the maximum the frogs can/will use (this is an important distinction). So even looking at the minimal space available to the frogs in a more complex set-up such as those that include drip walls and plants, the ratio of habitable space still decreases as the volume of the tank increases. As more and more of the volume of the tank is represented by glass and air volume there becomes less habitable space for the frog. However it is this change that creates the changes in the moisture levels, humidity, air flow patterns, and light patterns that create different microhabitats which allow additional multispecies options.

If we assume that we lose 2 inches of height due to a false bottom set up and include a tree fern fiber drip wall (as this is thicker than a coco panel) which is about 1 inch deep. As plantings in tanks tend to be an a mixture of tall and short plants as well as open spaces to permit viewing, an assumption that the frogs can use 100% of the first 6 inches in height will give a base line estimate of usable space (instead of estimating usable space in a varied planting). The drip wall is kept to a depth of three inches out from the surface of the drip wall and is assumed to be 100% usable by the frogs.

So, for a 20” high x 24” long x 16.5” high x 12” deep tank, deducting for the substrate and drip wall changes the numbers to the following: 14.5” high x 11” deep x 24” long. So we do not calculate out the same overlapping volume twice, the three inches from the drip wall are excluded from the bottom area calculations. So then the minimal usable area ends up being (6” (height) x 8” deep x 24” long) + (14.4” height x 3” deep x 24” long) = (1152) + (1036.8) = 2188.8 cubic inches as the conservative minimal estimate for usable space. Yet this is still significantly less than the total volume of the tank (4752 cubic inches). So when the total minimal usable estimate is applied, you get only 46% of the tank (or 9.2 gallons or 2.3 gallons per frog) as estimated usable space. In a 55 gallon tank you get (6” height x 8” deep x 48” long) + (18” height x 3” deep x 48” long) = (2304) + (2592) = 4896 cubic inches or 42.3% of the volume of the tank (or 23 gallons total or 2.1 gallon/frog).

Larger volume enclosures generally have a smaller percentage of usable space when compared to their overall volume. (When compared to their smaller counterparts) So, once again, the idea that each frog gets a minimum of 5 gallons of space breaks down as the enclosures get larger. (This is counter intuitive but true unless the enclosure's floor area increases as the height increases (some breeder tanks are an example of this).

There are significant differences between the minimal amount of available space in a simple enclosure as opposed to a complex enclosure (which is why I needed to demonstrate out the differences via the cubic inches). When considering larger tanks, the 5 gallon rule may be a place to start (although in my personal experience, it is easily possible to keep and breed some darts and many hylids in higher densities for long periods.

The reason the density works in the larger enclosures is not because each frog necessarily has more space, but rather has the illusion of more space. This is where having an idea of the minimal usable/available space comes into play with a species that is territorial and/or aggressive as it gives you an idea as to how many visual barriers, hide areas, or other refugia may be necessary to accommodate the individuals in that cage. In simple cages, multiple hide areas (often one per animal) as well as visual barriers are needed, in complex enclosures fewer visual barriers are needed as the multiple available height levels available as well as the leaf and stem structure of the plants perform this function, while hide areas may also be totally supplied by the plants.

Visual barriers consist of anything that blocks the sight path from one animal to another. This prevents excess aggression as well as allowing an animal to flee from an interaction (as well as potentially increasing the density at which the animals can be kept). Visual barriers are not important to non-territorial/nonaggressive species such as some hylids (except by providing more surface area for perching). When considering multispecies enclosures (and I am actually not talking about more than one dart frog species per enclosure), the complexity of the enclosure provides multiple niches for other species to inhabit. Species that would not do well together in a simple enclosure may do very well together in complex enclosures due to the advantages of the multiple niches provided. The additions of some thin branches to the upper areas of the tank can create an entirely new habitation zone for a different species. In general, for most multispecies enclosures, there needs to be some gradient in the enclosure to be able to support more than one species. This is more easily and visibly accomplished in the very large enclosures but there are also options available in smaller enclosures that are complexly set up.

Now on to the real heresy! The space taken up by the dart frogs is not used to determine the spatial needs of the other potential inhabitants (as long as they are not dart frogs or a species that looks/acts like a dart frog). The needs of the other specie(s), such as visual barriers and hide spots for territorial species, all apply and consideration must be given to prevent these requirements from making a habitat that is detrimental to the dart frogs (such as over-perching, basking lights causing excess temperature, etc.) The reason that the space occupied by the dart frogs is not counted against the spatial needs of the other animal is that unless the species chosen to live in the same enclosure behaves/looks like a dart frog, it will be ignored by the dart frogs (there are some other guide rules which I will bring up later). For example, if one of the sympatric Gonatodes or Sphaerodactyline geckos are chosen as the second target species, the dart frogs will ignore the lizards. However, as these are territorial to each other in their own right, the limits required by spatial needs of the lizards will curtail the number of lizards in the enclosure.

Now, this does not mean that there is an unending number of animals that can be placed in the enclosure. Generally speaking, less is more when it comes to multispecies enclosures. There is a finite number, but that number is not directly determined by the amount of space available, but instead by the availability and amount of suitable habitat(s) that the volume can contain. Obviously the smaller the tank, the fewer the habitats!

The number of niches then determines the number of species, and the territorial needs of the animal will determine the density/number of animals per enclosure (predicated on some comments to follow). In addition, it is also partially dependent on the target species chosen, the size and complexity of the enclosure, the ease of cleaning of the enclosure, and the ease of feeding the animals. In general, the smaller the cage the fewer the species. Multiple species are still possible in a small enclosure and are often set-up unintentionally as many people do not count the various invertebrate populations that are established in the enclosures (most of which are not native to the frogs areas to begin with) for janitorial and/or frog food purposes. I tend to use one species to a niche as a basic rule of thumb and that has been very workable for me.

So, in summation, in order to even begin to consider if a multiple species enclosure is an option, the following must be determined (even prior to considering parasites/disease and stress):

1) Is there more than one niche available?

2) Will the conditions available to the animals (both frogs and others) be suitable for those animals?

3) If the animal(s) are territorial, do I have enough visual barriers and hiding spots?

4) Can I easily feed, clean, and maintain the enclosure in the chosen configuration? If not, will any changes made to make the enclosure easier to maintain change the animal(s) requirements? If so, can I then meet those requirements?

5) Will the shape or behavior of one animal affect the territoriality of another animal in the enclosure?

In other words, a LOT of issues need to be considered for the setup before considering placing multiple species together. It is possible but it takes a LOT of planning and thought to do it properly, even before considering the other two main problems.
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Old 06-17-2010, 11:10 PM
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Default Re: Multispecies Reference Page

The only recommendation I have off-hand would be updating the taxonomy of the species (Ranitomeya imitator, Dendropsophus leucophyllatus, etc.) which may provide people with better results when doing internet searches.

Great job and a massive effort!
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Old 04-04-2011, 03:20 PM
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PARASITES/PATHOGENS:

The subject of cross infection by parasites and diseases is often given as reasons to avoid multiple species enclosures but the details of the reason(s) are frequently lacking. When examined in a more global manner, the reasons are more clear cut. As our knowledge of exotic pathogens becomes more extensive, more and more examples of cross infection and mortality from exotic sources become apparent. Some examples of this are chytridmycosis in many species of amphibians (possibly the result of the world wide transport of African clawed frogs (Xenopus)), mycoplasma infections in tortoises of the genus Gopherus
(possibly from exposure to infected South American tortoises) (which has now also been isolated from box turtles (Terrepene), monkey pox in Prairie Dogs exposed to giant pouched rats (and humans exposed to the infected prairie dogs) and Herpes B infections in humans from infected primates (mainly Macaques if I remember correctly). Because of this, animals should only be mixed with animals that are from the same regions to minimize the risk of cross infection with novel pathogens and parasites. There is a risk of infection regardless of the closeness of the origins of the animals (there are some examples of ranavirus infections between nearby vernal pools that were the result of researchers failing to clean boots and collecting gear, but nothing on the huge scale of the examples listed above) but the risk of a novel pathogen getting loose in a collection are minimized when zoogeographically correct animals are kept together. This is because there is a good chance that the disease is not novel to animals from the same regions, possibly permitting the infected animals to resist an infection and/or clear it. Simply observing the condition of the animal may not give any warning if the animal is a carrier of the disease/parasite, as the animal can be asymptomatic, such as Xenopus and chytrid, some rodent carriers of hemorrhagic fevers, and Old World Primates infected with Herpes B. The mixing of carriers and novel hosts allows the disease the chance to jump to a new host, potentially resulting in significant mortality of the new host species.

So the points from this topic are as follows:

1) The multispecies enclosure should be as close to zoogeographically correct as possible with respect to at least the vertebral inhabitants (given the restrictions on importation of soil and invertebrates into the USA, it may not be possible to incorporate invertebrate species native to the animal's habitat).

2) If possible the animals should be sympatric.

3) Ideally, species that do not naturally have overlapping distribution ranges should not be mixed (for example, even though green anoles (Anolis carolinensis) are found on Guam does not mean they should be kept with Oceanic geckos (Gehyra ssp.)).

4) Points 1-3 should be followed as closely as possible regardless of the person's belief in the suitability of the inhabitants. For example, even through squirrel tree frogs (Hyla squirrella) will quite happily live in a terraria set up for dendrobates, this is not a suitable animal as it is not zoogeographically correct. If the person wishes to keep a small hylid with Dendrobates, then they should consider Hyla leucophyllata or Hyla ebraccata as possible options.

5) Aquatic and semi-aquatic chelonians are not suitable to be kept with any animal that is at risk to ameobiasis.

STRESS:

Stress is the third item often used as a reason to justify why multispecies enclosures do not work. For this to be discussed appropriately, the definition of stress needs to be outlined before any meaningful discussion can take place. Stress is best defined as anything that disrupts the homeostasis of the animal. However, not all of the items that cause stress (called stressors) have a negative impact on the animal involved. Thus there are both negative and positive stressors (I am only going to consider negative stressors for this article as these are the only ones that have a negative impact on the animal). Some examples of negative stressors include improper temperatures, lack of hide areas, and lack of nutrition. One of the points to remember with stressors is that unless they are extreme enough to cause rapid death and do not vary in intensity, the animals will likely become adapted to the stressor (with the exception of nutritional stressors) and should return to "normal" behaviors after an acclimation period. However, if the stressor is not constant then the resultant stress may be sufficient to cause the death of the animal (sometimes referred to maladaption syndrome or failure to thrive). This adaptive process only works as long as the stressor is constant, as soon as it begins to vary in intensity the adaption is lost.

One of the most common types of stress display in anurans (and in fact many herps) is the animal displaying constant escape behaviors, often to the point of self mutilation (nose rubs). This is best avoided by having sufficient hiding areas (see the discussion on complex and simple enclosures from above) available to the frogs to allow them to feel secure in the enclosure, thus eliminating the problem (If there are sufficient hide areas and this sort of escape behavior continues then one should immediately suspect heat stress and/or exposure to a chemical agent such as toxic fumes (paints or other solvents for example)). While this sort of escape behavior can be the result of territorial displacement in many species, this is typically only seen when more than one species of dendrobatid is kept in the enclosure, as the frogs do not recognize frogs that do not behave or look like other dendrobatid frogs. (While it is possible to mix multiple dendrobatid species together, this is not recommended due to the issues mentioned above as well as others such as potential hybridization). As mentioned previously, if the inhabitants are properly chosen (in other words, not other dendrobates), the dendrobatids will not be stressed by the other species and will not respond to the other species with a territorial response. This is why other occupants are often treated as so much cage furniture (I used to have a picture of an auratus perched on the head of an eyelash viper feeding on fruitflies).

Another comment regarding stress that is often tossed around is that animals kept in multispecies enclosures will not breed due to the stress of the multispecies enclosure. This is typically due to improperly set up enclosures which lack suitable habitat for reproduction. If the parameters are correct the animals will breed regardless of the number of species in the enclosure (However! See the previous discussion on spatial requirements on limits for the number of possible species in an enclosure).

Stress of an animal in the multispecies enclosure will be the same as that in a single species enclosure as long as the animals are chosen under the guidelines provided previously and suitable microclimates and refuges are present.
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Old 04-04-2011, 03:29 PM
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COMMON QUESTIONS, COMMON ANSWERS:

Below are some common questions people ask concerning multispecies enclosures, along with typical answers with longstanding experience behind them. Some answers have supplemental information provided from various posters in various threads on the subject. Those additional posts are located below the question and answer section and are labeled appropriately.

Q: What does it take to set up a multispecies enclosure?

A: It takes a huge amount of time, thought, and money. Besides those things, to do so successfully absolutely requires many years worth of specific experience with the species in question as well as intimate knowledge of their needs and natural habitats. It is not something a beginner should attempt.

Q: Why are so many people on this board so strongly opposed to multispecies enclosures?

A: Some people are opposed simply due to having an ethical standard against them. However, the majority of those opposed to such tanks are so because they understand that few people have the time, resources, knowledge, and extensive experience required to be successful. The majority of people on this excellent board are concerned with the health and well-being of their animals above all other considerations. As such, if a beginner or ‘noob’ is implying or stating that they intend to set up such an enclosure, many people will be opposed because of their concern for the potential animals in such an enclosure. Multispecies enclosures can result in stressed animals and they can result in the death of animals.

Q: I’ve got XX number of years experience with various herps. and would like to set up a multispecies tank, what do I need to know?

A: First, you need to realize that just because you have experience with other herps. does not even mean that you will be adequately prepared to care for darts, much less multiple species within one enclosure. You need experience with specific species in order to truly understand their specific needs. (See also: Thread Response #1 and #2 below)

Q: How big of an enclosure is needed for a multispecies exhibit/show tank?

A: As detailed above, size is only a small part of the equation. Generally speaking, larger is better, but also comes with additional difficulties and increased cost. Few members openly speak of their multispecies tanks, but of those that do, I don’t know of any smaller than 55 gallons. Most of the notable multispecies tanks are well over 200 gallons. (Links below show a couple of such enclosures, including tanks ranging from 55 gallons up to… well, ridiculously gigantic.)

Q: What different species can I put together in the same tank?

A: This question probably stirs more debate within this topic than any other. With rare exception, people asking this question likely do not have the knowledge or experience necessary to set up and maintain a successful multispecies tank. This answer isn’t meant to upset anyone, it’s meant to inform. Take a metaphor: If you still need to ask your dad what kind of oil your car needs, you aren’t likely to be equipped to change your own oil at all. (See also: Thread Response #2 below)

Q: Are there successful multispecies enclosures?

A: Yes, there are. Those enclosures have been extremely well designed and the inhabitants were selected by knowledgeable and experienced keepers. Even so, even many of such enclosures have suffered from animal loss and death. (See Thread Response #3 for definition of a ‘successful multispecies enclosure’ means, as well as Thread Response #4.)


Thread Response #1

Jake (SmackoftheGods) -

Going off what frogfreak said, I'd actually limit mixed enclosures to people with serious experience with darts. Not herps, herps is a general term and each needs different care. Darts seem particularly territorial and much more easily stressed than many of the other herps I've worked with in the past. If you come from a bearded dragon background (say 15 years even?) but have little or no experience with darts that still doesn't qualify you to mix darts.

I'm going to go back to something I said earlier on the board (I think it was even in this thread): if you have to ask the question, you don't have the experience to keep a mixed tank. Working with individual species is going to answer many of the questions about how to adequately set up niches for specific species, what to look for in aggression, how to set up your tank to cater to both species. That's why any "how do I mix" threads come from people with limited experience.

Thread Response #2:

Jake (SmackoftheGods) -

The answer I think you're looking for is: niches.

We'll go back to my tenth grade bio class. Niches are areas that cater specifically to a certain animal. If you want to have a mixed tank you have to carefully select animals that won't interfere with each other's niches. That's why mixing tincs. or mixing leucs. with tincs., etc., isn't going to work. They'll invade the other's space and stress each other out.

You need to select species that have very particular niches such that 95%+ of each animals time is spent in an area that all the other species aren't going to go. You have to have so much familiarity with the animals you're working with to know exactly where in your tank to make these niches and how to make them appealing to the animals you're working with such that they prefer not to venture out. Any contact one animal with another in a mixed tank is going to cause stress.

This is why I say you don't currently have what it takes to create a successful mixed tank. If you're honestly asking for people's bad and good experiences with mixed species then you have exactly no comprehension of the work and understanding required to pull something like this off. You have to have an intimate understanding of the requirements of your animals. This, IMO, is not something that can be taught, it has to be learned through experience. And if you had any idea about how to do this or even half the knowledge you need to accomplish your goal you wouldn't be on this board asking for suggestions.

Thread Response #3

Ed –

For a multispecies enclosure to be considered working it should have to meet the following criteria:
1) All species are behaving as they would in an appropriate singe species enclosure
2) For those species housed in pairs or breeding groups, reproduction occurs along with appropriate breeding behavior (ex. parental rearing tadpole transport).
3) Animals live until at least the median life span and ideally approach or exceed the maximal lifespan.

Thread Response #4

Frank Payne -

Look at any herp. department of a decent zoo or live animal museum: they ALL have several exhibits with more than one species of herp. in them. Also, believe me when I say that you will continue to see more of this in zoos, it is a practice that has been proven to work and creates a much more dynamic experience. Is it for beginners? Absolutely not! Can it be done by a thoughtful, experienced, and dedicated keeper? Absolutely! I understand why many of you are discouraging "newbies" from keeping mixed species exhibits but please do not say that it is "bad" or "wrong" or "irresponsible". Like any challenge it requires much thought and preparation. But again, to those of us that like challenges that is the point and the payoff!

Thread Response #5

Jeremy (Boondoggle) -

Clearly, biotopes can work if done properly. As you stated in another thread, there are credible, respected herpetologists/keepers who have proven it. I think one reason that many here try to dissuade from it is because it is rarely an optimal situation for any one of the occupants (again, there are exceptions)

I personally think the main reason they are recommended against is because, almost invariably, the person asking about them has very little experience with PDF's, hasn't done their research, doesn't realize that the ‘I'm just gonna' put them together and watch for problems’ approach isn't going to work because they don't know the subtleties of the animals well enough to know a problem when they see it, and actually wouldn't count it as that big of loss if they lost the frog anyway.

Also, as you inferred in the other thread (I like how you put it), a lot of us are just more cautious. Until a new keeper has a chunk of years in the hobby, I think they ought to be cautious as well. Heck, I have been breeding herps for over a decade, at one point on a semi-large scale, and I don't think I have the experience for/time to focus on a successful biotope.

You know what would be awesome? If this was the first mixing thread that stayed mature and civil.

Thread Response #6

Josh Heath -

Another issue with darts and biotopic terraria is the lack of suitable reptiles and amphibians that won't hurt the darts and will do well in the constantly humid and warm confines of the dart frog vivarium.

If a very experienced keeper wanted to do a large biotope display they could do a Central American theme. In a huge viv you could probably get away with keeping a few D. pumilo, a few D. auratus, a helmeted iguana (Corytophanes), and maybe a tree frog species like Hyla leucophyllata. That tank would need to have every bit of 48 sq. ft. of living space to succeed.

Another idea would be a Suriname based tank featuring Dendrobates azureus, Atelopus spumarius, and Hyla marmorata. Good luck on finding the atelopus!

But a setup like this is designed for displaying a slice of that habitat, the way it would be found in nature. It does so at the expense of ideal breeding conditions and the possible loss of a frog through stress or predation. A helmeted iguana may go years without eating a dart and then one day it decides to sample one. If your goal is to keep and breed frogs, I'd say keep them by themselves. If your goal is to recreate the extraordinarily diverse rainforest habitat then go ahead and try a biotope tank. Just be aware of the many potential pitfalls and the usual negative public view.

Thread Response #7

Groundhog -

In thinking about this, here is my take on the subject. I would suggest these as very general guidelines. This is not, strictly speaking, aimed at PDF keepers: Maybe it is better suited to the Amphibian site.

1) Do not bend animals to your tank. You have an established moist tank, but just have to get that Phyllomedusa? Umm, too bad.

2) Understand the relationship between volume and surface area, and plan accordingly. Bigger is better--but is taller? It depends on your objective; lush vertical planting does not mean one can get more terrestrial animals! Gause's rule of competitive exclusion: No two organisms in the same space can occupy the same niche.

The strata rule employed by aquarists is useful here (.i.e., I already have a mid-level school, I can get a surface school.)

3) Appreciate the species actual attitudes towards territoriality. Four green tree frogs will huddle together no prob. Male Corythophanes will simply bob at each other--but in their close relatives the basilisks, adult males will tear each other up in all but the largest of enclosures (and even then the subordinate animal will be stressed).

4) Appreciate the animal's real dietary preferences. (Here Ed and I are not in complete agreement; I tend to be somewhat more anthropomorphic than Ed and believe that a lot of herps, especially some lizards can be trained if acquired as babies). However, it is always best to err on the side of logic; no baby Ceratophrys, no vine snakes with lizards. no turtles with newts, etc;

5) I try to mix species not only from the same continents but, similar microclimates. Ah, but does this not violate #2? Not really. Similar microclimate doesn’t mean same niche. I think it possible to mix 1.2 neotropical anoles with 2.1 Dendrosophus marmorata; one species is diurnal, one crepuscular and nocturnal. But I would not mix PDF's with Phyllomedusines, even though they can live just a few meters (vertically) apart.

For those who care, small phelsumas with Hyperolius work in tall enclosures.

6) Do NOT overcrowd! If your tank with 1.2 anoles and 2.1 marbled treefrogs, or 1.2 Phelsuma and 2.2 Hyperolius is working; leave it alone. You do NOT need that "oh but this would look so [email protected]#!$ cool" thing you saw at the show.

You do not!

7) Quarantine everything. If you can perform fecals, do so; I admit I do not on captive born animals (but I still quarantine).

8) Do not assume everyone is getting enough food. Monitor the feedings. If this is too much of a hassle, consider some other experiment.

9) READ. Read people who have done this successfully, get some ideas, and ask questions. Philippe des Vosjoli, Bert Langerwerf, Rex Lee Searcy and I have all had success doing this (and I am probably the most cautious of the four). Go to zoos, and politely ask about their enclosures.

And always, err on the side of caution. It is only fair to your animals and your plants.

Thread Response #8

Ed –

How you placed the bromeliads and shot glasses doesn't automatically mean that they will be suitable or even accepted by the frogs. It also doesn't automatically mean that it will reduce territorial needs by the frogs to allow for sufficient cohabitation. You also need to incorporate things like sight barriers and areas where a chased animal can retreat from the aggression. Many multispecies enclosures do not incorporate these properly as they are often viewed as being unsightly or reducing visual appeal of the enclosure. Instead one of the best methods to avoid this in multispecies enclosures is to use species that do not look like or act like each other.

If you can get access to an old copy of Terrariums Animals Breeding, Care and Maintenance by E. Zimmerman you can see one of the better diagrams for how to set up alternative breeding sites. Continued…

If the frogs don't accept some or most of the sites, then the competition for the remaining sites becomes much higher. It doesn't matter if you are trying to breed them or not, as with many dendrobatids, both species may guard access to reproductive resources regardless if they are actively breeding at that second or not as their territories will attempt to encompass the resources needed for when reproduction starts. This guarding behavior is what triggers the aggression/territoriality. Simply having a bunch of potential sites scattered about the enclosure doesn't give any indication on how the animals are going to deal with them. This is where sight barriers and being able to get the correct niche requirements together really comes into play, even when using species that are not competing for the same resources.

I have seen aggressive interactions between at least two of the species you are proposing to house together over access to resources. Continued…

It depends on how the sight barrier is constructed, I was referring to the combination of both the sight barrier and the use of areas where the frogs can get totally out of sight of one another if chased. This can take up significant portions of the enclosure as the sight barrier itself cannot have conditions that allow it to be used as a core part of the territory. A sight barrier is not a sight barrier if it has resources on it the frogs are going to use on a routine bases (such as being a calling perch, or having sleeping perches, or have egg deposition sites). People often find the combination of the sight barrier and refuge areas unsightly as you may have to exclude plants and egg deposition sites from those areas to prevent them from being contested areas.

EXAMPLES:

Below are some photos and threads detailing multispecies enclosures. Included in each example is a little background concerning the experience of the keeper, if available, for reference. (All such background is self-provided.) They are listed smallest to largest, but not for any specific reason otherwise. Good, bad, or otherwise, here they are!

__________________________________________________ ________________

Frank Payne’s:

Experience: I've been a Senior Herpetology Keeper the past seven years for a zoo and done consulting work at quite a few zoos and museums as well. Currently I am a science teacher and only work at zoos/museums in the summer and on vacations. If you've ever been to a zoo or museum and saw the exhibits: "Lizards and Snakes: Alive!", "Frogs: A Chorus of Colors", "Geckos: From Tails to Toepads", and "Reptiles: The Beautiful and the Deadly" I work for the company that built and maintains all of those exhibits.

frankpayne.jpg

Inhabitants: It contained 2.3 'solid orange' galactonotus, 1.1 gold dust day geckos, 1.1 cat geckos, and a dwarf species of freshwater puffer fish in the aquatic section. My darts, cat geckos, and day geckos ALL reproduced in this enclosure multiple times. Anyone that knows darts can tell you that 'solid orange' galactonotus are one of the rarest and most difficult dart frogs to breed in captivity. Also, all animals were CB and quarantined before mixing them to prevent the spread of any contagions.

__________________________________________________ ________________

Steve Knott’s:

Experience: Unknown (Thread here: http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/mem...first-viv.html)

steveknott.JPG

Inhabitants:
Hyla Marmorata
Phyllomedusa Tomopterna
Hyla Geographica
Hyla Luecophyllata
Dendrobates Azureus
Dendrobates Imitator

__________________________________________________ ________________

Wim Vanvelzen’s:

Experience: Unstated, but please look through the planning and execution of this tank for examples of his workmanship. (Thread here: http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/mem...aludarium.html)

hillstream.jpg

Inhabitants: Many different species. At minimum: Lygodactylus, Mannophryne, H. azureiventris, several Hyperolius, Gastromyzons, Atyopsis moluccensis, and Mannophryne trinitatis.

__________________________________________________ ________________

Stan’s (Energy):

Experience: Extensive experience with reef tanks and other aspects of animal husbandry. (The thread is 86 pages at counting at the moment, and can be found here: http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/par...struction.html)

(This enclosure is 15’ L by 5’ W by 33” H)

energy.jpg

Inhabitants:
On the land:
Poison Dart Frogs, Anoles, Geckos, Pygmy Chameleons.

Water:
Stingrays, Discus, Black Ghost Knife Fish, Rope Fish, Rummy Nose Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, SAE's, a Pleco.
__________________________________________________ ________________

Links to various threads where information in and for this reference page was collected:

http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/beg...d-tanks-4.html
http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/beg...-exhibits.html
http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/par...struction.html
http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/mem...aludarium.html
http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/gen...enclosure.html
http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/beg...xplain-10.html
http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/mem...first-viv.html
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Old 05-07-2014, 10:26 PM
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I am somewhat disappointed by the mixing species good choices chosen here. Most of them break/bend the rules outlined in the above. Merely because a tank is spectacularly scaped does not mean that the mixing choices are appropriate. However, at least the first does show that success can be had-although again animals are not geographically correct. While they may be successful enclosures-they are not biotopes.
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Old 05-07-2014, 10:46 PM
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I may have missed where you said this, but I would add that the animals you're mixing should be from the same area naturally. There's less chances of aggression.
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I am somewhat disappointed by the mixing species good choices chosen here. Most of them break/bend the rules outlined in the above. Merely because a tank is spectacularly scaped does not mean that the mixing choices are appropriate. However, at least the first does show that success can be had-although again animals are not geographically correct. While they may be successful enclosures-they are not biotopes.
No one asserted the examples were 'good', they are just examples. In fact, there was even a disclaimer: "Good, bad, or otherwise, here they are!"

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I may have missed where you said this, but I would add that the animals you're mixing should be from the same area naturally. There's less chances of aggression.
I didn't write any of the actual information, just compiled it. If there is good documentation showing that animals of the same area are less likely to show aggression towards each other perhaps it would be worth an addition? Could you provide links to such research or experiential posts?
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If there is good documentation showing that animals of the same area are less likely to show aggression towards each other perhaps it would be worth an addition?

Could you provide links to such research or experiential posts?
Probably not
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INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND:



All of the information provided in this reference page has been compiled by me, but I did not write it. (Save summarization in the Q&A section). The majority was written by Ed, who is a well known and very experienced herpetologist and zookeeper. He is likely the most experienced person on this board when it comes to multispecies enclosures. Some information from other individuals has also been quoted and included in this page and is cited appropriately.



When referring to mixed enclosures, the use of the word mixed is an inapt description as this indicates that the animals are together in a homogenized fashion. Because this is not what typically happens, ‘multispecies’ is a better description of the properly set-up enclosure and will be used throughout this write-up.



Multispecies enclosures are becoming more and more common with the larger and better Zoos (including some of those at the forefront of dendrobatid breeding such as NAIB) and Aquaria. Many of the multispecies enclosures at these institutions have been present for years (some for more than a decade) with little to no problems and on some occasions house multiple generations of the animals on exhibit.



There are a lot of potential problems that get thrown whenever multispecies enclosures are brought up on various forums (not just this one). These include, among potential others:



1) The spatial requirements of the animals are violated

2) Pathogens

3) Stress



SPATIAL REQUIREMENTS:



This is an issue where some hard and fast numbers have become predominantly quoted in the hobby. Usually, people speak about 5 gallons per frog. To make this simple, I am using the assumption that the 5.5 gallon tank is the standard for the 5 gallons that is the commonly used reference.



Within the 5.5 gallons of space, the space used by the frog (I am going to use a Tinc. as a standard for the larger dart frogs) is typically very different than the space allotted. In a typically planted setup, the frog will only use the bottom of the tank most of the time. So the actual total space used by the frog can be calculated by the surface area of the bottom of the tank (8 inches by 12 inches) and, say, 3 inches of head room for the frogs to hop. A 5.5 gallon tank contains 960 cubic inches so the frogs only really use 30% (288/960 = 0.3) of the available space or about 1.65 gallons.



What this means is that people have to pay attention to how the tank is portioned out for the frogs. With the set-up described above (5.5 gallon tank) there may be between 4 to 5 inches (subtracting for bottom of the tank) of height in the tank that is not used by the dart frog. This would indicate that another species could inhabit that niche if the owner of the enclosure was so inclined. In a manner similar to aquariums, people can look at the enclosure as having an upper portion, a middle portion, and a lower portion. In most of the smaller enclosures, this will only be two levels. The other space designates a niche that can potentially be used for a different species. This is where multispecies enclosure planning begins. The person needs to be aware of how much space is really being utilized in the enclosure by the animals. This will give you the first step on the path to the next choice if you wish to keep multispecies enclosures.



To repeat, I am looking at a conservative minimal spatial availability, not the maximum the frogs can/will use (this is an important distinction). So even looking at the minimal space available to the frogs in a more complex set-up such as those that include drip walls and plants, the ratio of habitable space still decreases as the volume of the tank increases. As more and more of the volume of the tank is represented by glass and air volume there becomes less habitable space for the frog. However it is this change that creates the changes in the moisture levels, humidity, air flow patterns, and light patterns that create different microhabitats which allow additional multispecies options.



If we assume that we lose 2 inches of height due to a false bottom set up and include a tree fern fiber drip wall (as this is thicker than a coco panel) which is about 1 inch deep. As plantings in tanks tend to be an a mixture of tall and short plants as well as open spaces to permit viewing, an assumption that the frogs can use 100% of the first 6 inches in height will give a base line estimate of usable space (instead of estimating usable space in a varied planting). The drip wall is kept to a depth of three inches out from the surface of the drip wall and is assumed to be 100% usable by the frogs.



So, for a 20” high x 24” long x 16.5” high x 12” deep tank, deducting for the substrate and drip wall changes the numbers to the following: 14.5” high x 11” deep x 24” long. So we do not calculate out the same overlapping volume twice, the three inches from the drip wall are excluded from the bottom area calculations. So then the minimal usable area ends up being (6” (height) x 8” deep x 24” long) + (14.4” height x 3” deep x 24” long) = (1152) + (1036.8) = 2188.8 cubic inches as the conservative minimal estimate for usable space. Yet this is still significantly less than the total volume of the tank (4752 cubic inches). So when the total minimal usable estimate is applied, you get only 46% of the tank (or 9.2 gallons or 2.3 gallons per frog) as estimated usable space. In a 55 gallon tank you get (6” height x 8” deep x 48” long) + (18” height x 3” deep x 48” long) = (2304) + (2592) = 4896 cubic inches or 42.3% of the volume of the tank (or 23 gallons total or 2.1 gallon/frog).



Larger volume enclosures generally have a smaller percentage of usable space when compared to their overall volume. (When compared to their smaller counterparts) So, once again, the idea that each frog gets a minimum of 5 gallons of space breaks down as the enclosures get larger. (This is counter intuitive but true unless the enclosure's floor area increases as the height increases (some breeder tanks are an example of this).



There are significant differences between the minimal amount of available space in a simple enclosure as opposed to a complex enclosure (which is why I needed to demonstrate out the differences via the cubic inches). When considering larger tanks, the 5 gallon rule may be a place to start (although in my personal experience, it is easily possible to keep and breed some darts and many hylids in higher densities for long periods.



The reason the density works in the larger enclosures is not because each frog necessarily has more space, but rather has the illusion of more space. This is where having an idea of the minimal usable/available space comes into play with a species that is territorial and/or aggressive as it gives you an idea as to how many visual barriers, hide areas, or other refugia may be necessary to accommodate the individuals in that cage. In simple cages, multiple hide areas (often one per animal) as well as visual barriers are needed, in complex enclosures fewer visual barriers are needed as the multiple available height levels available as well as the leaf and stem structure of the plants perform this function, while hide areas may also be totally supplied by the plants.



Visual barriers consist of anything that blocks the sight path from one animal to another. This prevents excess aggression as well as allowing an animal to flee from an interaction (as well as potentially increasing the density at which the animals can be kept). Visual barriers are not important to non-territorial/nonaggressive species such as some hylids (except by providing more surface area for perching). When considering multispecies enclosures (and I am actually not talking about more than one dart frog species per enclosure), the complexity of the enclosure provides multiple niches for other species to inhabit. Species that would not do well together in a simple enclosure may do very well together in complex enclosures due to the advantages of the multiple niches provided. The additions of some thin branches to the upper areas of the tank can create an entirely new habitation zone for a different species. In general, for most multispecies enclosures, there needs to be some gradient in the enclosure to be able to support more than one species. This is more easily and visibly accomplished in the very large enclosures but there are also options available in smaller enclosures that are complexly set up.



Now on to the real heresy! The space taken up by the dart frogs is not used to determine the spatial needs of the other potential inhabitants (as long as they are not dart frogs or a species that looks/acts like a dart frog). The needs of the other specie(s), such as visual barriers and hide spots for territorial species, all apply and consideration must be given to prevent these requirements from making a habitat that is detrimental to the dart frogs (such as over-perching, basking lights causing excess temperature, etc.) The reason that the space occupied by the dart frogs is not counted against the spatial needs of the other animal is that unless the species chosen to live in the same enclosure behaves/looks like a dart frog, it will be ignored by the dart frogs (there are some other guide rules which I will bring up later). For example, if one of the sympatric Gonatodes or Sphaerodactyline geckos are chosen as the second target species, the dart frogs will ignore the lizards. However, as these are territorial to each other in their own right, the limits required by spatial needs of the lizards will curtail the number of lizards in the enclosure.



Now, this does not mean that there is an unending number of animals that can be placed in the enclosure. Generally speaking, less is more when it comes to multispecies enclosures. There is a finite number, but that number is not directly determined by the amount of space available, but instead by the availability and amount of suitable habitat(s) that the volume can contain. Obviously the smaller the tank, the fewer the habitats!



The number of niches then determines the number of species, and the territorial needs of the animal will determine the density/number of animals per enclosure (predicated on some comments to follow). In addition, it is also partially dependent on the target species chosen, the size and complexity of the enclosure, the ease of cleaning of the enclosure, and the ease of feeding the animals. In general, the smaller the cage the fewer the species. Multiple species are still possible in a small enclosure and are often set-up unintentionally as many people do not count the various invertebrate populations that are established in the enclosures (most of which are not native to the frogs areas to begin with) for janitorial and/or frog food purposes. I tend to use one species to a niche as a basic rule of thumb and that has been very workable for me.



So, in summation, in order to even begin to consider if a multiple species enclosure is an option, the following must be determined (even prior to considering parasites/disease and stress):



1) Is there more than one niche available?



2) Will the conditions available to the animals (both frogs and others) be suitable for those animals?



3) If the animal(s) are territorial, do I have enough visual barriers and hiding spots?



4) Can I easily feed, clean, and maintain the enclosure in the chosen configuration? If not, will any changes made to make the enclosure easier to maintain change the animal(s) requirements? If so, can I then meet those requirements?



5) Will the shape or behavior of one animal affect the territoriality of another animal in the enclosure?



In other words, a LOT of issues need to be considered for the setup before considering placing multiple species together. It is possible but it takes a LOT of planning and thought to do it properly, even before considering the other two main problems.




Can i put Leucs and Pumilios in this enclosure (36”x18”x36”)? I figure the Pumilios will climb while the Leucs pretty much stay at bottom



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Old 05-09-2018, 08:55 PM
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Can i put Leucs and Pumilios in this enclosure (36”x18”x36”)? I figure the Pumilios will climb while the Leucs pretty much stay at bottom



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If you have to ask that question, you are not ready to do it.

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Old 05-10-2018, 03:45 PM
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If you have to ask that question, you are not ready to do it.

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I know you mean. I am ready to do it, i just figured i would ask for a second opinion from others.


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Old 05-10-2018, 03:52 PM
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I know you mean. I am ready to do it, i just figured i would ask for a second opinion from others.


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No, based on your comments and questions here and elsewhere, you are not ready to do it. I would highly recommend you do not combine those species.

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Old 05-10-2018, 08:43 PM
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No, based on your comments and questions here and elsewhere, you are not ready to do it. I would highly recommend you do not combine those species.

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Do you think the 6 Pumilios would be ok in there?


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Old 05-10-2018, 08:48 PM
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Do you think the 6 Pumilios would be ok in there?


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I think 4 would be better, but I think 6 could be manageable. But I am no pumilo expert, and I'd recommend more research be done. There are many pumilo experts on this forum who I'm sure would be happy to give you great advice.

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I think 4 would be better, but I think 6 could be manageable. But I am no pumilo expert, and I'd recommend more research be done. There are many pumilo experts on this forum who I'm sure would be happy to give you great advice.

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Thanks. Do you know of any people i can contact that are Pumilio experts on this forum?


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Old 05-10-2018, 08:52 PM
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Thanks. Do you know of any people i can contact that are Pumilio experts on this forum?


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Try contacting people participating in this thread: https://r.tapatalk.com/shareLink?url...5&share_type=t

And this one: https://r.tapatalk.com/shareLink?url...5&share_type=t

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