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Old 06-11-2019, 01:44 PM
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Default Lessons learned from a recent fly culture crash

This ended up being an even bigger wall of text than I intended, but I hope it's still worth a read.

I have been at this dart frog-keeping stuff for a while now, but I still find really good opportunities to do something stupid. Recently, I had a fly culture crash that was completely avoidable but had some pretty serious results regarding my ability to feed my frogs. It all started because I decided to try someone's medium but I didn't notice that it was the wrong stuff. I don't want to focus on why the crash happened, but more on what happened after that. It could just as easily have been me not keeping up with the change in weather (humidity gets higher in the spring because I don't have to run the heater or the AC) or any of a number of other things. This time, it was a medium situation that was 100% on me.

The primary difficulty started when it took me way too long to notice what was happening. I have 36 cultures going at any given time (that's what fits in my set of drawers) and the cultures that weren't producing just looked like new ones, so I didn't pay much mind to them. It wasn't til a couple of weeks later that I noticed that way too many drawers of cultures looked new (no production). That's when that uneasy feeling started in the pit of my stomach.

One of the problems with a collection my size (which is not especially large, but seems huge when you run out of flies) is that you can't just ask a friend for some flies. I would have needed a huge number of cultures and I know that when I am just doing my regular fly thing, I don't have enough extra fly cultures sitting around that I can just give enough away to support a whole other collection. I would have had to drive all over Denver and my friends could have each given me a culture or two and I probably could have weathered the storm more easily. Another, though more costly, option would have been to order a raft load of cultures from an online vendor. I could have done this, too, because I have money put away just in case something bad happens to my frogs. I really suggest this practice to everyone (in all of life, not just frogs, but at least for frogs) because you just never know what's going to come up.

I COULD have done either of the above. However, because I still had those options available and because, like almost all of us, my frogs are chubbier than they need to be, I consciously decided to see what I could do get through this without outside resources. The frogs were never in any danger, and I could have gotten new fly cultures at any point during my crash experience. The end result was that the frogs really didn't end up being fed much less than they would have otherwise.

First, I immediately (once I identified the problem) made new cultures the way I have been doing it for years; the way I know will work. I didn't make more cultures than I ordinarily make (6 a week) because the problem is not only an immediate, acute problem. The first cultures will break the drought but the problem will not be fixed with one round of cultures. It took weeks to get into the mess in the first place, it would take weeks to fix the problem, as well. Really, it wouldn't be until maybe three weeks after starting to correct the problem that I was back on track. Looking back, it wouldn't have hurt to have made maybe 8 cultures instead of 6, but more would not really have helped.

Next, I started to look around at what resources I had available to help me feed while the first set of cultures I had just made did their thing. Here is what I had available:

a) Older cultures from before the medium change experiment. You should probably be throwing away cultures that are more than 4 weeks old, but I had a couple of drawers of past-prime cultures that were still semi-producing. This is probably what got me through more than anything else. I tapped those old cultures HARD.

b) I happened to have started a couple of Hydeii cultures recently just as a sort of experiment. They were producing and that made a huge difference.

c) Corey Kaiser (cmk on here) had set me up with some bean beetles not too long ago. They were producing, as well.

d) For some reason, I like to keep a raft-load of springtail cultures around. I had 7 plastic shoe box cultures that were well established.

Ok, those were the pieces I had to work with. I have learned that the biggest frogs and my growing froglets are where the majority of my flies go. Seems intuitive, but still surprises me what a large percentage of my feeding goes in those tanks. For the big frogs, I had some good options. The bean beetles and the Hydeii really took care of the majority of the feeding of the big guys for a while. The froglets and the smaller adults were fed more left-over flies from older cultures and springtails. During this time, I ramped up feeding (amount and frequency) the springtail cultures and they responded with more production. Ordinarily, I wouldn't want springtails to comprise so much of the frogs' diets because I don't know how to dust springtails because they come out wet (there is a way, I just don't know it). Regardless, it was only for a couple of weeks and I knew I could get right back to supplementing properly once the crisis was averted. Finally, I remembered that, in a pinch, you can actually wait a few days for the starter flies in the cultures to lay their eggs then they can be used as food. No parental care needed for fly cultures :-) This was another source of food that helped me bridge the gap.

The other thing that I did that helped the situation was that I spaced the feedings out a bit more. Rather than every other day (ish) like I would usually do, I instead fed maybe every 4/5 days. I probably wasn't feeding as much, either. When I finally started producing flies effectively again, the frogs looked exactly the same as before the austerity measures started. This tells me that I am probably over-feeding my frogs on a regular basis. It also told me, though, that they are a lot more resilient than I thought they might be. This happened in early spring so the weather probably helped quite a bit, too. The frogs were still in the their cool weather behavior mode, so they didn't need as much food. Few, if any, were breeding at that point, too, so I didn't have to worry about that added stress of a lack of supplementation for a couple of weeks.

In the end, there was never any danger at all. Because of my temporary surplus of food diversity and the fact that my frogs were seemingly very healthy at the beginning of this ordeal, I am not sure the frogs even noticed that there was an issue. A couple of weeks later (around 14 days?), I had booming cultures again and all was mostly well. I tapped those first cultures pretty hard and had no other cultures at that point to fall back on, but the first week got me through to the next week's cultures and by then I was mostly back on track.

I am sure you can find lots of things in my story that I could have done better and hopefully you can avoid the stress of this situation by learning from my stupidity. Below are the things that I can think of that I learned from the experience.

1) Don't make wholesale changes to how you are making fly cultures all at once. Make them slowly so that they don't interrupt your supply.

2) Pay close attention to how your cultures are producing. There should be new ones, booming ones, declining ones, and almost dead ones. If you don't have any one of those kinds of cultures, something maybe wrong.

3) Have a rainy day fund that you can use to correct something that is wrong without having to think too much about the cost. Could be buying new fly cultures, could be driving around to my friends' houses, could be paying for a vet bill.

4) Diverse food sources are a good idea. Don't have all of your hopes and dreams bound up in one kind of food source (Glider melos, for me).

5) If something like this happens, be purposeful in how you address the issues. Maybe you have more resources/techniques available to you than you think you do.

6) Don't panic. All will probably be ok unless you have an ongoing problem that you aren't able to address.

7) I could have done better with this part, but don't be afraid to reach out for advice or cultures if you have a problem like this. It probably would have been smarter if I had reached out to all of my friends and got a culture from each of them or just dropped a large order with an online vendor. I will again justify my decisions not to do this, though, because I thought I had the resources I would need to get through it and I was right. My frogs were never in any kind of peril. I could have pulled the rip cord anytime during the process. Also, had I not followed this course of action, I would not have been able to write this book of a post that you probably nodded off twice while you were reading it.

Hopefully this post generates some discussion but also gives anybody that reads it some confidence that if (or more likely, when) something like this happens to you, it will all be ok and you have some options in how you address it.

Mark
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Old 06-11-2019, 02:23 PM
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I had a similar mini freak out Friday when I went to make new ones. I still had my older cultures producing well though.

I opened the tub and the ones I made last time that I was going to seed from looked opaque yellow from the top. Complete larva coverage. Completely decimated the media. No flies.

A couple things I imagine happened.
1) I seeded the cultures with three times more than I should have and the resulting overpopulation resulted.
2) I was sort of in a hurry and poured flies in before the media cooled and gelled.

Monday there was a billion flies and I let frogs gorge. Lesson learned, an appropriate quantity to seed is ~50 not 150.
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Old 06-11-2019, 02:37 PM
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Default Re: Lessons learned from a recent fly culture crash

Wow, so that is a crazy long story, but fantastic information, thanks Mark!

I have only been at this for about nine months, but have experimented a little on my own. I completely understand the panic about the lack of production as I have been trying three different medias to see which produces on what curve. Twice in the last 3 months, I've either made the dash around Denver to find a producing culture or two at local shops or placed an online order. I'm not working with as many adult frogs as Mark, so the panic wasn't as huge, but still don't want the little froggies going hungry.

So a couple of questions come to mind based on what I'm experimenting with and developing the multiple food sources that Mark discussed:

1. I have fed exclusively wingless melos. I have asked and been told in different interactions that for the size of frogs (I'm feeding leucs and a couple different types of tincs) that I should be feeding hydei. Would it be beneficial to begin culturing hydei and keep my melos going, but maybe dial back the quantity to ramp up hydei?

2. Staying with the idea of experimenting, I have used three types of media: NEHERP, Josh's, and Repashy. My experiment thus far has been to try to determine volume and length of production. It seems that given equal conditions (all my cultures are kept in tubs that I keep a little water in the bottom of and leave cracked open so there is air circulation with the room kept at a fairly constant temperature), NEHERP blooms faster, Josh's produces longer, and Repashy seems the most consistent as to timing and volume. Any one else seeing anything different?

3. This is directed at Mark, or anyone else with the knowledge, but how do you culture then feed bean beetles? I haven't done any research on them yet other than the occasional Josh's Frogs email that has them on sale. I'm guessing they are used as a supplemental feeder, but how often?

4. When it comes to feeding springtails, how do you know the frogs are consuming them? I know when I feed flies, the frogs all come running and start pounding them down. Usually, to keep an eye on how often to feed, I will fluff up the leaf litter a little and see how many flies are still crawling around. If I don't see many I feed again (which is usually every other day). Some days we get busy and I'll miss a feeding and that's when I see almost all of the frogs sitting around the usual feeding spots looking for flies. With springs, do you see the same behavior to know that the frogs are eating?

I'm looking forward to following this thread, hopefully we get some good discussion going.
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Old 06-11-2019, 07:17 PM
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Default Re: Lessons learned from a recent fly culture crash

1. I have fed exclusively wingless melos. I have asked and been told in different interactions that for the size of frogs (I'm feeding leucs and a couple different types of tincs) that I should be feeding hydei. Would it be beneficial to begin culturing hydei and keep my melos going, but maybe dial back the quantity to ramp up hydei?

Just for the sake of diversity and the security it provides, I would say yes. Feed both. I feed mostly gliders (melos) to all of my frogs, so even big guys don't require bigger food, but it is probably a bit easier for them to eat fewer, larger prey.

2. Staying with the idea of experimenting, I have used three types of media: NEHERP, Josh's, and Repashy. My experiment thus far has been to try to determine volume and length of production. It seems that given equal conditions (all my cultures are kept in tubs that I keep a little water in the bottom of and leave cracked open so there is air circulation with the room kept at a fairly constant temperature), NEHERP blooms faster, Josh's produces longer, and Repashy seems the most consistent as to timing and volume. Any one else seeing anything different?

I haven't been as systematic in assessing the differences as you have, Jeff, but I have gotten decent results with all of those media. I currently use Repashy Superfly.

3. This is directed at Mark, or anyone else with the knowledge, but how do you culture then feed bean beetles? I haven't done any research on them yet other than the occasional Josh's Frogs email that has them on sale. I'm guessing they are used as a supplemental feeder, but how often?

I am still learning how to do this ideally. I usually just add some black eyed peas periodically and feed as the beetles come out. You have to feed them pretty quick after they start walking around because they will die pretty quickly if you don't get right on it. Use them as supplemental feeders. I can't predict the booms well enough to rely on them consistently.

4. When it comes to feeding springtails, how do you know the frogs are consuming them? I know when I feed flies, the frogs all come running and start pounding them down. Usually, to keep an eye on how often to feed, I will fluff up the leaf litter a little and see how many flies are still crawling around. If I don't see many I feed again (which is usually every other day). Some days we get busy and I'll miss a feeding and that's when I see almost all of the frogs sitting around the usual feeding spots looking for flies. With springs, do you see the same behavior to know that the frogs are eating?

The smaller frogs do what you describe when I feed springs. They cluster around the area where I put the springs. If I am trying to bolster the in-tank population of the springs, I will try to drop them in different places in the tank so the frogs can't knock them all off immediately. If I want them to get eaten right away (as was the case when I was out of flies), I will put them all in the same little area and the little frogs come running. I imagine bigger frogs like yours wouldn't have the same level of excitement for tiny prey like that.
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Old 06-11-2019, 08:03 PM
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Default Re: Lessons learned from a recent fly culture crash

Quote:
Originally Posted by DPfarr View Post
I had a similar mini freak out Friday when I went to make new ones. I still had my older cultures producing well though.

I opened the tub and the ones I made last time that I was going to seed from looked opaque yellow from the top. Complete larva coverage. Completely decimated the media. No flies.

A couple things I imagine happened.
1) I seeded the cultures with three times more than I should have and the resulting overpopulation resulted.
2) I was sort of in a hurry and poured flies in before the media cooled and gelled.

Monday there was a billion flies and I let frogs gorge. Lesson learned, an appropriate quantity to seed is ~50 not 150.
Same thing happened to me on Sunday. Saturday my Hydei culture was booming with tones of maggots all moving around. Sunday none were moving. I figured there were so many they suffocated. I opened it up and blew into the cup. It took a while but they started moving again. I changed the clogged cloth lid and the maggots seemed to recover. I guess I seeded with far too many flies. Going to cut back when I seed.
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Old 06-12-2019, 12:27 AM
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Default Re: Lessons learned from a recent fly culture crash

I worked with bean beetles for a short time. It's super easy, but my frogs didn't seem to care for them so I stopped making new cultures. Dry black eye peas is what I used. Start with about an inch of peas in a tall deli cup (32 oz is what I think I use) with a vented lid and just keep adding fresh peas as needed, but I would just let the beetles do their thing and start a fresh culture in a new cup and seed that from the older ones. Put an empty paper towel or toilet paper roll in the culture. The beetles climb into the roll, you just pull it out, dump into your dusting cup, add a little vitamin and toss them into the tank.
I would drop some in once a week as a substitute for flies. I always had way more beetles than the frogs would eat.
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Old 06-12-2019, 04:33 PM
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Default Re: Lessons learned from a recent fly culture crash

Great post. I think we have all dealt with similar feeder problems, just on a much smaller scale!

I too have leaned on old cultures during lean times. People will cringe, but I tend to keep ff cultures until they're black and devoid of life. I've been paranoid about wasting feeders ever since I suffered a crash during a cold snap years back and couldn't get anything shipped. I just keep the old nasty ones in a separate room away from my fresh cultures to prevent any mite spread. They're solid backups for when things go south.

You guys with big collections who manage dozens of cultures of multiple feeder types blow my mind. Hats off to you.
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