Afternoon, y'all. This board has been really helpful in introducing the dart frog hobby, and I wanted to write down my experience through a month of frog ownership and beyond to hopefully help others and provide a little insight to the source I've taken so much from. I've raised/bred Pacman frogs and crested geckos, so I didn't come into the hobby green from a herpetology perspective. However, PDFs are so *tiny* compared to the animals I had dealt with in the past, it was intimidating. I began researching dart frogs towards the end of 2018, and began seriously considering them after I bought an Aqueon 6 gallon aquarium for a blackwater betta tank in early February but reconsidered due to location; I live in a small apartment that's maxed out with furniture, so I am bound not by budget but rather available space (and a S.O.). The Aqueon fit perfectly in the available shelf, but wasn't conducive to dart frogs due to size and openings.
The furniture is a family heirloom, and I was told modification to it was not an option. I returned the 6 gallon and found a 12x12x18 Exo-Terra on sale while traveling, planning for a pair of Ranitomeya due to my size constraints. From my research, I understand this is the bare minimum
for thumbnail PDFs. I followed this purchase with a Finnex Planted+ (or Planted Plus?) 12 inch light fixture. The Exo-Terra sticks out about an inch from the shelf, manageable.
While it's nice Exo-Terra su]pplies a background with their terrariums, most dart frog vivariums I have seen have a cork-tile style background, and the exhibits at my local pet store are no different. I discussed with my LPS designing a background for me, and they were happy to oblige. The construction is silicone -> egg-crate -> expanding foam -> cork bark, with mood moss on any exposed foam. Couldn't be happier with the construction. They sent me home with everything for a drainage layer, sphagnum moss + ABG for substrate, leaf litter, and a few broms + Wandering Jew.
Shortly there after (aka after my LPS got a shipment in), I started a culture each of springtails, dwarf white isopods, and powder orange isopods. I'm infatuated with the latter, they look so exotic to your standard gray isopod/wood louse/pill bug/Rollie pollie you find in the US.
At this point, it was time to wait for plant growth to occupy more of the tank, and find a frog supplier. After looking through the usual suspects (and finding out Josh's Frogs is geographically very close to me, surprisingly), I ended up obsessing over O. Pumilio. To me, they're quintessential dart frogs, but I was turned off to their "advanced" care label. When I got to the nitty-gritty of what made them expert-level frogs, it generally relates to the rearing of tadpoles/froglets and breeding habits, not necessarily their everyday husbandry. The difficulty with that
stems from their small size, which is a quality the Ranitomeya share. They also prefer a vertical-oriented viv, another trait shared with thumbnails and already in place. I sent out messages to both a breeder that had sold Imitators and Blue Jeans in the past, and resolved to get whichever he had in the coming months. To my surprise, he was actually preparing to sell six 1.1 O. Pumilio BJ pairs, and they would be ready to ship in approximately 3 weeks. I needed to increase plant cover in my vivarium faster than anticipated, and quickly got an Episcia and Strawberry Begonia, along with splitting my Wandering Jew. I also found a piece of wood I liked to occupy some vertical space, and ultimately thought the Episcia looked best on the wood (I know, broms are air plants. We get there).
The Episcia flowered after about a week, and made me feel like I was doing something right (whether or not that was true hahahaha). It's also worth mentioning I started a D. Melanogaster culture at this point as well.
I anxiously awaited frog arrival day, and was ecstatic when they showed up at my door alive and active. From the start, they readily ate dusted FFs. Officially, "Oophaga Pumilio Blue Jeans - Nicaraguan High Red."
Due to my lack of space in and around the bookshelf, my plan was to mist by hand indefinitely; it gives me an excuse to observe the tank every day, and allows me to flush the broms and water the plants. My frogs, however, had been very skittish from Day 1, and I attributed it to low humidity (50%-60%) and a lack of complete cover (I moved one of the neos to the back wall, and plan to get more broms). While a MistKing would be optimal, I got a Repti-Fogger secondhand at my LPS and now have it set up to run 5 times a day (every 3 hours 8AM-8PM) for 15 minutes at a time. It quickly dissipates when the cycle ends, but increases my humidity sufficiently while still allowing the viv to air out (I've got nothing but the stock screen at the top). More importantly, it has added a level of comfort for the frogs; the glass fogs up and they tend to be more active, and it continues after the fog stops. It has been 16 days since delivery (and 4 since the fogger has been set up), and I the male began calling this morning for the first time!
I'm picking up another brom or two tonight, and am looking at a 12x12x24 potentially in the future; they've been amazing to watch, and I'd rather dedicate the effort and $ to the frogs I already own than increase the number of species I have. It's been a learning experience, and I look forward to continue becoming educated by these penny-sized animals. It's unbelievably rewarding, and can't thank y'all enough for the help getting here. As I continue my journey, I'll hopefully have things to add here, but until then, I'm just enjoying Strawberry and Rhubarb's company.