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Hello everyone,
I'm setting up my first ever enclosure for dart frogs. After endlessly bugging the folks at my local frog/reptile specialist pet store, I'm about two weeks into the process of letting the tank "cycle". I'm just looking for more advice on things I might be missing to sooth my anxieties, as the health and well being of any animals I bring in is what matters most.
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I'm using a tank of approx. 30 gallons. I have a good drainage layer, new zealand fern substrate, and a layer of mixed leaf litter. The plants are mostly ferns, along with some golden pothos cuttings to climb the back wall panels. I've got a few areas of cover for frogs to take refuge in if the need arises, and a "cleanup crew" of springtails and isopods is already established.
I'm at least a few weeks away from adding any frogs of course, but I'm wondering if there's any drastic changes that need to be made before I can keep them.
In a perfect world I would have a bromeliad in there as well to provide cover and shelter, but there just hasn't been any reasonably sized options available. A humidifier on a timer is currently in the mail, and I'm just misting manually in the meantime to keep the humidity high enough.

Thank you all very much for any advice that you may have to offer, I welcome it all!
Very excited to break into this new hobby.
Cheers and thank you all.
 

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A few things:

What type of frogs are you looking to put in?

I don't see any drainage layer, at least from the images. If the substrate at the front hits the bottom, you will still wick all the water back up and into the substrate. What did you use for it?

What humidifier do you have coming? You shouldn't need anything beyond misting for humidity.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
A few things:

What type of frogs are you looking to put in?

I don't see any drainage layer, at least from the images. If the substrate at the front hits the bottom, you will still wick all the water back up and into the substrate. What did you use for it?

What humidifier do you have coming? You shouldn't need anything beyond misting for humidity.
Thank you for replying!
Dendrobaties Auratus frogs are the ones I have my eye on (as well as being the only ones currently available to me.) The drainage layer is about one inch of sanitized lava rock, which is dark in colour and blends in in the photo.
I ordered an Inkbird reptile humidifier, which is a touch overkill but it seemed adjustable enough and I live in a very dry house myself.
Thanks again.
 

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Thank you for replying!
Dendrobaties Auratus frogs are the ones I have my eye on (as well as being the only ones currently available to me.) The drainage layer is about one inch of sanitized lava rock, which is dark in colour and blends in in the photo.
I ordered an Inkbird reptile humidifier, which is a touch overkill but it seemed adjustable enough and I live in a very dry house myself.
Thanks again.
Did you separate the drainage layer from the substrate? You probably want 2+ inches at least of drainage layer. Certainly a pain in the butt to change that now, but if you have no frogs...well, you may want to consider doing it for longevity. I have a couple tanks that house frogs now that have major wicking problems. I would certainly have built them differently had I had the chance.

You don't need the humidifier, it serves no purpose for a dart frog tank in regards to husbandry. Just mist. If you don't want to hand mist, then use something like a Mist King system. The more plants you add, the more the tank will start to hold humidity as well, at least in my experience.

What does your lid/top look like?
 

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Did you separate the drainage layer from the substrate? You probably want 2+ inches at least of drainage layer. Certainly a pain in the butt to change that now, but if you have no frogs...well, you may want to consider doing it for longevity. I have a couple tanks that house frogs now that have major wicking problems. I would certainly have built them differently had I had the chance.

You don't need the humidifier, it serves no purpose for a dart frog tank in regards to husbandry. Just mist. If you don't want to hand mist, then use something like a Mist King system. The more plants you add, the more the tank will start to hold humidity as well, at least in my experience.

What does your lid/top look like?
The drainage layer seemed to be thick enough for what I had researched at the time, but I could definitely see myself falling a little short of the optimal mark there. If by separated you just mean that the substrate wasn't actively mixed with the drainage layer, I was careful not to do so, excluding the piece or so that would have fallen into the loose cracks. I also have a small tucked away piece of tubing nestled at the bottom of the rocks to drain away any sitting water if ever the occasion arises.
If hand misting works I guess I'm out a couple bucks on the humidifier but oh well.
The lid right now is just the standard lid that came with the tank. I've been considering getting a piece of glass (or hopefully a cheaper alternative) to cover the top between the tank and the lights to help maintain the humidity as I've seen occasionally advised for tanks, but it'll be the most expensive part of my setup by far so I've been hesitant.
 

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The drainage layer and the substrate need to be separated by a fine mesh or something similar, or eventually they will all mix together. The idea is that excess water runs out of the substrate and is collected below, where it can be removed. If there is no separation, then not only will they mix, but the water will just wick right back up into the substrate, negating the whole idea.

A piece of glass, cut to size, will certainly not be the most expensive portion of your setup...but more importantly, there is no way you are going to be able to keep the humidity up without it. It is an absolute necessity to enclose a large portion of the mesh lid. There are other options - for instance you can use a piece of acrylic cut to size and place on top of the screen. Leave a 4 or 5 cm strip uncovered along the front of your tank, and potentially another ventilation strip at the rear of the tank as well to allow for passive ventilation.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
The drainage layer and the substrate need to be separated by a fine mesh or something similar, or eventually they will all mix together. The idea is that excess water runs out of the substrate and is collected below, where it can be removed. If there is no separation, then not only will they mix, but the water will just wick right back up into the substrate, negating the whole idea.

A piece of glass, cut to size, will certainly not be the most expensive portion of your setup...but more importantly, there is no way you are going to be able to keep the humidity up without it. It is an absolute necessity to enclose a large portion of the mesh lid. There are other options - for instance you can use a piece of acrylic cut to size and place on top of the screen. Leave a 4 or 5 cm strip uncovered along the front of your tank, and potentially another ventilation strip at the rear of the tank as well to allow for passive ventilation.
I see! Well that's not going to be a fun fix, if I figure out a way to do it. My knowledge of drainage layers came from plant collecting experience, where the separation is not so vital. It was explained to me elsewhere that the lava rock also gave the burrowing isopods a space to hide and nestle into.
The lid it currently has is not so much mesh as it is an aquarium lid with built in lights. Fairly sealing with front and back ventilation, but I definitely see a piece of glass between it and the tank in the near future.
Thanks again for your help
 

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You could drill round holes on both sides at the top of the lid and place a blowering fan on one side and an extracting fan on the other, so that you can somewhat regulate the temperature. And be able to place a strip of ventilation. Place a few fans on the inside of the lid that provide air circulation in the tank.

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if you don't have "high water" plants, you don't need a drainage layer. you only really need that if you're constantly inundating the viv
 

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if you don't have "high water" plants, you don't need a drainage layer. you only really need that if you're constantly inundating the viv
I feel like I'm missing something. A dart viv without a drainage layer?

I've run a few smaller exos as growouts with just ABG on the bottom, and they suck. Hard. Either the ABG is soaked, or it gets too dry and the viv gets a little crunchy.
 

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if you don't have "high water" plants, you don't need a drainage layer. you only really need that if you're constantly inundating the viv
Agree, it will not be easy, but if you eventually know exactly how much you spray, a drainage layer is not necessary.
 

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This might be easier to understand.

If you have a tank that has substrate and nothing else, you are letting the substrate take all the water. It’s soggy. Really soggy. Now your plants don’t like that and they say “I’m outta here!” And now you and your tank are very sad.

I guess you could control how much you mist though. But anyways, that’s why you put in a false bottom or scientifically called under the name Ladrainagei Layerti.
 

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This can change so dramatically based on the season though, its better to leave yourself that allowed margin of error.
I would not choose this myself, but if you have a good command of the matter, this is very possible. With this knowledge it is equally possible to make a much lower drainage layer than the usual number of inches that are regularly advised.
 

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I would not choose this myself, but if you have a good command of the matter, this is very possible. With this knowledge it is equally possible to make a much lower drainage layer than the usual number of inches that are regularly advised.
I would be inclined to agree with you Ronald, but since this is the beginner forum, I think that this advice may not be the best for the intended audience.
 

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Chris gave some good advice here.

There is no way we can succesfully create dry and wet seasons for the frogs without a drainage layer to help collect the excess water.
No idea why so many here keep on forgetting the importance of this?

Sustrate should never come in contact with the drainage layer or there will be no drainage and all the substrate will become soaking wet when creatine the different seasons. That is what you always want to avoid.

Simply said : it's impossible to be a succesfull dartfrog enclosure without proper drainage..




@Gutenberg : If it could be of any help, I'll put up a link to how I setup my tanks.

70x50x65 vivarium build report
 

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There is no way we can succesfully create dry and wet seasons for the frogs without a drainage layer to help collect the excess water.
No idea why so many here keep on forgetting the importance of this?

Sustrate should never come in contact with the drainage layer or there will be no drainage and all the substrate will become soaking wet when creatine the different seasons. That is what you always want to avoid.

70x50x65 vivarium build report
I see that now.
I'm glad I made this post at least, or I definitely would have been trapped by a few of these issues. My poor building of it obviously comes from lack of experience though, really difficult learning all the ins and outs of a perfect environment! Starting to make me wonder if its feasible for me at all...
Very helpful link with the tank setup, thank you.
 
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