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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello all, I hope everyone is well.

I am in the process of planning a vivarium and am about a year out from commencement. I want to make sure I over-research to make this the best environment for potential dart frogs. (Thinking Dendrobates leucomelas or D. tinctorius azureus are my favorite) My conundrum is the tank itself. I am interested in a considerable sized tank as the plants would also be a main interest in keeping a vivarium. I looked into the exo terra vivariums (xl, xtall) but they are rather expensive. In comparison, I could pick up a standard aquarium for about a 1/5th of the price.
The exoterra enclosure is 36x18x36 while a standard 75 gallon measures 49x19.5x21. (in inches) With the standard aquarium you give up around 15inches in height and of course the front opening doors. The standard aquarium, however, is again way cheaper and adds about 13inches in length. Of course, I am also looking into building my own vivarium which might be a compromise of both worlds. My question is though: do Dendrobates leucomelas or D. azureus even need this extra height? (will they even appreciate the extra 15inches: will the frogs climb more often than residing on the substrate) or will they mostly stay close to the ground? I have read numerous posts regarding this, but I am still confused if the significant height of 36inches (still wouldn't be arboreal as one astute poster mentioned) is very important or not. As a side question: would a tank that is say 6 feet tall be too tall for dart frogs?

My last inquiry is regarding ventilation. Obviously it varies from enclosure to enclosure based on numerous factors; but is there a general rule for ventilation? I guess I am more asking for DIY ventilation for a standard aquarium or DIY vivarium. Half the top ventilated? 1/3rd? Does the bottom front absolutely need ventilation as well? I anticipate using a misting system and reside in Missouri USA. (if that helps)

Apologies for the long post! Thank you for taking the time to read, and I appreciate any and all critiques or suggestions!

Kind Regards,
 

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Welcome to the board! Either of your planned frog species will be great choices. I enjoyed both while I had them.

Your questions about the tank are pretty normal. The short answers are that yes, the frogs will take advantage of just about all of the height you can give them, if you hardscape appropriately. Ventilation is going to be the biggest difference in the conditions inside the tank between the two solutions. Convenience is the other major difference, which can't be underestimated, with front opening tanks the clear winner. With a normal fish tank conversion, you will suffer from not having passive circulation in the tank. Without vents low on the tank (as you would have with a purpose-built terrarium), you will only be venting from the top which is extremely inefficient. You can overcome this with some fans, but it will never be as good as passive circulation, in my experience. So, you can do it on the cheap, but you will pay the price in other ways. It's up to you how you want to pay the price :)

Mark
 

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Discussion Starter #3
@Encyclia
Thank you for taking the time to respond, very informative! Sorry if this has been asked a million times. :giggle:
It sounds like a DIY might be the best option for me then if circulation is very important. I assume mold and potential disease to the frogs are the motivating force behind strong circulation?
And just to reiterate the height answer: there would be no concern of a frog falling from a significant distance? (Several feet or so?) I assume there is a diminishing return after a approximate height (meaning the difference between a 4 and 5 foot high tank isn’t as significant in comparison to a 12 and 24 inch height), what would you cap your vivarium height at?
Thanks again for your thoughts.
 

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Correct on all counts :) It has all been asked, but the hobby evolves over time and research can be complicated by the fact that this board has threads that go back to an era when I would no longer support the conclusions drawn. I do find the search function to be much better with this new version of the board software, however. Nowadays, there is some dispute about the importance of ventilation, especially as regards water features in the tank (to be avoided for dart frogs in almost all situations, in my opinion). You are right that the reason is primarily potential disease (less so mold since a healthy viv usually moves through to where mold isn't as much of an issue) but also plant health. If you keep the tank at 100% humidity, a husbandry technique that seems to be making an ill-advised comeback, the frogs can no longer control their internal heat using evaporative cooling.

Finally, the heights we have available in our tanks are nothing compared with what most species routinely climb to in the wild. They will fall sometimes, and they will be fine, at least in part because of the leaf litter layer (without any sphagnum underneath!) that will be under there to catch them! Actually, it's just not that high for even the largest of our frogs to fall and be fine, so don't sweat it. If I had the money, I would not hesitate to build a massive enclosure that extends all the way to the tallest ceiling in my house. Three feet is the max height you usually see because of tank availability and logistic challenges such as lighting. Otherwise, there would be no hesitation for me to build as tall as was feasible.

Mark
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Correct on all counts :) It has all been asked, but the hobby evolves over time and research can be complicated by the fact that this board has threads that go back to an era when I would no longer support the conclusions drawn. I do find the search function to be much better with this new version of the board software, however. Nowadays, there is some dispute about the importance of ventilation, especially as regards water features in the tank (to be avoided for dart frogs in almost all situations, in my opinion). You are right that the reason is primarily potential disease (less so mold since a healthy viv usually moves through to where mold isn't as much of an issue) but also plant health. If you keep the tank at 100% humidity, a husbandry technique that seems to be making an ill-advised comeback, the frogs can no longer control their internal heat using evaporative cooling.

Finally, the heights we have available in our tanks are nothing compared with what most species routinely climb to in the wild. They will fall sometimes, and they will be fine, at least in part because of the leaf litter layer (without any sphagnum underneath!) that will be under there to catch them! Actually, it's just not that high for even the largest of our frogs to fall and be fine, so don't sweat it. If I had the money, I would not hesitate to build a massive enclosure that extends all the way to the tallest ceiling in my house. Three feet is the max height you usually see because of tank availability and logistic challenges such as lighting. Otherwise, there would be no hesitation for me to build as tall as was feasible.

Mark
Wow thank you!
Yes, I tried searching for information in this forum but didn’t really find anything conclusive (I thought) regarding heights taller than the standard tanks. Good to know the frogs would be safe.

I have been reading all the posts regarding water features.When gathering “inspiration” on sites such as YouTube you see a lot of water features, and admittedly they look awesome. But as with other animal husbandry, YouTube isn’t really the best place, unlike a specialty forum, for great information. My plan was to actually do a water feature such as a small waterfall. The false bottom would be egg crate and I would drill a drain at the bottom of the vivarium. This would allow me to do several things: most notably drain any standing water into a sump feature and recycle that water through the waterfall. (Filtered) The water pump feature would be outside the tank for any maintenance. Would you have concerns with this setup?

It seems as though the main issues with water features are the humidity levels rather than a water feature itself, is that correct? Only considering a depth where there is no real chance for drowning. (No real standing water pools etc) Or am I missing something important? I would use a substrate such as ecocomplete by the water feature instead of a substrate such as abg like the rest of the tank to negate decomposition.

Transitioning into another thing you mentioned, sphagnum moss. Everything I’ve seen shows sphagnum moss level under a leaf litter layer. You are saying avoid that?

Thanks again. I feel as though you have provided more information in two posts than what I’ve gathered in several weeks of research.
 

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Yeah, I know those YouTube guys make things look sexy, but their motivations don't have to do with the welfare of the animals and they don't necessarily have the chops to do something like that which functions appropriately in the long run. I have one, single water feature among the 30 or so tanks I have and that one is only because the species I keep in there actually come from stream habitats in the wild. That is not true of the vast majority of dart frogs in the hobby. Frogs don't drink from standing water and any valuable floor space in the tanks that has water over it is depriving frogs of a usually scarce resource (floor space). Finally, it is extremely difficult to control humidity in a tank with moving water. It might could be done (though I have yet to see it), but it adds a lot of complexity to a build that doesn't need to be there. If I could get rid of the one water feature I have, I would. Water features are for the keeper, not for the frogs.

Mark
 

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I agree, don't provide waterfeatures in vivariums you keep frogs in. It's has so much potential of having a hazardous impact on your setup and frogs.

I made a recent build report of one my tanks (no waterfeatures and on a budget!) if could be helpfull for your build :


 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Finally, it is extremely difficult to control humidity in a tank with moving water. It might could be done (though I have yet to see it), but it adds a lot of complexity to a build that doesn't need to be there.
Ah got it. This makes sense!

I agree, don't provide waterfeatures in vivariums you keep frogs in. It's has so much potential of having a hazardous impact on your setup and frogs.

I made a recent build report of one my tanks (no waterfeatures and on a budget!) if could be helpfull for your build :


Umm what?! :oops:

Ok.. this looks far more appealing than having any remedial water feature I could create. Absolutely amazing work. Now I'm a fairly stupid man, but when several well-informed persons advocate for no water feature I am smart enough to listen and follow their advice. I'll consider the water feature nixed.

I assume there is ventilation on the top? Just a screen strip that spans the entire lid? I also noticed no sphagnum moss on the floor. I will also avoid adding that as well.

I noticed that you mentioned in the comments that exoterras are susceptible to fruit fly escape? Can you explain?
 

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Ofcourse there is no spagnum moss, substrate should always be dry for the frogs.. A water feauture or annykind of moss is not dry substrate..

I think it's important for you to understand why experienced people advice you this. I think it would be wise to do a litlle more research on the frogs, so you understand why they need dry substrate and leaflitter instead of water, sand or snow for example.. Not just copy paste what people tell you. If you do that, it will probably go wrong annyway.

There are 2 ventilation strips on this tank and one underneath the front window. I think this is what people in the us call 'eurostyle vivs'? I'm not sure tho.

If you use the searchbar on this forum, you will find many topics in how to fruitfly proof An incorrect exoterra. ;)

Cheers.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Ofcourse there is no spagnum moss, substrate should always be dry for the frogs.. A water feauture or annykind of moss is not dry substrate..

I think it's important for you to understand why experienced people advice you this. I think it would be wise to do a litlle more research on the frogs, so you understand why they need dry substrate and leaflitter instead of water, sand or snow for example.. Not just copy paste what people tell you. If you do that, it will probably go wrong annyway.

There are 2 ventilation strips on this tank and one underneath the front window. I think this is what people in the us call 'eurostyle vivs'? I'm not sure tho.

If you use the searchbar on this forum, you will find many topics in how to fruitfly proof An incorrect exoterra. ;)

Cheers.
As disclosed previously I am just starting my research and am about a year out from actually adding frogs therefore I am here asking questions. The "care sheet" on this site mentions nothing of tank conditions and provides very little advice on anything specific regarding the environment needs. Literally 5 sentences . Unfortunately the information regarding care and tank construction are very sparse from what I can tell; and the stickied topics just didn't address my inquiries.

I see many people use sphagnum moss as a substrate layer and it is even recommended in reptiles magazine poison dart frog care sheet: "A moist substrate, such as long-fiber sphagnum moss, and a few leaves for hide spots are all you need." (Also recommended by Josh's Frogs) In addition, I was never intending to use sphagnum moss in isolation but an ABG mix; I was once considering snow however. (now I know) I was merely noting that you didn't use moss. I have used the search feature regarding this but have yet to find a consensus regarding substrate or water inundation. I can find many posts stating that the substrate should never dry out; all without siting sources or without explanation akin to your claim above. I also have seen several dart frog tanks thrive with a water feature for several years and no issues.

"Not just copy paste what people tell you" Fair enough, however without any explanation your information unfortunately falls under this categorization as well. That is why I appreciate Encyclia's explanation on why high humidity is a bad thing; it provides a reason why and also doesn't require me to search for hours trying to find a credible source. It helps me learn something that I wouldn't search for on my own as I wouldn't know. I can now go out and verify his/her statements. Josh's frogs (and numerous other reputable references) state dart frogs need over 80% humidity. Why is there so much mis-information out there regarding dart frogs?

This seems to be common in the reef community as well, as if to hoard clarifying information regarding tips and tricks of the hobby. I do recognize that many questions get asked over and over and can get repetitive. But some people do use the search function to search for answers first. The problem with this is that most answers are generalizations with no explanation (one post by one member who's credibility is unknown) and also I can not search for things I do not know or am aware of. If you care to share any credible resources regarding specifications of dart frog enclosures or husbandry I would be greatly appreciative.

Regardless, great tank!
 

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I think you ask good questions. Don't get me wrong.

When I say don't copy/paste I mean not to believe all the info out there like the 'josh frog's recommendation' of moss for example. I know there is a lot of misinformation out there so you asking questions is perfect :)

When I say do more research, I don't mean you have to research builds but rather research how the environment looks and the climate is were the species of frog live you want to keep. And read studies of the frogs insitu. Than you can compare that info to setups/info (experienced* or those who claim to be..) keepers give you. You would be amazed how helpfull this is in setting up a terrarium and other caresheet you can personalize for yourself.

When I refered to the search bar, I only ment that for 'how to fruitfly proof an exoterra' this is always the same..

The best 'caresheets' Imo are breed Reports and reports / topics we're frogs are succesfully kept and breed for over 5+ years.

I also know hobbyist who keep frogs in tanks with waterfeatures, but they all have issues with their tank and or frogs after only a few years..

All the real experienced frog keepers that kept and bred frogs that live up to 20+ years have the same thing in common : a well drained (dry) substrate, perfect supplementation, a large variaty of dieet for the frogs and a mimic of dry/wet season.


Greets.
 

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There are several great threads that have been stickied to the tops of the subforums which are full of useful information. This sticky is a great example, found in the Parts and Construction subforum. It doesn't have a thread specific to fly-proofing an Exo-Terra tank, but since you're new, it's still a great resource for answering other questions you're going to have.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I think you ask good questions. Don't get me wrong.

When I say don't copy/paste I mean not to believe all the info out there like the 'josh frog's recommendation' of moss for example. I know there is a lot of misinformation out there so you asking questions is perfect :)

When I say do more research, I don't mean you have to research builds but rather research how the environment looks and the climate is were the species of frog live you want to keep. And read studies of the frogs insitu. Than you can compare that info to setups/info (experienced* or those who claim to be..) keepers give you. You would be amazed how helpfull this is in setting up a terrarium and other caresheet you can personalize for yourself.

When I refered to the search bar, I only ment that for 'how to fruitfly proof an exoterra' this is always the same..

The best 'caresheets' Imo are breed Reports and reports / topics we're frogs are succesfully kept and breed for over 5+ years.

I also know hobbyist who keep frogs in tanks with waterfeatures, but they all have issues with their tank and or frogs after only a few years..

All the real experienced frog keepers that kept and bred frogs that live up to 20+ years have the same thing in common : a well drained (dry) substrate, perfect supplementation, a large variaty of dieet for the frogs and a mimic of dry/wet season.


Greets.
It seems the contradiction seems far greater in keeping poison frogs more so than other species Ive tried to keep, I suppose it is due to the lower relative numbers of keepers. That is why I am greatly appreciative of all the suggestions and everyone taking the time to respond.

I will take everyone’s expertise here into consideration and will definitely not include a water feature. I will probably also use a max height of 36inches for lighting concerns; and will probably revert to your suggestion of no moss under the leaf litter as I trust your advice. But I would want to do some research on why you wouldn’t want moss to keep up the humidity, or what harm it would do.

Thanks again for all your help. I was unable to find the frog institute studies referenced previously, are you able to provide a citation to where I can access this information? Or to any breed reports?
Regards,
 

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Moss is always moist or wet and frog's don't like moist or wet feet since a constant wet or moist exposure could lead to infections and or foot/bellyrot. This is quite a commom problem in the hobby. I always get the chills when I see setups where the substrate is mostly spagmos or the floor area is covered in moss.. It also doed not resemble their habitat in annyway.. Most of the frogs available in the hobby are 90% found in or near dense leaflitter covered areas or found up in our around trees.


The RH is also always recommend 80-100% on most caresheets , while 65+85% is probably closer to perfect for the frogs. If the humidity is to high, frogs will have problems with their thermoregulation.


There is an active 'in situ' topic and a topic with studies/papers.
Since I'm posting from my phone, it's difficult to copy/paste and find all the links right now. I'm sure you'll find them yourself in no time.

Greets.
 

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I'm sure someone here can help post an azureus or leucomelas insitu link :) if not, I'll look for one friday when I find some time
 

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The "care sheet" on this site mentions nothing of tank conditions and provides very little advice on anything specific regarding the environment needs. Literally 5 sentences .
Man, I just updated that one, too. ;)

Agreed, could be more specific. The idea in those 5 sentences was to point out the major ways in which leucs differ from "standard dart frog" (yeah, I know: whatever that is). They tolerate it dryer, climb a bunch, and can do OK in groups -- otherwise standard conditions. Maybe we need a "standard dart frog" care sheet. Anyone with input on that idea, please PM me. :)

Josh's frogs (and numerous other reputable references) state dart frogs need over 80% humidity. Why is there so much mis-information out there regarding dart frogs?
Part is because a major vendor (apparently this is what is going on) needs to provide a lowest common denominator recommendation. Full screen top won't work, and the truth about humidity/misting/ventilation is complicated, so their advice is to seal the viv.

Part of this is that the 'seal the viv, keep it really humid' advice used to be the norm, and apparently worked in many cases. The cases in which it doesn't work (no thermoregulation, skin conditions, etc) are not common enough to motivate a change in folks who haven't experienced those issues. The advice here tends to be 'best practices' rather than 'probably will work'.

It seems the contradiction seems far greater in keeping poison frogs more so than other species Ive tried to keep, I suppose it is due to the lower relative numbers of keepers.
That's one possible contributor. Another the fact that vendors are in the advice-giving business (see lowest common denominator comment, above) and are taken seriously. Major vendors in the aquarium hobby, not so much: here is Petco's care sheet on tangs, which isn't even in the same galaxy as advice you would see were DB a fish forum. Another is that given the unfortunate rise of 'bioactive', the hobby is expanding faster than good practices can spread, and so misinformation is spreading.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Moss is always moist or wet and frog's don't like moist or wet feet since a constant wet or moist exposure could lead to infections and or foot/bellyrot. This is quite a commom problem in the hobby. I always get the chills when I see setups where the substrate is mostly spagmos or the floor area is covered in moss.. It also doed not resemble their habitat in annyway.. Most of the frogs available in the hobby are 90% found in or near dense leaflitter covered areas or found up in our around trees.


The RH is also always recommend 80-100% on most caresheets , while 65+85% is probably closer to perfect for the frogs. If the humidity is to high, frogs will have problems with their thermoregulation.


There is an active 'in situ' topic and a topic with studies/papers.
Since I'm posting from my phone, it's difficult to copy/paste and find all the links right now. I'm sure you'll find them yourself in no time.

Greets.
After some searching: I think I have found the in situ threads that you have referenced. I feel silly because I didn't realize that you were referring to internal citations. Are these it? Part one Part two

Noted on the substrate suggestion, I will do as you recommend. I was only able to find one mention of bellyrot on this site and next to none on the internet. Is there a scientific name for this disease that I can research? If it is a common occurrence in the hobby I would think there would be substantial information regarding this issue, but fully recognize that maybe people are unaware of the symptoms?

Although almost every site I reference notes that most dart frogs live near wetlands, streams and ponds; I have come to recognize that these are very general terms. Access to fresh water source is not the same as living in a soggy marshland. Is that how everyone would describe the environment? And while on the topic of residing near streams: I notice that water dishes, access to substantial water sources etc aren't present in your build. Will the frogs gain necessary water through the regular misting? (ie if the plants have enough water, the frogs probably do too?)

In regards to humidity, I did find some information regarding thermoregulation. I will shy away from keeping the tank above 82% and will aim for around 60%. (Even saw one source claim humidity levels should be as low as between 40% and 60%) Also concerning thermoregulation, @Tijl @Socratic Monologue @Encyclia do any of you implement gradient heat areas to aid this process? Having some warm and cool areas to the tank, while fully recognizing that this might be hard to do with the smaller tanks.

Man, I just updated that one, too. ;)

Agreed, could be more specific. The idea in those 5 sentences was to point out the major ways in which leucs differ from "standard dart frog" (yeah, I know: whatever that is). They tolerate it dryer, climb a bunch, and can do OK in groups -- otherwise standard conditions. Maybe we need a "standard dart frog" care sheet. Anyone with input on that idea, please PM me. :)
:DI think this would be a great idea and surprised that it hasn't been implemented as of yet. When starting my research I found information such as general environment needs, common illnesses, even essential topics such as feeding frequency conspicuously missing. I would think a one-stop post for any general information would be a great idea, and it would probably cut down on repetitive questions but more importantly the spread of mis-information. I know I have zero experience but if I can help contribute please let me know. I have numerous sources/references compiled through research if that would help.
 

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The "Insitu" thread he was referring to was this one: In situ/in the wild videos and photos thread!. It is showing how the natural habitat of a variety of frogs in Latin America is. The thread that you were looking at was about the Insitu vivariums, which is a company.

When these articles you are reading say that dart frogs live by ponds/rivers/bogs, they are generalizing frogs. In central and South America, tree frogs usually hang out on leaves above puddles so they can reproduce there. Dart frogs usually live solely in bromeliads and in the leaf litter. The frogs that live by permanent ponds year-round are usually semi-aquatic or fully aquatic. Dart frogs usually don't live by ponds/lakes because there is a larger risk of predation by waterbirds, turtles, and other voracious feeders who sometimes ignore the "bright coloration" of dart frogs.

In my opinion, the best "water feature" you can have in your tank is the "pond" inside a bromeliad! 😅 It is amazing the parenting that some species of dart frogs exhibit when raising their young in bromeliads. Oophaga pumilio sometimes carry their young between bromeliads.

Good luck with your research! You are definitely moving in the right direction!

Gastrotheca
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:DI think this would be a great idea and surprised that it hasn't been implemented as of yet. When starting my research I found information such as general environment needs, common illnesses, even essential topics such as feeding frequency conspicuously missing. I would think a one-stop post for any general information would be a great idea, and it would probably cut down on repetitive questions but more importantly the spread of mis-information. I know I have zero experience but if I can help contribute please let me know. I have numerous sources/references compiled through research if that would help.
OK, one vote in favor. :)

I have been thinking a bit about this since I wrote it, and I'm torn. It seems it would be useful to have info all in one place. One disadvantage is that some folks will read this care sheet and think they are done collecting relevant info, which is very not true. Another is that some things cannot be specified without reference to specific details (misting frequency is a huge range; feeding frequency depends on frog age, species, prey source, viv temps).

Another disadvantage is that there is a recipe to keeping dart frogs, but not an algorithm. Consider a cookie recipe: Ingredients, what order to combine, how long to cook. Ok, but what protein content in the flour? Can I sub whole wheat/rice flour/goofy paleo stuff? Dark or milk chocolate chips? Good butter or the store brand? How many medium eggs make a large egg? What kind of sheet pan? Marble rolling pin or wood? Grease the pan -- some folks say no, some yes (argh! conflicting information!). Gas oven or electric? But I only have an horno, can I bake them in there? There can't be an algorithm, since everyone's situation is different.

On a different point: where dart frogs do live nearer to water, this is usually likely due to suitable microclimates there, which we can and do reproduce in captivity without the serious disadvantages of standing/flowing water.
 
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In regards to humidity, I did find some information regarding thermoregulation. I will shy away from keeping the tank above 82% and will aim for around 60%. (Even saw one source claim humidity levels should be as low as between 40% and 60%) Also concerning thermoregulation, @Tijl @Socratic Monologue @Encyclia do any of you implement gradient heat areas to aid this process? Having some warm and cool areas to the tank, while fully recognizing that this might be hard to do with the smaller tanks.
40% seems low to be shooting for other than over brief periods. 60% to 80% is what you should be shooting for most of the time, but after you get things dialed in, the numbers won't make any difference. You will be able to look at your tanks and see that they are where you want them to be. As for humidity gradients, they are completely unavoidable in almost any tank that is set up correctly (this rules out completely sealed tanks), though their size and strength will vary. In any tank suitable for dart frogs, you will have humidity gradients that the frogs can choose from whether you were shooting for that or not :) This is part of the reason I don't like moving water features. You may still have gradients but they shift the range higher than you likely want to have in a dart frog tank. A little pool (still inadvisable due to the floor space it takes away) and water in the drainage layer would contribute to higher humidity, but not to the degree that moving water does. I like to have water in the drainage layer of all of my tanks. It makes it easier for me to keep the overall humidity where I want it. Other stuff like venting, light gradients, internal fans, etc. will play a role in humidity gradients. It isn't just one monolithic humidity gradient from bottom to top. There will be little places where the air eddies, shade/full light, leaf litter that dries out at different rates. All of this stuff produces little gradients all over your tank. That's how I see it, anyway. Opinions among knowledgeable and experienced keepers will vary, though, I am sure.

Mark
 
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