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I've gotten pretty comfortable with my first dart frogs (a trio of Azureus) and I'm looking to start a new project to get me through the cold, grey, lifeless Nebraska winter. I'd like to add some Ranitomeya or E. tricolor to my collection, but I won't be seriously frog shopping until the weather warms up again. That gives me several months to build and establish a home- however, I need to decide on how many / what size I should go for.

I have a 33" long, 21" high space (with another ~2" between the supports for lights) on the vivarium rack to add something new. Unfortunately I just don't have a practical place to custom make my own glass enclosures or I'd split it between two decent-sized vivariums. I'm currently trying to decide between a group of Epipedobates in a 24x18x18, or a potential of 3 smaller species in 3 vertical 10 gallon conversions. There's pros and cons to both.

I'm living in a second floor apartment, and will be for several more years at least. But I will eventually have to move these vivariums out, so in that regard, smaller is definitely more appealing. That said....I do already have a 36x18x18 dart vivarium and a 36x18x36 chameleon enclosure, so at this point I may as well have a third large vivarium. I thoroughly enjoy tending to large vivariums and there's just more you can do scape-wise, so I certainly wouldn't be unhappy with a single large viv housing a group of tricolors.

Unfortunately, I'm limited in space for future expansion beyond this rack. I'm reserving space on the shelf above for future offspring rearing, so these are potentially the last frogs I'll be getting for a while. It's tempting to let myself have more options, but I'd hate to do that at the cost of the frogs' quality of life in a bare minimum enclosure. I've seen plenty of 10 gal verts, but having never owned thumbnails, I don't personally know if they're happy in something that small. I try to adhere to "do what's best for the frogs", and in this case, I'm just not sure 10 gallons is sufficient.

That's mainly what I'm needing advice on- are 10 gal conversions even worth it? We have geckos that will be upgrading out of their 10 gals soon, so it'd be nice to put them to use. I won't bother if they can't reasonably house frogs, though. I think deep down I know I'll be doing a 24x18x18, I just need some confirmation from more experienced hobbyists to make that choice.

Thanks for your time & knowledge.
 

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10g vertical is ok if set up properly. I wouldn't put anything more than a pair of thumbnails in it though. Epipedobates are very prolific, so just account for that as well. You'll likely have an army of them in a short period of time.
 

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I'm currently moving my four thumb pairs out of their individual 10g vivs (12 x 12 x 18). Too early to tell exactly how the change will benefit them, though I did confirm that a 1.2 R. vanzolinii whittled itself down to a 1.1 in one of those smaller vivs, so that is suggestive.

In those smaller vivs I felt compelled to move froglets out earlier than I wanted to, so I'm hoping the less-minimally-sized vivs (InSitus) will alleviate that in the future.
 
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10g vertical is ok if set up properly. I wouldn't put anything more than a pair of thumbnails in it though. Epipedobates are very prolific, so just account for that as well. You'll likely have an army of them in a short period of time.
A pair of thumbs per 10g would be my plan if I go that route, otherwise Epipedobates (or even a single thumbnail species if one particularly strikes my fancy) in a single large tank. I don't have my heart set on either type of frog, but I do feel that Epipedobates might be an easier intro to breeding. I enjoy raising tadpoles (I used to raise native tree frogs and toads before I moved here) so I'm not too intimidated by their prolificacy. I can make room for any tad/froglet overflow if it comes to that!

I'm currently moving my four thumb pairs out of their individual 10g vivs (12 x 12 x 18). Too early to tell exactly how the change will benefit them, though I did confirm that a 1.2 R. vanzolinii whittled itself down to a 1.1 in one of those smaller vivs, so that is suggestive.

In those smaller vivs I felt compelled to move froglets out earlier than I wanted to, so I'm hoping the less-minimally-sized vivs (InSitus) will alleviate that in the future.
These are good insights, thank you!
(If I had the height for an InSitu, I'd have no hesitation going with that!)
 

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FrogCube makes conversion kits for aquariums into vivs. However, I'm not sure how nice the quality of a DIY would be since I've never done it myself but it should be hard to mess up. Exo terra and Zilla make nice vivs. InSitu makes fantastic high-quality products but they carry a high price. Both of those frogs are nice but Imma a sucker for Ranitomeya lmao. Some of the beginner morphs are variabilis and imitators. However, as colorful as they are seldom out and about when juvies (not like benies or fants) but still shy. On the other hand epidobates are bold but IMO is not as colorful and you don't have options. Gotta go ill add some more in depth info later...
 

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FrogCube makes conversion kits for aquariums into vivs. However, I'm not sure how nice the quality of a DIY would be since I've never done it myself but it should be hard to mess up. Exo terra and Zilla make nice vivs. InSitu makes fantastic high-quality products but they carry a high price. Both of those frogs are nice but Imma a sucker for Ranitomeya lmao. Some of the beginner morphs are variabilis and imitators. However, as colorful as they are seldom out and about when juvies (not like benies or fants) but still shy. On the other hand epidobates are bold but IMO is not as colorful and you don't have options. Gotta go ill add some more in depth info later...
I was planning on trying out FrogCube's kits if I do the 10gals. I've used the glue-in acrylic doors from I Heart Geckos for 10's and 20's for toads & lizards, but the ventilation isn't FF proof and I don't think I could make it look good by covering it with mesh- and by that point, I'd rather have spent as much money on something designed for my specific purpose. I'm certainly not new to conversions, it's just the amount of space I'm unsure of!

Exo Terras are the most accessible to me at the moment, so that's what I'll be using if I do one larger enclosure. If InSitu made 18" highs, I'd be all over it.

I was initially pretty dead-set on some sort of orange imitator- I love their calls, and I have a soft spot for orange frogs. I've never been a fan of meaty-red Epipedobates and kind of wrote off the entire genus until I saw tricolor Moraspungos- something about those understated little frogs just speaks to me. They aren't as available as the various Ranitomeya species I'd be happy with, though.
 

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Here is a picture of a space in my office that is very similar to what you describe. It's 3x 10 gallon vertical conversions that I either bought from Dane or made myself based on his design. My space is about 32 inches by 22 1/2 inches. I really like the way they fill that space. I mainly use these for froglet grow-outs or temporary housing. They are lit by one of these. I can tell they are old because it has been a long time since I used clay balls as substrate. Anyway, hopefully this gives you an idea of how something like what you are pondering could look. This is also one of the thriftier options for filling that space. I missed a real opportunity to scape these so that they flow into each other. Socratic Monologue had a build thread recently where he did that and it came out great. Happy to answer any questions.

Mark
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Here is a picture of a space in my office that is very similar to what you describe. It's 3x 10 gallon vertical conversions that I either bought from Dane or made myself based on his design. My space is about 32 inches by 22 1/2 inches. I really like the way they fill that space. I mainly use these for froglet grow-outs or temporary housing. They are lit by one of these. I can tell they are old because it has been a long time since I used clay balls as substrate. Anyway, hopefully this gives you an idea of how something like what you are pondering could look. This is also one of the thriftier options for filling that space. I missed a real opportunity to scape these so that they flow into each other. Socratic Monologue had a build thread recently where he did that and it came out great. Happy to answer any questions.

Mark
This is so helpful, thank you. It's good to see the possibilities- it seems there hasn't been much talk of 10gal verts since around 2016, and many of those threads have lost their images.

Still, you don't use them as permanent enclosures. Is that due to personal preference, a change in husbandry beliefs, or perhaps just that you keep groups that need more space? As I read more and more, it seems the consensus is "they work, but they're not ideal". I'm curious to know what the biggest downsides are for you, personally. Socratic Monologue mentioned aggression (or at least out-competition). I assume that's the major worry with froglets popping up.

I'm all for thrifty if it serves its purpose well and looks good (especially since the 10gals will be laying around somewhere anyway). Using nearly all 33" would look better than having a 9 inch gap, for sure. And I do really like the prospect of three separate but cohesive enclosures. SM's builds are certainly inspiring :)
 

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I am honestly torn on the subject of size for tanks. I think a pair of thumbnails is the most I would recommend in a tank this size, but I have no real data to support that. It's just the conclusion I have drawn after reading a whole lot of what other people have written on this board. I certainly am not sharp enough to have observed behavioral patterns that lead me to believe that tanks this small make the frogs act differently. The real reason that I don't use these tanks for permanent enclosures is that I am not space (or other resource) limited to provide other, larger enclosures for my other frogs. If this was the only space I had available, I would certainly feel differently. I am not usually one to adhere to hard and fast rules for how big an enclosure should be, other than "as big as you can make it." However, I do feel that I wouldn't go any smaller than this for dart frogs. If there was a convenient size of aquarium that fit two in that space as tightly as the three go in there, I would probably use that instead. Most of the verts that make now are 20 gallon tanks and I feel a lot better about putting dart frogs in there than I do in the 10s. Any chance you could make your own vivs out of glass? If not, I think you would be ok with the 10 gallon verts.

Mark
 

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I'll butt in again to clarify: it was a mistake of me to put 1.2 thumbs in the small viv (I had 0.2 that were just parked in there, and then I found a male to purchase. I should have removed one female, but that's hindsight talking).

On pulling froglets early: I keep eggfeeders, so the in-viv-froglets are part of the overall plan. Part of the motivation to move to larger quarters was to provide more and better foraging opportunities for those froglets; I've had a couple that looked less sturdy than I would like. The decision about viv size might be different if I were pulling eggs to raise, though some of the non-eggfeeders such as retics and fants really seem inappropriate for such a small viv, from what I've read about them. If by 'froglets popping up' you mean the rare surprise froglet, I don't personally think that needs to be part of the calculus.
 

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I am honestly torn on the subject of size for tanks. I think a pair of thumbnails is the most I would recommend in a tank this size, but I have no real data to support that. It's just the conclusion I have drawn after reading a whole lot of what other people have written on this board. I certainly am not sharp enough to have observed behavioral patterns that lead me to believe that tanks this small make the frogs act differently. The real reason that I don't use these tanks for permanent enclosures is that I am not space (or other resource) limited to provide other, larger enclosures for my other frogs. If this was the only space I had available, I would certainly feel differently. I am not usually one to adhere to hard and fast rules for how big an enclosure should be, other than "as big as you can make it." However, I do feel that I wouldn't go any smaller than this for dart frogs. If there was a convenient size of aquarium that fit two in that space as tightly as the three go in there, I would probably use that instead. Most of the verts that make now are 20 gallon tanks and I feel a lot better about putting dart frogs in there than I do in the 10s. Any chance you could make your own vivs out of glass? If not, I think you would be ok with the 10 gallon verts.

Mark
Well gosh, now you've got me thinking on the logistics of building my own vivarium in an apartment with two hooligan cats :eek:
It's something I plan to try eventually, but unfortunately I think I'll have to wait until we have a room I can keep closed long enough for silicone to cure.

Thank you for the answers, your experience is invaluable. I think I'd like to try 10 gal verts (mostly for the ease of relocation) with the cushion of having a few surfaces that could fit a vivarium if need be. I technically have a 34x18 rack beneath my chameleon enclosure that holds my plant grow-out, which I'd be willing to sacrifice in a pinch. Starting with 10's and upgrading in the future once I know the frogs better doesn't seem like a bad idea.

I'll butt in again to clarify: it was a mistake of me to put 1.2 thumbs in the small viv (I had 0.2 that were just parked in there, and then I found a male to purchase. I should have removed one female, but that's hindsight talking).

On pulling froglets early: I keep eggfeeders, so the in-viv-froglets are part of the overall plan. Part of the motivation to move to larger quarters was to provide more and better foraging opportunities for those froglets; I've had a couple that looked less sturdy than I would like. The decision about viv size might be different if I were pulling eggs to raise, though some of the non-eggfeeders such as retics and fants really seem inappropriate for such a small viv, from what I've read about them. If by 'froglets popping up' you mean the rare surprise froglet, I don't personally think that needs to be part of the calculus.
Thank you for the elaboration!
That's essentially what I meant regarding froglets; I feel like I see posts from surprised keepers fairly often. Maybe it's more common in large enclosures where eggs can be harder to locate.
 
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