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This topic is an offshoot attempt from Jon Werner's post about bad eggs and possible solutions. The reason that this post is going up, is because I really want some good observations to go into Jon's thoughts on bad eggs, and not have it turn into a simple - "Bah, your husbandry is not right."

So, let's look at our husbandry.

How many of us are super anal about 72 degrees, and really start to panic if things change from there? How many of us are terrified of 85 plus in our frog tanks? 90? 100?

Let's go in the other direction - what about 65? 60? 55? 50? What about as low as 40?

I remember a post from FrogNet where another frogger stayed at a hotel with another frogger, and vowed to NEVER share a room with that person again, because the one person would not allow the AC to come on "because there were frogs in the room." Yea. I would have flat out tossed them, without paying anything for the loss of their half of the room.

Believe it or not, there are actually seasons in Central and South America, and I have been in valleys where the temperature was as low as 43 degrees fahrenheit. There were pumilio everywhere. I saw azureus on the Sip plain, at 58, out hunting and roaming around. I have seen others, and while I do not remember the temperature, I was extremely wet (scared due to the work I was performing) and very, very chilly.

How many of us mist our tanks every day? Always have water in them, and keep them so wet all the time that green slime grows up the sides and drips from the ceiling? Actually have compiled our own lists of plants that will not survive the inside of the tank, because of their inability to handle the sloppy wetness?

I have seen poison frogs that are healthy, and with plenty of hiding spaces, do just fine in very dry conditions for extended periods of time. A very, very light mist in the morning to maybe simulate dew, and that is it.

Many of our frogs occur or live up a ways into the trees. It is fairly dry in some areas that the trees are, or windy. Do we ever try to replicate this in our tanks? I don't. I would be real surprised if any of the rest of us did either. Yes, I know there are bromeliads that hold water, and it rains alot there, and there is moisture under the moss, but there is a dry season there, and I have been there during the dry season, and the word dry is used appropriately.

Here is the statement. These frogs are 10x tougher than we think they are. They handle parasites, climactic changes, extremely condensed populations, competition that approaches brutal, predation, and they thrive in the wild. Why do we treat them as if they are so incredibly delicate? The answer is because we do not really understand them as we think we do.

What if the statement that Jen and I use all the time "Happy frogs breed." is not necessarily the case? Aside from the anthropomorphising aspects of that statement, what if that is the wrong way to view our charges?

Darren Meyer puts it perfectly - These frogs are not a "hobby" they are a major responsibility. They need attention every day. But to take it one step further, what if we are all wrong that breeding is the goal? I know that in many reptiles, you can literally breed the animal to death, because you have simulated breeding conditions for so long, that the animal finally "breaks" and dies. I totally believe that this is true of our frogs, and is something that needs to be looked at.

"Husbandry" is about as blanket a term as "Defense" and covers so much that it should not even be used. "Care provision" is more accurate, and that care should involve learning all we can, not only about our frogs, but their environment, and the ways that environment changes, from season to season, year to year. Learn how the insects interract with the seasonal changes, and how that interracts with our frogs. The goal of a good breeder should be the actual longevity of your animals, not how often they breed, or how large the clutches are. How often you have SLS, or how often the eggs go bad. I believe that all these things that were just mentioned are a result of not learning the macro of the frogs, and focusing too much on the micro, or the end result, which is eggs, tads, and froglets.

My goals with the frogs have been steadily changing over the past year. In 1988 I saw my first dart frogs. In 1996, I saw my first dart frogs in captivity. I have gone from a keeper that was awestruck at the colors, to one that was awestruck at the colors, and heard the words "They can breed thirty times a year" and thought about money, to a keeper that was just looking for the next expensive frog, (and not necessarily having any business having that frog, not due to ease or difficulty of care, as much as amount on my plate) to a jaded keeper that started viewing certain frogs as quite a bit less desirable than others, and even referred to auratus as "rat frogs" at one time. I became arrogant and irritated with other froggers who had been keepers of them one quarter the time that I had and was not open to new ideas; Why should I, I have already been where they are and of course would not have missed anything! I came close to burning out on the poison frogs all together. The best thing that ever happened to me was actually a fight with Jennifer, where she pointed out that I have never SOLD a single red amazonicus. Ever. I have traded them away, (In trades that would make most cringe, except the person on the receiving end of the trade. Erin and Dave McLay, Jason Juchems, and Chad Mayer are a few that come to mind.) It was at that moment that I realized that it did not matter. My auratus are just as cool as my amazonicus, and I decided then and there that there are no frogs more or less difficult to breed than any other; It all came down to what you wanted.

My goals have changed. I want to one day be able to proudly point to ten tanks, and say "This first tank is the original parents, and each additional tank is offspring of the offspring of the offspring etc etc" and the original parents are still alive, and still breed. I am just as proud to show off my Spotted Bronze Auratus as my Panguana Lamasi, and think that is a good thing.

You can make money with poison frogs, but at what cost? To yourself, or more importantly to the animals? I am content with the idea that there is no money in poison frogs, that the "Gotta Breed them, and breed them quick!!" are finally things of the past for me, and instead plan on exploring other aspects of the needs of the frogs, like how to get the right amounts of nutrients into them, letting them recover after breeding with a good dry spell and less food, allowing the temps, the humidity, the weights, to fluctuate more above the "optimum" because the optimum I have come to realize is "breeding" and that may not actually be the goal to achieve anymore.

For me, the goal is length of life, and breeding throughout that time. I have decided that I can breed any poison frog, whether it is WC or CB, F1 or F50, so that is not the actual challenge anymore. The challengs is having those frogs in a decade. THAT is a challenge.
 

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John,

Bravo!!! This is a really good post.

I would like to add a few points/qualifiers to your post. Please don’t think I am disagreeing with you, because I am not – I am just trying to facilitate some meaningful discussion. I have pondered many of the points you discuss and here are some of my thoughts.

About the seasons & temperature fluctuations:
First, I think comparing temperature fluctuations outside vs in terrariums is a little misleading. In captivity, we are discussing temperature swings in the terms of cubic feet, not cubic yards/hectors/acres/miles. I don’t think any of us will disagree, that a sudden change in air temperature out of doors, still leaves pockets of warmth or cool for animals to find shelter until temperatures stabilize.

A good example of this all of us deal with in the winter months, is bridges icing over when the temperature drops below freezing. Do you remember why this happens first before anything else? Without going into the details, there is air under the bridge and soil/ground under the rest of the road. The soil keeps the temperature of the road higher, thus it doesn’t ice over. While the temp under the bridge drops and the water droplets freeze.

With this in mind, think of our small 1 – 5 cubic feet of space which is a frogs home. If a temperature drop does occur, there isn’t a lot of margin for error. Frogs will be able to deal with extremes for short periods of time, but not over extended periods of time.

I have to go to a meeting, but I will post some more thoughts on this later.

Btw…congratulations are in order for you and Jennifer! From the pics you posted it looked like the perfect honeymoon for 2 nature lovers.

Melis
 

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Along these same lines we need to think about how we are determining "parameters" for success, be it breeding, or simply saying one setup is better than the other. Let's take breeding as a simple example. Lets say someone makes the statement, "I believe that adding field sweepings to supplement the diet of your frogs is a key ingredient to having healthy tadpoles and healthy froglets". (I don't know if anyone has said this or not, the point of this isn't to point fingers). In order to truly make this statement you need to have probably 20 pairs of the same frog (10 fed sweepings and 10 not fed sweepings), around the same age plus another few pairs as a control group. You need to keep consistent records on every pair and every tadpole and froglet produced for each pair, recording weights, etc. You then need to keep data on every froglet through adulthood. And so on, and so on, and so on... Guys with biology backgrounds can give more information in terms of what is needed to do a true "study". I am not a biology major so my numbers are not accurate, but my point is that every "trick" or "method" we come up with to increase breeding, keep frogs "healthy", decrease fungus in eggs, raise pumilio tads, etc. isn't necessarily a "proven technique". In most cases it is something that has worked for us at one point or another but may not work for someone else because of a hundred other parameters that are affecting our setups. There are so many parameters that we probably don't even think about that affects every part of these animals. So when reading information about what works best, just remember that there are very few "proven" techniques. Take the information as it is presented and find what works best for you.
 

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Robb,

I think the same could be said for all aspects of amphibian husbandry. Justin would be able to confirm this next statement better than I, but I feel there are very few people conducting scientific studies on medicating, breeding, vitamin mineral absorption, effect of UV light, etc.

Thanks for restating the obvious. I think it is important that everyone know that the information discussed is nothing more than speculation and personal experience.

Melis


rmelancon said:
Along these same lines we need to think about how we are determining "parameters" for success, be it breeding, or simply saying one setup is better than the other. Let's take breeding as a simple example. Lets say someone makes the statement, "I believe that adding field sweepings to supplement the diet of your frogs is a key ingredient to having healthy tadpoles and healthy froglets". (I don't know if anyone has said this or not, the point of this isn't to point fingers). In order to truly make this statement you need to have probably 20 pairs of the same frog (10 fed sweepings and 10 not fed sweepings), around the same age plus another few pairs as a control group. You need to keep consistent records on every pair and every tadpole and froglet produced for each pair, recording weights, etc. You then need to keep data on every froglet through adulthood. And so on, and so on, and so on... Guys with biology backgrounds can give more information in terms of what is needed to do a true "study". I am not a biology major so my numbers are not accurate, but my point is that every "trick" or "method" we come up with to increase breeding, keep frogs "healthy", decrease fungus in eggs, raise pumilio tads, etc. isn't necessarily a "proven technique". In most cases it is something that has worked for us at one point or another but may not work for someone else because of a hundred other parameters that are affecting our setups. There are so many parameters that we probably don't even think about that affects every part of these animals. So when reading information about what works best, just remember that there are very few "proven" techniques. Take the information as it is presented and find what works best for you.
 

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Man do I like this thread. Some greatly under appreciated and/or missunderstood issues are being discussed here.

Do you guys ever think about the light environment in our tanks compared to that of the frogs natural habitat? In closed canopy tropical forest somwhere between 0.1 and 2% of avarage daily solar radiation reaches the forest floor. It is unbeliveable to most people how dark these forest can be in the rainy season when solar radiation is greatly reduced by cloud cover. Or how dynamic the light striking the forest floor is. Sunflecks come and go over the course of the day exposing small patches of the forest floor to intense radiation, and then in a few minutes they are gone. While this doesn't directly affect the frogs we keep, it does have implications for what kind of habbitat we keep them in.

Most of our tanks could be best described as edge habitat, maybe associated with a tree fall gap. I mean that is the only time you would see the collcetion of plant types together that we keep with our frogs. They deffinatly don't represent the floor of intact closed canopy forest.
 

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First GREAT thread...

I would love to do some testing on temps, as I hope to someday get a lot of my tanks in the basement, and it would be nice to not have to heat it all year around to do so.

As for dry tanks, if you do not run fans and etc, most closed up tanks could go weeks without misting and still be at 80-90% humidity. I admit I do not mist much at all, but do mist daily. I have tried to back off some tanks as it is easy to tell that it is just too much.

Again great topic, can't wait to read what others post.
 

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Kudos on starting a great thread John. Lots of good ideas here. It might surprise a few that many of these topics have been debated and practiced for a long time. When I got my first auratus and vittatus from Mike Shrom so many years ago I don't remember when, my vittatus started to breed. They kept breeding, and breeding, and breeding. In fact they are still breeding but at a much more controlled pace. The reason is because I joked to Mike via email that the skill didn't seem to be in getting PDF to breed, but rather in getting them to stop. His response was a very simple, "cut back on the misting and food, and don't pull the eggs". So I did, and they stopped. Ever since then I have tended to cycle my frogs on and off with a "dry season" to produce eggs only when I want them. Many other froggers do the same. I have a friend who breeds retics and he has noticed that the frogs tend to breed better following lean periods of minimal food. This makes sense because there may be seasonality to the food supply in the wild and the return of abundant food after a lean spell may signal good times ahead you better get horny.

This leads to Johns observations about measures of success. I agree that longevity is a great measure but I wouldn't discount breeding. In my opinion you need both. We aren't really successful if we have a room full of 50 year old frogs but none of them have bred. Likewise we aren't successful if we are breeding the animals to an early grave. As usual I think nature is a pretty good guide. If our frogs are living at least as long as the "average maximum" lifespan in the wild, and are producing offspring at close to the same rates as in the wild, we are doing a pretty darn good job.

Robb mentioned ways to actually measure success and argues strongly for using the scientific method with controlled experiments. This has been discussed on frognet and even though I am one of those bionerds, I don't think controlled experiments are typically practicle or necessary for working out techniques for husbandry. Simple trial and error with close observation has brought us a long way in this hobby. If we piled up all of the frogs lost through trial and error vs. what would have been lost in contrlled experiments, the experiments would probably have a bigger pile. The obvious reason is because the experiments would be designed to test whether one technique was better than another so automatically at least one experimental group is going to get husbandry that we suspect is worse than another. Of course that doesn't mean that science has no place in figuring out what makes frogs tick in captivity. As we strive to improve our methods, we are collecting data. Most of us keep the data in a leaky device called a brain but when we start recording our observations and comparing them with other hobbyists, you start to get something that resembles a scientific study which is something that can be compiled and tested. I remember a thread on frognet that I think was started and compiled by John G. but I could be wrong. The question was "submerged or not" and successful froggers simply sent data on whether they incubated their eggs completely submerged or not and in what liquid. It completely changed the way I incubate eggs because the compiled data clearly showed that submerging the eggs for most species worked extremely well. I think we tend to sell ourselves a little short when we bemoan the lack of controlled experiments in determining husbandry. We are much more scientific in the approach than we might think. Of course that doesn't stop the unsubstantiated hypotheses being thrown out to the hobby like the topic that inspired this thread. But that is really the challenge to weigh the evidence available and determine what can and cannot be considered reliable. And sometimes there really is no substitute for a good controlled experiment.

I'll only briefly mention that light environments have been discussed indepth on the vivarium groups. I was glad to see sunflecks mentioned because they are so important for understory ecosystems. Dynamic light intensity, duration, and shifts in wavelengths throughout the day are all things that would be interesting to experiment with in vivaria.

Finally, I'm a huge fan of providing environmental variability be it seasonal, daily, or what. But it has already been mentioned about the role of microclimates in nature. Ten gallon tanks simply aren't going to allow for the variation in microclimates that may be necessary. A frog holed up in a moist pocket under a root in the dry season can probably just hop to another moist spot if the first spot gets too dry for comfort. If you are attempting to manipulate a small vivarium toward the extremes and you error, your frogs have no where to go except to mummyville. So there are some practical reasons to try to maintain small vivaria near the optimal conditions so if the parameters slip one way or another, they aren't lethal. This is only to say that "optimal" conditions may actually only be the "safest" conditions and a variable environment may be more optimal for the frogs.
 

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Just to make a clarification in response to the post by bbrock. You made the statement "Robb ... argues strongly for using the scientific method with controlled experiments". I am not arguing for or against using scientific methods with controlled experiments. Simply stating that in order to really "prove" a technique, you would need some kind of supporting data over a period of time. I am not discounting the fact that much in this hobby is learned through trial and error and sharing what seems to work for us individually or as a group. In my observations over the years, some people take a method or technique and then treat it as "fact" and "advertise" it as such. As Melissa said, maybe I was simply pointing out the obvious. Maybe I was a little more naive than others when they first started out in the hobby.
 

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rmelancon said:
Just to make a clarification in response to the post by bbrock. You made the statement "Robb ... argues strongly for using the scientific method with controlled experiments".
Poor choice of words on my part. Sorry about that. First I should have stated that when I say "scientific method", I mean the strictist definition which means hypothesis testing through controlled experiments. I just wanted to clarify that not all science comes from controlled experiments. I also should have acknowledged that I agreed with the main point of your original post which is that a lot of opinion in the frog hobby lacks a good foundation of evidence.
 

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First let me say that I honestly agree with what everyone has posted here, there are different levels of success to different people, I just want to tell you mine. I am a nobody in the frogging world, in fact I have only been doing this for about two years. Let me tell you why I got my first frog. Because they are beautiful creatures. I personally don't need to make money off of them. But I just think they are great animals, that are interesting to almost anyone who sees them. making money off of them is just a extra benefit for those that do, at least I believe that. I keep all of my viv's looking and functioning great because the frogs are a fasinating to me and anyone who sees them. I have tanks at work and home and when anyone sees them they become interested, that to me makes it worth it. Watching peoples reactions when they see someting that they have never seen before is a great feeling. Let us not forget the splender and the beauty of each of the frogs. Their coloring, beauty and antics are probably why each of us got frogs to begin with.
I know that my comments my not mean much, but what I think John may have been trying to say is lets not forget why each of us got into frogs from the start, and that they truely are wounderful animals.
 

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Agreed they are amazing and I really like points about the climates in the tank and possibly not offering the variations that are found in the wild. I like the drying out ideas also, but what is too dry? 60%, 70%, 80%, i'm sure every species has a different limit. Same goes with temps.

I have found that with my 2 imitator sets that the cooler ones seem to breed more often.

All interesting topics.... :)
 

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Well one thing for sure they can handle 95 degrees for a week! (dont submit your frogs to this though!) During Charlie we were out of power and the temps got up to 95! Humidity was 80+ constantly sometimes in the nineties, not to comfortable to sleep in!
 

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alexreds said:
I know that my comments my not mean much, but what I think John may have been trying to say is lets not forget why each of us got into frogs from the start, and that they truely are wounderful animals.
I think your comments mean alot and that is a great post. How many people can honestly say that they've made money from their frogs anyway? I only know of a few people who actually make substantial money on frogs. I know quite a few people who receive a great deal of money from selling frogs but that money goes right back into feeding their addiction be it buying more frogs, supplies, or plane tickets to frog events. At best they break even but most actually lose money once it's all added up. I really admire anyone who has been in the hobby for only two years and hasn't caught the "collector" or "dealer" bug.

Anyway, I'll let John speak for John but I took his original message slightly differently. I agree that there are personal measures of success and simple appreciation of the incredible nature of these frogs is at the top of my list too. I still maintain that g&b auratus are some of the greatest frogs ever. They are certainly the favorites of almost all non-froggers who enter my frog room. However, I took John's message to be looking not only at these personal measures of success, but also measures of success of the hobby as a whole. Obviously the hobby is not sustainable without successful breeding so I think it's hard to not consider breeding as a successful criterion. The hobby also won't be sustainable if all of the frogs are dying prematurely, so longevity has to be in there. I don't mean everyone has to breed, but we need to have collective success in these areas to sustain the hobby. While I think keeping frogs for the sheer enjoyment of them is a great thing, just because I enjoy my frogs tremendously doesn't tell me if I'm doing a good job of providing for my them. Which brings us back to John's question about what are appropriate measures of success.
 

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bbrock said:
Which brings us back to John's question about what are appropriate measures of success.
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. This question is highly subjective with an infinite number of answers. I can only share with you how we measure our success:

a. provide the basics for our frogs: food & shelter
b. cage is self cleaning (biologically speaking)
c. frogs breeding with high % of good eggs/tads
d. offering well started, strong froglets for sale so others can enjoy these lovely animals.

Those are just some of the ways we measure our success keeping frogs, there are more - but I wanted to deal with ones related to husbandry.

Melis
 

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Rob said:
As Melissa said, maybe I was simply pointing out the obvious. Maybe I was a little more naive than others when they first started out in the hobby.
What obvious to some, might not be the case to others.

People told me dart frogs can't swim, should have no deep water in tanks.

Well, they probably never saw my fantasticus swimming and hiding under water, when I was trying to catch them.

SB
 
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Great post, John--I agree completely. Hobbyists (whether they keep reefs, herps, dendros, etc.) always seem to strive and strive and strive for a utopia where nothing goes wrong, temperatures never waiver, and food runneth amock. We forget how highly adaptable many creatures actually are. Actually, in reefkeeping, many have noticed that after a small catastrophe to their systems or a move from one tank to another (some type of disturbance to the ecosystem)...a few months later corals and inhabitants are absolutely ripping along. Change allows for growth, whether it be a bacterial population that is able to rise in population because something died, or a spur in breeding from frogs. We need to understand how variable nature is, and let that occur in our systems. The opposite seems to be the practice: making sure everything is maintained and sustained at absolute optimum levels all the time. Let things dry out a bit. Drop the temps a little. Let a fan blow in the tank. Hold back a feeding or two once in a while.
 

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skylsdale said:
Actually, in reefkeeping, many have noticed that after a small catastrophe to their systems or a move from one tank to another (some type of disturbance to the ecosystem)...
A study on coral reefs in the 1980's found that areas with intermediate levels of disturbance exhibited the highest species richness. This started a new paradigm in ecology that has driven the field for the past several decades. This is known as non-equillibrium dynamics and basically said that most ecosystems are driven and maintained by disturbance. What we learned in high school biology about succession and climax communities is at least a half century out of date!
 
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