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Mixing Species Help!

11248 Views 132 Replies 32 Participants Last post by  dravenxavier
I am a beginner to the world of dart frogs, and am in the process of setting up a 12x12x18 vivarium. Ive heard a lot about the danger of un "pure" frogs and hybrids and am wondering why no one buys them/why they are a big deal? on a side note what would be a good number/type of dart frog (I dont want auratus :) )
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Seriously, almost afraid to post in this thread with all the hostility

There are a few debates popping up in here at once, but I'm most intrigued by the tank size debate. Maybe there's just something I'm not seeing, but what are the actual benefits of smaller? It seems that it makes for a much more sensitive system with the lack of temperature and humidity gradients, and perhaps more stress for the frogs involved. But the argument for it seems to be if you're careful, it can be done. But in that case, what's really the point of doing it? Why not just give them more space? I'm not sure I see a down side in that.

And for those who say "well, how am I supposed to give a 29/30/40 gallon for all of my dozens of frogs?" or "I can only afford a 10 gallon tank" I think that it comes down to knowing where to stop...or whether to not even begin at the moment.

But then, just my opinion, and admittedly I have nothing I can cite to back it up other than personal experience. Not looking for flames, here, but I am very interested in this particular part of the debate.
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I'm willing to have a reasonable discussion on it. The thing that is most commonly skipped over is that a well set up smaller enclosure can be a lot better for a frog than a poorly set up larger enclosure. Now don't get me wrong, I'm an advocate for larger enclosures but the level of dogma around this topic is becoming very tedious.

We can start with some history.. up until about 2004, the iron clad rule that many in the hobby dictated was 5 gallons/frog particularly when setting up groups of frogs in larger sized enclosures. At that time, virtually all of the commonly used enclosures were aquariums which were designed for an animal (fish) because they used 3 dimensions. To cut the explanation short (you can read the whole argument here as the size of the enclosures increased, the available area for the frogs decreased due to larger volumes of space that were not accessiable to the frogs (as they can't float or fly).

In reality, the territorial needs of an animal are determined by how seperate different resources are needed for the animal. In this case we are looking at egg deposition, calling perches, (in some species) mate guarding, and tadpole deposition sites. Dendrobatids do not appear to guard feeding areas.

The closer these are provided to one another, the smaller the resulting territory as there is less need to defend a larger area (saving important metabolic needs) from other competitors.

This is why it is important to understand why resource allocation is important when setting up an enclosure.

If the frogs are provided with shelters in which they can hide, then stress is typically not an issue.

One of the bigger issues, is that people may ignore the needs of the animals and set up aesthetically pleasing enclosures which are often considered to be a status symbol in the local hobby with both unofficial and (occasionally) official competitions. These enclosures often are planted to the point that primarily leaf litter species are obstructed from being able to move readily.

That should be a good starting point.
All good points. Part of the differences in opinion may stem from different groups of frogs being kept by different people. A 40 gallon breeder with leaf litter and some sparse planting would be far more useful for a pair of terrestrial frogs vs. a 40 vert with a heavily planted back wall, which would be more useful for a pair of Oophaga or thumbs.

This being said...if a particular person is prone to setting up an improper larger tank, then what would the odds be of the same person setting up a proper smaller tank, which is more sensitive and less forgiving in it's various parameters. Meaning, if someone could set up a 10 gallon that could (for argument's sake) work for a pair of tincs, then the same person should, in the best assumption, be able to set up a larger tank that would also be well suited (better suited?) to the species.

To me, it then comes down to a "we can, but should we?" sort of thing. I feel like it almost boils down to a competition to see who can keep and breed their frogs in the smallest given space, which just doesn't sit right with me. Or, fitting the largest number of frogs in the allotted space, which also doesn't really sit right with me. Again, though, all opinion.

The one thing that I can see about larger tanks, is that people do seem to overdo them sometimes. That there is so much space available, so a pond gets added, plus a moving water feature, and all sorts of other things that eat up available space to the frogs. I'm more trying to refer to the same keeper setting up a similar setup in two different sized tanks, if that makes more sense.
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I seperated this on purpose..

I think we can readily discuss and come up with reasons why a properly set up larger enclosure is better than a properly set up smaller enclosure, however we have to recognize that properly set up is not going to be the same for all species.

Right off the bat we can put out there that for primarily terrestrial species, leaf litter is important and moss is unimportant except for aesthetic purposes.

for the tinctorius group, bromeliads are not needed in the enclosure.. some form of hut for courtship and egg deposition is needed...

There are a lot more of these...

My feelings exactly. I think this could be a good discussion, but it seems most people get too defensive. Let us assume that if someone were capable of setting up an appropriate 10 gallon, they are capable of setting up a suitable larger tank as well.

The notes on terrestrial setups having correct planting and leaf litter alludes to my earlier comment on the fact. However, I feel if someone is going to insist on heavy planting either way, a 10 gallon can become far overgrown much more quickly and uncontrollably than a larger tank. That space can be choked out of a smaller tank much more easily, especially given many of the large/fast-growing plants many people (especially beginners) tend to use.

The lack of difference in condition between frogs kept in smaller vs. larger enclosures is also noted. However, I'll also put out the question of quality of life and mental stimulation. I've gotten more and more into this line of thought the past few years, and I've become increasingly convinced that mental stimulation is important to many animals, including frogs. That the increase in quality of life for a frog or pair of frogs when given access to a larger space with more varied microclimates, foraging options, etc. It's a concept that may prove impossible to really substantiate in reptiles and amphibians, but it seems to have become a standard for many mammals in zoological institutions, and I have certainly seen a difference in behavior with some reptiles that are more active/attentive, like Kunishir Island ratsnakes when given a larger, more natural enclosure. That while the physical needs of the frogs may be met, I don't think that we've really gotten into the understanding of the mental well-being of many of these animals.
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Perhaps due to the plants respiring during the night, depleting oxygen when there is no photosynthesis occurring.
Well I just lost a long write up thanks to a backspace that jumped me three pages back instead of deleting the word I wanted to delete.

Given what you are interested in with respect to husbandry, I strongly suggest getting a copy of Health and Welfare of Captive Reptiles as it talks about stress and in a roundabout way enrichment. There is a fine line between enrichment and stress which results in immune and hormone suppression.. Behaviors that can be interpreted as alertness may also be stress related so some care is often called for when going that route.

Keep in mind that sterotypy has not been documented for anurans with the exception of behaviors that result from critical stressors like excessively high temperatures. In any case we already do a lot with these frogs that would count as enrichment with mammals such as broadcast feeding, foraging, enviromental enrichnment (misting as an example)..
I think that it's not a matter of making them engage in their environment, but I feel it's an important option to have available should they so choose. Small tanks do not really give that option, nor do they really give a lot of options for finding a niche to hide or get out of the way on their own, but rather be restricted to whatever hides are provided (i.e. coco huts).

Reasonably, how many options can there be for a 2" frog in a 10x20" enclosure? I'll use my latest pumilio enclosure as an example. It's a standard 20 high, with a 1-1.5" thick background with 3 pieces of wood protruding from the background, and a couple jutting up out of the substrate, no plants, a 1.5" layer of leaf litter, and the higher pieces of wood support a cluster of 10+ fireball bromeliads that form a canopy midway up the tank. This gives multitudes of hiding places amongst the leaf litter, the driftwood along the back of the tank, and among the bromeliads, all of which are utilized when necessary. I feel (couldn't possibly know for sure, as I'm not a frog) that the various options allow for an increased level of comfort and enrichment, beyond what could be achieved in a smaller tank such as a 10 vert. Translate this to larger frogs, especially terrestrial ones that would find little use for such a canopy, and the problem seems somewhat exacerbated.

I concede that this way of doing things is not the only way, but I feel when talking about what's BEST for the animals, that the more options that are provided to them, the better for the frogs, and perhaps even better for the keeper as well.
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What you are looking at is simply a different phrasing for resource allocation. Pumilio and some of the other obligate egg feeders are poor examples to compare to tinctorius or other frogs in the tinctorius group or many of the Ranitomeya group. The reason for this is because in the wild, male and female pumilo have different resource needs. Males defend egg deposition sites and calling perches while females defend bromeliads that can be literally be tens of meters away vertically and/or horizontally.

The ability to utilize resources depends on many things including how they are situated and whether or not they have to be defended against conspecifics.

A properly set up larger enclosure will provide more resources than a smaller enclosure but the key is properly as improperly set up enclosures are going to be deficient in suitable niches.

There are a couple of things that are a little more concrete and we can discuss them.
The first is that a properly set up enclosure provides more niches and the possibility of more natural behaviors but this also depends on many factors including whether or not the frogs are allowed to care for the eggs and transport tadpoles. For example some behaviors can only occur when frogs are housed in groups, such as the social parasitism that occurs in R. ventrimaculatus.

I think there are two basic ways that this should be split up. First, is for the overall benefit of the frogs. Dealing with larger enclosures, the larger number of niches and microhabitats alone, in my opinion, are worth the venture to larger tanks for these frogs. These available options are more of what I'm relating to in terms of giving the frogs more things to do and more places to be. Shaded spots, open spots, hiding spots, and so on. Personally, I feel that the more of these positive options that are available to the frogs, the better their quality of life as they are not as restricted to using one or two available hiding places, nor would the tank be as prone to problems like overgrown plants choking out usable space.

The second way to approach the subject is from the side of referring to beginners. Aside from the posturing that loves to happen here amongst more established hobbyists, this topic seems to pop up mostly with people just getting into the hobby. Starting out with a larger tank with more available niches, more available space for the establishment of microfauna, and more space to help disperse any possible aggression (since many frogs are bought as either two or a small group of juveniles which may or may not turn out to be the same sex) should give a beginner an easier time and more leeway in the care of their frogs. Using a tank that is large enough to provide various temperature and humidity microclimates and having an established microfauna can go a long way towards the ease of keeping these frogs. And I really hate to say it, but this is especially true if the new hobbyist begins losing interest, and neglecting the frogs...which I'm sure happens more than we even realize.
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As I've said all along I am an advocate for larger enclosures.. and this is a good example of what I consider valid reasons.
I hope you don't take any of this personally. I'm not coming after you with it, but rather enjoying the conversation on this.

This gets back to my original position that people who are recommending larger enclosures have to own the responsibility to get newer people the information on how to set up an enclosure correctly. Just telling someone that x tank is insufficient because it is too small isn't an accurate statement much less a helpful method to pass along the information.
Understandable. So, rather than a response of "10 gallons is too small, you must have at least a 20L (or whatever)" a response of "10 gallons can sometimes work, but is generally too should try for a 20L with a lot of leaf litter and some decent open space available on the ground"? Or are you referring to some other advice that should also be passed along?

With respect to quality of life and hobbyists losing interest, I'm not sure that hoping microfaunal presence will sustain the frogs is valid.. if they have lost interest to the point they aren't feeding them, then they probably don't have the interest to keep the enclosure moist..
Not really saying microfauna can sustain a frog long-term, but rather that as someone loses interest, they start skipping a day here and there...there's no immediate repercussion so they slack off a bit's a situation I see all the time. At least it helps the frog maintain until the person (hopefully) realizes that it's in the best interest of the animal to find it a new home. The same note about keeping the enclosure moist is something that I was kind of alluding to, as the various niches in a larger tank give the frogs a better chance at finding a spot of suitable conditions compared to a smaller tank. That a 10 gallon can generally dry out completely more quickly than a 40 breeder (depending on various factors, of course). That there is a higher probability of there being some shadowy, moist spot that the frog can capitalize on when need be.

This brings us full circle to the recommendations.. it is fine to recommend a bigger enclosure, but there is a lot of posturing about what constitutes the minimal size enclosure and that is surrounded by just as many voodoo beliefs... So we have a decades of history of tens being sufficient to meet minimal needs of the frogs at what point does the size enclosure become overly redundent (and we are talking pairs here just for continuity)?
I agree...sometimes the debate for larger enclosures becomes difficult with the long-term success of institutions using 10 gallon tanks for breeding purposes. I think I take it a bit more personally, and find myself thinking "why not do better, then?" Why settle for the minimum of what will keep the frogs healthy? What kind of real accomplishment is that? I like to think that we, as keepers of these animals, can not just meet what is required by the frogs, but exceed these needs. All completely personal bias, there, (and maybe a little pompous) but still...
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So that brings us back to at what point is larger overkill.
Is there such a thing? I think it should be a bit more refined to "at what point is a standard recommendation of tank size overkill?"

Personally, my favorite size is the 20L/29 as far as floor space is concerned. Well, my absolute favorite is the 40B, but that may indeed be overkill.
I think the idea (at least where I was trying to steer it) isn't necessarily about right/wrong, but rather trying to do better. Trying to improve. Also touching on what methods would make it easier for those just getting into it...whether it be a small tank or large tank, weighing the various options and pros/cons attributed to each.

It may work...but is it the best? Can we do better? Is it the best way for someone who is new to dart frogs to start off? But not really "no, you're doing it wrong!"
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I'm inclined to lean towards a 40 breeder being the upper limit for a pair of tinctorius frogs and may depending on how it is set up for a small group of frogs (as at one point, groups of tinctorius, auratus or other tinctorious groups were decided on based on 5 gallons/frog.. I'm not ready to go that far..) Is there really that much benefit to a 29 or 30 gallon over a 20 long as your increasing height and not floor space? For example aren't 20 longs close to 12 by 30 by 13 while 30s are close to close to 12 by 30 by 19 (slight variations between brands is why I've rounded numbers). The height allows for some taller plants but the trade off in accessing them in a rack set-up for maintence is a pain in the neck trade off..


As for dimensions, I've noticed that the standard 30 has become something of a specialty around here. I forget the height, but the footprint was 36 x 12. Yes, the 20 long and 29 have the same footprint. My inclusion of both was pretty much offering them both up as equally good choices. However, I'm inclined to feel the 29 gallon may be slightly superior, as it (as you said) opens up plant options (a big part of this hobby, after all) and MAY help give a cooler temperature as you reach the bottom of the tank...important to note given the recent number of threads concerning overheating. Though as noted, that height can also be a down side.
just shy clear of these topics...better to talk about religion, abortion, etc... less headaches!
Actually I'd like to think that, while not exactly related to mixing species (but can be...) we made some pretty good discussion these last couple of pages.
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