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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello Dendroboard,

I just made my account here very recently for the purpose of reaching out to seasoned hobbyists and experts who could lead me in the right direction. I have had my two P. terribilis "orange blackfoot" for approximately 2 years now, and I got both of them at a very young age (when they were about the size of a fingernail). These two were my first ever experience with dart frogs, and they got me into the hobby. They live in a 10 gal, fully planted bioactive vivarium with a few mourning geckos who respect the frogs immensely and keep to themselves (I've always kept my eyes peeled for interspecies quarrels and signs of stress), though this summer I'm building an upgrade for them (no geckos, either) in my 24x18x12 long/low exoterra because I'd like to give them more room and try my luck at breeding them.

This brings me to my question: how do they look? To my understanding, Phyllobates mature slowly, usually taking 2 years. I have fed these two consistently with D. melanogaster, D. hydei, and pinhead crickets their entire lives, supplemented with RepCal calcium D3 (every feeding) and herptevite (every 2 weeks/once a month). I believe my two frogs are very small for their age compared to the Phyllobates I see online. Is this normal? Did I stunt them? Will they (have they already?) reached maturity? Will they breed, do you think? I also understand that Phyllobates are harder to sex.

I'm nervous to post because I'm not sure if I have unknowingly done something wrong, and I don't want to be flamed or kept at the gate. However, I love these guys and I really would appreciate insight. I simply want the best for my animals and am wondering how they look to all of you, who can tell me from experience what is what and how to improve husbandry if need be. I think I've been doing everything right these past 2 years, but now that I've been looking for signs of maturity I've realized how small they seem to be. Perhaps they're not there yet?

Thanks everyone!

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Heya ... I keep and breed 3 locality types of P. terribilis, Blackfoot Orange being one of them. No flaming necessary, you're here for the betterment of your animals, nothing wrong with that. There's a lot of information on the internet and a lot of it is either outdated or conflicting. Anyway, just at a glance:

They do look very small for their age. I don't know if they were stunted or if that's a congenital thing. I don't see bones protruding, and at least in the photos they look sleek and alert, but there was absolutely a growth abnormality either husbandry related or genetic. The smaller one's hind legs look slight for this species.

I don't think those animals are good candidates for breeding, particularly because if there is a congenital condition you don't want to reproduce it.

Another thing -- where were these purchased from? Could they have been hybridized with another Phyllobates sp. to result in this odd look? Just wild speculation, they look different to me.

The diet in terms of prey items seems fine, but in terms of supplements all I use these days is Repashy Calcium Plus (daily) with a once every 1-2 week dusting of Repashy Vitamin A Plus for actively breeding animals. Supplements are kept refrigerated and replaced every 6 months as they do oxidize and lose their efficacy.

I've heard the accounts of P. terribilis taking 2 years to mature and while it's possible, mine started calling at around 9-12 months of age and were breeding at around 12-14 months old, give or take. Which brings us to sexing ... the males give themselves away sooner or later, and they're also generally more streamlined than adult females.

Moving up to a bigger tank is a good idea, and one thing you're going to read over and over here is "More leaf litter!" -- your tank as-is looks too wet which can cause problems long-term (but will not have affected growth) and terribilis, like most dart frogs, use leaf litter for the following some or all of the time:
  • Cover
  • Foraging
  • Sleeping
  • Egg deposition
  • A site to dry out (leaf litter surfaces should dry out around 2-3 hours after misting)
  • A vertical moisture gradient (lower levels are more moist and humid, top layer dries out)
I have a lot of my terribilis with short explanations on Instagram -- @loaded.question -- but feel free to ask all of your questions here, as there are lots of other experienced keepers to learn from here and this will end up being a useful archive for someone in the future.
 

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In my experience, some species of herps stay small when kept in too tight quarters, while others don't seem to. I think darts do. Some (most) species of herps tend to feed much less well when there are too many cagemates (whether conspecifics or nonspecifics), even when there is no apparent overt aggression; this is likely to be going on in your situation as well.

Curious: how long have the MGs been in there? Have they laid eggs? Have those eggs hatched?
 
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@Socratic Monologue makes a good point about cagemates out-competing them for food. It's worth noting that one of your frogs is larger than the other. While it clearly hasn't bullied it to death, it's possible that it capitalized on its head start and the small one has never hunted and fed as effectively.

I'm also not sure how the Mourning Geckos may have affected things; this is a controversial subject (it shouldn't be, but just read the archives) but I would never house these animals together, especially not in a tank that size.

One thing I've said repeatedly is that we think of intraspecific 'bullying' as overt aggression. This is not always the case; subordinate or stressed animals may simply freeze up or eat less when in line-of-sight of another frog.

I see this semi-regularly when raising froglets together and need to keep an eye out for it, so I can shuffle them out to separate grow-out bins where they get a chance to pack on some weight and growth.
 

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I'm also not sure how the Mourning Geckos may have affected things; this is a controversial subject (it shouldn't be, but just read the archives) but I would never house these animals together, especially not in a tank that size.
Yes, read the archives, and then add this (which I think hasn't been mentioned): the claim that "MGs and darts like the same conditions" is a stretch for all dart frogs, but is possibly most wrong specifically for terribilis. The accepted high safe routine temp for captive terribs is 80F, from what I read; the preferred body temp (study) for MGs is ~85F (which means a 75-80F ambient and 90-95F basking spot would be about right). These needs conflict too much to be considered as reasonable cagemates (in addition to the multitude of other reasons that speak against responsibly housing darts and MGs together).

Also, MGs can be scrappy -- I've not kept them with other species, but with themselves they do sometimes work out differences with physical force (like every gecko I've ever met, actually). Whether they will stand their ground against darts, I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did.
 
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Freezing up. Eating less. These are discreet behavior that are not readily observed. The inability to change location in the presence and foraging zone of another predating species is a novel stressor.
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Heya ... I keep and breed 3 locality types of P. terribilis, Blackfoot Orange being one of them. No flaming necessary, you're here for the betterment of your animals, nothing wrong with that. There's a lot of information on the internet and a lot of it is either outdated or conflicting. Anyway, just at a glance:

They do look very small for their age. I don't know if they were stunted or if that's a congenital thing. I don't see bones protruding, and at least in the photos they look sleek and alert, but there was absolutely a growth abnormality either husbandry related or genetic. The smaller one's hind legs look slight for this species.

I don't think those animals are good candidates for breeding, particularly because if there is a congenital condition you don't want to reproduce it.

Another thing -- where were these purchased from? Could they have been hybridized with another Phyllobates sp. to result in this odd look? Just wild speculation, they look different to me.

The diet in terms of prey items seems fine, but in terms of supplements all I use these days is Repashy Calcium Plus (daily) with a once every 1-2 week dusting of Repashy Vitamin A Plus for actively breeding animals. Supplements are kept refrigerated and replaced every 6 months as they do oxidize and lose their efficacy.

I've heard the accounts of P. terribilis taking 2 years to mature and while it's possible, mine started calling at around 9-12 months of age and were breeding at around 12-14 months old, give or take. Which brings us to sexing ... the males give themselves away sooner or later, and they're also generally more streamlined than adult females.

Moving up to a bigger tank is a good idea, and one thing you're going to read over and over here is "More leaf litter!" -- your tank as-is looks too wet which can cause problems long-term (but will not have affected growth) and terribilis, like most dart frogs, use leaf litter for the following some or all of the time:
  • Cover
  • Foraging
  • Sleeping
  • Egg deposition
  • A site to dry out (leaf litter surfaces should dry out around 2-3 hours after misting)
  • A vertical moisture gradient (lower levels are more moist and humid, top layer dries out)
I have a lot of my terribilis with short explanations on Instagram -- @loaded.question -- but feel free to ask all of your questions here, as there are lots of other experienced keepers to learn from here and this will end up being a useful archive for someone in the future.
Hi Fahad,

I really appreciate the feedback. I have answers and responses to the major points and questions you addressed.

It seems like it's likely to be a possible stunt from enclosure size and discrete nonspecific competition between the frogs and MGs, either through food competition or subtle stress. I'm not entirely sure. However, I do want to note that these frogs own the tank and are seemingly comfortable with the presence of the geckos, eating heartily in their presence. The geckos will actually wait for the frogs to finish eating before they bother picking up any scraps. The MG have their own food source (Repashy nectar/pollen mix) that they prioritize over runaway flies. Every feeding, just in case, I sit and watch the frogs to make sure they're getting their dose of flies and it's not going to the geckos. They are extremely active and alert, which is why I started this discussion in the first place because the only "wrong" thing with them is their physique and size. It's perplexing.

I bought the two of them as a pair for under $100 at a reptile expo. I figured the price was so low because they were very young. Perhaps they were a "bad batch" and that could explain their different appearance to you and small, possibly hybridized size. Regardless, these two will not be bred now with so many mysteries remaining and the possibility of prolonging hybrid progeny. They will absolutely be going into a new, gecko-free long/low tank this summer regardless, because I'm itching to build new vivaria. I will use lots of leaf litter.

I've never heard a peep out of of either of them. Maybe they've never reached maturity, or they did and they're just stunted in a way where it practically doesn't matter.

About the tank wetness: this is not the norm. The first picture (of the entire tank) was taken directly after their nightly misting. The remaining 3 pictures (of the frogs themselves) were taken directly after their morning/afternoon misting of the next day. The normal tank state is much dryer but still damp/humid enough.

Thank you for all of your insight as well, again! I'm definitely going to hang around this thread and others while designing/building their new vivarium and for any other questions that arise in the future.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
In my experience, some species of herps stay small when kept in too tight quarters, while others don't seem to. I think darts do. Some (most) species of herps tend to feed much less well when there are too many cagemates (whether conspecifics or nonspecifics), even when there is no apparent overt aggression; this is likely to be going on in your situation as well.

Curious: how long have the MGs been in there? Have they laid eggs? Have those eggs hatched?
Hello Socratic Monologue,

That could be the case, too, honestly. I didn't know darts could experience limited growth in that way. It would make sense if they've spent their whole early/developing life in here. As for their feeding habits, though, it's as if the MGs don't exist at all. It's something I've always paid close attention to: making sure their appetites stay strong and that they aren't competing for a food source with the geckos all the time. If you read my response to Fahad, I explained that the MGs have their priority food source of Repashy gecko mush, which they prefer over flies. However, like I've been reading, signs of stress can manifest in many ways and may not be observable. The MGs very well may have an effect on the frogs.

As for the MGs, I bought 2 hatchlings along with the 2 froglets in the beginning of this vivarium's established history. The MGs took about a year to fully mature and become matriarchs, and each has laid 2-3 eggs over another year. All their eggs always hatch. So, as of right now, there are 6-8 MG of varying ages/sizes living in the upper vegetation and wood crevices of the tank (2 matriarchs, juveniles, and hatchlings). I think it's getting way too crowded for everyone, which is another reason why I'm building a new, larger vivarium just for the terribs only once my semester ends in 2 weeks. I need to figure out what to do with the MGs, as they too will need a larger tank (and eventually I will need to start selling them or something, because I can't keep upgrading as their numbers increase).

Thank you for your insight!
 
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