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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello, I am researching dart frogs because I would like to get a couple and I am trying to figure out which species to get.

I know thumbnails aren't recommended as beginners but I have kept lots of reptiles and a few amphibians including salamanders and Pacman frogs before, I'm doing lots of research and plan to have the tank set up with plants and everything for a few weeks - months before getting any frogs, to make sure temps and humidity are reliable and start culturing flies. I want thumbnails because I want the tank to be as big for them as possible, also smaller is cooler.

So I have a 20 gallon long which is 30 inches wide, 12 inches long, and 12 inches high. I know that 18 inches high is often recommended but I also see 10 gallons are used which are usually a foot high.
I understand some species like more height I assume because they climb more, which species don't need much height/care about ground space more?

I live in Massachusetts so it doesn't get super hot but the AC isn't always great, I have been looking for ways to keep the tank cool, maybe pumping water with tubing from the drainage layer and or a water bowl into a big bowl outside the tank that I could put Ice in every day? I have also heard of people drilling holes in freezers/refrigerators to put a tube through and running water from the fridge to the tank, I have a minifridge in the room I could do that with, has anyone ever done that? Am I worrying too much about keeping it cool?

Also, I would like to get a pair that could breed so I could eventually have maybe 4-6 in frogs in the 20 gallon.

I have heard about darts that basically raise their kids themselves, like laying their eggs on a leaf and they just hatch off the leaf or ones that move them to a water bowl/petri dish, that you can take you and look after till after they are tadpoles.

So I am looking for something that would do good in a 20 long, not too hard to breed, and does well in groups. I don't know if I want more shy or more bold frogs, if the bolder species tend to need more room I'll just take the shyer one.

Edit: Thank you everyone for all the great information and advice!
 

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I keep three of the four species of facultative eggfeeders -- R. sirensis, R. imitator, and R. vanzolinii (I've not kept R. flavovitatta, but I think they're similar to vanzolinii in all the relevant ways).

I keep imitator in a pair since they're territorial, vanzolinii and sirensis as a 2.2 -- each in a viv of 30+ gallon volume though I do have one pair of imitator in a viv of 15g volume (12 x 12 x 24). Thirty gallons (InSitu Amazonias and ExoTerra 18 x 18 x 24) is good for a pair of imitator, tolerable for 2.2 vanzolinii, and I really wish I would have put the sirensis in a larger viv (mine are too shy in this little viv, and breed way too fast to get shy froglets out efficiently).

The imitator and vanzolinii I pull froglets as soon as they're large enough to move with no risk at all (which for me is about half adult size or so), and like I mentioned my sirensis are hard to extract.

One issue with a 20 long is that the drainage layer and substrate takes up proportionally more room than it would in a vertically oriented tank (some people do vertical conversions) -- taking up 4" on the bottom turns 30 x 12 x 12 into 30 x 12 x 8, a loss of fully 33% of the space. Also, fish tanks are good for fish, but not so much for frogs, as they're harder to access and don't ventilate well.

All the thumbs you might reasonably consider will climb as high of a viv that fits in your house even if you have two story vaulted ceilings, and use all the space you provide them. I'd consider a 18 x 18 x 24 the minimum size for a pair of thumbs, especially for a novice keeper; pushing it with subpar equipment makes this a lot more prone to failure than it already is.

Regarding AC, most keepers start to get concerned with most species when ambient temps exceed 80F. A viv with a sketchy ventilation situation (such as a fish tank conversion) will give less wiggle room on high temps, as frogs need mucho fine-tunable ventilation to cool off. I personally do not and would not make the life of my animals dependent on any sort of Macgyvered cooling rig.

FWIW, a species like D. leucomelas is a lot of fun, and more suitable than any thumb as a first dart frog species (that was my first dart species), and somewhat more tolerant of higher temps. R. imitator isn't too unforgiving, but that's assuming no corners are cut in caring for them.

Hope this helps. :)
 

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I keep both R. variabilis (thumbnail), and D. leucomelas, and would highly recommend either for you. Both are doing well for me in groups, are active and relatively bold in the cage, and fairly hardy. And for me, both have been prolific breeders, laying clutches of 4-6 eggs ever week or two.

D. leucomelas also has a pleasant-sounding trilling call, which really adds to the "rainforest effect" of having a vivarium.
 

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Welcome to the board, Erik.

Good job doing research, but be sure to listen to what SM is saying to you about your tank choice. That tank you are shooting for is not a particularly good choice for any dart frogs, let alone thumbnails. I have three of those set up in my collection, but I only use them for grow-outs. All of the little frogs I have in there are always up and around any height they can find including climbing the glass. I recommend finding a different kind of tank for dart frogs that will provide them some more height. The remaining 9 or so inches of tank available to the frogs in my grow-outs (after the false bottom and the substrate) seems inadequate. I use those tanks because it's what I have space for and because it isn't permanent lodging. I don't advise anyone else to keep adults of any dart frog species in them.

Best of luck,

Mark
 

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I'll just post pictures of adorably cute Ranitomeya sirensis "Rio Pachitea yellow" since @Socratic Monologue and @Encyclia have covered the tank size very thoroughly (felt like I was reading a novel lol).

Sirensis are great in groups, will feed their tadpoles with eggs, and, in my experience, are among the less flighty Ranitomeya species.

I keep my group in a 36x18x24" terrarium. Here's a thread on my tank:
Vivarium discussion Sept 28, 2020


Organism Watercourse Wood Grass Frog
Bedrock Organism Rock-climbing equipment Formation Electric blue
Brown Arthropod Insect Wood Amber
 

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I love my varaderos and that could be what you're looking for as they fit most of what you're asking for. However, I would not recommend putting them in the tank you have. It's too short and I don't think fish tanks are great. Most of the thumbnails need much taller tanks than 12 inches in my opinion. They love to climb.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Extremely helpful thank you. I'm finding a lot about how much they climb now. What about converting it to vertical? Would they be able to utilize that space well? Is a square foot of floor space enough? I might also make the whole thing a foot taller using plexi glass and silicone and then I could add a front opening door too. Maybe I'll just get a 30 gallon.

Can you tell me more about ventilation and fish tanks? what is the difference between a top lid fish tank and a front opening tank besides the front opening? Is ventilation just for cooling? I have read about not really having much of an opening for air to keep in humidity and that the plants will create enough oxygen. Are there any ventilation or cooling machines that you can buy to regulate temperatures?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Very cool tank, I think I might make the 20 gal long I have a foot taller with plexiglass and silicone, bringing it to 30 x 12 x 24. How did you make the background? Did you use insulating foam and silicone to suspend the cork?[/QUOTE]
 

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What about converting it to vertical? Would they be able to utilize that space well? Is a square foot of floor space enough?
Yes they will use every square inch of vertical space. I have a pair of Ranitomeya imitator in a 18x12x36" vertical conversion and they range from the very top to the bottom throughout the day.

If you landscape it well, a 12x12" floorspace can be workable but still isn't what we would consider ideal. You would want to skip a thick background (I usually go with just a silicone and peat moss background to preserve floorspace). I can link you to a thread that describes how I make my backgrounds.

You'd also need to add in elements to provide more usable space: branches, lesges, ramps, broad leafed plants. Again, let me know if you want links to threads showing how to do this.
 

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An exo terra 18x18x18 or 18x18x24 wound be a good choice. They are not perfect but, they are good enough and pretty much ready to go except a pane of glass to limit the ventilation on the top. They tend to look better then all but the most skilled vertical conversion. There are some good looking ones out there but, most look like exactly what they are, a tank built by an unskilled person with parts from the local Home Depot and some online acyclic piano hinge.

R. imitators are a good choice if you decide to go straight to thumbnails.
 

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I will second (or third) imitators as a good choice, along with most other Ranitomeya that are tolerant of groups, such as R. flavovittata, R. sirensis and R. variabilis. Imitators can be a bit more iffy in group settings, and you may find any offspring disappear when left in the tank over time.

Good luck, you are asking all the right questions to get started off right!
 

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It's a little expensive, but I have my imitators in the In Situ Amazonia viv and it's perfect for them I think. Pretty easy to set up. Worth considering if that's what you want.
 

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I'll add R. Uakarii "Gold-legged" to the list, though I would personally say not to keep them in groups unless the groups are male heavy, or maybe a 1.2 pair with enough space for the less dominant female to retreat. Females will wrestle with sometimes dire consequences if there's a courting male.

They are quite bold once they've adapted to their environment, and especially bold when actively courting and breeding.
 

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Can you tell me more about ventilation and fish tanks? what is the difference between a top lid fish tank and a front opening tank besides the front opening?
This is pretty old so you may have already built out whatever tank you went with but I thought I would answer anyway.

Fish tanks really don't have good ventilation. Most front opening tanks (exo-terra, zoo-med, In Situ) have vents under the doors as well as on top of the enclosure. This allows good air flow: as warm air escapes out the top it draws in fresh air from the front.

I used a 20 gallon aquarium to house some frogs and it is less than ideal. I had to buy a small fan for air circulation, and its far more work even just to feed, mist, and clean the front glass - these seem like small things but when you do them every day they add up. I far prefer my exo-terras to my aquarium and even though I have only been using it for a year I already plan on getting rid of it - or using it as a froglet or plant grow out tank.

When you look at the total cost of putting together a good habitat for dart frogs I think the extra money is worth it (obviously subjective). I frequently check craigslist and FB marketplace for people getting rid of tanks. I just picked up an 18x18x24 exo-terra for $125 basically brand-new (this is why I'm back on dendrobaord after a 10 month hiatus).

If you've already gone ahead with an aquarium then I apologize for the long-winded rant about why front opening vivariums are better. My 20 gallon aquarium definitely does its job. Its just a bit more work and I don't think it looks quite as nice.
 
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