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Arrow Frog

Arrow Frog Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

arrow frog

Overview

Dendrobates sp.

Arrow Frogs, also called dart frogs, are a family of frogs of different species that inhabit rainforests of South and Central America. As diurnal frogs that spend most of their time on the ground or on low-hanging plants, these amphibians are very active during daylight hours. As avid climbers and jumpers, they are fun to watch and make great pets.

 

Typical appearance and behavior

  • These small frogs come in a variety of bright colors and patterns
  • While they are sometimes referred to as “poison” dart frogs, they are nontoxic when kept as pets. Like other species of terrestrial frogs, the chemicals they need to make the skin toxins they secrete come from insects they eat in nature and are not found in captive-bred insects
  • As delicate-skinned amphibians, they should only be held when necessary
  • While arrow frogs’ size can vary by species—from less than an inch to 2.5” long—they average about 1.5” long as adults

 

Characteristics

Care Difficulty Advanced
Average Life Span 4-8+ years with proper care
Average Adult Size 1.5” long
Diet Insectivore
Minimum Habitat Size 10+ gallons for 1–2 frogs

 

Habitat

 

Habitat size

An appropriate size habitat will depend on how many frogs are being housed together. A minimum 10-gallon tank is adequate for two dart frogs. If keeping more than one frog in a habitat, a good rule of thumb is to add 5-10 gallons of space per frog. Tanks should have a tightly fitting screen top to prevent escape and allow adequate ventilation. These frogs reach adult size in 10-18 months under ideal conditions, depending on species.

 

Building your habitat

  • Décor - Provide several hiding places to make frogs feel secure and to decrease territorial behavior. Live and artificial plants, commercially available branches, driftwood, leaf litter and cork bark all can be provided to help frogs feel safe and to provide stimulation. An open shallow dish of dechlorinated water large enough for frogs to drink from and soak in should be available. Arrow frogs also may be housed in semi-aquatic terrariums where part of the habitat has large-sized gravel (too large to be consumed) pushed to one side of the tank and covered in dry substrate, sloped on an angle down to a shallow area of dechlorinated water. Semi-aquatic terrariums are best kept clean with small submersible, low-flow water filters
  • Substrate – As arrow frogs typically live in moist areas, the ideal substrate for their habitats should hold moisture to maintain humidity. Moist sphagnum moss and coconut fiber work well. Substrate should be at least 2” inches deep so that species that naturally dig can do so. Some recommend placing substrate over a drainage sheet composed of a sheet of mesh screen layered over large gravel to aid in drainage so that substrate doesn’t become moldy. Bedding made of small particles, such as sand or small bark chips, is not recommended—it is indigestible and can lead to life-threatening gastrointestinal tract obstruction if accidentally consumed
  • Humidity - Maintain 70-90% humidity, depending on species, by misting with dechlorinated water every day as needed. Providing an open bowl of shallow water also will help maintain humidity through evaporation. Monitor humidity with a humidity gauge
  • Temperature - Provide a temperature gradient from 68°F in the cool zone and at night to no higher than 80°F in the warm zone. Exposure to temperatures higher than 80°F for even short times can be deadly to these frogs. Monitor temperatures with at least two thermometers. A low-wattage incandescent bulb, an under-tank heating pad or a ceramic heat emitter can be used as a heat source—as long as appropriate humidity is maintained. Heat sources should be attached to thermostats to regulate temperatures. Thermostats are especially important with heating pads because they can get hot and cause burns through the tank floor if not regulated properly. Hot rocks should not be used as a heat source, as they can burn amphibians’ delicate skin. Amphibians not kept in the appropriate temperature ranges are more likely to become immunosuppressed and get sick
  • Lighting – Arrow frogs and other terrestrial amphibians do not require UV (ultraviolet) light to survive, but a low-level (2.0 or 5.0) UVB bulb is recommended to encourage natural behaviors and can be used with a low-wattage incandescent bulb to help establish a normal 10-12 hour day/night cycle. Be sure that the tank does not get too hot, and provide hiding places for frogs to avoid light as needed

 

Cleaning your habitat

Thoroughly clean and disinfect water and food bowls daily

The habitat should be spot-cleaned daily to remove droppings

Thoroughly clean the remainder of the habitat at least once a month:

  • Place frogs in a secure habitat, handling them gently so as not to damage their delicate skin
  • Scrub the tank and furnishings with an amphibian-safe habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution
  • Rinse thoroughly with hot water until no residue remains; it is imperative that all traces of the habitat cleaner or bleach solution are gone
  • Dry the tank and furnishings completely and add clean substrate before putting frogs back in the habitat

 

Feeding

A well-balanced small arrow frog consists of:

Things to remember when feeding your small arrow frog:

  • Fresh, clean, chlorine-free water should be available at all times
  • Arrow frogs generally enjoy hunting for prey; only live insects and worms should be offered
  • Feed juveniles daily, adults every other day
  • If your frog looks like it’s getting overweight or leftover food is found in the habitat, decrease the frequency of feeding
  • Sprinkle food with calcium supplement daily and a multivitamin supplement once a week
  • Feed frogs as many insects as they will eat in 15 minutes
  • Vary their diet as much as possible to keep frogs interested and to provide complete and balanced nutrition
  • Remove uneaten insects so they don’t chew on or injure frogs’ skin

 

Arrow frog care

  • Don't handle frogs unless necessary; always wear moistened, powder-free gloves when handling frogs. Bacteria and oils on your skin can be absorbed through the frog’s delicate, porous skin and cause harm. Arrow frogs have small glands in their skin that secrete irritating toxins to scare off predators; do not allow frog’s secretions to contact your eyes, mouth or open wounds. Use an appropriately sized, small-mesh, soft net to move or block the frog while doing habitat maintenance.
  • Frogs shed their skin every few weeks and will eat it as they shed in order to avoid predators and consume nutrients present in shed skin.

 

Where to buy arrow frogs

Arrow frogs are available for purchase at your local Petco Pet Care Center location. Please call ahead to check availability.

 

Supplies

 

Habitat mates

  • Frogs of the same species can be housed together as long as the habitat is large enough
  • Do not house different species together

 

Health

Signs of a healthy arrow frog

  • Active and alert
  • Clear eyes, nose and mouth
  • Skin free of hanging shed skin, sores, wounds or discoloration
  • Clear vent
  • Plump, rounded body
  • Eats food and passes stool regularly
  • Hops and moves freely
  • Hunts, stalks and catches prey actively
  • Maintains body weight

 

Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian)

  • Weight loss or decreased appetite
  • Obesity
  • Lethargy
  • Bloated abdomen or other body parts
  • Skin lesions or discoloration
  • Distressed breathing
  • Imbalanced or weak movements
  • Sunken or cloudy eyes
  • Dull reactions
  • Excess hanging shed skin
  • Discharge or bubbles from eyes, nose or mouth

 

Common health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueChemical intoxication Symptoms or CausesCaused by exposure to soap, detergent, pesticides, oils on human skin or other chemicals that are absorbed through their porous skin. Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian; protect your amphibian from exposure by handling only with moistened, gloved hands and removing all cleaning products from habitat.
Health IssueIntestinal obstruction Symptoms or CausesLethargy, decreased appetite, bloating; may be caused by swallowing gravel or other indigestible substrates or by eating too many hard-shelled insects. Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian; surgery may be required.
Health IssueNutritional deficiencies/ metabolic bone disease Symptoms or CausesWeakness, fractured bones, lethargy, decreased appetite, change in skin color. Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian; ensure a varied diet; use vitamin and mineral supplements and ensure proper UVB lighting
Health IssueSkin problems Symptoms or CausesLesions, sores and discoloration of skin; caused by bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections. Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian.

 

FAQs

  • Is an arrow frog poisonous? While they are sometimes referred to as “poison” dart frogs, they are nontoxic when kept as pets. Like other species of terrestrial frogs, the chemicals they need to make the skin toxins they secrete come from insects they eat in nature and are not found in captive bred insects.
  • What does an arrow frog eat? Arrow frogs eat a variety of insects, including gut-loaded (recently fed) crickets, flightless fruit flies, springtails and isopods.
  • Can you hold arrow frogs? Don't handle frogs unless necessary. Always wear moistened, powder-free gloves when handling frogs. Bacteria and oils on your skin can be absorbed through the frog’s delicate, porous skin and cause harm. Arrow frogs have small glands in their skin that secrete irritating toxins to scare off predators; do not allow frog’s secretions to contact your eyes, mouth or open wounds.

 

Additional care sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center partner about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all frogs are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your frog and/or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of diseases.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physicians before purchasing and/or caring for a frog and should consider having a pet other than a frog.

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about frogs and disease.

 

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If your pet is sick or you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.