Doyle's Dart Den


by David Doyle June 1999
last update September 25, 1999

The following section provides information regarding:

Genetic Diversity (WC, CB, F1, F2, F3, etc.)
When setting up a breeding group, it is best to obtain animals from different blood lines.  Then, keep these froglets in different enclosures labeled with the name of the blood line.  Once the froglets are adults and can be sexed, breeding groups can be paired up and extra adults can be traded to obtain other sexed adults of other blood lines.

Some of the notations used when referring to the animals are WC, CB, F1, F2, F3, etc.  WC = wild caught and CB = captive breed.  There are some variations on the F1, F2, etc.  Most people  normally consider F1 to be offspring from unrelated animals and F2, F3, etc. to be offspring of related animals.  So if you had a WC male from blood line A (Male A) and a WC female from bloodline B (Female B) and you breed them, the offspring would be AB F1.  If you then took those offspring and bred brother & sister (Hey no jokes about KY and TN), the offspring would be AB F2.  If you then bred the brothers and sisters of that group, the offspring would be AB F3. Now if a male AB F3 was bred to a F3 female from a bloodline i.e.. Female CD F3, the offspring would be F1 (AB x CD).  This is when the controversy begins.  Some people only consider the offspring of WC's to be F1s and then they consider each captive breed generation thereafter a different F#.  So the best way to determine the background of an animal is to ask the breeder if he knows what the family tree is for that animal.  Also, there is some evidence that inbreeding is not a problem until F10 and some would say F30.

Getting a Pair
The first requirement for breeding is to have at least one frog of each sex.  This can be accomplished by buying a proven pair, or a group of  froglets.  If you buy froglets, you can use the following table to determine your chance of getting a pair.  The table was originally taken from Wood, Allen, 1993 "What are the chances?" published in Southern Colorado Aquarium Society Journal, 4(6): 13 and then reprinted in the ADG No. 17 Sept. - Oct. 1994.

It shows the percent chance of getting a pair for a given number of animals.  For example if you have 5 froglets you have a 6%  chance of getting  no pair, 31% chance of getting one pair, 63% chance of getting two pairs, and a 94% chance of getting at least one pair.

Percent Chance of Getting X Pairs


% of getting 
0 pairs

% of getting
1 pairs

% of getting 
2 pairs

% of getting 
3 pairs

% of getting
4 pairs

% of getting
At least 1 pairs

























































The advantages of raising froglets or tadpoles are:

The disadvantages are:

For information regarding sexing frogs please see the Species / Care Sheet section.

Inducing Breeding
The best way to induce breeding is to provide a good environment for your frogs.  To find out more about the correct environment go to the Housing section of this web page and to find out the requirements for a particular specie go to the Species Care sheet.

On November 9, 1996 Gerd Voss posted on FrogNet that "My best experience in breeding tinctorious, auratus and azureus is to keep one adult female and one adult male in a tank.  The size of the tank should not be below 6-8 gallons, but it also will not be necessary to keep them in larger tanks larger than 25 gallons."

Beyond that there are some methods to help to encourage the frogs to breed:

Providing a Place for the Eggs
In nature, the frogs will lay the eggs on leaves or in the vases of bromeliads.  Once the eggs hatch, the tadpoles are transported by the male to a pool of water.  In the vivarium, it is best to provide an area for the frogs to lay the eggs, because it is easier to check for eggs and they can be removed from the vivarium to be incubated in another environment.  The most popular method of accomplishing this is to place a petri dish or plastic lid from a jar under half of a coconut or small flower pot.  Some people have seen improvement by hot gluing a plastic leaf to the bottom of the dish.  Keep the dish moist with 1 - 3 mm of water in the bottom

An alternative to this is the use of film canisters that have been washed out.  Place the canisters  in the vivarium slightly tilted up and add a small about of water so that there is 1 - 3 mm in the bottom.  Bill Samples of CB Distributors/The Serpent's Egg Web site: offered the following help regarding using film containers:

There is a very good way in which the film containers can be used. Take the 2 film containers.

The first is the main container.

The second container is cut in half and cleaned at the edges.

Now, take one of the cut pieces and insert it in the first container. You have a simple egg extractor.  The shield (the cut in half container, can be removed and switched from the whole film container. This works very well. It is best to place a small amount of water in the container, after it is fixed in the terrarium.

We have fixed them to a thin dowel, by means of mono line, in a small cluster. Like a small "may pole" and placed in the terrarium, by pushing the dowel into the moss floor.

They can be placed in bromeliads or attached to walls with clips or silicone. If the film containers are being used with ground dwelling darts, just place in their favorite areas of the terrarium on the floor of the terrarium.

 Kay Klausing offered the following advice:  "I can remove the eggs with a small narrow dessert spoon, but it's a pain IMO, plus you have to move sure the eggs don't turn upside-down. It is easier to replace the egg containing canister with a new one, take it out, add some water, put the cap (with a few air holes) back on and incubate the eggs "in situ"."

Zack Jud had the opportunity to observe his cobalt tincs breeding and offered the following description:

Recently, my cobalt tincs treated me to a wonderful surprise.  I lucked out to have an unobstructed view of their entire breeding process!!  This group has always laid in the privacy of their hut, which I happened to remove from the tank in preparation for a vacation.  The hut was replaced with several temporary FF cultures, which were housed in small plastic boxes.  These cultures were still producing well, so I decided to leave them in the tanks after I returned from my vacation.  Evidently, the top of one of these culture boxes was deemed a suitable egg-laying site.  The laying process, as I saw it, began with a lengthy period in which the female sat behind the male, stroking his back with her front feet.  Each time the female touched the male, he would sweep his hind legs, one at a time, in a circular pattern. While doing this, he would slowly rotate 360 degrees.  He would perform his leg sweeps every 90 degrees or so.  It appeared that he was cleaning the egg-deposition site.  The motion was quite spasmodic.  This was a long, drawn out process, which resulted in a very clean surface to receive the eggs.  Next, the frogs switched positions, with the male stroking the female, and the female doing the hind leg sweeps.  At this point, I had to hop into a quick shower.  By the time I got out, the eggs had already been laid.  The male had moved a good distance away from the laying site.  The female was still laying in the egg mass, where she remained for about 20 mins.  She was not at all gentle with the eggs, freely stepping in the mass.  After the female left, the eggs were unattended for about 40 mins.  The original courting male returned, and proceeded to lay his belly in the egg mass for a good 20 mins, at which point the process appears to have come to a close.  I couldn't tell whether the eggs were fertilized before they were laid, or whether the male fertilized them when he returned.  In all, it was really neat to see my frogs "in the act."  Now that I know they will mate out in the open, I think I'll leave the hut out of the tank for a while....I kind of like seeing the process.  For those who haven't seen anything like this before, I hope this opens a few doors.

Care of Eggs
Check the egg laying locations when you feed.  Eggs will appear as a gelatin mass.  Fertilized eggs will have a darken center and are perfectly round and dark gray (or light gray in some species i.e, D. fantasticus) and stay the same shape and size until the first development which can be seen in the formation of a dark line across the eggs. This usually happens within 3-4 days .  Often there will be "bad eggs" also in the clutch.  These may appear the same as the "good eggs" but in a few days the other eggs will begin to develop while the bad eggs will not and may develop mold or fungus which appears as a white or gray color. "Bad eggs" will often swell, change shape or color or don't have a uniform color to begin with. Also sometimes there are "empty eggs" which appear to be the same as the other eggs but with no dark center.

Now, for the decision "to remove or leave them there".  Most people remove the eggs to incubate them in an incubator.  This reduces the chances of mold attacking the eggs or the chances other females from eating the eggs if there is more than one female in the tank.  Once the eggs are removed, use aged water in a spray bottle to rinse  any soil off the eggs. Afterwards, place the eggs in an incubator.  I personally place the egg dish into a small plastic container with a wet paper towel, some air holes in the top or side, and allow the eggs to develop at room temperature.  I have also used a "Critter Keeper or sweater box/plastic shoe box" covered with plastic wrap.  Others have used a sweater box with a few inches of water in the box this a submersible heater in the water.  Above the water, "egg crate" rests upon PVC pipe.  This way, the inside of the sweater box stays at a set temperature and high humidity.  Also tadpoles can be raised in the water of the sweater box.  (see tadpole care below for more information)

If any of the eggs develop white or gray areas on them, remove them because this is a mold or fungus that has attracted the egg and if not removed, it may move to other eggs.  To remove the bad egg, use a single edge razor blade which has been washed.  Place the edge of the blade into the bad egg between the center of the bad egg and the nearest good egg but only touch the bad egg.  Using the razor, drag the bad egg away from the good eggs.  Once the bad egg is away from the good eggs, use a paper towel to remove the bad egg.

If mold appears to be a problem, some people have reported that spraying the eggs with water with Methyl Blue mixed in the water.   Also, there have been some reports that the eggs can also be sprayed with "Black water" as an alternative.  "Black water" is a water additive / conditioner.  Anthony Hunt has reported some luck with leaving the eggs in a petri dish and adding a drop of TetraMedica and FungiStop to the water.  Kay Klausing reported that he had  tried both the TeraMin Blackwater as well as a methylene blue, malachite green mix (3% of both in 37% formaldehyde, diluted 100 000 fold, should be a very very light blue) and the bad eggs went bad anyway. For this reason he usually tries to stay away from chemicals.  Christina Hanson reported she boils approximately 1/2 cup of Amazon River Peat in 1 gallon of water.  Once this cools and has been aerated, she uses to spray the eggs and to raise the tadpoles in. Most  of these chemicals / medications can be purchased at a fish store.


After the tadpole has developed in the egg and it is time for it to come out, the tadpole will break the egg and the egg case will collapse.  Normally, the tadpole will work its way out, but on some occasions they will need some help.  If a tadpole is having problems exiting the egg, use a clean washed razor blade to open the egg case and then spray a gentle stream of aged water from a spray bottle to help the tadpole out of the egg.


Care of Tadpoles
Once the tadpoles emerge from the egg, they need to be moved to a container with 1/2 - 1 inch of water in it.  People have used numerous kinds of containers.  I personally like to use the half or full quart plastic freezer containers that people use for freezing fruits and vegetables.  Others use canning jars, deli cups, etc.  People also find the organizers that have 50 or so drawers which are about 4 inches long, 2 inches wide and 1.5 to 2 inches tall work well.  Just make sure the drawers do not have holes in them. Some people have successfully raised Dendrobates tadpoles from the same clutch together.  Others have raised tadpoles from other clutches together in larger container such as a sweater box or aquarium that has 5 to 10 gallons of water and live plants for the tadpoles to hide in.  People have reported that tadpoles raised in the larger containers develop larger tadpoles and then froglets.  On May 29, 1996 on FrogNet, Christian Som reported that "I've raised many tinctorious in groups in small (20 L) plastic aquaria.  They are aggressive and you have to add a big bunch of java moss so that they can hide from each other.  You may add about 8 to 10 tadpoles to a 20L aquarium."

Mark Paulaski reports that  Phlyobates tadpoles should be raised as a group as tadpoles raised separately do not appear to do as well.

There are different options on how often to change the water.  Some people suggest changing 50 - 90 % of the water with each feeding while others only change once every few weeks.  This has a lot to do with how much food is fed and how much water the tadpole is in.  The water needs to have had the chlorine removed and adjusted to the temperature of the water with the tadpoles.  The one of the best methods to accomplish this is to allow the water to set in an open container for 24 hours in the same area as the tadpoles.  Room temperature (68 - 78 F) is fine for raising tadpoles.

In the book "Breeding Dart Frogs" they describe the use of mulch to increase the tannic acids in the water which helps reduce health problems and the mulch provides hiding places for the tadpoles and food.  This mulch is available from CB Distributors/The Serpent's Egg Box 913,  Islamorada FL 33036, Phone: 305-852-3072, Email

Another recipe of increasing the tannic acids is Ian Hiler's Tadpole Tea which was posted by Kay Klausing on FrogNet and  is as follows:

Yield: 40 gallons of tadpole water (approximately 320 "servings)

1 oz. Alder "cones" Aldus sp.
1 oz. German peat moss (Eheim Ltd.)
2 Quarts rain water

Add all three ingredients to a medium saucepan and heat to a low boil.  Maintain a low boil for about twenty minutes.  Let cool.  Add 1/2 cup of "Tea" to 5 gallons of water.  The final product that the tadpole swims in is a light amber in color.

Kay Klausing wrote:  "The interesting thing is that I just got the recipe from Ian Hiler
for his tadpole tea, in which tadpoles only need 1 change of water during their entire development."

There are numerous food sources available to feed tadpoles.  The following are some more commonly used foods:

Feed newly hatched tadpoles very little food at first and then increase the amount of food.  Feed the tadpoles once every day or every other day by first draining off approx. 80% of the water and then sprinkling the food into the remaining water and then filling the container to the proper level.  If the food floats, spray the water surface with a fine mist from the spray bottle.

On May 29, 1996 on FrogNet, Christian Som reported that "At the University of Zurich, we did several tests on thousands of tadpoles with different food combinations.  Tadpoles with high protein food grew fast and metamorphosed pretty early.  But many ended up with spinal distortions.  We think, the reason for that was, that they grew too fast with too little vitamins and minerals.  The studies were done on European waterfrog tadpoles but I had the same effects with my dendrobatids."

Health Concerns
There are two health issues that are most problematic during this time in the frog's development,  spindly leg and short femur.  Spindly leg is a condition in which the front legs erupt and tend to be shorter and less developed.  This results in the animal not being able to feed.  There is evidence that this is  symptomatic of various issues.   Some evidence shows that it is related to genetic defects in the parents, diet in the parent, the temperature at which the tadpoles are raised, and diet of the tadpoles.  There is also some evidence that the addition of iodine to the tadpole diet will reduce the rate of spindly leg disease.  If spindly leg becomes a problem, try feeding foods with a greater concentration of iodine or use iodine supplements to the water.  Iodine supplements can be purchased at fish stores or stores that sell birds.  Also some of the SERA food products are advertised as having high iodine content.

Another deformity that occurs in froglets is when the femur does not develop to its full length.  There are some reports that raising the tadpole at high or low temperatures will cause this.  One person reported that when he fed liver powder to one clutch of his D. leuc tadpoles, they developed this deformity.  This group of tadpoles was raised under the same conditions as other clutches from the same parents with the only difference being the use of the liver powder.  Kay Klausing reported "None of my froglet had this short femur syndrome, but I know that NAIB has done some experiments and could trace it back to the vitamin supplement they used for the parents. That was in galactonotus."

Helping the Tadpoles Metamorphosis  into Froglets
Once the tadpoles have developed front and back legs, they need to be provided an environment in which they can crawl out of the water, but not out of the container.  The simplest way to accomplish this is to place the tadpoles in a container (such as a Critter Keeper or Tupperware) that is propped up so that the bottom slopes up from one side to the other.  Add just enough water so that the tadpole is covered and can move around in the end with water.  On the up slope side, place a wet paper towel.  Cover the container with a cover that the froglets can not escape from and will maintain the humidity.

During the time that the tadpole is morphing into a froglet and the time the froglet is reabsorbing the tail  some people suggest not feeding the tadpoles while others suggest reducing the amount of food.  In the end, they will rely on the energy stored in the tail while the digestive system is in the last developmental stage. Once the froglet has absorbed the tail, they will require food.

Care of Froglets
Froglet Housing
Once the froglets have morphed out, move them to a nursery setup.  The normal nursery setup is a Critter Keeper or Sweater box.  The substrate should be moist paper towel and the decorations should be a small plastic flower pot turned over or plant leaves such as Pothos or magnolia to provide hiding places for the froglets.  The setup should then be covered with plastic wrap with holes punched into it and then covered with the normal cover also with vent holes.  This is to provide some ventilation but maintain high humidity.  Froglets are very susceptible to dehydration due to low humidity.  Also, they are very good at escaping.

Once the froglets are a month or two old, they can be moved to 10 gallon setup.  Find a description of the 10 gallon setup by clicking here.

Feeding Froglets
In the wild, the froglets would have food available at all times and it is important that the froglets can feed when they feel the need.  To provide food in the setup, springtails can be introduced into the substrate and a piece of fruit can be left in the setup which will attract the fruit flies.  By doing this, the froglets should be able to find food without the food causing stress to the froglets (i.e., the flies crawling on the froglets).  Froglets should always have food available.  Some people have reported that froglets that go more than 24 hrs without food may die.  is another good source of information and photos regarding breeding.

I hope this information is helpful and if you have any input please contact me.

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