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What Do Poison Dart Frogs Eat in the Wild and as Pets?

Nicole Cosgrove

Native to America, dart frogs are active during the day, have bright and colorful bodies, and can be highly poisonous. Whether a dart frog is poisonous or not depends on what it eats, so pet dart frogs and those kept in captivity in zoos, will not be poisonous because they will not ingest toxins from other venomous animals.

They can make good pets for beginners and advanced keepers, although you will need a specialist setup that includes both water and land for your amphibians. In the wild, these amphibians eat a variety of insects including flies and ants. As a pet, they will be fed small insects and arthropods: feeder animals include fruit flies, flour beetles, and phoenix worms.

Read on for more information on dart frogs, what they eat, and what food you can buy to keep your pet frog happy.

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About Poison Dart Frogs

Poison dart frogs, or dendrobatidae, are carnivorous amphibians that live in hot and humid tropical climates like Costa Rica and Brazil. They tend to be very brightly colored, using bright colors to deter predators.

Some species of this frog are among the poisonous and deadly creatures in the world. The golden poison frog has venom enough to kill as many as ten men. They get the name poison dart frog from the use of the animal’s venom to create poisonous darts, and they are also known as poison arrow frogs for a similar reason.

Their toxicity comes from the insects they eat. They collect toxins from ants and retain the poison. Some inject their prey with venom when biting, but others secrete the venom from their skin. Frogs kept in captivity are not toxic or venomous because they never eat venomous sources of food. As such, they are sometimes kept as pet amphibians.

green and black poison dart frog
Image Credit: Peter Krejzl, Shutterstock

Are Dart Frogs Good Pets?

Although dart frogs are not poisonous when kept as pets and when prevented from eating poisonous prey, they are still best considered hands-off pets. They have delicate skin and can easily become injured if handled too roughly or too often. They also have very specific habitat requirements, which means that you will have to adapt a terrarium or aquarium so that it meets their needs.

The dart frog can make a good pet frog, though. It is beautiful to look at and easier to spot than some of the more camouflaged species. What’s more, their terrarium itself can be beautiful to look at and fun to maintain. The frog is diurnal, which means that it is active when you are.

There are different species of dart frog, including those that are small enough to sit on a thumbnail, but the larger dart frogs are considered the better option for novice keepers because they are somewhat hardier than thumbnail dart frogs.

With a typical lifespan of around 5 years, there are some cases of this animal living 20 years or longer while being kept as a pet.

Are Poison Dart Frogs Easy to Take Care Of?

The most difficult aspect of caring for this type of frog is creating an inviting habitat in which they can flourish. It needs an ambient temperature of 80°F in a tank measuring at least 18 x 18 x 12 inches and they need approximately a 50/50 ratio of dry land and water in which to live comfortably.

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What Do Dart Frogs Eat That Make Them Poisonous in the Wild?

In the wild, dart frogs primarily eat insects. Some species eat ants that contain toxic chemicals. The frog does not get hurt eating these insects and it retains the toxin. Some of the frogs can then deliver this toxin by biting their prey while others simply secrete it through their skin making them very dangerous to handle. In captivity, though, they are not fed toxic insects which means that they will not be toxic.

Can Dart Frogs Eat Fruit?

Dart frogs eat tiny insects and they do not eat plant-based material. Whether in the wild or captivity, they will only go after food that moves, so they will not eat fruit. You can use fruit to breed your own fruit flies, and many species of dart frog will eat these.

poison dart in a flower
Image Credit: Pixabay

How Long Can Dart Frogs Go Without Eating?

How often you feed a dart frog depends on its age and its diet, but juveniles usually need to be fed every day, and most keepers feed their adult frogs two or three times a week. If the frog has been well fed, it may be possible to leave it for a week without food and most species can survive two to three weeks without eating, although this is not advised.

What Vitamins Do Dart Frogs Need?

As with most reptile and amphibian pets, you should dust insects before feeding them to your pet. This means applying a supplement powder to the food. The powder does not kill the insects but is digested by the pet. Supplements that are suitable for dart frogs include calcium, vitamin D3, and vitamin A. Use these as per the manufacturer’s instructions when you buy them because different powders have different concentrations and contain different vitamins.

Why Is My Dart Frog So Skinny?

Stress is the most likely cause of a skinny dart frog. This can be caused by moving or a change in habitat. Loud noises near the frog’s terrarium could also cause anxiety and lead to a loss of weight. If you have recently changed the frog’s diet, try changing back. If your frog does eat, consider reducing the amount you feed but increasing the frequency at which you feed. For example, instead of feeding twice a week, feed every other day. This proves especially effective if your frog has been leaving food.

poison dart in a plant
Image Credit: Pixabay

Do Poison Dart Frogs Have Any Predators?

Not only are dart frogs venomous, but their bright colors alert predators to this fact and most will avoid the frog because of this. As such, the species has very few natural predators, apart from some species of snake that have a natural resistance to the frog’s venom.

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What Do Poison Dart Frogs Eat?

Poison dart frogs, also known as poison arrow frogs, are intriguing little amphibians that are brightly colored to put off predators. In the wild, the frog will eat a variety of small insects, in some cases including ants that contain toxins.

Not only is the frog unharmed by the toxin, but they can retain it and poison their predators by biting or, in some cases, secreting the venom through their skin. In captivity, the frogs are not venomous because they do not eat these ants.

The most common food source for a pet dart frog is fruit flies, which can be bought from specialist pet stores or online. Alternatively, you can breed your own fruit fly culture to keep your dart frogs well fed.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.