Poison dart frogs are one of my absolute favorites to keep. Thanks to their powerful poison and bright colors, these frogs are quite a bit bolder than their relatives which makes for an especially enjoyable viewing experience.
But there’s still a lot of confusion around how to set these frogs up for success and how much height you need to keep these frogs happy.
So, do poison dart frogs climb the walls of their enclosure or trees?
In the wild, most poison dart frogs live close to the ground but some have been found to climb trees that are more than 30 feet tall. When it comes to setting up your enclosure, you should offer your poison dart frogs space to climb, regardless of whether they’re classified as terrestrial or semi-arboreal.
Keep in mind that just because a dart frog is classified as terrestrial doesn’t mean that it will only engage with the substrate and most terrestrial frogs will be happy to climb whatever is made available to them- especially since it’s not likely to be very tall in the first place.
That’s the quick answer but let’s take a closer look.
Understanding Terrestrial Vs Semi-Arboreal
We need to start by clearing up these somewhat confusing terms.
When it comes to biology, terrestrial means that the frog “spends most of or their entire life span on land, in contrast to animals that live predominantly in water.” While arboreal, or semi-arboreal in the case of the Dendrobatidae family, refers to frogs that spend some of their time in the trees.
But these terms are generalizations and not rules that dart frogs have to follow. Most of the tropical regions that dart frogs call home are full of various vegetation that they’ll adeptly climb to get around, find extra humidity, or just feel safe. In other words, terrestrial doesn’t mean that a dart frog will never climb and you can expect all species to do some climbing from time to time.
You can even see what appears to be a dyeing poison dart frog, which is usually classified as a terrestrial species, climbing the walls of his enclosure in this video:
Remember that the natural habitat of the dart frog isn’t simply flat and even ground-dwelling will need to traverse vegetation in order to get where they’re going and find food.
Most Poison Dart Frogs Climb (At Least A Little) To Lay Eggs
Even if frogs spend most of their time on the ground, the instinct to find the perfect spot to lay eggs will still motivate them to climb, although not very high in most cases.
As AnimalDiversity.org explains, “Male poison dart frogs find the best site for the female to deposit a few large eggs, usually on the underside of a leaf that is near water. The eggs are then fertilized, protected, and maintained by the male. It is the male’s duty to keep the eggs moist so they can grow.”
Granted, there are plenty of low-hanging leaves in the rainforest but it still shows that a little climbing is a critical part of the dart frog’s reproductive cycle and so we can expect them to make use of it in their enclosure.
What Does Mean For Your Poison Dart Frog Enclosure?
While some dart frogs have been found in trees well above 30 feet, that’s not something you’ll be able to do for your enclosure.
Instead, focus on giving your dart frog as much vertical space as possible. Not every frog will use it all the time, but it’s a much better choice for enrichment compared to other additions like water (swimming isn’t a great activity for dart frogs).
Most frogs will be happy to use whatever vertical space you provide from time to time and even more so if you incorporate it into your feeding routine.
Even though poison dart frogs aren’t arboreal, it’s not uncommon to find them climbing plants, trees, and terrain in their habitat. Not only are they well-equipped for climbing but most dart frogs seem to enjoy it (as much as we can tell).
That makes adding some vertical space a good idea for just about any dart frog enclosure!
What do you think? How are you going to offer your dart frog space to climb?