Poison dart frogs belong to the family Dendrobatidae. This family contains over 170 different species of brown to highly colored frogs. Hobbyists are most interested in the 65 more colorful species known as poison dart or poison arrow frogs. These frogs belong to only 4 of the 8 genera of the family Dendrobatidae. They are: Dendrobates, Epipedobates, Minyobates and Phylobates.
Dart frogs live primarily in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. They are a land dwelling species requiring high humidity (70%+) to survive. Standing water is not a necessity for these frogs, but is often used in breeding. However, it is especially important to realize dart frogs lack webbed feet and can easily drown in deep pools. Arrow frogs are a tropical species, but temperature preferences vary widely among species primarily because of the different habitats. Most prefer temperatures between 70-80 F. Despite tropical temperatures, dart frogs do not have specific lighting needs. In the wild most live on dark forest floors, where very little light breeches the dense forest canopy.
Probably one of the most interesting characteristics of poison dart frogs are their toxins. These toxins are a defense mechanism secreted by small glands located primarily on the frogs back that protects the frog from would be predators. The type of toxin secreted varies by species the most common toxins are pumiliotoxin, gephyrotoxin, histrionicotoxin, and the infamous batrachotoxin. Batrachotoxin, produced by P. terribilis, is the most toxic of the dart frog poisons and one frog can produce enough toxin to kill over a thousand people. However most darts lose their toxicity when kept in captivity and captive bred animals are virtually free of all toxins. While it is still not clear where dart frog toxins originate, many believe diet plays an important role.
In captivity, dart frogs primary food sources are fruit flies, termites, springtails, and small crickets. Many hobbyists agree that a variety in diet is essential to raising healthy dart species. Although it is proven that dart frogs can be sustained with a diet consisting of only fruit flies. In either case it is important to provide vitamin and mineral supplements. This is usually done by dusting the food source with a rotating regimen of calcium and multivitamin (e.g. Repti-cal and Herptivite). Many hobbyists are now experimenting with house flies, ants and small beetles as viable food sources. In my experience, the hardest part of keeping dart frogs is not keeping the frogs, but raising the food.
Breeding poison dart frogs in captivity, in most cases, is fairly easy. Most darts when housed correctly will breed on there own with little or no intervention. The exception to this rule seems to be with a group of darts known as obligatory egg-feeders; containing the species D. pumilio, D. Lehmanni, D. Histrionicus, D. sylvaticus, D. granuliferus, D. occulator, D. arboreus and D. speciosus. These species cannot be reared by conventional methods instead tadpole rearing is best left to the parents who feed their offspring unfertile eggs as food. Conventional darts will lay eggs in Petri dishes, film canisters or on leaves which can be removed and raised separately.