Starting a Vivarium
What will be covered here, is just very basic information on what is required to start a Vivarium from scratch. A vivarium is somewhat of a mini ecosystem.
Container: The first thing to consider when starting a vivarium for the first time, is what size to start with. Though I don’t consider myself an expert on the subject, it is my opinion that you should start small, unless you have an experienced person to help you. Vivariums come in many sizes, ranging from simple 10 gallon fish tanks, to very large enclosures. When selecting a container to use as your vivarium, choosing one that is escape proof is a must. One with a glass top is also preferable, to help maintain humidity. After you have your container, now you are ready to begin the fun part. First plan it all out before you begin.
Frogs: Wait a minute, shouldn’t that be the last thing on the list, you ask? Yes, they will be added last, but I would suggest that if you are going to have live animals, they should be decided on first, then the rest of your decisions should be based on the requirements of that particular animal. When selecting a dart frog, or any other animal, find our as much as possible by reading books about Dart Frogs, and Vivariums, looking at breeder web sites, and talking to experienced keepers or breeders. If it will be your first dart frog, maybe one of the easier to care for species should be considered. For more information on dart frogs, I found the following web sites informative, and in my email communication with them were friendly and helpful: They are, Vivarium Concepts , Understory Enterprises Inc. , Pumilio.com , Herpetologic.net and Brian's Tropicals
Drainage: Start from the bottom up. Since misting will be a regular event when maintaining the health of your plants and frogs, drainage should be the first think you work on. To help with drainage, and to reduce soil spoilage, some people use round clay pellets, but you can also use river gravel, or gravel made for aquariums (at least 2 inches should be used). A false bottom can also be used. If you plan to use any type of water feature, any tubing or filtration should be planned out early in the process. You can even add a tube to be used to siphon off excess water, if needed.
Substrate: Some materials that can be used are, Coconut coir, Fir bark, Fern Fiber, Sphagnum moss, Super Soil Potting Soil, and many products on the retail market, in pet stores. There are pre-made mixes on the market, and recipes for mixing your own can be found by searching the internet.
Background: A material that works well for a background, is cork bark. Wood, or rock can also be used, along with other retail products made of plastic and other materials.
Lighting: The lighting is for the plants. Full spectrum light is necessary for the health of your plants. Choices here range from shop lights, to lights that are made specifically for terrariums. The lighting chosen shouldn't raise the temperature above the tolerable range of the dart frogs chosen.
Other Equipment: You should also have a thermometer, and hygrometer. These can usually be found as a combination, in both dial type, and digital type. Prices range from a few dollars for the dial type, to 10 to 30 dollars for the digital type. The thermometer is to keep the temperature within a healthy range for your frogs, and the hygrometer is to maintain the correct humidity.
If your vivarium will be in a room that will be on the cold side in the winter, a supplemental heat source may be required.
Plants: As with choosing your Frog for your vivarium, when choosing plants, you should learn about any special requirements for the plants you are considering, such as light, water, and temperature requirement, how large they are when fully grown, and anything else that can be learning by reading a book on vivariums, or by visiting websites on the subject.
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For additional reading on the subject:
Poison Dart Frogs (Complete Herp Care)
Poison Frogs: Biology, Species & Captive Husbandry
Poison Dart Frogs: A Pictorial Display - Volume One
Poison Frogs (Professional Breeders Series)