How to make a Vivarium for Poison Dart Frogs


There are a few considerations that need to be thought through before construction begins. The first consideration is how big you want the enclosure to be. The rule of thumb is 1 frog per 5 gallons. While all froglets can be kept in groups, some species will fight if there is another frog of the same sex in the enclosure. Larger terrariums support more microfauna, provide more space and exercise for the frogs, and are much easier to work with.


The first item you need to get is the tank. Garage sales and EBAY are great places to look for larger tanks. Once you have the tank, you need to build a lid for the tank.


The right driftwood makes the tank. Before I even picture the tank I’m going to build, I get the wood.

Cypress Driftwood – Smooth and holds up extremely well in very humid environments. This type of wood will even hold up as part of a water fall. It is also very light so it is easier to incorporate into the background.

Grape Wood – This type of wood has a lot of grooves like Kampas. This type of wood will be home to mold and fungus in your tank (don’t be surprised if you get mushrooms on this type of wood). The molds/fungus are harmless to frogs.


There are tons of options for Terrarium Backgrounds. Although you don’t NEED a background, it adds usable space to the terrarium, allows for more cover, and looks better than a tank without a background. The options for a terrarium background are:

Tree Fern Plaques - These plaques are 10″ X 10″ X 1″. They are light weight and the woven tree fern twigs provide a great environment for epiphytes to grow their roots.

Handi-Foam – Handi-foam is like Great Stuff except that it is 100 times better. It is black so it blends in better, it cures in less time, and we know it is safe for frogs. Spray the foam on the background, use a rubber glove to mold it like you want it, press in driftwood, and then cover it in coir and lightly press it in. Let it sit for 24 hours and you are all set!

Coco Fiber Square - These coco fiber squares are 12″ X 12″ X 1″, covered in latex, and come in brown or red. They are cheap, light, and long lasting (due to the latex coating). The fibers create a great place for plant roots to grow.


You will need drainage to keep your plants from drowning. Drainage is a necessary requirement for all Poison Dart Frog Terrariums. There are many options to accomplish this. All of these methods could be considered a “false bottom”.

Egg crate and PVC fittings – This is the oldest method around. Cut a piece of egg crate (the light diffusing stuff sold at hardware stores) to fit in the bottom of the tank. I have found that pruning shears work for this. Then lift the egg crate off the bottom of the tank using PVC fittings.

Hydroton False Bottom – Poor enough balls in your tank to give you a 1″-3″ drainage layer. To figure out how much hydroton you need, use this formula:

Inches deep / height of the tank (in inches) = hydroton ratio

hydroton ratio X number of gallons = Gallons of hydroton needed

Gallons of hydroton needed X 4 = Liters of hydroton needed

To hide the sight of the false bottom, you can use black silicon and paint the bottom few inches of the tank.


There are tons of options for a substrate. They are:

ABG Mix - The ABG mix was developed at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and is the Lexus of terrarium substrates. It is long lasting, holds moisture, and drains well. An all-around great choice.

Coir and Orchid bark – This is the simple and cheap method. Mix equal parts.

Sphagnum moss - This type of substrate holds a lot of moisture and inhibits the growth of molds. On occasion, the dried the moss will come back to life. Most of the time, however, it just gets covered in algae and appears to be alive.


Some froggers almost love the plants more than the frogs. You can go simple or you can hand-pick expensive plants. The plants become your filtration for the frog waste that will develop in the ecosystem. Live plants are a must for Dart Frog Terrariums. Josh’s Frogs offers tons of plants that do well in Dart Frog Terrariums. All our plants are selected to grow in terrariums.


Picking the right lighting for your terrarium can mean the difference between lousy looking plants and vibrant, colorful, and healthy plants in your terrarium. Your lighting options are many. Here is a quick rundown.

T-12 – These are your standard fluorescent lighting fixtures. These lights will provide enough light for most easy plants, but will not allow your bromeliads to color up and your other plants to bloom. It works, but isn’t a good choice for a display tank.

T-8 – These fluorescent bulbs have a 80 lumens per watt. They are more efficient and produce more light than T-12s. A good investment if you are doing a rack of tanks as it not only produces more light to help your plants, but it costs less to run.

T-5 – These are the best terrarium lights available. They are bright, create less heat than the CFs, and put out 90 lumens per watt. Their small size produces tons of light with little energy use. These lights are efficient enough to be used in racks and bright enough to be the top choice for display terrariums.

Once you choose the Lights you would like, your next choice is picking the right frogs!

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