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Dart Frog Hobby Glossary and Terminology

Posted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 5:03 pm
by Philsuma
Dart Frog Hobby Glossary / Terminology
Writing and contributions by Corey W. (KeroKero) and Philip P. (Philsuma)



Dendrobatid species care and husbandry difficulty ratings:

Novice - These are the best "beginner" species in the hobby, tending to have general ease of care in all life stages, breeding, and feeding. D. auratus are considered a great introductory or novice level frog due to common availability, low price and fairly forgiving / hardy nature of husbandry requirements. Auratus, azureus, leucomelas and tinctorious species are all good examples of frogs of the Novice or Beginner catagory.

Intermediate - These frogs are for more experienced keepers, having part of their life stage challenging enough that experienced in general care of PDFs is needed before attempting. Most thumbnails would be in this category and the reasons would be their small size - able to squeeze through small openings or shoot out of an open vivarium top as well as being sensitive to infrequent food schedules – best attempted after the keeper has experience regulating FF cultures on a constant basis, and some other species are very difficult to breed and raise tadpoles.

Advanced - These are frogs best attempted only after a number of years of experience with intermediate level frogs - they range from being tricky to care for in multiple life stages or particularly hard in one life stage. For example, O.pumilio is considered advanced due to most frogs being only available as wild caught as well as the level of experience needed to raise froglets. If a hobbyist has a year or two, keeping 2-3 other dart frog species, then they should generally be ready to approach this level of species difficulty and hope for good results.

Expert - These are frogs left only for the most experienced keepers, as they are challenging in all life stages. These frogs are also highly limited in their captive population sizes due to their care needs, and are best left to those who can adequately care for them. A good example would be R. Reticulatus, which is only rarely available due to strict import / export laws, but also somewhat demanding of proper husbandry requirements and hard to raise froglets.

Selected Glossary of breeding terms:

Morph - For Frogs, "morphs" are naturally occurring populations in the wild with general physical characteristics (pattern, color, size) - not man-made, selective breeding, and not the "simple genetic morphs" like in the snake or lizard hobby. For our purposes, albino is a genetic color form of a population/morph. This distinction between the two different definitions of the term "morph" needs to be made clear, as it is often confusing to new people and those coming from the reptile hobby. These animals are not subspecies, but rather variations within the same species over a certain geographic range.

Selective Breeding- Breeding the same species together with certain individuals to try to produce a particularly marked frog. An example of selective breeding would be: fine spot D.Leucomelas, “Sky Blue” D.Azureus, or “Chocolate D.Leucomelas”. Selective breeding is looked down upon by a segment of the dart frog hobby for various reasons. Also referred to as “Line Breeding”.

Species Group - a group of related species within a genus showing similar characteristics such as breeding behaviors and morphology.

Morphs - Geographically isolated sub-populations that share presumably true-breeding general characteristics (i.e. coloration, pattern, size, call, etc). These traits distinguish them from other sub-populations of a species.

Designer Morphs - traits within a sub-population that are selectively bred for.

Hybrid - The mixing and resultant breeding of two distinct sub-populations that would otherwise not be mixed (in nature) if not for captive environments. A hybrid is the result of two separate Species - like crossing a llama with an alpaca or rainbow trout with a brown trout.

Out-Crossing - The act of mixing and breeding animals that are the SAME species but from separate locales or populations. Outcross does not = hybrid, nor does it necessarily = crossing between morphs.

Outcrossing can be common in certain wild populations and geographical locales.

A few commonly used biological definitions of the word "outcrossing":

-Outcrossing is the practice of introducing unrelated genetic material into a breeding line
-To cross (animals or plants) by breeding individuals of different strains but usually of the same breed.
-Outcrossing is a term used in genetics to denote random mating within a population or species, or the crossing of an inbred strain with a wild type
-the mating of unrelated individuals, which often produces more vigorous offspring than the parents are in terms of growth, survival, and fertility.

Outcrossing, in it's true sense, is something that we should be doing more frequently in order to increase the genetic variability, increase genetic diversity, and reduce inbreeding depression of species and morphs in the hobby.

When referring to the mixing of morphs or species the appropriate term is "crossbreeding".

• “Nominat" historically refers to the first type of something introduced into a collection (such as types of plants introduced into botanical collections in the 1800s). In our case, the hobby in general could be considered the collection...but the term can be a confusing one because people often equate it as meaning the "standard" phenotype of an organism (i.e. what is most commonly seen in the wild). What is the nominat form of R. imitator for the hobby (green/yellow with black spots) is by far not the most commonly encountered or represented phenotype in the wild for that species.

• "Standard" phenotype of an organism (i.e. what is most commonly seen in the wild).



Examples of Species Groups in the hobby:

Thumbnails Group (Ranitomeya) - This group is made up of the Ranitomeya vanzolinii species group which are characterized by small size and being facultative/non-obligate egg feeders - they will use infertile eggs to supplement tadpole diet but tadpoles can be raised successfully without them, but tadpoles must be raised individually due to tadpole cannibalism. Eggs often deposited in film canisters off the ground, angle preference and either black or white can color also depends on species. Species range from semi terrestrial to mostly arboreal.
Formerly known from the Dendrobates quinquevittatus species group, genetic work showed that the type species, D. quiquevittatus, and D. castaneoticus were actually not closely related to the facultative eggfeeders of the group and have been assigned to the "White Egg" species group. Some other species are mistakenly included in this group due to small size, but do not share the other characteristics and are members of other species groups.

Fantastica group frogs (Ranitomeya fantastica, R. summersi, R. benedicta) do not egg feed their tads, despite what some care sheets say. R. ventrimaculata group frogs (including R. variabilis) do not egg feed either. Egg feeders include R. imitator, R. lamasi, R. flavovittata, and R. vanzolini, and their close relatives Many people mistakenly think that Vents egg-feed but in reality, they are simply laying a second clutch of fertilized eggs. If there are already tad/tads there, they will take advantage of that and eat the eggs. This explains why many think that they are egg-feeders.

Tinctorius (Tinc) Group (Dendrobates) - D. tinctoriuous, leucomelas and auratus. Terrestrial species larger in size but generally go for smaller food items. Tadpoles can be raised communally, eggs usually deposited in coco huts. The most common species group in the hobby.

Obligate egg feeder Group(Oophaga) - More advanced husbandry care needed, generally terrestrial. Tadpoles highly adapted to eat unfertilized eggs, and the larvae must be cared for by the parent in the vivarium. You must provide the parents with water sources such as water filled film canisters, bromeliads or a small pond. Froglets morph out small, are extremely delicate and are a challenge to raise to adulthood. A prime example: O. Pumilio.

"White Egg" Group - D. quin, D. casti, D. galacs - These species were originally included in other species groups until genetic work grouped them together. All three species lay white eggs, that later turn to black tadpoles.

Epipedobates tricolor Group - The smaller Epipedobates, represented by E. tricolor and E. anthonyi in the hobby, sometimes mistakenly included in the Thumbnails species group. These frogs prefer large food items for their size, do best in male heavy groups, lay large clutches of eggs (10+) preferably on horizontally oriented leaves which are guarded by a male, and tadpoles can be raised communally.

Epipedobates trivittatus Group - The larger Epipedobates in the hobby including E. trivittatus, E. bassleri, and E. silverstonei most notably. Very large, generally skittish frogs preferring large food items, male heavy groups, and reproduction in captivity is uncommon. When reproduction does occur the clutches are some of the largest in the family, and tadpoles can be raised communally.

Other misc. species groups in the hobby - Minutus (formerly Minyobates), Allobates, Cryptophyllobates, and a few Epis not assigned to the above mentioned species groups.

General living Habitats:

Terrestrial - These are frogs that in the wild stay within one meter of the ground. In captivity, especially in shorter tanks, these frogs may take advantage of available height, but floor space is primarily of concern when housing these species, and hide spots on the floor need to be provided (leaf litter, film canisters on the ground for smaller species, coco huts for the larger species). These are usually the stockier, heavier large bodied frogs like D. tinctorious and D. auratus, ect.

Semi-Terrestrial/Semi-Arboreal - These are frogs that still stay within close proximity to the ground, but take advantage of available vegetation and similar structures for courting and breeding spots above the ground. In a tank they will be as often up in the vegetation as they are in the leaf litter, so high and floor space should be taken into consideration with these species. Hide-spots on the floor and low levels above the ground both may be used. Most all Dart Frogs in the U.S hobby would fall into this catagory, more or less.

Arboreal - These are frogs that in the wild live 50'+ off the ground in epiphytic gardens, and in captivity will rarely be found on the floor of the tank. In these vivariums a good amount of height is needed, and the width and depth of the tank is more important in determining the arboreal space rather than the floor space. Vegetation and hide spots need to be provided for the frogs above floor level. Very rare classification as most dart frogs are not true climbers (like tree frogs) and are considered more of a "walker".

Foot print- The total size of the “living space” of the enclosure.

Terrarium- Containing only Plants.

Vivarium- Containing both land Animals and Plants.

Aquarium- Containing solely water and possibly fishes.

Paladarium- Containing both fishes and land area(s) for animals and plants.

Riparium – Containing water and plants above and below the waterline but no land.

"FTS" = "Full Tank Shot", or a pic of the entire vivarium.


Captive Breeding and Husbandry Descriptors:

Captive Bred (CB) - These are animals that are bred, born, and raised in captivity. These animals tend to be healthier, hardier, and easier captives than their WC/LTC ancestors, as they are used to captive conditions. VERY GOOD as well as responsible.

F1, F2 ect – BEST, shows years of hard work and dedication.
“F” stands for 'filial' meaning 'of son or of daughter'.

F1 generally means that they are offspring from wild caught and F2 offspring of F1, etc. However, in genetics F1 typically refers to offspring from distinctly different parents. Some froggers will consider the offspring of two non-related frogs to be F1.

Farm Raised (FR) - A complicated term that can imply different things depending on the farm, and resellers often sell these animals under the labels CB or WC, both inaccurate, depending on the personal opinion of the reseller. These animals are actually somewhere in between WC and CB... captive bred and/or raised in their country of origin, these animals need the medical care of WCs, but tend to be hardier and better adapted to captivity than their WC counterparts. OK, provided someone can prove that it’s a sustainable operation and not a front or laundry for illegal frogs.

Long Term Captive (LTC) - These are animals that have been in captivity for over 6 months to a year, but were originally wild caught. They have usually adapted well to captivity at this point, and are hardier at this stage (though still less hardy than CB) than when originally WC. Still a bit trickier than CB examples of the species, but are usually past the medical problems associated with importation. GOOD and shows that someone cared for the animals.

Acclimated (AC) – Animals that have been quarantined for at least three (03) months and treated (if necessary) for at least three (03) months.

Wild Caught (WC) - These are animals collected in the wild and exported from their native country, usually breeding adults collected during the breeding season (if seasonal breeders). These animals need to be treated for parasites and other medical conditions, are highly stressed, and arrive in the US in very bad physical condition and are best left for experienced keepers, even if the species is considered Novice. A LAST RESORT, and while sometimes necessary to further a propagation effort, WC should generally be avoided by newer hobbyists.

Temperament Descriptors:

Extremely Bold - These are frogs that not only aren't afraid of you, but tend to be listed as the "beggars" - frogs that actually recognize you as a food source provider and will clamor at the front of the tank in anticipation of food. Froglets may be skittish to bold, but get bolder with age. D. tinctorius and D. azureus are most well known for this trait.

Bold - These are frogs that are out and about in the tank, and aren't particularly disturbed by your presence, even in the tank, and tend to be the best "display" frogs as they are easily seen, and rarely startled. Froglets may be skittish, but outgrow this with age. Species include E. tricolor, D. imitator ssp., D. galactonotus.

Skittish -These are frogs that can be seen out and about in the tank, but usually skitter away when you enter the room, or make sudden movements near their tanks, but usually return to view when they feel comfortable again. Froglets can be shy to extremely skittish, outgrowing this as they age, become more comfortable with surroundings, and used to the actions of their keepers. Examples include E. trivittatus, A. zaparo, and D. fantasticus 'Standard'.

Shy - These are frogs known for being heard, and not seen, and can be very frustrating charges for those expecting a display animal. While it varies by conditions and individuals, species examples may include D. variabilis, some morphs of D. ventrimaculatus, and the Panguana D. lamasi.

Stages of Life Descriptions:

Egg - Conception of a frog begins with the egg. Depending on the species, the female will lay the eggs and then the male will fertilize them, or the male will fertilize a spot and the female will lay them there. It is believed that eggs can be fertilized more than once, thus different males could contribute to the clutch of eggs. Again, depending on species, eggs will take different lengths of time to mature and hatch.

Tadpole - the second stage of life is the tadpole. This is the aquatic stage of life for dart frogs. The time spent in the water will vary depending on a vast array that include, but are not limited to, species, water temperature, food, hormone levels.

The first milestone in a tad poles life is leaving the egg. This is usually done within 24 hours, but if the tad doesn't have the strength, it can die at this point. Next, is the stage when it gets both of its back legs. This is about the half way point of the tadpole’s developmental process. The third stage is when the tadpole gets its front legs. This signifies that the tadpole is almost ready to become a frog - usually 2-3 weeks away. The last stage is described in the next definition - morph.

Morph - not to be confused with the other - genetic “morph" term that is associated with the color and appearance of the frog. This is a developmental stage that marks the end of tadpole’s days in the water and its change into a frog. This metamorphosis (hence the shortened "morph") is when the tadpole will stop eating and its mouth will begin to change into a frogs mouth, it will lose its gills and its tail will be absorbed. The absorbing of the tail is what gives the tad energy to complete this process. Once the tadpole morphs out and becomes a froglet (see below), that day is the time when the people in the hobby start counting the frogs age. Similar to a hatch date for lizards, birthday for live bearing animals, frogs have morph dates.

Newly Morphed - this is first stage of a frog’s life, similar to human's infant stage. This is a very critical stage in the frog’s life as it is most vulnerable. This stage does not have a set time frame for this period of life, but 2-4 weeks is a good estimate.

Out of the Water (OOTW) – Refers to the number of months that the froglet has popped its front legs, absorbed its tail and crawled out of the water or bromeliad.

Froglet - the second stage of life, similar to human's toddler stage. This stage is most critical for some frogs, typically egg feeders, because many difficult species/morphs of frogs rarely make it past this stage. Other frogs have little problems in this stage. Many times frogs in this stage are offered for sale. This is akin to buying a cat or puppy before it’s weaned. It can be done, but is often not the best practice. Usually lasts until 3 months of age.

Juvenile - the third stage of life, similar to a human's adolescent stage. Once in this stage, many frogs are considered to be out of the woods, and are offered for sale. Many are about 1/3 to 1/2 the way grown, and depending on the species - thumbnails in particular, maturity will often occur in this time period, but for simplicity sake, we'll define the stages of life based on time from morphing, not actual development as many frogs develop at slightly different rates. Usually lasts until 6 months of age.

Sub-adult - the fourth stage of life, similar to a human's teen age years. This is when many frogs will reach maturity and can be accurately sexed. Things like calling and courting may be observed during this time period, but mating will not happen. Usually a frog’s adult appearance will maturate during this time period. This stage usually lasts until 12 months.

Adult - the fifth stage of life, similar to graduating from high school - the frog has finally made it. Mating will occur, eggs will be laid, and the cycle will start all over again.

Sex Designation and Ratio Numerology:

0.0.0 = Male. Female. Unsexed or Unknown
1.0.0= 1 male
0.1.0= 1 female
0.0.1= 1 Unsexed or Unknown
Example: If someone is selling 3.4.1 frogs. They are selling 3 males and 4 females and 1 unknown sex.

What are the differences between “Pairs”?

1. “Probable Pair” – ok. Usually no more than a @ 85% educated guess as to the sex of two (02) frogs. The “first frog” is usually 100% a male frog due to calling, but the “second frog” –female, is much less accurate and is primarily based on body size (round) and behavior (non calling). There is always the chance of the “second frog” being a non-calling or submissive male.

2. Sexed Pair – Very good. May or may not have laid eggs but you are going off the word of the seller and must rely and trust his reputation.

3. PROVEN PAIR – Excellent, the Best! Fertile eggs have been laid resulting in well formed froglets, and barring the disruption of transferring the adult frogs to a new vivarium, they should lay fertile eggs for you as well.

Frog "Flipping" :
A Frog "Flipper" is usually, but not always, a negative connotation. The Flipper is always a businessman - 100% and sometimes a Hobbyist too. I'd put the hobbyist number at @ 50%, so as you can see, the business side of this is first and foremost with a flipper. Another similar term would be "Jobber" - Someone who buys in bulk for wholesale prices and then adds his costs to the product to produce a profit margin for himself.

There are some hobbyists that live in remote areas, are "shut-ins" or otherwise must deal with a flipper or jobber to sell their produced animals and this is where it's actually ok as the flipper or jobber provides a service to reach out to this class of hobbyist.

One negative of a flipper is that they often make low ball offers to acquire stock, sometimes insulting certain hobbyists. But remember, this is a business for them, and they have to make a profit to be successful.

Another huge negative is that most Flippers will make no attempt to verify lineage or otherwise vette the breeders and the result is often the further transfer of Dart Frogs that could be crosses, have health issues or at the very least, do not provide the end buyer with any history of the animal whatsoever.

Again, not all Flippers and Jobbers are bad. Some are very ethical but some are absolutely not...

As a prospective Dart Frog purchaser, it's up to you to research your sellers and take time to do so, avoiding impulse buys.

Re: Dart Frog Hobby Glossary and Terminology

Posted: Wed Apr 09, 2014 12:14 pm
by Philsuma
If anyone sees any errors or omissions in the above, please PM me or post here.

Re: Dart Frog Hobby Glossary and Terminology

Posted: Wed Apr 09, 2014 1:18 pm
by edwardsatc
Philsuma wrote:• Morph - For Frogs, "morphs" are naturally occurring populations in the wild with general physical characteristics (pattern, color, size) - not man-made, selective breeding, and not the "simple genetic morphs" like in the snake or lizard hobby. For our purposes, albino is a genetic color form of a population/morph. This distinction between the two different definitions of the term "morph" needs to be made clear, as it is often confusing to new people and those coming from the reptile hobby. These animals are not subspecies, but rather variations within the same species over a certain geographic range.


We should really stick to population or locality. The term "morph" is not limited to variation between distinct populations but also to variation within populations. The only reason this term is confusing is that hobbyists use it improperly in both sense of the word.

Philsuma wrote:• Species Group - a group of related species within a genus showing similar characteristics such as breeding behaviors and morphology.


This is not a clearly defined term and is a term of no real use to the hobbyist (unless your last name is Wascher).

Philsuma wrote:Designer Morphs - traits within a sub-population that are selectively bred for.


Philsuma wrote:• Morphs - Geographically isolated sub-populations that share presumably true-breeding general characteristics (i.e. coloration, pattern, size, call, etc). These traits distinguish them from other sub-populations of a species.


Philsuma wrote:Designer Hybrid - The mixing and resultant breeding of two distinct sub-populations that would otherwise not be mixed (in nature) if not for captive environments. A hybrid is the result of two separate Species - like crossing a llama with an alpaca or rainbow trout with a brown trout.


Should be within a population. If they are isolated (geographically or otherwise) they are a population. "Sub-population" is a demographic or statistical term. Again, the term "morph" is not limited to variation between distinct populations but also to variation within populations. Populations are not distinguished by characteristics. Rather they are defined by some form of isolation.

Philsuma wrote:• Out-Crossing - The act of mixing and breeding animals that are the SAME species but from separate locales or populations. Outcross does not = hybrid, nor does it necessarily = crossing between morphs.


Philsuma wrote:Designer Hybrid - The mixing and resultant breeding of two distinct sub-populations that would otherwise not be mixed (in nature) if not for captive environments. A hybrid is the result of two separate Species - like crossing a llama with an alpaca or rainbow trout with a brown trout.


Current accepted scientific definitions of the term hybrid do, in fact, consider progeny from distinct species populations as hybrids. See "intra-specific hybrid".

Philsuma wrote:• Morph - not to be confused with the other - genetic “morph" term that is associated with the color and appearance of the frog. This is a developmental stage that marks the end of tadpole’s days in the water and its change into a frog. This metamorphosis (hence the shortened "morph") is when the tadpole will stop eating and its mouth will begin to change into a frogs mouth ...


This should be more properly be referred to as metamorph. Again, if we stick with terminology that is clearly defined and quit perpetuating the use of improper terminology, the confusion can be reduced.

Re: Dart Frog Hobby Glossary and Terminology

Posted: Wed Aug 13, 2014 12:13 pm
by Philsuma
Good stuff Donn....I'll work it into the sticky. Keep it coming.