Amphibians like poison dart frogs are often marketed as inexpensive pets. Potential keepers should still prepare for the financial implications of owning poison dart frogs. At first, you should budget for the acquisition of your pet, as well as the costs of buying or building a habitat.
Unfortunately, although many keepers plan for these costs, they generally do not consider ongoing costs, which will quickly eclipse the initial start-up costs.
A surprising fact that most new keepers learn is that enclosure and equipment will often cost as much (or more) as the animal.
Prices fluctuate from market to market, but generally, the least you’ll spend on a healthy poison dart frog is around $50 (£35); You’ll also need to spend at least $50 (£36) on your starter habitat and care equipment.
The replacement of equipment and food will represent additional (and ongoing) expenses.
The ongoing costs of owning poison dart frogs ownership fall primarily into one of three categories:
- Food costs
- Maintenance costs
- Veterinary costs
Food costs are usually the most important of the three, but they are relatively consistent and somewhat predictable.
Additionally, many poison dart frog breeders will choose to breed their own feeder insects, reducing the costs associated with feeding your pet frog.
Some maintenance costs are easy to calculate, but things like equipment malfunction are impossible to predict with certainty. Veterinary expenses are difficult to predict and vary greatly from year to year.
Food is the biggest ongoing cost you will experience while caring for your poison dart frog. To get a reasonable estimate of your annual food costs, you should consider the number of meals you will feed your pet per year and the cost of each meal.
The amount of food your poison dart frog will consume will vary based on numerous factors, including its size, average temperatures in its habitat, and health.
Be aware that poison dart frogs generally feed on a large number of very small prey. Due to the way that feeder insects are generally priced (per individual, rather than per unit of weight), poison dart frogs are actually more expensive to feed than many other reptile and amphibian pets.
For example, a single poison dart frog can eat more than 100 individual insects in a week. It’s very difficult to come up with an annual estimate of your food costs (especially given the wide variety of insects that different keepers choose to feed their pet), but it would be wise to budget at least $10 (£8) per week.
You will likely find that your yearly costs are lower than this, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
It is important to plan for both routine and unexpected maintenance costs. Commonly used items, such as paper towels, disinfectants, and topsoil, are fairly easy to calculate.
However, it is not easy to know how many burned-out bulbs, cracked fogging units, or faulty thermostats you will need to replace in any given year.
Those who keep their poison dart frog in simple enclosures will find that around $50 (£40) covers their annual maintenance costs.
By contrast, those who maintain elaborate habitats can spend $200 (£160) or more each year.
Always try to buy frequently used supplies such as light bulbs, paper towels, and bulk disinfectants to maximize your savings. It is often beneficial to check with local amphibian maintenance clubs, which often pool their resources to achieve greater purchasing power.
There aren’t many services veterinarians can provide for sick or injured poison dart frogs, but you should always seek help whenever your pet’s health deteriorates.
While you should always seek veterinary advice at the first sign of illness, it’s probably unwise to bring your healthy poison dart frog to the vet’s office for no reason – they don’t require annual “checkups” or vaccinations like other pets may. Consequently, you should not incur any veterinary expenses unless your pet becomes ill.
However, veterinary care can become very expensive, very quickly. In addition to a basic exam or phone consultation, your poison dart frog may need cultures, X-rays, or other diagnostic tests. In light of this, prudent keepers budget at least $200 to $300 (£160 to £245) each year to cover emergency veterinary costs.