Poison Dart Frogs As Pets: Size, Types, Lifespan, Behavior And More

Poison dart frogs exhibit quite a bit of diversity in terms of size and color pattern, most having fairly similar anatomy.

All living poison dart frogs naturally come from Central and South America. Their range includes parts of Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Suriname, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, French Guiana, Peru, Venezuela, and Ecuador.

Poison dart frogs have also been introduced to several of the Hawaiian islands. These colorful and cute animals have likely released pets and their descendants.

Are Poison Dart Frogs Poisonous? 

Yes, but not all species. Some poison dart frog species are not toxic at all, but most poison frog species are considered toxic but not deadly. The poison on their skin protects them from predators. This poison can cause bloating, nausea, and paralysis if touched.


Most poison dart frogs inhabit rainforests of one kind or another. Some species live in the vast expanses of rainforest found in the Amazon basin, while others inhabit small patches of rainforest, which are surrounded by relatively dry savanna habitats. Some species of poison dart frogs live in lowland habitats, which are essentially at sea level, while others are found in the cloud forests of mountainous regions.

Size and Weight

Simply put, poison dart frogs are relatively small frogs. Some of the smaller dart frogs, such as the “thumbnail” dart frogs of the genus Ranitomeya, are about 1/2 inch (1.2 centimeters) long. On the other hand, some species, such as the golden poison dart frog (Phyllobates terribilis), reach about 2 inches (5 centimeters) in length.

Most species weigh only a few grams, although larger species and specimens can approach 1 ounce (28 grams) in weight.

Color Pattern

Poison dart frogs are widely celebrated for their bold and beautiful color patterns. Different species have different colors and patterns, and there is even some variation between individuals belonging to the same species.

In fact, some species are polymorphic and produce offspring with several different color patterns.

Some species, such as the golden poison dart frog referenced above, are clad predominantly in a single color (gold in this case).

Others, such as the blue poison dart frog (Dendrobates tinctoriusazureus“) and the bumblebee poison dart frog (Dendrobates leucomelas) incorporate black markings on a single base color.

But many other species of poison dart frogs have several different colors. For example, the “blue jeans” morph of the strawberry poison dart frog (Oophaga pumilio) has a red torso, but its legs are covered in shades of blue and black.

Some even have complicated color patterns, consisting of several different colors. For example, the dyeing dart frog (Dendrobates tinctorius) is covered in a complicated pattern of shades of blue, indigo, yellow, and black.


Like all other living species, poison dart frogs are placed within a hierarchical classification scheme. Higher levels of this classification scheme help distinguish groups like vertebrates from others, while lower levels of classification distinguish poison dart frogs from other frogs.

The poison dart frogs are classified as below.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Amphibia
  • Order: Anura
  • Family: Dendrobatidae

All poison frogs are members of the Dendrobatidae family. However, the world’s 170 species are grouped into several different genera, based on their ancestry.
Some of the most important genres include:

  • Dendrobates
  • Epipedobates
  • Philobatos
  • Ranitomeya
  • Oophaga

Most of these genera contain multiple species. However, the exact number of species found in each genus fluctuates wildly.

For example, there are currently five species assigned to the genus Dendrobates, while Hyloxalus contains more than 50.

On the other hand, at least one genus, Minyobates, contains only one species.

Some of the most commonly kept poison dart frog types are :

  1. Green and black poison dart frog (Dendrobates auratus)
  2. Bumblebee poison dart frog (Dendrobates leucomelas)
  3. Dyeing poison dart frog (Dendrobates tinctorius)
  4. Yellow striped poison dart frog (Dendrobates truncatus)
  5. Phantasmal poison dart frog (Epipedobates tricolor)
  6. Anthony’s poison dart frog (Epipedobates anthonyi)
  7. Golden poison dart frog (Phyllobates terribilis)
  8. Black-legged poison dart frog (Phyllobates bicolor)
  9. Strawberry poison dart frog (Oophaga pumilio)


Poison dart frogs have fairly typical anuran body types. Most have relatively broad noses and moderately plumb bodies, but their legs, particularly the front legs, are usually quite long and thin.

Most poison frogs have relatively long fingers (digits), which often have enlarged tips that help them climb. Most species have four digits on their front legs and five digits on their back legs.

However, the fifth toe on the rear legs is usually poorly developed.

Some poison frogs have a “square” body shape, in which the contours of the pelvis are quite visible, while others appear rounder when viewed from the side.

Growth and Lifespan

The growth rate of poison frogs varies depending on the amount of food they can acquire. Consequently, because they benefit from essentially unlimited food, captive poison dart frogs generally grow much faster than their wild counterparts.

Most poison dart frog eggs hatch in about 1 to 2 weeks. They will then enter a tadpole stage, which takes 1 to 2 months to complete.

After completing the tadpole stage of their development, the tiny frogs leave the water and become terrestrial organisms. Different species exhibit varying sizes at the time of metamorphosis, but most are quite small and rarely more than 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) long.

The frogs will feed voraciously and grow for the next several months. It generally takes young frogs between 6 and 24 months to reach their adult size. From this point on, the frogs will grow very little, if at all.

There is not a great deal of data available on the typical lifespan of wild poison dart frogs. They will most likely live 3-5 years, but captive specimens often exceed these ages. Some captive poison dart frogs have approached or exceeded 20 years of age, but these individuals are relatively rare.

The typical lifespan in captivity for most poison dart frogs is around 5 to 8 years.


Poison dart frogs exhibit a number of behavioral and biological adaptations that allow them to survive in their natural habitats. And although the specific adaptations demonstrated vary from species to species, many are common to the group as a whole.

Foraging behavior

Poison dart frogs feed relatively actively and forage for food in a small area of ​​the rainforest floor. Unlike many other frogs, which prefer to feed on relatively few large preys, poison dart frogs exhibit the opposite tendency. They usually survive by eating large amounts of very small prey.

Most poison frogs in the wild probably eat almost every day. However, well-fed adults can often go several days between meals in captivity.

Like most other frogs, poison frogs use a sticky tongue to catch their prey. The tongue is connected to the front of the mouth, which helps provide a greater reach for this food collection tool.

Defensive behavior

The main way that poison frogs protect themselves is through the combination of their poisonous skin secretions and their bold coloration.

Unlike many other frogs, which tend to avoid going out (at least during the day), poison dart frogs often move through their habitats while searching for food or mates.

Most predators in the rainforest are susceptible to poisonous frog skin secretions, so frogs don’t need to do much to avoid predation.

However, there are some predators that seem immune to their poisons. Frogs are usually quite helpless when trying to defend themselves against such predators, as they are unable to defend themselves effectively.


Like all other frogs, poison dart frogs begin life as eggs before hatching into a larval form, known as a tadpole. Tadpoles are typically aquatic, but thanks to the extremely humid nature of the rainforests in which they live, some poison frog tadpoles spend some of their time living in very shallow puddles or pools of water.

Many species spend their tadpole stage living within pools of water that collect in flowers called bromeliads. They are often carried to these bromeliads by their mother, who carries them on her back.

Poison dart frogs can breed almost any time of year when the humidity is high enough. Males often start calling from elevated perches and often fight other males over the best locations to perch.

Females can usually choose their mates and usually choose the males who have secured the best perches. However, some species also seem to value bright colors when picking mates.