If your dart frogs are kept in a proper environment, breeding will almost inevitably occur. After keeping dart frogs for over a year, I was ready to make the jump to breeding them and watching the whole life cycle play out. In order to do this properly, I researched how to stimulate breeding. I also researched how to care for eggs, tadpoles, and froglets. The paragraphs that follow explain the procedures I have found that work for us. None of this is new or revolutionary, it is all information I have gleaned from others.
Step 1: Stimulating Frogs To Breed
Our frogs are always kept in very humid environments. Without the humidity, they won't survive. However, when I want breeding to start, I begin misting the tanks (by hand) twice a day (morning and late afternoon). I also increase feeding intervals. During much of the year, I feed the frogs twice a week, and only mist the tanks a couple times a month. When trying to entice them to breed, I feed daily or every other day. Once we increase feeding and misting, the frogs usually take 4-6 weeks or longer before they begin laying eggs. In Illinois, I do this to coincide with the warmer summer months. I begin misting/heavy feeding around March 1st, so that as the temperature warms up (outside as well as inside our house), they will be stimulated to produce. Once egg laying begins, we continue the misting and heavy feeding until egg laying stops. The frogs usually breed all summer long.
Step 2: Taking Care of Eggs
Many species of dart frogs will lay in artificial sites, such as petri dishes under coco huts. If yours do this, then egg removal is easy. Our auratus and azureus typically lay in the petri dish. When they do this, I remove the dish to care for the eggs. Our leucs, however, sometimes lay in the leaf litter. This is a little trickier. When the leucs are breeding, I have to dig through the leaf litter each night, or every other night. If eggs are found, I remove them and put the leaf in a petri dish.
Once eggs are found, they need to be kept moist. I put enough water in the petri dish so it is just touching the eggs. It's important to not submerse the eggs in water, just enough to keep them moist. Then I put them in a small rubbermaid container with water in the bottom, and put a lid on so it is sealed tightly. To keep the petri dish from floating in the water, I put aquarium gravel or marbles in the bottom of the container.
Each day, I open the lid to let fresh air in and check the eggs. If any eggs don't develop, they are carefully removed with plastic silverware or a turkey baster.
Step 3: Taking Care of Tadpoles
(this is basically the method used by joshsfrogs, www.joshsfrogs.com)
After 14-20 days, the tadpoles hatch out of their egg. It is simple to tell if they are hatched out. While still in the egg, their tail is curled. After hatching, they are straightened. Also, they can usually swim freely around in the petri dish, which is a dead giveaway that they have hatched. At this point, I suction each tad up individually with a turkey baster, and deposit it in a 16 oz. deli cup. The cup has 3 things in it: aged tap water (3/4 full), a piece of magnolia or oak leaf, and a piece of java moss. The java moss is supplemental food for the tadpole. The magnolia leaf produces tannins which make the water acidic. After placing the tadpole in the cup, the cup is labeled with the date, the day of the week (for weekly feedings), and the species.
I feed the tadpoles commercial "frog and tadpole" bites. For the first month of development, I feed them 4 pellets weekly. For the second month, I feed them 5 pellets weekly. For the third month, 6 pellets weekly. I rarely do water changes, unless the water becomes extremely dirty. Most tads morph completely into froglets in 2-3 months, depending on the temperature they are kept at.
Step 4: Froglets
Once tadpoles have popped their front legs, I dump out most of the water in the cup, leaving only about 1/2 an inch in the bottom. I then prop the cup up with a thin book or magazine, so the cup is sloped and there is an area for the froglet to begin crawling out. At this time, the tadpole doesn't need to be fed, as it is absorbing its tail. I put the vented insect lids on the cup also at this time, because eventually the tail will be gone, and the frog can easily escape the cup (this I have learned the hard way when a leuc disappeared). Once the tail is completely absorbed, the froglet is moved to a 120 oz plastic deli container. In the container, I have a layer of sphagnum moss, a few leaves to hid under, and usually a fresh plant clipping. This will be the froglet's home for the next month or two. At this stage, larger frogs (non-thumbnail species) can feed on fruit flies.
After a month or two in the container, I move the frog to community grow-out tanks. These tanks are set up just like any other tank. One in particular that I use is a 40 gallon breeder, with a background, some bromeliads, tons of leaf litter, and a water feature. The froglets are housed here while I am trying to find homes for them. I usually continue daily feedings until froglets are approximately 6 months of age.