magnetic doors are awesome

•February 14, 2011 • Comments Off

[amazon-product alink="#13f40a" bgcolor="#000000" bordercolor="#000000" region="us"]B004C1UMN8[/amazon-product]Finally, a video on the new vivarium build.

I have to admit, I really like my new 15 Gallon vivarium design. But I’ll only know for sure when I put it to the test. I was glad this time I didn’t have to take apart the aquarium to make the build, or cut any glass. The Professional Welders Adhesive works, which I was pretty happy about after all the testing I had done with different epoxies. The acrylic was pretty cheap since it was only 1/8″ thick. And the air ports worked out better than expected. I also really liked using a clamp light as an internal light. It saved me tons of hassle.

I admit I’m a little back and for on the magnetic doors. On the plus side I trust them to keep the tank closed. They are strong and I have no doubt the frogs will never be able to get out. Also when my hands are full they make it easy to close the door before any fruit flies escape. One the down side, I fear I might accidentally close the front when there is a frog too close to an edge. However I think that could have even without the magnets. I suppose the worry comes from not having a hinge before at the bottom. The hinge is great. I now never have to worry about dropping the door which was my previous fear, having it happen once before, and breaking the glass when knocking it against the edge of the tank. No, these hinged magnetic doors are going to be pretty sweet.

On another note, the reason I used acrylic and not glass for the front of the tanks, was because I hate the look of sanded down glass edges. I would rather have them polished, but that’s expensive. To polish acrylic, I just need a small torch. And with glass, I’d still need to drill air vents in them. I’d rather do this through acrylic. It’s just safer. Plus the black acrylic looks totally sweet. And the awesomeness of the magnetic doors just perfect the look. Now I need to get some contact paper for the sides and top. But for now I’ll use duct tape.

bromeliads at night

•February 13, 2011 • Comments Off

As the evening comes to an end everyone heads to the bromeliads for the night. For I thought I’d recap for the evening with a few pictures of my Nominals and Intermedius heading to bed, and my concerns and  . . . well . . . whatever.

1. Epoxies are not working. Professional Welder Adhesive next. It takes a couple days to harden, but it seems to work the best for far. I’m covering it with a heavy layer of silicon. But the stuff is waterproof, unlike the last stuff I tried, which disconnected to the glass as soon as water touches it. I think the main problem there was between non-porous material. Either way I hope to have the new tanks ready to go soon. Not sure yet what I’ll put in them.

2. There are two types of fruit flies. To make it easy we’ll just call them wingless and flightless. I’ve been culturing flightless. I’m sorry to say they take long to culture, and good at hoping and gliding, and sometimes find the ability to fly. I’m going to try wingless next. Already in my cultures I can see the large is already large, proving that wingless do culture faster.

3. Two of my Nonimals seems to have learned how to make the mating call. Is it time for separation? They didn’t make these calls until they were housed next to Intermedius who call quite a bit. Did they learn it from the Intermedius? When should the group of five Nominals be separated anyway? Since they all still appear to be getting along and sitting in the same area of the bromeliads at night, my guess is not quite yet.

4. No luck with any glass jars larger than 2.5 gallons, which don’t require modification. I’d still consider carboys with the tops cut off. But for now it’s just too much work. Until then I’ll work on designing the Montana Jars, which means trying to build in an LED lighting system. If it works, I may try to add blue night lighting as well.

5. Building the 2.5 gallon jars with the lighting will costs about as much as my 15 gallon rimless vivariums. So is it worth it? They both look pretty sweet.

proven pair sexed pair

•February 10, 2011 • Comments Off

You’ll often hear the term proven pair or sexed pair. Sexed Pair refers to a male and female pair of dart frogs that appear to be a couple. You’ll notice they like to hang out with each other in the vivarium more often than not. And you can tell which sex they are by the fatter and slightly larger shape of the female and the call of the male. However, you know they are a monogamous couple when they have been separated and you find a tadpole in the tank. In the top picture I was very hopeful this male was in the water of the plastic dish to deposit a tadpole. But I think he just saw a fly that fell in. When you know they are breeding, you can call them a Proven Pair.

I managed getting two proven pairs of R. imitator ‘Intermedius’ from a local breeder who was having trouble morphing out the tadpoles. Which means he was getting eggs and raising the tadpoles, but they never managed to become froglets. On the right you can see the female that is with the male in the other picture.

So far I have yet to see any eggs or tadpoles, but they have only been alone in their tank for about a week. Previously I kept both pairs together, which made the male quite unhappy, as he was not the dominant one. I’m a little concerned about the pair in my other vivarium, because it was the reconstruct I did of spare parts and used a different type of glue than I normally would. I’m hoping there are not chemicals left over in the tank making them sick. But I just can’t be sure.

On a different note I didn’t put enough silicon over my VersaChem Plastic Weld in my new three thanks, so I got a leak on two of them. I worry this leak may have caused a larger problem, since the connection between my acrylic joint and tempered glass ended in separation caused by water. I’m going to test silicone on it next to see if it has the same problems.

15 gallon vertical conversion with acrylic

•February 9, 2011 • Comments Off

I have avoided working with acrylic and glass because I have seen warnings against it. After coming up with a new venting solution I thought for my last three tanks I would try it.


  • (3) 15 gal. rimless glass tank 21-5/8″ x 14″ x 11-3/8″ x 3/16″ thick glass $35.00 each
  • (3) tempered glass 14″ x 11-3/8″ x 1/8″ $1.00 each
  • (3) 1/8″ black acrylic cut – 3″ x 11-3/8″ $1.63 each
  • (3) 1/8″ black acrylic cut – 4-5/8″ x 11-3/8 $2.71
  • (3) 1/16″ thick clear acrylic cut – 3-1/3″ x 10-15/16″ $1.00 each
  • (3) 12″ Excelon Hinges $1.25 each
  • No-see-um Misquito Mesh $12.00
  • (3) Clamp Light $6.00 each
  • (12) 1/2″ x 1/2″ x 1/8″ magnets $0.50 each
  • Black Pipe Tape $6.00
  • GE Black Silicone II $3.00
  • VersaChem Plastic Welding $5.00 (This did not work and I was required to switch to Pro Welder Adhesive)
  • Liquid Nails $6.00 (Ended up using Pro Welder Adhesive)
  • Weld-on #16 $6.00
  • Plastic Packing Rings and Washers

To start with I had these plastic packing rings from my Office Max wire rack I had just bought. Using some Liquid Nails and some plastic washers lying around the house, I glued pieces of no-see-um mosquito mesh tightly inside the plastic packing rings. These would be my vent ports for the vivarium. Weld-on #16 may also work for this task, but it really doesn’t connect well to ABS plastic.

Next I took the clear acrylic and used the Weld-on #16 to cement it to the 3″ piece of black acrylic. This would give me a clear lip to press against the glass front. Then I drew lines to cut 1-1/4″ holes into the acrylic. Then I drilled the holes.

I drilled three holes. Two for vent port and one to screw the clamp light into. When I was done it looked pretty good.

Here you can see the process to drill a hole into acrylic. I did this in the middle of my living room with a couple pieces of cardboard under the acrylic to make sure I didn’t drill into my carpet. You’ll need to be slow to make sure you don’t crack the acrylic. By slow I mean take your time. The drill was fast enough to actually melt the acrylic a little while it was drilling. But I avoided putting too much pressure on the acrylic because the plastic can crack easily.

Now when I started this project I had planned to use a different Epoxy that was clear. But the VersaChem Plastic Welding actually stated it was good for both Acrylic and Glass. So using it, I cemented the top and bottom plastic. I also took the Excelon Hinge cementing it to the acrylic first with Weld-on #16, then to the front glass with VersaChem Plastic Welding.

When I was finished I shoved the clamp light into the middle holes and taped the electric plug down to the top of the tank. I also covered the entire top of the tank with black pipe tape. Using the silicone I added a nice line to the inside edges where the acrylic and glass met, to help keep it from leaking. All that’s left is to silicon the magnets to the doors so they stay shut.

rule of thumb

•February 9, 2011 • Comments Off

In the Poison Dart Frog hobby, it is  generally understood that you don’t mix frogs from different locations. Even more so, you should never allow frogs from different locations to breed and produce hybrids. I think these are pretty standard rules for breeders of any animal. Otherwise you end up with too many mutts on the street.

So what does that mean for imitators? Sure, the species has been defined, but there are many morphs, and some of those may be mutts, even if we know where in Peru they come from. Nominals and Intermedius are the cheapest imitator morphs in the hobby because the fact is no one knows where they come from (similar in looks to Cainarachi Valley and Chazuta).  Yurimaguensis (similar in looks to Yumbatos) are also from an unknown location, making it on the questionable list. Most are probably hybrids to one degree or another. But if we look at them we can have an idea because they look like the type of frog they imitate.

So let’s talk about imitation. Which frogs are getting imitated?

  • Yumbatos imitate R. Ventrimaculata
  • Caynarachi Valley imitate R. Variabilis
  • Varadero imitate R. Fantasticus
  • Banded imitate R. Summersi

This leaves Bajo Huallaga, Chazuta, and Tarapoto as hybrid morphs from the wild. Cool and distinctly different from the main four, but still hybrids.

put the frog in a montana jar

•February 9, 2011 • Comments Off

This is a Montana Jar. The largest size it comes in is 2.5 gallons. That is the smallest sized container recommended for keeping a Arboreal Thumbnail Dart Frog.

If you ask most Posion Dart Frog breeders, they’ll tell you the container standard is 5 gallons per frog, and never to use this as a rule. You can’t use this as a rule because dart frogs come in different sizes. Some enjoy life on the ground under leaf litter, while others stay up on the limb of whatever plant they can. In a vivarium, you may notice frogs like to hang out on the glass itself. Also generally speaking you want more room than less. Most creatures prefer to have more space then less.

My focus up till now has been building breeding tanks specifically for R. imitator dart frogs. A breeding pair might be good in 5 gallons, but most double that number to 10 gallons, and make sure the height is the longest measurement. We call that a vertical tank. Plus 10 gallon tanks generally run about $12.50, so they are the least expensive with the most space for the price. Many custom dart frog companies sell vertical conversion kits. Those will run at least $20.00 plus shipping. They allow you to access the tank from the front, which is good when you are breeding frogs and hunting for tadpoles.

When I created, I had a simple concept. I wanted to have a jar on my desk that was a self-contained rainforest. And inside there would be a brightly colored frog enjoying life. When I envisioned this I happened to be in the kitchen where my wife keeps rice on the counter in a Montana Jar. I thought it was a great size for a desktop vivarium. And it is! But it’s a little small for 2 frogs. Maybe it’s okay for temporary quarantine of multiple frogs. Anyway, until I think so something better, I’ll be working to build out the premiere frogcube container.

through the glass

•February 4, 2011 • Comments Off

It’s hard to take a picture of these guys when they’re hunting. These two nominals were just sitting on the vent, waiting for the fly to make a move. I couldn’t open the door or I’d risk scaring them. Macro lenses have a very shallow depth of field, but I still managed to get a snap shot of the situation. I’m sorry to say I’m a little impatient and did move the glass just enough to blow a little air into the tank. Unfortunately it cause the frogs to run away. The fly didn’t move a millimeter.

The 6th 15 gallon tank is complete. For some reason it smells weird. Also the wood glue didn’t work like I’d hoped. Maybe it’s the wood glue that smells bad? Anyway, I’m going to wait a day before I separate the intermedius and put them in their new home. I hope they like the bamboo stalks for climbing.

Next up is the build of 6 more thanks that are smaller than 11 inches. I am very much considering using 10 gallon tanks and trying to do this as simply as possible.

vivarium reconstruct

•February 3, 2011 • Comments Off

Most of the posts you read about my vivarium constructions start with my first vivarium build. It ended badly with my first and last attempt to drill a hole in glass. While I still completed the build, I later scrapped the entire vivarium and cannibalized the pieces to make the next five. The plan was to continue to cannibalize parts for the next four vivariums. But as luck would have it, the aquarium store where I bought my tanks screwed me over, and so I was left with no choice, but to try to rebuild this vivariums with the parts I had left.

So with a 11″ x 14″ piece and 11″ x 21-1/4″ piece of 3/16″ ABS Plastic, I took my silicon gun and tried to rebuild a new vivarium using what was left of my glass. I couldn’t cut any glass because the none of my pieces were wide enough. The result was some odd levels, but a possibly functional vivarium. Assuming I keep the weight of things inside as low as possible.

Tomorrow I’ll test it out and probably add a little more silicon around the edges. But so far it’s better than I’d hoped. ABS plastic and glass don’t really work that well together. And I’m not sure if trying to use silicon to keep them together is the best way to go. But I guess only time will tell. Maybe on this one I’ll use the fogger I got for Christmas. Just to continue to try something different.

clay backgrounds with zoo meds and exo terras

•February 1, 2011 • Comments Off

While I have five 15 gallon vivariums finished and four more to be complete, I decided to try some of the more standard terrariums used by hobbyists today. These are the 12x12x18 Zoo Med NT-2 Naturalist Terrariums, and the 12x12x18 Exo-Terra Glass Terrarium PT2602. I bought two Zoo Meds and managed to locate a used Exo-Terra on craigslist.

As front opening glass terrariums go these both are pretty sweet. The Zoom Med is hinged on the left while the Exo Terra has two doors that open on both sides. Both have a screen tops that can be removed and use 1/8 inch glass with a 1/2 of vent space below the front door. The Exo-Terra is a little more expensive, but has the extra feature of a fake Styrofoam background that looks like rock. However, for the price difference, you could get a fitted cork bark background for your Zoo Med.

For dart frogs I find these both a bit of a nightmare. The screen top will easily let fruit flies though, as will the vents below the doors, and all the edges around the doors. Fruit fly proof these systems are not. The solution is to block the top screen with a plastic liner, silicone the edges of the glass (hard to do with Exo-Terra double doors), and block the plastic vent.

At the moment I’ve decided not to worry about all of this, focusing on these tanks for temporary housing and perhaps future housing for some of my Lecus, which are starting to grow too large for their tank (18″x18″x24″). But while I’m working on way to block the top, silicon the sides, and test the misting options to keep humidity up, I also decided to test clay background.

Clay backgrounds are kinda heavy. Granted they could heavier. But add clay to glass and rocks, and things get pretty heavy. My friend Michael came over with some clay he’d gotten from the local clay store. We mixed it with some other clay for a brown tone, and added a little coco fiber. Once we got a thick consistency I flattened it to the back of the tank, then make some shelves for my imitators to hang out on. I then covered the shelves with coco fiber. They still need some plants added but it looked pretty good.

Michael pointed out that clay backgrounds were nice because the vivariums could easily be cleaned out and re-used. I suppose so. But I like the lightness of foam. Anyway some of my intermedius imitators are testing it out for me at the moment. We’ll see how well they handle it for the next couple days.

morphs in capativity

•January 26, 2011 • Comments Off

Most of the information I am using to learn about the care and breeding of imitator dart frogs comes from:

Imitating Dart Frog – Ranitomeya imitator – Care and Breeding

I have not bought any books on the subject. From this information and a few references to other sites, I have divined a list of R. imitator dart frogs that are available to hobbyists interested in breeding. I based this list on the way the frogs looked. I know that some frogs differ because although they look the same, only one line is known to be of a specific region. But they still look like all the others (just don’t breed them with the others to be safe). So with all that, these are all the R. imitator morphs and there different names:

  • Nomainal (Cainarachi Valley)
  • Intermedius (Chazuta)
  • Intermedius Banded
  • Tarapoto
  • Varadero
  • Bajo Huallaga
  • Yumbatos (Rayada)
  • Yurimaguensis

I’m working to collect all 8 of the cheaper types, meaning without the specific regional data. While I think I’ll eventually be able to get some Yuri, I think the Yumbatos and Bajo Huallaga will be the most difficult.