Can Poison Dart Frogs Be Kept as Pets?

It sounds like a trick question: How can you stay safe when faced with one of the most dangerous animals on Earth? Answer: Make it your pet.

In the wild, the poison dart frog's diet makes it highly lethal.
In the wild, the poison dart frog's diet makes it highly lethal.

It's actually not a trick. Poison dart frogs are a group of tiny amphibians in the family Dendrobatidae, some of which can carry enough toxins to kill 10 grown men. Native to tropical areas of Central and South America, the beautifully-colored creatures look harmless, weighing about 1 ounce (28 g) and measuring a maximum of 2.4 inches (6 cm) in length.

In the wild they dine on mites, ants, and centipedes, and their bodies turn some of the ingested chemicals into extremely toxic poison. However, once they are placed in a terrarium and fed a domestic diet of fruit flies and small crickets, the dart frogs become as harmless as hamsters.

And for some, they are the ideal pet: Dart frogs can live up to 20 years and don't require much maintenance. They are busy during the day and sleep at night, so you can spend hours watching the beautiful creatures quietly moving about in their glass domicile, especially if you add some waterfalls and lots of vegetation to keep things humid.

Some more frog facts:

  • On the other end of the size scale from the dart frog sits the goliath frog of Cameroon, which can weigh 7 pounds (3.2 kg) and reach 30 inches (76 cm) in length, with legs extended.

  • Frogs blink when they swallow their prey, and their eyeballs push down on their mouths to help force the food downward.

  • Surprisingly, most frog species have teeth in their upper jaws, which they use to hold onto prey.

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