When creating your slice of the rainforest, it's important to create something that will last. Following this Stratified Soils System, you'll create a lasting habitat that will simply require yearly addition of leaf litter and the addition of more substrate once every 3-5 years.
For Tinctorius, Epipedobates, Phyllobates, Amereega, and other large frogs use a lower/wider tank, a minimum of a 10 gallon for 2. For Pumilio and Ranitomeya use a taller tank, at minimum a 12x12x18 for 2.
The drainage layer serves a vital function as it acts as a reservoir for excess water and prevents the substrate from becoming waterlogged. We only use hydroballs or our 3D printed drainage grates for this layer. Other materials such as perlite and growstone (Recycled, foamed glass powder) are often sold as false bottom materials, but we do not use or recommend these materials due to health concerns. While hydroballs are great for absorbing water and releasing it back to the substrate if the substrate begins to dry out, they can be a bit heavy. Our 3D printed drainage grates solve this issue and can easily be installed in a couple of minutes.
Lay windowscreen or weed cloth on top of your drainage layer to prevent it from becoming clogged with substrate.
Calcined clay acts as a calcium source for burrowing isopods, as a secondary drainage layer to prevent microfauna and substrate from skirting around your substrate barrier, and it will help to regulate humidity by absorbing water and releasing it back into the substrate if it begins to dry out.
Our tropical substrate blend has a higher organic content and moisture content than ABG. This is the layer that will drive the bioactivity in your tank from day one as it is already alive with beneficial fungi and microbes. As surface materials break down, they will wash through the ABG and will be added to this layer to be utilized by plants and microbes. Water percolates well, but slower in this layer, allowing it to maintain optimal moisture content for your microfauna and plants alike. Using this central layer will increase microfauna growth, plant growth, and will help to keep your tank from becoming too dry.
Although used as a standalone substrate with great success in the past, takes a month or two to stabilize humidity and to begin to break down so plants can utilize its nutrients. The large particulates mimic the top layer of rainforest soils and will quickly drain water from the surface while breaking down over time and adding nutrients back to the secondary soils layer.
Springtails will eat any mold or fungi within the vivarium while Isopods will eat fecal matter, dead insects, decaying plants and leaves.
These include ferns, selaginella, begonias, bromeliads, marcgravia, etc. Wash all plants to bare root to remove fertilizers and with a 5% solution of bleach, then distilled water to eradicate all potential pests.
Having a base layer of smaller leaves will help to maintain proper substrate moisture levels, will keep your frogs from becoming covered in substrate and stressed, and will break down over time to further add nutrients to the soils. Having larger leaves such as magnolia on top will give your frogs more space to forage for microfauna and places to hide in case the tank becomes too dry or they become stressed. Do not install sphagnum moss under the leaf litter as this is an outdated, disproven, and problem prone method as the sphagnum keeps the top layer soggy, promoting harmful bacterial growth.
You do not need fancy lights! Just use a plain white LED light for the frogs to see and for plants to photosynthesize. Do NOT use UVB. Do Not use halogen or fluorescent bulbs. These can heat up your tank too much!
Most dart frogs require a glass-top tank so they will not dry out. Screen tops are fine for tree frogs, but Not Dart Frogs!!! Ask us about the species you have so far as their ventilation requirements. Some require very little; some require a good amount.