Woodlice as a food for poison dart frogs

Did you know?
The most toxic poison frog is Phyllobates terribilis from Colombia, which can produce enough toxin to kill eight people!

A fully planted vivarium can contain mosses, ferns, epiphytes like bromeliads and even flowering orchids!

Dendrobates tinctorius spots a dwarf woodlouse!

Dendrobates tinctorius spots a dwarf woodlouse!
Dwarf tropical woodlice (Trichorhina tomentosa) are a really simple food to culture for dart frogs. The frogs love them, and unlike crickets and flies, these woodlice will not overtake your home! They are quite easy to raise in fairly large numbers, require far less attention than many other livefoods, and even if ignored for some weeks, they quickly return to previous levels of production after a few feeds

They have several other advantages too. They are calcium rich; very important for amphibians. Uneaten woodlice will survive and even breed in the vivarium, providing a source of live food at all times. They may even improve the health of the vivarium itself, eating dead and dying leaves and other organic matter. Adult woodlice measure around 1/2cm with the smallest young ideal for thumbnails and froglets at around 1mm

Dwarf tropical woodlice Trichorhina tomentosa

Dwarf tropical woodlice - Trichorhina tomentosa
Housing the woodlice
The easiest way to house a woodlouse colony is in a larger plastic storage box (escape proof - they can not climb), loosely lidded to keep in moisture, yet allow some aeration. This is filled to a depth of at least 4 inches with loose loam / orchid compost / coir / bark etc. It should have a loose consistancy and an ability to maintain humidity. A warm room temperature of around 25 degrees C seems to suit, and at this temperature lice can be harvested every 2-3 days. The culture should be as large as possible.

The only thing that threatens to kill a culture is over wetting or overdrying. The substrate should be full of microsites for a woodlouse to scurry under, yet moist particularly an inch or so down. Larger cultures maintain a stable humidity much more readily than small ones. A hessian cloth can be placed over the surface to keep moisture in.

A woodlouse trap

A woodlouse trap
Feeding and harvesting Like many livefoods, Ready Brek seems to be the best food for Trichorhina tomentosa, though they will eat practically anything. Place some coconut shells on the surface of the media. Sprinkle with Ready Brek, and 'lid' with another piece of shell. The next day, the space between the two shell fragments will have numerous woodlice - usually 50-100. Coconut shell is not the only thing that you can use, however it works very well, and looks natural if you simply place a woodlouse ladden shell in the vivarium.

A woodlouse trap

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This site contains photographs, information on poison dart frog husbandry, their habitats from the Amazon rainforest, and elsewhere in South America. There are articles on tropical plants (bromiliads, orchids, epiphytes), vivariums, and of course the frogs themselves. If you have any suggestions please contact me on info@poisondartfrog.co.uk.


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