Dendrobates tinctorius New River

Dendrobates tinctorius New River are slightly varied in their coloration.  They are light creamy blue to frogs with dark blue or black patterning.  Like the other tinctorius frogs, New River are diurnal so they will be awake during the day so you can watch them do what frogs do (eat and hop!).  They may also watch you back.  Introduced in at least the late 1990s, these frogs are great starter frogs, or an excellent addition to an existing collection.

Quick Stats:

Minimum enclosure: 45cmX45cmX45cm (18”X18”X18”)

Heat:  18°C-27°C (65°F-80°F)

Humidity:  70-100%

Food:  Juveniles D. melanogaster, Adults D. hydei, isopods, springtails.

Lifespan: 10-15 years, occasionally over 20


Dendrobates tinctorius New River dart frogs can be rather variable in both color and markings.  Their base color is light blue or cream, and this is displayed on their heads and backs.  This base color is layered with dark blue or black patterning, which presents as spotting, flecking, splotching, or striping.  The legs tape from the base color into the blue or black (or both!) of the layer color and blue legs can be covered in black spots.  New River are large for a tinctorius.  Females measure in at about 56mm (2.2 inches), with males being slightly smaller at 44mm (1.75 inches).  Males often appear smaller than females, who are both wider and longer.  Usually the male’s front toe pads are wider and the arch in the back is less defined than the female’s.  All New River frogs share the common hunchback pose and bulldog stance the tinctorius species is known for.

Distribution and Natural Habitat of Dendrobates tinctorius New River

Tinctorius New River are native to Suriname.  These frogs can be found living near streams in subtropical jungles across the region. Tinctorius is considered by the IUCN Red List as “Least Concerned” as of 2010, but New River frogs are under constant threat of deadly virus, agriculture and logging.  New River frogs are still very uncommon in the American and Canadian frog hobby.


Like all tinctorius, the New River frogs are diurnal meaning they are awake during the day.  They are terrestrial and live in the understory of the jungles they inhabit. In the wild they are constantly foraging for small insects, invertebrates and arthropods in the leaf litter. Some of the plants in the jungles contain various alkaloids and toxins, the micro fauna eat these plants and in turn get eaten by the frogs.  This causes a downstream effect and these amazing frogs have evolved to harness the toxins as a means of self-defence. A combination of their striking colors and the toxins stored in their glands help ward off potential predators. In captivity the tinctorius do not contain any of these toxins due to the diet provided to them. They don’t have access to the food they would be eating in the wild.  New River live near streams and can be found soaking in shallow ponds or right on the edge of slow moving water. While being frogs they are not very good swimmers and great care should be taken when making a suitable vivarium for them to live in. Once mature, the males will boldly perch on a rock or log and call out to attract females. The tinctorius call is barely audible, and is a quiet buzzing sound. When a female selects a male, she will caress and gently pet his back to tell him she is ready to mate. The male will then hop away to a nice quiet place, with the female close behind.  For most tinctorius the adult females are quite aggressive to each other and will wrestle and chase away opponents. In the wild the loser can just hop away to live another day, however in captivity this isn’t an option.

Life in the Vivarium

Like all dart frogs, New River require a humidity range of 70-100%. They can survive for brief intervals at 50% humidity if clean water is provided for them to soak in.  You can place a bromeliad or small shallow dish of water in the enclosure or add a pond feature to achieve this.  Remember, tinctorius New River cannot swim well, so ensure that the water source is shallow and easy to get out of. The water level should be no higher than the smallest frog can sit in with his head and upper torso out.

New River thrive at temperatures near 21°C (70°F) but can survive a range of 18°C-27°C (65°F-80°F).  Never exceed 29°C (85°F) as this can be fatal to the frogs. Generally a heat source such as a pad or light is not needed on a dart frog vivarium, apart from any lighting for plants.  Do not rely on sunshine from a window, because the sun through the glass will heat up to extremely unsafe temperatures very quickly. Keep note of any air conditioning or heaters used in your home as well, as they may affect the temperature in your frog cage.

It is possible to house a single tinctorius New River in a 10 gallon aquarium, but we recommend that you use a minimum 45cmX45cmX45cm (18”X18”X18”) enclosure – bigger is always better. This size vivarium is suitable to house 2-3 adult New River.

As juveniles you can house several New River together, however as they mature you will need to remove all but one female once you notice the first signs of aggression. Sometimes the males will exhibit aggressive behaviors to each other while defending their territory. If it appears to be stressful you may be required to remove the passive males. This is less common than female aggression, so it may be possible to house multiple males with a single female. The size of the vivarium provided and the individual personalities of each animal will dictate how many frogs you can keep in an enclosure. Because of the female on female aggressive behaviour over mating rights it is common for most hobbyists to house only a pair or trio of two males and one female.

It is common for a healthy tinctorius New River to live between 10-20+ years in a vivarium. Please consider this before deciding to take them home to your family. As with most amphibians they are considered a “hands off” pet similar to a fish. Due to their delicate and permeable skin, it is not advised to handle your frogs. The chemicals, oils and debris on your hands could prove fatal to your dart frog pet when it is absorbed through their skin. It is recommended that you wear powder free rubber gloves if you are required to handle your dart frogs. In an emergency, such as an escape from the enclosure, try to capture them as fast as possible (bare hands will do… if needed) as they will try to hide quickly, and unfortunately this will become fatal very rapidly.

Tinctorius New River require small live prey to hunt. This is easily achieved by providing them with flightless or wingless fruit flies. Baby and juvenile New River will eat Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies, and the adults will hunt for Drosophila hydei. But the flies on their own are a poor nutritional source.  We recommend “dusting” your fruit flies with a high quality vitamin and mineral supplement. We use and recommend Dendrocare all in one vitamin/mineral supplement. You can combine and use other supplements available to you, however please ensure you research what ratio or frequency you can supply vitamins as some can be lethal in high dosages.

It is very common to build a bioactive vivarium for your dart frogs. This is achieved by introducing isopods and springtails into the environment. These little land crustaceans (no they are not insects!) will eat the decaying and decomposing bio matter as well as any excess feces in the vivarium. Some of these micro fauna will be eaten by your dart frog, as a little snack.

As with all our frogs, we do not recommend that you house multiple species or morphs together. Please supply each group with a vivarium to call their own.

Breeding Dendrobates tinctorius New River in Captivity

If you have provided all the necessary parameters to keep your tinctorius New River happy and healthy, they are fairly easy to breed in a vivarium. This makes them a popular choice for many dart frog enthusiasts.  Eggs will be laid on a smooth clean leaf surface in a secluded location. Many hobbyists will place a petri dish under a coconut hut to give the frogs a nice quiet place to lay their eggs. The adult male should return frequently to his eggs to keep them moist and clean. Tinctorius New River eggs are clear and gelatinous, making them excellent to watch develop into tadpoles. The eggs take approximately 10-14 days to fully develop, at which point they will hatch and the adults will return to give the tadpoles a piggyback ride to a shallow pond. The tadpoles will take approximately 60-80 days to fully metamorphosis into colorful little froglets.

Final Notes

Dendrobates tinctorius New River are blue on blue beauties who will liven up and space.  They like to watch their owners just as much as we like to watch them, and they are even fairly easy to care for.  A rarer specimen of tinctorius; be the talk of the community by adding some New River frogs to your collection!

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Jungle Jewel Exotics is located in Calgary Alberta and was founded by Lucas and Dawn to preserve and expand the amazing hobby of amphibians and reptiles in Western Canada. Currently working with over thirty five species and morphs of dart frogs plus other enchanting species of frogs. We are also working with several types of dwarf day gecko. Jungle Jewel Exotics is on the fore front of our favorite hobby and rapidly expanding our breeding program.

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