Ranitomeya benedicta ‘Shucushuyacu’


Ranitomeya benedicta ‘Shucushuyacu’ (pronounced Ran-it-oh-may-ah ben-eh-dik-tah Shoe-koo-shoe-yak-oo) are vibrant red, blue, and black colored frogs.  Being a Ranitomeya frog, Shucushuyacu are very small.  Nicknamed the “Spiderman Frog”, these can be a bit on the shy side, but may warm up to you if you visit them through the glass a lot.  They are diurnal like all Ranitomeya, so you won’t have to get up late to watch them.  They should be active when you are!  First discovered and described in 2004, these frogs are a fairly new discovery, let alone an addition to the hobby in 2009.  Care for these fingernail frogs is fairly easy, and Shucushuyacu makes a good starter frog.

Quick Stats:

Enclosure: 30cmX30cmX45cm (12”X12”X18”)

Heat:  18°C-27°C (65°F-80°F)

Humidity:  70-100%

Food:  Juveniles D. melanogaster, Adults may take D. hydei, small isopods, springtails.

Lifespan: Approximately 10+ years

Shucushuyacu frogs are not too variable in their coloring.  Their heads and upper backs are red, and this red fades into cyan blue or blue-green on the lower back and legs.  Layered on top of the base colors is a mottling or striping of black.  This mottling can appear as spots or blotches on the legs as well as on the back and head.  This can vary somewhat in each individual frog.  Medium for a Ranitomeya, Large females measure in at about 19mm, with no sexual dimorphism confirmed, but males are typically slightly smaller at 17-18mm.  Shucushuyacu frogs share the common pearlescence of the Ranitomeya genus.

Distribution and Natural Habitat
Benedicta Shucushuyacu are native to Peru, and for a Ranitomeya, they like the ground a considerable bit more than most.  They can be found living in leaf litter, or bromeliads and leaves in the in the tropical lowlands. Benedicta is considered by the IUCN Red List as “Vulnerable”, but Shucushuyacu frogs will readily breed in captivity.

Like all benedicta, the Shucushuyacu frogs are diurnal meaning they are awake during the day.  They are both terrestrial and low arboreal and live in the low hanging leaves of the jungles they inhabit. In the wild they are constantly foraging for small insects, invertebrates and arthropods on their plants. 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 benedicta 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.  Shucushuyacu live near streams or ponds.  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 in the open and call out to attract females. The benedicta call is soft.  It sounds like a short, gentle “buzz buzz”  When a female selects a male, the pair will hop away to a nice quiet place, often in a bromeliad, and mate.  For most benedicta the adult frogs are not aggressive and a mixed group can be kept.  Be aware that this may change with individual frogs.

Life in the Vivarium
Like all dart frogs, Shucushuyacu 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, benedicta Shucushuyacu 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.

Shucushuyacu 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 benedicta Shucushuyacu in a 7 gallon aquarium.  We recommend a 30cmX30cmX48cm (12”X12”X18”) enclosure – but bigger is always better. This size vivarium is suitable to house 2-3 adult Shucushuyacu.

As juveniles or adults you can house several Shucushuyacu together, however as they mature you may want to watch for aggression.  In our experience Shucushuyacu can be housed in mixed groups, but if any fighting is observed you may be required to remove the offending frog. The size of the vivarium provided and the individual personalities of each animal will dictate how many frogs you can keep in an enclosure.  It is common to keep a pair or trio of frogs in one enclosure.  If you want to keep a group, add at least 1 gallon of space per additional frog.

It is common for a healthy Ranitomeya 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.

Benedicta Shucushuyacu require small live prey to hunt. This is easily achieved by providing them with flightless or wingless fruit flies. Baby and juvenile Shucushuyacu will eat Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies, and large adults may seek out Drosophila hydei. Springtails are also a wonderfully sized snack for fingernail frogs.  The flies and springtails 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 in Captivity
If you have provided all the necessary parameters to keep your benedicta Shucushuyacu 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 in a bromeliad in a secluded location. Many hobbyists will place a film canister, tilted 45 degrees and mounted to a wall or sturdy decoration to give the frogs a nice quiet place to lay their eggs.  Some also use artificial bromeliads.  The male will clean and protect the eggs until they hatch.  Tadpoles who are left to grow up with their parents will end up larger than tadpoles that are removed.  Once the eggs hatch, the male will move the tadpoles to a pool and show the female where he has placed them.  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 or the moist center of a bromeliad. The tadpoles will take approximately 60-80 days to fully metamorphosis into colorful little froglets.

Final Notes
Ranitomeya benedicta Shucushuyacu are delightful frogs that display a trio of stunning colors.  Red, blue, and black and affectionately nicknamed the Spiderman Frog, these acrobats will stand out against the foliage.  Easy to care for, active during the day, and adorable, these frogs are a great beginner frog or a delight for the seasoned hobbyist.

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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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