Ranitomeya fantastica ‘True Nominal’


Ranitomeya fantastica ‘True Nominal’ (pronounced Ran-it-oh-may-ah fantastic-ah) are orange, yellow and blue frogs, with black patterning.  Being a Ranitomeya frog, True Nominal are very small, only the size of your thumbnail.  These little fellas are rocket-fast and 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!  Introduced as early as the 90s, care for these thumbnail frogs is considered moderate.


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

True Nominal frogs are not too variable in their coloring.  Their heads are solid vibrant orange, and this orange fades into yellow on the mid back and legs.  From here the color shifts into rich blue.  The back and legs are mottled black.  This mottling can appear as spots or blotches on the legs as well as on the back.  This can vary somewhat in each individual frog.  Large for a Ranitomeya, big females measure in at about 20 mm, and males are typically slightly smaller.  Females are consistent egg layers and therefore much wider or rounder than males.  True Nominal frogs share the common pearlescence of the Ranitomeya genus.

Distribution and Natural Habitat
Fantastica True Nominal are native to Peru, in the Amazon basin.  These frogs prefer to be off the ground and can be found living in bromeliads and leaves in the in the tropical jungle. However, they like to lay their eggs in the substrate on the ground.  Fantastica is considered by the IUCN Red List as “Near Threatened”, making True Nominal much less common in the wild, and breeding to help them survive is encouraged.

Like all fantastica, the True Nominal frogs are diurnal meaning they are awake during the day.  They are both terrestrial and 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 and around 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 fantastica 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.  True Nominal live near streams and 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 in the open and call out to attract females. The fantastica call is loud.  It sounds like a short, loud “buzz buzz”. Mating males will buzz for up to 5 seconds when looking for a female.  When a female selects a male, the pair will hop away to a nice quiet place, often in a bromeliad, and mate.  For most fantastica 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, True Nominal 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, fantastica True Nominal 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.

True Nominal 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 fantastica True Nominal 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 True Nominal.

As juveniles you can house several True Nominal together, however as they mature you may want to watch for aggression.  In our experience True Nominal can be housed in mixed groups, but if any fighting is observed you will 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 to 10+ 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 or latex 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.

Fantastica True Nominal require small live prey to hunt. This is easily achieved by providing them with flightless or wingless fruit flies. Baby and juvenile True Nominal 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 fantastica True Nominal happy and healthy, they are considered easy to moderate to breed in a vivarium. This makes them a popular choice for many dart frog enthusiasts, but less common with beginners.  Eggs will be laid in the leaf litter or 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. Fantastica frogs are known for being slightly picky about where they lay, and their eggs are notoriously difficult to find. The male will clean and protect the eggs until they hatch. Typically 4-6 eggs will be laid at one time.  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 metamorphosize into colorful little froglets.

Final Notes
Ranitomeya fantastica True Nominal are delightful frogs that display a gradient of rich color.  From their yellow heads, into their orange torsos and legs, and blue down into their backs, rear legs, and feet, they are an absolutely unique and completely beautiful small frog.  Active, loud, and entertaining, you’ll love watching your True Nominals for years and years!

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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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