Ranitomeya reticulata (pronounced Ran-it-oh-may-ah re-tick-you-latta (as in latte) are varying degrees of orange, red, or yellow with mild black patterning. Reticulata are one of the smallest Ranitomeya, only the size of a pinky nail! These little fellas are rocket-fast and typically quite bold, having no idea of their tiny stature. 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 80s, care for these fingernail frogs is still considered advanced due to their small size, and difficulty to raise the froglets.
Enclosure: 30cmX30cmX45cm (12”X12”X18”)
Heat: 18°C-27°C (65°F-80°F)
Lifespan: Approximately 10+ years
Reticulata frogs are quite variable in their coloring. Their heads and backs are vibrant orange, red, or orange-yellow, and their legs are from blue into grey. The back and legs can be mottled, spotted, or striped, but is usually quite light. Some reticulata have no black markings at all. This can vary somewhat in each individual frog. One of the smallest Ranitomeya, big females measure in at about 15mm, and males are typically slightly smaller. Females are typically rounder than males.
Distribution and Natural Habitat
Reticulata 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. Reticulata is considered by the IUCN Red List as “Near Threatened”, making reticulata much less common in the wild, and breeding to help them survive is encouraged.
Like all Ranitomeya, the reticulata 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 reticulata 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. reticulata 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 reticulata 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 reticulata 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, reticulata 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, reticulata 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.
reticulata 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 reticulata in a 7 gallon aquarium. We recommend a 30cmX30cmX45cm (12”X12”X18”) enclosure – but bigger is always better. This size vivarium is suitable to house 2-3 adult reticulata.
As juveniles you can house several reticulata together, however as they mature you will want to separate them. In our experience reticulata females are hyper aggressive and should not ever be housed together. 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 of frogs in one enclosure. If you want to add a second male it can occasionally be done but is not recommended.
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 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.
Reticulata require small live prey to hunt. This is easily achieved by providing them with flightless or wingless fruit flies. Baby and juvenile reticulata 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 recommended 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
Reticulata is difficult to breed in captivity, and is considered at least intermediate. Their tiny size, tiny eggs, and picky laying habits mean you’ll want to be experienced before attempting these little frogs. Eggs will be laid in the leaf litter or in a bromeliad in a secluded location. Many hobbyists will place film canisters all over the floor of the enclosure, both on top of and in the leaf litter, for the frogs to lay in. Reticulata frogs are known for being slightly picky about where they lay, and their eggs are notoriously difficult to find. No adult care will continue after reticulata eggs have been laid, so it is up to the keeper to ensure eggs remain moist and tadpoles have adequate nutrition. Typically 4-8 eggs will be laid at one time. The eggs take approximately 10-14 days to fully develop. The tadpoles will take approximately 60-80 days to fully metamorphosis into colorful little froglets.
Ranitomeya reticulata are difficult to keep, but their fantastic colors make them well worth the effort. Bright, solid, blocky colors are common in this species, making them stand out against their relatives. Green foliage will vanish behind the vibrancy and iridescence of these delightful tiny frogs.