|Common Name:||Mantella frog|
|Life Span:||5-10 years|
|Size:||¾ to 1 ½ inch long|
|Habitat:||Tropical rainforests close to shallow ponds and pools|
|Country of Origin:||Madagascar|
Mantellas are beautiful, colorful frogs living in Madagascar. Due to their distinctive colorings, a lot of people think of them as the poison arrow frogs, but mantellas are a different species. These frogs stay small. They don’t need a big enclosure, but their excellent hunting skills and energy levels are making them so interesting.
The mantella frogs come in various colors ranging from dazzling orange to green and anything in between. These frogs are commonly in the shades of yellow, orange, and red. They have unique color blotches on the top of their shiny black bodies. Their colorings make up for the size of these frogs. Mantellas are so tiny that they can stay on your thumbnails.
These American toads can live for a long time in captivity with proper care and handling. Mantellas have 16 subspecies that differ in both size and color. Mantellas have harmful skin secretions. Their colorful bodies will tell everyone that they are toxic.
Some mantella frogs can be more toxic than others. Predators tend to avoid those species with bright colors. However, these colorings are sometimes hard to see in the dark. That’s why all mantella frogs and other poisonous frogs are active in the daytime while other species rise and play at night.
Mantellas can live for 5 to 10 years.
The 16 species of mantella frogs are mostly inhabited in Madagascar, but many of them live in Reunion and the surrounding islands. These frogs measure ¾ to 1 ½ inch long. The brilliant colors of mantellas warn the predators that they release strong toxins once they attack these frogs.
The entomologists of the California Academy of Sciences found that mantella frogs got this toxic secretion from their food. The number one source of this secretion for certain species is the endemic ant called Anochetus grandidieri.
Mantella frogs exist only in Madagascar, the island on the east coastline of Africa. Most of the species of mantella frogs are known for their abilities to release toxins that are much like the secretions of the poisonous frogs from South America. Mantellas are getting these alkaloid toxins from their prey like ants, fruit flies, and termites.
Then, these tiny frogs will use these toxins in protecting themselves against their predators. While their toxins are not as deadly as the secretions of the golden poison frogs, the mantella frogs can release enough toxins so that they can make their predators sick. These toxins are making them taste nasty, so the predators will feel bad if they try biting these frogs.
In captivity, the most common food for the mantella frogs is crickets. These insects must be easy to swallow but never filling enough. Adult mantellas muse eat every few days and give them enough as they’ll eat within 15 minutes.
Certain species do not stop eating, but others tend to be so picky when being fed. Remove the uneaten crickets and reserve them for the succeeding feeding time.
Gut load the crickets. You may feed these insects with commercial food made for crickets or carrots and lettuce. In every few feedings, the insects must be dusted with calcium supplements.
Aside from the bright colorings on their bodies, diurnal natures, and toxicity, these frogs share some notable similarities with the poison frogs. Both species of frogs live on the land, but two mantella subspecies are fond of climbing and lingering on the trees.
Like the poison frogs, the mantellas are a bit small. In terms of size, they are often less than 2 inches long. How could 2 animals which aren’t related to one another end up having similarities? Both frog species had evolved to fill the same niches. Therefore, they developed the same adaptations. It’s known as convergent evolution.
Most frogs feature webbed toes designed to help them swim. However, the case is different for mantellas. They spend their lives crawling all over the jungle floor amongst the leaves, under the decaying trees, and occasionally on the branches that are near the ground. Thus, they don’t need those webbed toes.
They have short legs intended for climbing instead of long hops. Arboreal mantella frogs have swollen and sticky fingertips, which help them keep it up while they move around midair.
Adult mantella frogs live in tiny colonies consisting of 2 males for each female. During the breeding period, which occurs in spring, the male frogs claim and safeguard their territories as they call out to females with short and quick clicks. If there’s another male frog and wanders in the protected territory, then the resident male frog will defeat the stranger and push it back out.
The female mantella frogs wait until the first huge rainstorm during the breeding season. Then, they will deposit the eggs in wet leaf litter or inside the short tunnel they dug. These frogs will then climb in trees to deposit their eggs in the holes. The males will watch over the eggs until they hatch. When they hatch, tiny tadpoles will come out of the shells. These babies will mix with rainfall that will bring them into the nearby small pools where they can thrive and get algae as their main source of food.
In the next 6-8 weeks, the tadpoles will turn into wee froglets that 0.4 inches long or roughly the dimension of the dime. The tiny frogs are dull-brown, which helps them when doing the camouflage in a leaf litter. Throughout the succeeding several months, these tiny tadpoles will slowly change into the colorings of the fully-grown mantella frogs. They will be sexually mature after one year.
Aggression or Handling
Mantella frogs are tiny and fast-moving. Your number one concern about taking care of these cute creatures is they are so prone to stress. They get stressed so quickly. Frequent handling is not a good idea for them, which is their biggest stressor. They will feel better if you just look at them instead of trying to carry them with your hands.
Transferring them to a temporary tank when cleaning their enclosure should not involve touching them. Instead, you must urge them to jump into the tank. These frogs may harm you with their toxic secretion if you have wounds. The same is the case when the secretion gets into your eyes or mouth. The substance causes irritation.
Also, the mantella frogs aren’t suitable for handling because they’re skittery and squirmish. These tiny animals will assume your hands are predators, so avoid touching them as much as possible.
These animals are at their best when kept in a terrarium that has live ferns, Philodendron, bromeliads, and some other plants. Consider a densely-planted terrarium. It will give you a much better way to observe your pets. This kind of enclosure setup will make your pets feel secure and comfortable. You can keep 2 to 3 mantella frogs in a 10-gallon cage. A bigger tank is good for a small group of frogs.
Both poison and mantella frogs spend their time on the ground. They are not good swimmers as they may get drown too quickly. However, their cage still needs to have a water area. So, put a sloping pool or shallow bowl with de-chlorinated water. You can use smart plants that can effectively retain a small water reserve, making a nice pool of water for these little frogs.
Mantellas can also scale grass. They can escape no matter what, when feeling threatened. They can run away even through the smallest opening. So, secure the covering of the enclosure by using clips.
As tiny amphibians, the big tanks are not necessary. A 5-10 gallon cage works fine for two frogs. This enclosure has to be oriented in the vertical position as these frogs are fond of staying on the ground. A tight-fitting screen cover is necessary, too.
The plants and branches can be live or artificial. They must fill the available space in the cage. Live plants can help in keeping the humidity at the ideal level. Also, they give your pets a perfect spot to bask. Basking is important for mantella frogs, too.
The substrate must hold or release humidity. Your choices are limitless. One of them is paper towels which are easier to replace. If you want the enclosure to have a more natural look, you can use non-fertilized potting soil combined with a small orchard bark.
If you want a more elaborate substrate, you can add a drainage sheet crafted using medium pebbles equipped with the fine mesh screen placed on top to drain the excess water. This will solve the problem concerning mold and fungus.
Keep in mind that mantella frogs can be timid and curious, but this may vary from species to species. Cork bark and coconut hide must be enough for shelter if the foliage is abundant. You can also use driftwood logs that will serve as hiding spots for the frogs.
UVB lighting at low levels might be somewhat beneficial. Look for the best-selling UVB lighting bulbs in the market today. UVA encourages natural behaviors and reproduction. UVA emitting bulbs are also widely available.
Most mantella frogs choose temperatures that range from 72 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Some keepers might not require a source of heat anymore. Lighting is crucial for these animals, though. You may keep the light on for up to 12 hours while maintaining the low wattage. If some heat is necessary, then you may need to buy a more powerful and a bit expensive bulb. The fluorescent light is a good choice when it comes to heat, as it can produce ample heat. If not, you may go for a tiny incandescent bulb, but make sure the humidity stays high. For heat, you can use either a reptile night light or ceramic heater when the daytime bulb is off.
Humidity and Water
These tiny frogs feel better with high humidity levels. Basically, the humidity level inside the enclosure should be between 80 to 100 percent. You can achieve it by misting the cage twice every day. Mantella frogs may drink water drops made due to misting, but still, you should provide them with a large water bowl.
Don’t give tap water. Bottled water will be okay. Tap water might have unhealthy chemicals or a high amount of chlorine which the frogs may absorb through their skin. Always provide them with clean water
Cleaning the cage of your mantella frogs is quite simple and easy. Replace the paper towels once they are soiled. Loose substrates must be replaced also every 2 to 4 months. Give your pet with fresh water and spot clean the cage every day.
Before you breed, be sure you have 2 similar Mantella species and you a big group of frogs. You will get more eggs and more new frogs to care for when you keep a large group of these frogs. If you have a group, the chance of getting more eggs is greater. When you reduce the photoperiod to 8 hours every day, the males will be territorial and begin croaking.
When males find mates, they will mount on the female frogs, which is one way to prepare for the fertilization of the eggs. Then, the females will drop their eggs in the crevice or hole somewhere inside the tank. Based on the species, some of them may lay up to 15 eggs, while others can produce as much as 100 eggs.
Availability – Where to Get One?
You may look for mantella frogs from the local pet stores and frog breeders you know. Also, you try searching for a pet store online that specializes in selling exotic animals including these tiny frogs.
How to Care for Mantella Frogs?
The mantella frogs are easy to take care of. They are so small, so you don’t have to worry about their enclosure. Also, you need to watch their diet. Make sure they are eating the right food and quantity. Proper handling and husbandry are also necessary. These tiny frogs don’t require frequent handling, which makes them perfect display pets.
Fun Facts About Mantella Frogs
- Mantella frogs go in groups at times. A group of these frogs is known as an “army”.
- These frogs are diurnal. Meaning, they stay active throughout the day.
- Madagascar is the only home to wild mantella frogs.
- Mantella frogs are bright-colored creatures. Their colorings serve as a scary warning to any possible predator. This is called aposmatic coloration.
- Most of the mantella species have the same toxic substances with the poison dart frogs of South America. These tiny frogs look like the poison dart frogs, but they are just distant relatives of mantella frogs.
- Most species of mantella frogs don’t have a poisonous substance in their bodies, but they show protective mimicry. By showing bright colors that are more common to toxic species, they can effectively keep themselves away from the predators.
- Mantella frogs prey on termites and ants.
- The skin of adult mantellas is smooth. However, the skin of toads is quite textured.
- If a group of adult mantellas is an army, the group of toads is a “knot”.
How many subspecies do mantella frogs have?
There are 16 subspecies of mantellas. One of them is the painted mantella or Mantella baroni.
Is a mantella frog a reptile?
This frog is not a reptile but an amphibian instead. Mantellas are born from eggs that hatch in water.
Are mantella frogs poisonous?
The mantella frogs are poisonous. They release a harmful, toxic substance because of the alkaloids in their diets.
Are mantella frogs dangerous to people?
The toxic substance that the mantella frogs can secrete may cause irritation in case it gets in contact with your eyes, mouth, or open wound. This is one of the reasons why mantella frogs are not ideal for frequent handling.
Are mantella frogs nocturnal?
These tiny frogs are diurnal instead. Their bright colorings are sometimes hard to see in the dark.
Where do mantella frogs live?
The mantella frogs exist in Madagascar. They come in different subspecies with distinct colorings and other physical features.
Can mantella frogs swim?
These tiny frogs are not good swimmers. They love to spend their time playing and wandering on the ground.