The Best Foods for Poison Frogs, Mantellas and Other Tiny Amphibians

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  I began working with Poison Frogs and Mantellas in zoos just as the secrets to longevity and breeding were being discovered.  Today, captive-bred animals are almost mainstream.  This is wonderful, but there is a downside – they are sometimes viewed as “simple to keep”.  But while these tiny gems can be surprisingly hardy, they will not thrive long-term if their unique nutritional requirements are not met.  Friends of mine who have broken new ground with Poison Frogs – in one case years before most zoos did – have always expended a great deal of effort on providing a varied diet.  The following information is drawn from their and my own experiences over several decades, and may also be applied to the care of many other small and newly-transformed amphibians.

General Considerations

Golden Poison frog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Marcel Burkhard

Although we do not know the exact nutritional needs of any species, certain principles have become evident.  Chief among these is that a highly-varied diet is essential. Crickets alone, even if powdered with supplements, are not an adequate diet.  There are exceptions, but nearly every study of free-living amphibians reveals that a surprising range of prey species are consumed. Read More »

The Best Humidity Gauges for Reptile, Amphibian and Invert Habitats

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Like most lifelong animal keepers, I consider myself to be a fairly good judge of humidity levels in the home terrariums and zoo exhibits under my care.  But when I began working in new buildings equipped with state-of-the-art hygrometers (humidity gauges), I quickly realized that I had much to learn.  I was especially surprised to discover how widely humidity levels can vary within even a small enclosure, and how this can affect every facet of an animal’s life.  The accurate, easy-to-use humidity gauges now available offer us the chance to provide better care to our charges and perhaps to uncover important new details about their lives.

Recent Innovations in Humidity Monitoring

Over the past several decades, hobbyists and zoos have greatly expanded the number of rare and delicate species that can be kept and bred in captivity.  Many of these successes have been due to an increased understanding of the roles that UVB, temperature, diet and other such factors play in their lives.

Orchid mantis

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Luc Viatour

Humidity levels have also been taken into account by serious animal owners, but this topic has been given less attention than others.  This is partially because many reptiles, and some amphibians and invertebrates, can meet their needs by soaking in a water bowl or retreating to a moist shelter.  But the real obstacle has been the unavailability of affordable hygrometers designed for use with animals.  Happily, humidity gauges that fit just about every terrarium and budget are now available, and all are very simple to use (since I can do it!). Read More »

Important Supplies for Pet Tarantulas – a Zoo Keeper’s Notes

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Among the world’s 900+ tarantula species (Family Theraphosidae) we find spiders of every conceivable size, description and lifestyle, some of which make interesting, long-lived pets.  I had the chance to work with many during my zoo career, and most of the supplies that I relied upon are now readily available to hobbyists.  Whether you are just starting out or looking to add additional species to your collection, the following information will assist in your decision.  Please be sure to post any questions or observations about pet tarantulas below. 

Housing

Setting up the Terrarium

Tarantulas are best kept in screen-covered aquariums, reptile cages or plastic terrariums.  “Extra high” styles are best for Pink-Toed Tarantulas and other arboreal species.  Be sure to use cage clips on the cover, as tarantulas can climb glass and are incredibly strong.  A 10-15 gallon aquarium is adequate for all but the largest individuals.

Goliath Bird eating Spider

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Snakecollector

All tarantulas require a dark hiding spot.  Burrowing species such as the Goliath Bird-Eating Spider will dig their own caves if provided deep substrate. Sri Lankan Ornamental Tarantulas and other arboreal species will utilize the underside of an upright piece of cork bark.  Most also accept inverted flower pots and plastic reptile caves. Read More »

Day Gecko Care – Terrarium Set Up and the Best Supplies

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Gaily clad in brilliant, neon-hued colors, Day Geckos (Phelsuma spp.) are among the most desirable of all lizard pets, so here is a short article about Day Gecko care.  Many are hardy, long-lived, and relatively simple to breed…but only if they are housed in a properly-designed habitat.  Active and alert, these cautious animals fare poorly in bare enclosures, but are ideally suited for life in naturalistic, planted terrariums.  The security provided by dense plantings and well-placed branches will put Day Geckos at ease and allow you to view a wide range of fascinating behaviors.

Setting up the Terrarium

Day Geckos are highly arboreal and must have climbing opportunities.  “High-style” aquariums make fine homes.  A pair or trio of Spotted, Yellow-Throated or other small species can be kept in a 15-20 gallon aquarium.  A 30-55 gallon tank will accommodate the same number of Standing’s, Madagascar or Giant Day Geckos.  Always opt for the largest terrarium possible.

Phelsuma madagascariensis

Photo uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Manuel Werner, Nürtingen, Germany

Day Geckos need spacious enclosures that mimic their natural habitat.  Live plants such as Pothos and Philodendron will provide visual barriers between tank-mates and a sense of security.  Rolled cork bark and hollow bamboo sections make ideal hideaways and perching sites, and should be arranged both horizontally and vertically.

Be sure to establish plenty of basking sites near heat and UVB bulbs, as dominant individuals may exclude others from these important areas.

The terrarium’s screen lid must be tightly secured with clamps. Read More »

How to Care for American Wood Turtles (with Notes on Natural History)

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  I’ve kept nearly 200 turtle species at home and in zoos, and have studied others in the field, but I none-the-less place the North American Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in a class by itself.  Alert and active, it has the well-deserved reputation as being among the most responsive (some say “dog-like”) and intelligent of all turtles.  Add to this a beautifully-sculpted carapace and brick-red to bright orange/yellow skin, and it becomes easy to understand their popularity among turtle enthusiasts.  The following information will enable you to meet their unique needs…please post any questions you may have, and be sure to share your own experiences with this most captivating of reptile pets.

Note: Wood Turtle populations have declined drastically.  Please purchase only captive-bred animals, and never take turtles from the wild.

Adult wood turtle

Photo uploaded to Wikipedia bt USGS

Natural History

The North American Wood Turtle ranges from Nova Scotia to Minnesota and Virginia.  They spend a good deal of time in swamps, streams and along river margins, but also forage in fields and open woodlands.

Wood Turtles drive earthworms to the surface with vibrations caused by stomping the front feet and plastron against the ground…the only turtle known to do so.  They seem to do this without prior experience, yet it “seems” like a learned behavior.  Uncovering the origins of this unique hunting strategy would be a fascinating project.

Behavior

Wood Turtles take very well to captivity and quickly learn to “beg’ for food when their owner appears. They seem to exhibit a degree of curiosity and problem-solving abilities not evident in other turtles.  Wood Turtles consistently score higher than others on maze and reward-association tests.

At the Bronx Zoo, I housed a group of adults in a large, tilted cattle trough.  As soon as they saw that I was about to drain the tub’s water section, the turtles would move to the drain, jostling one another to get as close as possible.  As the water flowed by, they would grab bits of leftover food.  Each turtle would also very deliberately peer down into the drain once the tub was empty, apparently to check for missed tidbits.  They checked all angles, and the intensity of their scrutiny seemed quite different from that of most other species. Read More »

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