Houston Matters

Why tropical dart frogs won’t survive on their own in muggy Houston

Ahead of the National Amphibian Keepers Convention this weekend at NRG Center, Houston Matters learns about the challenges and rewards of raising tiny, vibrant dart frogs from South America.


An example of an oophaga pumilio, also known as the strawberry poision dart frog.


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Houstonians have lots of pets, and that goes way beyond the dogs and cats that most commonly live with us.

Reptile and amphibian enthusiasts will be out in force this weekend (May 20-21) during the Reptilian Nation Expo at NRG Center. And, for the first time this year, within that event will be the first National Amphibian Keepers Convention.

One of the convention’s organizers is Chase Jennings. He owns a business called Houston Frogs, which is just what it sounds like. He sells dart frogs and the supplies for recreating their tropical habitats in an aquarium.

Jennings has a facility in Conroe with more than 300 such micro-habitats, and, in the audio above, he tells Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty about the joys and challenges of raising dart frogs.

While dart frogs are poisionous, they derive the compounds necessary to create those poisons from things they eat in their natural habitats in South America. So, those in captivity are not poisonous (as long as they’re not fed those things). Instead, they’re fed a type of flightless fruit fly.

What Are Dart Frogs Like?

Dart frogs can have a wide range of sounds that often differ from the raspy ribbits and croaks we tend to think of from frogs in the United States. Some, like the species Ameerega hahneli, can sound like small birds chirping.

Given the humid, tropical environments dart frogs come from, is it easy to raise them here in muggy Houston? Jennings said no, it’s not.

“They could never become invasive here, luckily I guess, because it gets too cold in the winter. It gets too hot in the summer,” he said. “You have to keep them anywhere from about 68 to 80 degrees at the maximum or else they’ll die on either end…as humid as it is here most of the time, especially in our homes, if they escaped they’re a crispy frog in about three to six hours.”

It’s Not Just About Having the Animals

And while having a dog or a cat in your home is a much different experience, Jennings says the joys of keeping a dart frog as a pet are as much about creating their habitat as anything else.

“When you stare into this glass box that you’ve built, it’s not just staring into this artificial habitat,” he said. “…It’s not just about having the animals, but it’s also about having a functional ecosystem within your house, like a little slice of the rainforest just in your house. That’s the coolest part, I think.”

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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