Archive for Ryan

Fruit Fly Culture Recipe

I get a very nice rush of OCD contentedness when I finish making a nice batch of fruit fly cultures and can line them all up in a row and admire them before putting them into the reptile room to incubate. I’ve tried a couple different methods so far, but I’m finding that my favorite way to make them is by using my own fruit fly culture recipe that I came up with after trying others. 

fruit fly culture recipe

I really like using a magic bullet blender to make fruit fly cultures. I find it easier to work in small batches, but I usually only make half a dozen at a time, so doing them two at a time isn’t a big deal to me. If you need to make 100, you might want to use a larger blender and double the recipe 50 times.

Another trick that’s been helpful is to freeze and thaw the bananas. You may need to drain off excess liquid when you defrost them, but freezing and thawing the bananas makes them really soft and much easier to blend smooth.

When you add the oatmeal, sometimes it’s helpful to let it sit for a while and allow the oatmeal time to soak up some liquid. If you make it too dry, the flies won’t do well, and the culture will dry a bit as the oatmeal absorbs the media.

Fruit Fly Culture Recipe

2 very soft bananas
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tbsp honey

Add bananas, vinegar, and honey to blender and blend until it reaches an even consistency. Split between two deli cups and mix in oatmeal until it’s solid enough to not drown the fruit flies. Sprinkle yeast on top. Add excelsior and fruit flies.

Date the cups and move to a warm location to incubate.

Yield: 2 cultures


Both the vinegar and the honey help inhibit mold growth. The yeast is added to out-compete mold. I realize the vinegar and honey may be stopping the yeast from growing, but I couldn’t really tell you which ingredient is keeping the mold away from my cultures, or if they’re all contributing. Whatever the case, it’s been working really well for me. I’ll experiment more down the road and see if I can improve this fruit fly culture recipe.

fruit fly culture recipe for dart frogs

Lepanthes calodictyon Blooming

Remember this picture of my Lepanthes calodictyon mini orchid? It was really hard to see the bud… but it bloomed! I had to look reeeeeeeally closely, and even then I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. I had to get my camera out to even verify that it was a flower!

Mini Orchid bug Lepanthes calodictyon

Lepanthes calodictyon has a teeny tiny itty bitty miniscule little flower, but it’s beautiful! I’ve wanted this mini orchid since I started seeing it in other vivariums on Dendroboard and some great pages on Facebook. At first, I didn’t buy it because I was worried that I’d kill it, but after visiting Seattle Orchid, I couldn’t resist any longer and decided to give it a try. Apparently, I’m successful! It took a while to find the right location in the vivarium, but the mini orchid is mounted on a tiny cork panel, so I was able to move it around to find the right location.

It’s really hard to get a steady picture of a miniscule flower, right before bed in the middle of the night, but I gave it my best shot. It looks like it might have another bud coming in, so maybe I’ll get another chance soon.

Mini Orchid bug Lepanthes calodictyon

No, you really don’t understand. It’s TINY. I have fruit flies larger than this flower. Pick up a penny and look at it, then look at this picture again. I’m blown away by the size of it!

Mini Orchid bug Lepanthes calodictyon

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Skinny Fire Salamander

This is my skinny Fire Salamander. He came to me a month or two ago, pretty skinny, but with a great appetite. He came with his whole tank set up and, since it was nice, I left it as it came. After weeks of feeding him all the crickets he could possibly eat, he still hadn’t fattened up. I hadn’t actually seen him eat; I just poured the crickets in, and they disappeared.

After weeks of insects disappearing and no change in his weight, I decided to hand feed him some worms from my garden. He readily took them from my hand, further confusing me. How could such a voracious salamander not be gaining any weight? Especially after dumping dozens and dozens of insects in his enclosure, and all of them disappearing quickly.

As I was hand feeding him another worm, this second Fire Salamander… a fat second salamander… waddled out of the foliage in the cage, as if to say “Hey, where are my worms?”

I was floored. I’m pretty sure I made a weird noise in my excitement. I somehow scared the cat, anyhow.

The fat salamander cleared up the mystery pretty quickly. The fatter one is also bigger all around, making it easier for her to eat all the food. So that’s why the little guy is in a jelly jar with worms. In addition to their regular feedings, I also take the little guy out and give him a little extra so he can gain some weight. It’s already helping. Soon they’ll both be fat little Fire Salamanders. Hopefully he’ll be able to compete better for food once he’s back to the correct weight, but I’ll probably have to continue giving him a little extra for a while.

Although it’s not the clearest picture of the smaller Fire Salamander, I couldn’t pass this last one up. Here’s the little guy with a mouth full of worms. Look at that little chin bulging.

fire salamander with a mouthful of earth worms

40 Gallon Viv July Update

The 40 gallon vivarium has continued to do well. The plants are filling in nicey

This tiny Microgramma fern is growing above the waterfall, just to the right. It’s done pretty well, even with the soggy substrate.


I added a bit of Christmas Moss in the space next to the Microgramma. Christmas Moss is typically grown in aquariums, but it can adapt to terrestrial growth as well. I’m not sure exactly what the moss around it is. That moss was sold as an unknown “tropical moss”. Most of the original “tropical moss” has died off and what’s there now is new growth. It’s not too bad, but I’m hoping the Christmas Moss will look a bit better.


The Peacock Spikemoss remains one of my favorites in this tank.


Ficus villosa and Rhaphidophora cryptantha are happily growing side by side. They’re both about to hit the top though


The Solanum vine has really taken off! I’ve had to trim it twice, and that causes the mother vine to shoot out multiple new vines. It’s definitely doing its best to take over the back wall. 


Closeup of the Azureus! They don’t often hold still long enough to get a close up.


The Azureus is hunting among the oak leaf fig and the Peperomia prostrata.


The little begonia grew from a bit of broken leaf.


The sphagnum moss doesn’t seem to like this spot very well. I added a bit of Christmas Moss to help fill it in. I may end up moving the sphagnum instead. Since the Christmas Moss is aquatic, it should be pretty happy in this location.


I didn’t even realize it was putting out new buds until I looked at the pictures, but the little Lepanthes calodictyon seems to like its new home now. I can hardly wait for it to bloom!


I moved the Marcgravia rectiflora up higher in the tank a few weeks ago. I suspect it wasn’t getting enough light down below. It hasn’t done much in its new location yet, but it also hasn’t lost another leaf.


And a bonus shot of one of the Matecho.


If you like the plant and frog pictures, I update Instagram almost daily. There are lots of pictures of dogs mixed in, but also a lot of herpetiles and plants.

Giant Texas Katydid Laying Eggs

I found this video in my internet wanderings. This is the kinda bug I would find as a kid during trips to see relatives, and I always got super excited. Honestly, I’d still be super excited! We don’t get anything quite like this in the NorthWest.

This is Neobarrettia spinosa, or the Giant Texas Katydid or Greater Arid-Land Predaceous Katydid. I found this video over here. They have a bunch of other photos and info about their katydids on that page, including photos of the eggs.

These “little” beasts are predatory, and not only eat other insects, but will consume small reptiles as well.


If you take a close look at their jaws, you won’t be surprised that Neobarrettia spinosa can draw blood if it bites you. They aren’t aggressive, however, so if you leave it alone, you’ll be fine.

Neobarrettia spinosa katydid jaws

Of course, finding these pictures led to some more searching and some other fantastic katydids.

Central American Pit Bull katydid or Liromoetopum coronatum:

This fantastic photo by Piotr Naskerecki over at makes me grin. Some bugs are pretty cute.

Central American Pit Bull katydid, Liromoetopum coronatum

From – I love that site’s name!


Small Leaf Katydid:

Lichen Mimic Katydid:

Lichen Mimic Katydid

A beetle mimic katydid from Madagascar. If anyone can help ID this, let me know!



Ghost Mantis Eating Fruit Flies

I’m totally infatuated with my new Phyllocrania paradoxa, or Ghost Mantis. I got two, but will probably look for at least two more soon. I believe they are both females, so I need a couple males as well. I’ve raised several generations of Chinese mantis in the past. They were cool insects, but the Ghosts step it up a notch with their active hunting behavior.

The Phyllocrania paradoxa native range is in Africa and Madagascar. Their bodies mimic dead leaves very effectively.

Phyllocrania paradoxa

Getting these, of course, has sparked even more interest, and a lot of browsing through pictures online. Here are some of my current favorites.

The Thistle Mantis, Blepharopsis mendica, from

thistle mantis

The Shield Mantis, Choeradodis rhomboidea. source: social media, original unknown.

Shield Mantis, Choeradodis rhomboidea

The Orchid Mantis, Hymenopus coronatus, found at


And the Violin Mantis, Gongylus gongylodes, from

violin mantis

I could keep going, but I’ll leave it at that for now. My collection will definitely be growing, but I’m going to take it slow for now.

June Update of the 40 Gallon Build

The tank has been growing in nicely. If the goal was to make vines happy, then it’s been a wild success! haha The vines have quickly become my favorites. The Solanum has been trimmed twice now. I put the trimmings back in the tank to root and fill in. 

Manuran's mystery vine Solanum Bromiliad

I added a new fern, Lemmaphyllum microphyllum. It hasn’t taken off, but the other fern is doing so well, I expect this one will too.

Lemmaphyllum microphyllum tropical fern moss

It’s no surprise that the Oak Leaf ficus is doing well. It’s mixing with live Sphagnum for a nice mixture of textures.

 Lemmaphyllum microphyllum Solanum tropical vine oak leaf fig

The Marcgravia rectiflora is the one plant that hasn’t taken off. Unless it’s creating a bunch of roots that I haven’t noticed, it hasn’t done anything except drop a couple leaves. I plan on moving it as soon as I figure out what it would like better. I’m thinking the upper right side of the tank might be a better location.

The Epipremnum pinnatum ‘Cebu Blue’ cutting lost a leaf as well, but immediately started growing new starts after the first one dropped. It should do well now that it’s acclimated.

In the middle of this shot is a small begonia that just started sprouting from a leaf cutting. That should provide some of the foliage cover that I’ve been wanting for the frogs to hide under if they want.

dart frog vivarium plants epipremnum

A few other things have started to sprout as well, all on their own. Whatever they are, I think they came in on the moss. The bright green one by the glass on the lower right hand side is probably the same type of begonia as the previous picture. There’s a small sprout by the frog’s foot that is completely unidentified at this point. The Mini Red Tree Peperomia cuttings have finally rooted and are starting to take off.

Dendtrobates tinctorius matecho fern moss begonia

The Peperomia prostrata is growing in a lot thicker than I expected, but I love the dark coloration it’s getting with the lights.

Dendrobates tinctorius matecho Peperomia prostrata

Riccia is covering the water feature almost completely now.

dart frog tank water feature riccia

This is one of the Solanum cuttings that I put back in the tank. It’s pinned down with a toothpick, but it looks like it’s rooted enough to be able to remove the toothpick now. I really like the moss growing here as well. 

tropical dart frog vine moss Manuran's mystery vine oak leaf ficus sphagnum

The Rhaphidophora is peeking out behind the Ficus villosa.

Rhaphidophora ficus villosa

End of May Update

Just waiting for the Tinc tank to fill up with moss, and wishing the Veradero tank didn’t grow so fast! The Azureus are fattening up nicely. They were a little on the thin side when I got them, but they have a big appetite and are putting on weight.


The moss is starting to take off, but it seems pretty slow anyhow. I’m probably going to re-landscape a bit and move some of the fern moss to a different tank, and give some of the tropical moss (in the picture below) more room to fill in on the floor. I love the fern moss, but it seems a bit difficult for the frogs to maneuver over.


This vine has quickly become one of my favorite plants! As much as I like the rainbow Selaganella, that corner needed a little more depth, and this vine is perfect. I believe it is Cissus amazonica.


Here’s a full shot of the Tinc tank. I temporarily have the young frogs growing up together in here, until I get a new tank built for the Matecho pair. Several new plants have been added, including a small philodendron (dead center) and Ficus sp. “Panama” (just left of the waterfall) from Some tiny begonias have started to sprout from leaf cuttings tucked around the edges, so the next shot may have a bit more foliage. The jars in front contain a bunch of plant cuttings that are rooting or waiting for the next tank.


The Varedaro are happy in their tank, and fattening up as well. Judging on body type, it looks like I may have 2 males and 3 females. So far, I can only confirm one male, but I’m keeping an eye out to try to confirm a second. I plan on splitting the group up soon to help determine the genders, and give the pairs space for when they start breeding.

veradero-A-May-31-2014 veradero-B-May-31-2014

New Tinctorius

I got new frogs last weekend at the reptile show in Renton Washington. I decided to go for something pretty simple and got a few new Tinctorius. I bought two Azureus and one Matecho, but only because they only had one! I probably would have bought several if they’d been available.

The Azureus are settling into the 40 gallon tank nicely. These guys climb a lot, so they’re exploring every inch of this tank. I may have to secure some things a little better to prevent the frogs from dislodging the plants, but so far so good.

tinctorius azureus

Action shot! You can even see the springtails in his mouth!

I decided to put the new Tinctorius in the 40 gallon tank because the water feature is a bit too deep for the Varadero. There are too many ways for such tiny frogs to get in trouble. The new Tinctorius are big enough to manage the water without issue, and too big to squeeze into some of the tiny holes that concerned me with the Varadero.

tinctorius azureus

I’ve seen a lot of belly shots, but what I really liked about this shot is the toes. You can kinda see through the little knuckles where the bones are a bit translucent. It’s amazing how tiny their ‘fingers’ are. Plus, those colors. I know Azureus are pretty common, but there’s a good reason they remain so popular. Just look at that blue!

tinctorius azureus

I have yet to get a shot of the Matecho that does it justice. The lights are causing some overexposure and blowing out the faint orange around the eyes. Beautiful frog. I need to get out my good camera! This little guy is living in a temporary home until I get something larger build for him. Obviously, he’s not even half of his full size yet, so I have a little time to work on that. And the good news is, I get to build another tank!

tinctorius matecho

Another attempt at a photo… The point and shoot really can’t handle his colors.

tinctorius matecho

And just for fun, a bad shot of the Varaderos as well. Water on glass makes photography difficult.

Ranitomeya imitator Varadero

How Long Does it Take a Dart Frog Tank to Get Overgrown?

About 30 seconds.

Tradescantia fluminensis wandering jew dart frog tank

Ok, a couple weeks longer than that. This tank was put together 7 weeks ago, and now the tallest terrarium plants have hit the top and are growing sideways. I’m going to trim them in the next day or two and root the trimmings for another tank. This is a pretty good example of how choosing the right terrarium plants for your tank can affect the upkeep necessary.

A lot of these plants are considered common or beginners’ plants, so I’m going to address this post to newer amphibian keepers. Although I’m keeping dart frogs, these plants are suitable for many other amphibians and some reptiles as well.

If you want your tank to fill in quickly, several of the plants I put in this tank may be the right choice for you. These plants will also do well with tree frogs and ground frogs. I’ve kept several of these terrarium plants with Tomato Frogs, Big Eyed Treefrogs (a couple different Leptopelis species), Fire Bellied Toads, and a variety of others, even including Whites Tree Frogs. Whites will crush these plants, so they’re best used as a filler around branches or heavier plants, but they will recover quickly, so they can do well with the larger frogs.

The predominant plant in this tank is Tradescantia fluminensis, commonly referred to as “Wandering Jew”. It’s a very common plant for dart frog keepers, frequently found as a house plant, and considered an invasive species in many parts of the world, including the Southeastern US. As you can see from my tank, if it likes the conditions, it explodes.

Also in this tank are two small ferns (one is visible on the right side of the photo if you look closely), an unidentified Columbian Peperomia, an unidentified small Philodendron, Selaginella kraussiana, Pellionia repens, and Ficus pumila. All of these are great terrarium plants.

Here are some pictures of a few of the plants before they were put in the tank.

philodendron dart frog tank

I always thought this philodendron would get larger as it aged, but so far this is about as big as the leaves get, making it pretty suitable for terrariums. If you have a larger tank, other more common Philodendrons will work too. I have kept some larger Philodendron species in a 55 gallon tank with Whites Tree Frogs, and it worked out pretty well.

small ferns dart frog tank

I imagine these ferns will eventually outgrow the tank, but they grow quite a bit slower than any of the other plants in there. These were purchased at a nursery and carefully treated to remove any chemicals over a few weeks time. Plant nurseries often carry terrarium plants and may have a section dedicated to them, like the one near me has. Keep in mind that these plants may have been treated with chemicals, such as bug spray or fertilizers. Wash them carefully before exposing your frogs to them.

pellionia repens terrarium plant

Pellionia repens is often called “Watermelon plant” or “Watermelon vine”, which is pretty ambiguous. Google “watermelon vine terrarium” and you’ll get a dozen different species on the first half of the first page. This is a good example of why I prefer scientific names (when I can remember them!).

Pellionia repens will take over a tank as well, just not quite as fast as Tradescantia fluminensis (Wandering Jew). This cutting was given to me by a fellow dart frog keeper. You can find vendors who will sell and ship it to you with a quick google search. A similar species, Pellionia daveauana, has been available at Home Depot in my area recently. It will also work, but be aware that it may be treated with chemicals and wash it before use.

peperomia sp columbia pellionia repens terrarium

This Peperomia was collected in Columbia and given to me at a reptile show. It has large leaves, but remains pretty leggy, so even when it takes over (which it will try to do as well), it doesn’t choke the tank up quite as bas as Tradescantia fluminensis. 

Many Peperomia are commonly available. While you may not be able to find this specific type, there are hundreds of Peperomia species, and many are suitable terrarium plants.