Here are some things you might need for a) taking care of frogs and b) setting up a bioactive vivarium. I’ve included some specific sources that I have found satisfactory.
First, I’ll show you a short summary list. A longer list with details is next. This page is under construction, so please accept my apology if the list is not complete.
Many items are easy to get or make. There are a few things you’ll need to get at a pet store.
|maybe find or make: water dish for “pond”; small spray/mister bottle; empty gallon jug for conditioned water; decorative rock(s) (optional); pesticide-free tree parts: dead/brown leaves, softening/dead wood, perching sticks or long bark pieces
Buy from Isopods919 (local), Josh’s Frogs (online), or get from me: living isopods (a.k.a. roly-poly bugs, not wild); springtails
|inexpensive / hardware store items: orchid bark (aspen bark); peat moss; grow light bulb;
landscape lava rock gravel (or other drainage layer material); fiberglass screen piece (I can maybe give you this)
|more expensive or pet store items: water conditioner (e.g. Seachem Prime); undyed sphagnum moss (not peat moss); light fixture; frog vitamin powder; horticultural charcoal (unless you make your own fine-crushed charcoal)
strongly recommended: UVB lamp bulb; cork “tube” log and/or pieces from pet store or ordered online.
extra but pretty: mood moss or other moss ordered online (not wild moss)
Bioactive vivarium setup components
drainage layer: I use red lava rock / landscaping gravel from Lowe’s/Home Depot (example). This is sometimes sold for grilling – make sure there are no chemicals added. People also like to use LECA (lightweight expanded Ceramic something), and it’s really nice — it will have an even, level surface, and it really is fairly lightweight. It’s sold as hydroton (available at Fifth Season Gardening Supply), also sold at pet stores as hydroballs (example). You’d probably need at least 2 bags of hydroballs for a small terrarium, 3-4 for a medium terrarium, and 4-5 for a large terrarium.
barrier over drainage layer: I wish I had something natural to suggest, but I use fiberglass window screening (metal would rust) from a roll I bought.
soil mixture (“substrate”): I mix mine from: sphagnum moss (this one from Petco is cost effective, but any will work), peat moss (must not contain insects), fir bark (orchid soil), finely ground charcoal (a.k.a. horticultural charcoal; Josh’s Frogs sells it, or you can crush 100% natural grilling charcoal — make sure there are no added chemicals e.g. to make it burn easier). Warning about using soil or ingredients from outside: it might have tiny critter eggs or plant pathogens in it — that’s how slugs ended up eating my favorite expensive plant 🙁
leaf litter / ground cover: You can gather leaves from some nearby pesticide-free woods and boil them to sterilize them. I love the small leaves of willow oak, but other oak leaves, maple leaves, etc. are also great.
- note: the “woodsy” odor from boiling and/or baking leaves and wood can be rather strong.
floor wood: I have found that at least one sizeable chunk of slightly softened wood is very important for isopods. They love to live under it. This is also great for frogs to sit on and hunt on, and it can look very nice. I’ll look for a small slightly decaying piece outside that I know hasn’t been in a garden or yard, so it’s definitely free of pesticides etc. If you find a similar piece with wild ispods on it, you know that’s a good wood species. Oak is a safe choice, too. Make sure to get all living things off of the wood (I’ll soak it in water for a while and rescue anybody who exits), then boil it or heat it in the oven to sterilize it.
You can get excellent isopods and springtails from a local company called Isopods919 if my extras don’t work out for you.
Isopods: I currently have a lot of isopods to share. If you want to explore fancy isopods, that’s a whole fun beautiful world, but it can also get expensive. I believe my isopods are armadillidium nasatum.
springtails: I also have a lot of springtails to share. I recommend getting these locally if you can; they seem to have trouble when shipped, and it might take some time for a shipped springtail culture to revive and be populous.
If your terrarium is near a window that gets good light, that might be sufficient to keep your plants happy for a while. Your frogs will be OK too, but they do love to bask under a slightly warm lamp.
You do not want a heat lamp. Those are for animals that come from a hotter part of the world.
lamp fixture (inexpensive dome fixture sold at pet stores, or you can use any kind of lamp that will shine directly into the top of the terrarium)
basic grow light bulb from a hardware store (the ones sold at the pet store are weirdly expensive). Very basic. Don’t get a super strong one or it will burn the plants. You can use a regular light bulb from around the house at first, especially if your plants all love shade.
water dish “pond”: Your frogs need some water that they can sit in whenever they want. If you have a dish around the house that’s a good size to let two frogs sit inside, maybe on top of a rock, that could be awesome. I found some _perfect_ dishes in the rabbit section of the pet store; cat feeding dishes are a good size too. Ceramic (food safe) or glass is what I prefer, but a plastic reptile dish can be fine, as long as it can hold 1.5 cups of water.
mister: a spray bottle is good. If you want to get fancy, I have a “Reptifogger” connected to a special humidistat power supply. These frogs do need some humidity, but a glass terrarium that is _not_ under a vent, with partially covered screen top openings, with a lot of moist soil and water pools should be fine.
something to perch on: You can get bark wood pieces from outside and sterilize them. I have found that shagbark hickory trees give excellent pieces of bark (don’t take too much from one tree though). I also have come up with a way to safely hang lightweight sticks or bark from the wire mesh on the top of some terraria.
cork log (tube): Man, they love the small cork log I got. They also match the color and texture exactly, and it’s fun to realize you’ve been looking at a frog for a while without realizing it.
moss: so great. It was worth buying. Unfortunately, we shouldn’t use moss from the woods because it could have parasites and/or pathogens (slugs might eat your plants, fungus might affect crickets, and of course frog pathogens are a danger too).
plants: [specific recommendations to follow]
vitamin powder: To make sure your frog is getting all the nutrition it needs, you’ll need to get some vitamin powder that contains calcium and vitamin D. I use Dendrocare. Here’s a discussion of some different brands. You can search for [frog vitamin powder] for options.
water treatment: tap water is pretty harsh for amphibians (actually toxic, although you might see a frog in your birdbath or pool, it’s not great for them). You’ll want the same chemical used for aquaria (fish) to remove the chloramine/chlorine from water before watering your vivarium and refilling your frog’s “pond”. Seachem Prime is a common brand that’s easy to get at a pet store.
Unless you want to try to buy bugs every few days, you’ll need to keep some small crickets or other insects around. I should add a link to a video about crickets
OR you could choose to primarily feed frogs flightless fruit flies. That’s a whole other discussion, though. Crickets might be easier to handle.
cricket housing: A “cricket keeper” from a pet store is a popular option. Some people use plastic storage tubs. I use an inexpensive 10-gallon aquarium (also available on Craigslist, also needs to be sterilized) that I set up with a drainage layer and soil substrate, with a couple of very tiny plants and/or moss, but that’s not necessary. (If you decide you want to raise isopods, they seem to thrive when they share their home with crickets.)
cricket food: You can research what to feed crickets. If you want to buy some cricket food, I like this kind.
cricket hydration: Crickets don’t do well with a regular water dish. Instead, people use moist paper towels (hard to make sure they’re always moist — they dry quickly), moist food items (also dry quickly), or some gel crystals you can buy at the pet store. You can also rig up a water dish with a lot of gravel in it to make sure the crickets don’t drown. The main caveat here is: it’s very easy to let the hydration supply dry up, so try to use a system that will stay moist a long time.
crickets: The distance between a frog’s eyes is the maximum size for a cricket or any other bug. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be hard to find crickets small enough at local pet stores, but often the staff will pick out the smallest ones if you ask (and they’re not too busy). They will grow fast, though, so I’d expect them to only be keepable for a week. I can recommend a source if you want. I might have crickets to share, too, but not always.