Dyeing poison frog (Dendrobates tinctorius)

dyeing poison frog

Inside Tropical World near the leaf-cutter ants.

Fast facts

Status Least Concern

Size Up to 6cm

Weight 3g

Gestation 14-18 days

Young 2-6

Life span Around 6 years in the wild, up to 15 years in captivity

What do I eat?

Dyeing poison frogs are predators - they feed mostly on ants, but will also eat beetles, flies, mites, small spiders, termites, maggots and caterpillars.

Where do I live?

Dyeing poison frogs are from South America, and are found in Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname.

These small frogs live in tropical rainforests, and are mostly found on the forest floor as well as around and under rocks and moss that are close to streams.


Dyeing poison frogs will usually breed during the rainy season (February to March). Males make loud calls to attract females, and if more than one female arrives, then they will fight for the right to mate.

The female lays 2-6 eggs in a moist area (not in water!) for the male to fertilise. The male will make sure that the eggs do not dry up, and keeps them moist until the tadpoles hatch. Both the male and the female carry the tadpoles (one at a time) to individual pools of water that has been collected in plants, such as bromeliads. Once the tadpoles have been moved to their own pools, the males then stop their care of the young. Females will continue to look after the tadpoles, and will keep coming back to them to lay an unfertilised egg for them to eat!

The tadpoles will transform in to small adult frogs (metamorphosis) after 10-12 weeks, and will have no more care from their mother. These frogs are mature and able to breed from 2 years old.


Potential natural predators of these frogs are snakes and large spiders.

These frogs have a very clever way to warn other animals that it is not a good idea to try and eat them. The colour of the dyeing poison frog is not really used to blend in to their environment (camouflage), but instead to stand out!

Their bright colours act as a warning to other animals that these frogs are poisonous. They get their poison from their diet, as the toxins naturally found in the ants they eat seep out through glands in their skin, which helps to protect the frog against being dinner for another animal!


These small frogs have faced problems in the past from being caught and sold in the illegal pet trade and habitat loss.

Currently the numbers of these animals in the wild appears to be fairly stable, and they are found in some protected areas across its range. There are also education programmes in place to inform local people to avoid collecting wild frogs to help protect the wild populations.

The dyeing poison frog is known to breed very well in captivity, and they are found in many zoos across the world.

Did you know?

The name ‘dyeing poison frog’ comes from an old legend that said native people used the frog to change (dye) the colour of parrot feathers from green to a red. It is said that after removing the original green feathers, they apparently rubbed the bird with a secretion from the skin of these frogs, after this the feathers were said to grow back red instead of green.

There are many different colour variations (morphs) of dyeing poison frog, from blue or black with yellow stripes going down their back, yellow and black or even patterns of blue, yellow, white and black!

Male and female dyeing frogs can be identified by their toes! Every dyeing poison frog has 4 toes on each foot that has a large suction cup at the end of their toes. On females these suction cups are round in shape, but with males they are heart-shaped.

Captive dyeing poison frogs lose the toxicity in their skin, as they do not get the exact diet as wild frogs. The ants that wild dyeing poison frogs eat give them the toxins, that come out of glands in their skin.


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