Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Lissamphibia
Order - Anura (Neobatrachia)
Family - Mantellidae (Mantellinae)
Genus - Mantella

Painted Mantella Frog


Mantellas are colorful frogs found in Madagascar. Because of their colorings, many people think they are poison arrow frogs, but this is an entirely different species.
Scientific Info
Scientific Name - Mantella madagascariensis
Type - Amphibian
Diet - carnivore
Size - 2–3 Cm (0.79–1.18 in)
Weight - Up to 2 ounces (56 grams)
Life Span - 5 to 10 years
Colour - black, blue, orange, yellow, and green
Average Clutch Size - 10 to 100, depending on species
Main Prey - Tiny flies, gnats and moths

Mantellas are colorful frogs found in Madagascar. Because of their colorings, many people think they are poison arrow frogs, but this is an entirely different species. They stay small and do not need a huge tank, but their hunting skills and active bodies are a joy to watch.


The mantella can be a variety of colors from green to a dazzling orange and anywhere in between. Red, yellow, and orange are the most common colors these frogs come in. They all have unique blotches of color on top a glossy black body. Their colors make up for their size, because adult mantellas will only get to about an inch long, and most could sit on your thumbnail. There are 16 different species of mantella that vary in color and size, and all but one is a terrestrial animal.

An American toad, with the proper care can live for many long years in captivity. Just because they are common around America does not mean they are disposable pets.


In North America, wild-caught mantella frogs dominate the pet trade. Most species are seasonally available, usually during the winter and early spring, which coincide with the wet season in Madagascar when mantellas are active and easy to collect. They can be purchased directly from importers or other reptile and amphibian dealers, as well as retailers and pet stores. In the European Union, only captive-bred mantella frogs are available, with the exception of M. betsileo/M. ebenaui, which can still be legally imported.

With many species of Mantella having very restricted distributions, and over the half the genus considered threatened with extinction, I would discourage most from keeping wild-caught mantella frogs for private display purposes, and instead focus on using them for breeding to 1) reduce the demand for wild-caught frogs and 2) establish the species in captivity so frogs are available if imports or exports stop.

Captive-bred mantella frogs are occasionally available directly from breeders, who are the preferred source for mantellas. Frogs produced in captivity are always in better condition than those that are wild-caught, and overall seem to fair better as captives. Unfortunately, only one species (M. aurantiaca) seems to be produced in captivity with any consistency, with others being sporadically bred here and there. This can make it difficult to locate captive-bred stock of certain species which are rarely bred. The Internet is the best resource for tracking down captive-bred mantella frogs, with breeders advertising on online amphibian classifieds and forums.


Both genders establish small territories, and require relatively large enclosures for such small frogs. These frogs are active primarily during the day, foraging for a wide range of small invertebrates. These invertebrates are what help make the frog toxic, and the bright colors on its body serve as a warning to potential predators to stay away.

Grooming Diet

The common food for mantellas is crickets. These crickets should be easy for them to swallow but not filling enough. Adults should be fed every few days, as much as they will eat in 15 minutes. Some species will never stop eating, while others are very picky about what goes into them. Remove any leftover crickets for the next feeding. Gut load all the insects properly. Feed them commercial crickets food or lettuce and carrots. Every few feedings, the insects should be dusted with a calcium supplement that they would find in the wild.


Being the small amphibians they are, large tanks are not required. A 5 or 10 gallon enclosure works fine for a couple of frogs. The enclosure should be vertically oriented because they spend much of their time off of the ground. This means a tight fitting screen lid is essential. Branches and plants live or fake, should fill the space of the enclosure. Live plants also aid in keeping the humidity up, and give the frogs a place to bask.


The substrate should hold and release humidity. Paper towels are a common choice, and they are easy to replace. If you want more natural look non-fertilized potting soil mixed with a little orchard bark also works well.

If you choose the more elaborate substrate, a drainage layer made of medium pebbles with a fine mesh screen on top will help drain any extra water. This will erase the problem of fungus or mold.


Mantellas can be shy, or curious depending on the species. A piece cork bark and a coconut hide should be adequate for shelter as long as you have plenty of foliage. A drift wood log to hide under can also be used.


Most mantellas prefer temperatures from 72-76F. Some keepers may not need a heat source at all. Lighting is important for this species though. A bulb that is on 12 hours a day with a low wattage works fine. If you do need a little heat, buy a slightly more powerful bulb.


These frogs like their humidity. 80-100% humidity is required, and this can be achieved if you mist at least twice a day. Most species will drink water from the droplets created by the mister, but they may also use a water bowl if provided.

Use bottled water instead of tap because tap may have unhealthy chemicals or amounts of chlorine that can be absorbed through their skin. Be sure to always have clean water in the water bowl.


Cleaning is fairly simple. Paper towel should be replaced when soiled, and loose substrates every 2-4 months. Always provide fresh water, and spot clean daily.

Hunting and feeding

Captive mantella frogs should be offered a variety of live insects for food. Crickets, fruit flies, small waxworms, mini mealworms, and rice flour beetle larvae are some of the commercially available feeders which can be fed to mantellas. Insects captured from a safe location outside can be offered as well. Particularly useful are termites, which have a high fat content and can be used to bulk up thin frogs quickly or to promote egg production in females. Aphids are another good wild food source.

Crickets and fruit flies can form the majority of a captive mantella’s diet. Offer crickets which are slightly shorter than the width of the frog’s head. For large, robust species, like M. expectata and M. viridis, two to three week old crickets can be used, while smaller species, such as M. milotympanum, should be offered smaller crickets. Two species of fruit flies are commonly available – Drosophila hydei and Drosophila melanogaster. Both are readily accepted by mantella frogs, but the larger D. hydei seems to excite mantella frogs more than the smaller D. melanogaster.

To boost the nutritional content of crickets, they should be fed well for several days before being offered to the frogs. Sweet potato, dark lettuces, squash, and oranges can all be fed to crickets in addition to a dry food such as tropical fish flake or dog food. To ensure that additional nutritional requirements are met, feeder insects should be coated with high quality calcium and multivitamin powdered supplements.

The frequency with which mantella frogs are fed depends on the quantity of food offered and the conditions in which the frogs are being kept. During a cool simulated dry season, mantella frogs may only need to be fed every four to seven days in small amounts. At warmer temperatures, frogs can be fed daily. Mantella frogs will become obese if fed too heavily or too frequently, so monitor feedings carefully to ensure they are not being overfed.

Reproduction / Breeding

Before breeding, make sure you have two of the same species of mantella, and that you have a large group. If you have a group, the chance you get eggs is much greater, and it stimulates what it would be like in the wild. Once you lower the photoperiod down to 8 hours a day gradually, males will become territorial, and start their croaking.

When the male has found a female, he will mount her, preparing to fertilize the eggs she will lay. The eggs will be dropped in a hole or crevice somewhere in the tank. Depending on the species, some will lay 15 and others will lay over 100 each. You will have to remove the entire object that the eggs have been laid in, and place it into a new aquarium where the eggs can hatch.

Hatchling Care

In this new aquarium, the log or rock should be completely submerged so the tadpoles can swim out and begin feeding. They will take finely crushed fish flakes. Once they start developing into froglets, they should be mover to an aquarium with land, and rocks in the water. Once they can emerge completely onto land, begin feeding them fruit flies and small crickets. Make sure they all get food, and that cannibalism does not occur.Size at hatch: 0.125 inches (3 millimeters)


Because of their size, mantellas are not meant for handling. They are squirmish, and skittery because they consider your hand to be a predator. Try to avoid handling these delicate frogs. They are more of a look-not-touch animal.

There are many ailments that can affect captive mantella frogs. Most are the result of improper care, and simply by keeping mantellas in proper conditions many common health problems can be avoided. It’s helpful to be familiar with a few of the more frequently encountered problems so that if they do occur, you are able to detect and treat them before they progress too far.


Often the underlying factor that allows for a mantella frog to develop a health problem is stress. Stress weakens the immune system, permitting disease to spread. Reduce stress by limiting interactions with frogs, providing adequate cover for them, and ensuring there is ample space in the cage for the amount of frogs being kept. A particularly stressful period of time for all frogs is when they are initially acquired, and special care should be taken to allow new frogs to adjust to your care as easily as possible

Bacterial infections:

Within terrariums, mantella frogs are constantly surrounded by a variety of bacteria. When healthy, they present no problem for captive frogs, but when a frog’s immune system is compromised or the bacteria reach elevated levels, they can overwhelm the frog and take over. Fluid retention (bloating), clouded eyes, skin ulcers or sores, paralysis, and discoloration can all be symptoms of a bacterial infection, and if any are noticed, seek veterinary assistance. Antibiotics can be used to treat infections effectively provided they are caught in time, but sometimes symptoms develop only once an infection has progressed too far to successfully be treated. Prevent bacterial infections from developing by keeping the cage clean, maintaining proper environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, water quality, etc.), and keeping stressful situations to a minimum.


Unless treated, most mantella frogs harbor a variety of internal parasites. Under normal conditions this doesn’t present a problem, but if a frog is weakened by some other factor, parasites can reach heightened levels and overcome a mantella. Recently imported frogs often have parasite problems, and are best treated prophylacticly when they arrive in your care. Established and captive-bred frogs can also run into problems with parasites. Sometimes an individual in a group may develop a problem over time, and slowly waste away while others in the colony remain healthy. If a mantella frog seems to be loosing weight, it should be isolated from the others and monitored carefully. A vet can then run fecal exams on the frog to determine if internal parasites are the problem. Treatment involved depends on the parasite(s) infecting the frog. Granular fenbendazole (Panacur) for dogs and cats can be coated onto crickets or fruit flies to treat many common parasites and is relatively safe, but is not affective against all parasites. Other drugs, such as ivermectin or metronidazole, are needed to get rid of particular types of parasites, but have a small safety margin and are easy to overdose. Consult a veterinarian prior to using any medication.

Injuries and trauma

Most often encountered with recently imported mantella frogs, injuries can include rostral abrasions, missing digits, or small scrapes or cuts. When left untreated, these wounds can open a door to a wide range of bacterial or fungal infections. Separate any injured frog away from others in a small, simple setup. A triple antibiotic ointment should then be applied to the wound. This can be used daily for a several days, but if no change is noticed in that time it may be necessary to use a different antibiotic acquired from a veterinarian.

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