How Long Do Poison Dart Frogs Live? (32 Species)

Poison dart frogs are capable of living longer lives than most people think. In the wild, the lifespan of poison dart frogs depends on their diet and the environment they live in. For captive poison dart frogs, their lifespan is mainly dependent on

Depending on the species, poison dart frogs can live anywhere from 3 to as long as 15 years in the wild. However, in captivity, they can live much longer as most of their natural threats are eliminated. Some species have been recorded living up to 23, and some even longer. 

There are over 200 species of poison dart frogs, and the exact lifespan varies between species.

However, captive poison dart frogs will almost always live longer than those in the wild, provided they are cared for properly.

The Lifespan of 32 Poison Dart Frog Species

As earlier mentioned, how long a poison dart frog will live is dependent on the species.

For example, Dyeing poison dart frogs commonly live 15 years in captivity and have even been recorded living over 20 years. 

On the other hand, Golden poison frogs typically do not live longer than 10 years.

Dyeing poison dart frog & Golden poison frog
Dyeing poison dart frog (left), Golden poison frog (right). Photos by: Henrique C. Costa (CC BY-NC 4.0), & quahaggen (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Below Is a Table That Shows Approximately How Long 32 Poison Dart Frog Species Live.

Frog Species
Scientific Name
Average Lifespan in the Wild (Years)
Lifespan in Captivity (Years)
Dyeing poison dart frog Dendrobates tinctorius  4 – 6 20+
Green-and-black poison dart frog Dendrobates auratus 3 – 15 20+
Yellow-banded poison dart frog Dendrobates leucomelas 5 – 7 11+
Harlequin poison-dart frog Oophaga histrionica N/A 9+
Golden poison frog Phyllobates terribilis 5 – 10 10+
Strawberry poison dart frog Oophaga pumilio N/A 7+
Phantasmal poison frog Epipedobates tricolor N/A 15+
Anthony’s Poison Dart Frog Epipedobates anthonyi N/A 10+
Blue poison dart frog Dendrobates tinctorius azureus 4 – 6 15+
Splashback Poison Dart Frog Adelphobates galactonotus N/A 12+
Zimmerman’s poison frog Ranitomeya variabilis 5 – 8 12+
Mimic poison frog Ranitomeya imitator 5 – 8 10+
Golfodulcean Poison Dart Frog Phyllobates vittatus N/A 15+
Black-legged poison dart frog Phyllobates bicolor 10 – 15 15+
Yellow Striped Poison Dart Frog Dendrobates truncatus 4 – 6 20+
Sira poison frog Ranitomeya sirensis 4 – 8 10+
Amazonian Poison Frog  Ranitomeya amazonica 4 – 6 10+
Brazilian Poison Frog Ranitomeya vanzolinii 5 – 8 10+
N/A Ranitomeya flavovittata 5 – 8 10+
Red-backed Poison Dart Frog Ranitomeya reticulata N/A 12+
Lovely poison dart frog Phyllobates lugubris N/A 15+
Three-striped poison frog Ameerega trivittata N/A 15+
Brazil nut poison frog Adelphobates castaneoticus N/A 10+
Marañón poison frog Excidobates mysteriosus N/A 10+
Rio Madeira poison frog Adelphobates quinquevittatus N/A 12+
Lehmann’s poison dart frog Oophaga lehmanni N/A 8+
Hahnel’s poison dart frog Ameerega hahneli N/A 8+
Green poison dart frog Andinobates viridi N/A 8+
Red-headed poison frog Ranitomeya fantastica N/A 10+
Diablito Oophaga sylvatica N/A 8+
Pleasing poison dart frog Ameerega bassleri N/A 10+
Peppered poison dart frog Ameerega pepperi N/A 10+

Keep in mind that these numbers are not set in stone. Scientific study on the lifespan of poison dart frogs is scant, and the little information there is may vary in different literature.

Also, the maximum age capable for some species may be significantly underestimated, considering the longevity of similar species.

For example, the lifespan of the Strawberry poison dart frog (Oophaga pumilio), may be underestimated considering that the closely related Green-and-black poison dart frog (Dendrobates auratus) commonly lives 17 years in captivity, and sometimes even longer.

Poison Dart Frog Lifespan: Wild vs Captive

Captive poison dart frogs will typically live much longer than those in the wild – provided they are given proper care.

Wild poison dart frogs have to deal with disease, extreme weather and sometimes struggle to find food.

In comparison, captive poison dart frogs are shielded from the elements and have a seemingly never-ending supply of food.

They do not deal with the same problems or encounter the same challenges as those in the wild.

Factors That Influence the Lifespan of Poison Dart Frogs in the Wild

Several things influence how long wild Poison dart frogs will live.

1. Presence of Predators

Poison dart frogs have very potent toxins, partly due to the diet they eat – so they have very few predators.

To warn predators of their toxicity, they often sport bright or contrasting colors. This is known as ‘aposematism’ or ‘warning coloration’.

Think of it like holding up a sign that says “Stay away from me, I’m poisonous!”

An animal that eats a brightly colored poison dart frog will get very sick (or even die) and remember the experience.

The next time the animal sees another similarly colored frog, it will associate the coloration with danger and learn to avoid that particular species.

However, this does not mean poison dart frogs are completely invulnerable to predators.

There is one predator that frequently preys on poison dart frogs: the fire-bellied snake (Leimadophis epinephelus).

Fire bellied snakes Leimadophis epinephelus eat poison dart frogs
Fire-bellied snakes (Leimadophis epinephelus), prey on poison dart frogs. Photo by: Andrés Camilo Montes-Correa (CC BY-NC 4.0).

These snakes have developed a resistance to the toxins produced by poison dart frogs – and are known to regularly prey on Golden poison frogs, the most toxic of all poison dart frogs.

However, since fire-bellied snakes are small, they only prey on juvenile poison dart frogs.

2. Availability of Food

Wild poison dart frogs get all the nutrition they need from the wide variety of prey they eat. If there is an abundance of food where a poison dart frog lives, it can live for a long time.

However, if a dart frog lives in an area where it finds find it hard to find food, and frequently goes long periods without eating – the frog is unlikely to live a long life.

3. Disease & Injury

All frogs can suffer from a variety of illnesses and parasitic infections. They are particularly vulnerable as they age and their immune systems weaken.

Poison dart frogs are threatened by fungal infection. One particularly harmful fungus is Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.

This fungus attacks the parts of a frog’s skin that have keratin in them, and can cause a poison dart frog to develop a fatal skin disease called ‘chytridiomycosis’.

Infected frogs will excessively shed their skin – and their skin may also thicken and have discoloration.

Since frogs use their skin to breathe (in addition to their lungs), this disrupts their respiration and is often fatal.

In addition, a wild poison dart frog getting a simple injury could be fatal. If the injury doesn’t kill it directly, it could reduce its ability to find food, leading to starvation.

4. Climate

In the wild, frogs are exposed to the elements and ever-changing weather.

Heat waves, dry spells, heavy downpours, freezes, and floods are all things that could significantly affect the lifespan of a wild poison dart frog.

5. Human Activity

Human activity affects a lot of wild animals, poison dart frogs included.

Loss of habitat due to illegal logging, agriculture, and human encroachment is the most significant threat poison dart frogs face in the wild.

Since poison dart frogs live in rainforests, this reduces the territory available for them to live and thrive and, and can hurt their life expectancy.

In addition, many fertilizers, weed killers, and pesticides, used in local farming can retard the growth of poison dart frogs, and disrupt their natural reproductive cycles.

Pollution can also weaken the frogs’ immune systems and make them more vulnerable to disease and infection.

Due to this, many poison dart frog species are facing declining numbers.

Factors That Affect the Lifespan of Poison Dart Frogs in Captivity

Since some poison dart frogs have very long lives, it can be difficult for someone to care for a poison dart frog for several years without a single accident, or even a brief period of neglect.

Due to this, many captive poison dart frogs do not live to their potential age.

1. Housing & Enclosure

A captive poison dart frog will need a habitat that very closely replicates its natural environment. Failing to provide this will compromise the welfare of the frog.

In addition, different poison dart frog species have very specific requirements concerning lighting, temperature, substrate, and other things.

Failing to meet the specific housing requirements of a captive poison dart frog can dramatically affect its life expectancy.

2. Diet

In the wild, poison dart frogs can get all the nutrients they need from the wide variety of prey they eat. In captivity, their diet is only limited to a few things.

If a captive poison dart frog is given a low-nutrient diet, it could develop health problems such as metabolic bone disease – and many other conditions that will negatively affect its life expectancy. It could also lead to the frog having a weakened immune system.

This weakened immune system would then make it possible for opportunistic infections to cause serious, sometimes and sometimes, fatal illnesses.

For this reason, captive frogs should be fed a varied and balanced diet so they can live long and healthy lives.

3. Accidents

Sometimes, things go wrong. For beginners, this is usually due to poor knowledge. But even for the experienced, accidents still happen.

One of the most common accidents is a frog escaping from its enclosure. Since frogs need to keep their skin moist, an escaped poison dart frog may dry out, or starve if is not found quickly enough.

The prevalence of accidents means many captive poison dart frogs die before they can live to their maximum age.

4. Neglect

Captive frogs need ongoing care. If poison dart frog is neglected for long periods, it could be harmful, or even fatal to the frog.

Also, neglect often leads to dirt and debris building up in the frog’s enclosure. A dirty environment is a perfect place for bacteria and fungi to build up.

This can lead to a frog developing skin lesions and other infections, negatively affecting its lifespan.

Common Questions About Poison Dart Frog Longevity

How Long Do Blue Poison Dart Frogs Live? Blue poison dart frogs (Dendrobates tinctorius azureus) are thought to live about 4 – 6 years in the wild. However, in captivity, they commonly live over 15 years.

How Long Do Dyeing Poison Dart Frogs Live?  Dyeing poison dart frogs(Dendrobates tinctorius) are thought to live about 4 – 6 years in the wild, but they can live 15 years in captivity. Under ideal conditions, some Dyeing poison dart frogs have lived over 20 years.

How Long Do Strawberry Poison Dart Frogs Live? The lifespan of Strawberry poison dart frogs (Oophaga pumilio) in the wild is unknown. However, they can live over 7 years in captivity. Still, their lifespan may be significantly underestimated considering that the closely related Dendrobates auratus can live over 17 years in captivity.


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