How to Visually Sex Dart Frogs

Part I: Sexing Dendrobates tinctorius

Dart frogs, like many frogs, can be difficult to sex based on outward appearance. Sure, we all know males call and females lay eggs, but how can you tell who is who just by looking at them? The following hints and tips are meant to help you in establishing the sex of your anuran pets.

This is the first installment in a two part guide to sexing dart frogs. It will deal with sexing Dendrobates tinctorius, the Dyeing Poison Arrow Frog. These frogs are one of the most popular species in the Dendrobatid hobby, and for good reason. They are bold, colorful, easy to breed, and widely available for reasonable prices.

Sexing Dendrobates tinctorius

Dendrobates tinctorius, known as ‘Tincs’ in the trade, are a very common beginner frog. They typically mature at around 12-18 months of age. With most locales in the trade, an educated guess about sex can be made at 8-10 months of age. There are 4 general characteristics that will aid you in sexing Tincs.

  1. Toe pads: Male Dendrobates tinctorius tend to have larger, heart shaped toe pads on their front feet. Females will have much smaller toe pads. This rule is not steadfast, but is more correct than not among Tincs.

Dendrobates tinctorius ‘Cobalt’

  1. Back Arch: As seen in the picture below, Female Tincs tend to have a higher back arch than males when both are viewed side by side. This characteristic is best used when comparing multiple animals to each other, and the frogs are in a relaxed state.

Dendrobates tinctorius ‘Patricia’

  1. Size: As a general rule, female Tincs will be larger than their male counterparts. This assumes that feeding, housing, and age are similar.

Dendrobates tinctorius ‘Azureus’

  1. Girth: Mature, breeding female Dendrobates tinctorius generally appear swollen or full, because they are carrying eggs. This is much more visible in some females than others. Take note that many frogs in the hobby are obese, which can negate this general rule.

Dendrobates tinctorius ‘Bakhuis’


Although visually sexing dart frogs is by no means an exact science, by using the presented guidelines along with the experience that will come with time, an experienced dart frog keeper can make accurate predictions on the sex of the animals before they are sexually mature. Most of the time, raising young frogs together in a group will allow for easier selection of pairs (as you have more individuals to compare against each other), as well as presenting a greater chance of getting at least one male and one female.

Next week’s article will be part 2 of how to visually sex dart frogs, focusing on Dendrobates auratusD. leucomelasD. truncatusPhyllobates sp., and Ranitomeya sp. By following this guide, the user should be able to visually sex most of the common dart frogs in the hobby with practice.

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