Reptiles Have Special Needs

English: Negev Zoo snake
Negev Zoo snake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People have all kinds of different pets.  Some people only feel safe with what is considered "normal" pets.  This usually consists of cats, dogs, hamsters, or birds.  Country folks may have farmyard animals for pets.  Horses, cows, goats, bunnies, and so on are typical.

Then you have the people who pride themselves on being "outside the norm".  These people may be the sort who likes to consider themselves and their pets unique.  Or maybe they just love animals of all kinds and welcome any and all types of pets.  Reptiles have been kept as pets for many years, but as the number of pet stores has grown so has the number of reptiles kept as pets.  Sometimes this is bad news for the reptiles.  If a dangerous reptile is chosen, it could be bad news for the owner as well.

Sometimes the type of pet a person has depends on the area in which they live.  Availability may make the choice for them.  The environment is also a consideration.  In south Louisiana, a child may be raised thinking an alligator is normal to keep for a pet!  It would be impractical for a child who lives in the midst of the city to own a pet cow.

What types of reptiles are popular as exotic pets?  Snakes, lizards, and turtles make the choices wide.  There are some, however, of each type that makes some better choices than others.  Unfortunately, these types of pets are also the most often abused and neglected simply because of failure to learn about their proper needs prior to ownership.  Once the new wears off, they become forgotten.  Because reptiles are often quiet and contained, it is easy to forget they are around.

Corn snakes are often chosen because they are known to be easier to care for.  They are excellent escape artists, though, so great care must be taken to keep the latches tightly closed on their enclosures.  It may seem funny in the movies to see a snake escape and scare the family or guests, but it can cause great harm to your pet in reality.

Boas are a well-known reptile pet, but people often underestimate their lifespan and their great size when grown.  A snake kept in an area it has outgrown will not be a happy, well-adjusted pet.  It may cause the snake harm and you as well, should he choose to fight back because of his discomfort.

Those cute little reptiles grow up and will need different requirements for food and housing as they grow.  A responsible pet owner will be prepared for the changes and willing to accommodate.  Can you recreate the natural environment and maintain it?  Think of it as being a person from the country who moves to the city, unwillingly, and never learns to adjust because they just don't seem to fit into the new surroundings.  Except this person has the ability to move back to the country, while the snake is unable to make this choice on his own.  The right housing makes a happier pet.


PUFFERS - Freshwater, Brackish Or Marine?

Blackspotted puffer, Arothron nigropunctatus, ...
Blackspotted puffer, Arothron nigropunctatus
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The reason most puffers die within the first months of captivity is that the local fish store fails tremendously to inform their customers about the requirements of their new fish. I have seen many puffers either mislabeled or not labeled at all in freshwater tanks, slowly dying. The key is to know what species you are getting (even if your fish store does not tell you) and to know what kind of water they need.

This is a quick guide to determine which puffers are from freshwater, brackish and marine.

Freshwater Puffers:
Auriglobus modestus; --- Bronze puffer
Carinotetraodon borneensis; --- Bornean redeyed puffer
Carinotetraodon irrubesco; --- Red tailed redeye puffer
Carinotetraodon salivator; --- Striped redeye puffer
Carinotetraodon travancoricus; --- Dwarf Puffer
Colomesus asellus; --- South American Puffer
Monotrete abei; --- Abei Puffer
Tetraodon baileyi; --- 'Hairy' puffer
Tetraodon barbatus
Tetraodon cochinchinensis; --- Fangs Puffer
Tetraodon cutcutia; --- Common Puffer
Tetraodon duboisi; --- Dubois' Freshwater Puffer
Tetraodon lineatus; ---Fahaka puffer
Tetraodon mbu; --- Mbu Puffer
Tetraodon miurus; --- Congo Puffer
Tetraodon palembangensis; --- Palembang Puffer
Tetraodon pustulatus; --- Cross River Puffer
Tetraodon suvattii; --- Arrowhead Puffer
Tetraodon turgidus; --- Brown Puffer

Brackish Puffers
Colomesus psittacus; --- Banded Puffer
Tetraodon biocellatus; --- Figure Eight Puffer
Tetraodon erythrotaenia; --- Red-striped Toadfish
Tetraodon fluviatilis; --- Ceylon Puffer
Tetraodon nigroviridis; --- Green Spotted Puffer
Tetraodon Sabahensis; --- Giant Spotted Puffer

Marine Puffers
Arothron caerulopunctatus; --- Blue-spotted Puffer
Arothron diadematus; --- Masked Puffer
Arothron hispidus; --- White-spotted puffer
Arothron manilensis; --- Narrow-lined Puffer
Arothron mappa; --- Map puffer
Arothron meleagris; --- Guineafowl Puffer
Arothron nigropunctatus; --- Dog-faced Puffer
Arothron reticularis; --- Reticulated Puffer
Arothron stellatus; --- Starry Toadfish
Canthigaster bennetti; --- Bennett's Sharpnose Puffer
Canthigaster coronata; --- Crowned Puffer
Canthigaster papua; --- Papuan Toby
Canthigaster rostrata; --- Caribbean Sharpnose Puffer
Canthigaster solandri; --- Spotted Sharpnose
Canthigaster valentini; --- Saddled Puffer
Diodon holocanthus; --- Porcupine Puffer
Sphoeroides annulatus; --- Bullseye Puffer
Sphoeroides marmoratus; --- Guinean Puffer
Takifugu niphobles; --- Niphobles Puffer
Takifugu oblongus; --- Lattice Blaasop
Takifugu ocellatus; --- Fugu Puffer
Takifugu pardalis; --- Panther Puffer
Takifugu rubripes; --- Tiger Puffer


Freshwater Tropical Fish Guide - The BLUE GURAMI

English: Female Three Spot gourami
Female Three Spot gourami - (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Blue Gourami, sometimes also called the 3 Spot Gourami is a popular freshwater tropical fish for aquarium keeping. these fish are usually a light blue color and have three dark spots, one on the base of the tail, one in the middle of the body and the eye which looks like the third spot. The Gourami type of fish itself comes in several colors, the blue which you often see in pet stores, gold, and opaline as well as a few other rears of varieties. These fish can grow very large and are best suited for larger aquariums.

The Blue Gourami is a fairly easy fish to keep and will exist fine on floating flake food that you probably feed to the majority of the other fish in your tank. However, like most creatures, these fish do need a little bit of variety and it's good to throw in some freeze dried blood worms or frozen brine shrimp every once in a while just to be sure they are getting all the vital nutrients that they need.

If you buy a Gourami fish that is very small you might be able to start them off in a smaller aquarium but eventually, you going to have to get a 50 gallon or larger as the fish grows. This species can grow quite large and you want to be sure that you house them suitably. you also need to be sure that you have a good heater on the tank as these, like many other freshwater tropical fish, require the water temperature to be between 70 and 82°F. Other tank conditions include a PH of 6.0 to 8.8 and a hardness of 5-35 dGH.

Since these fish are used to thickly vegetated waters as found in their native tropical waters of the Far East, the Gourami will feel right at home if you have a lot of plants in your aquarium. They get along with other fish of their kind but you need to make sure that you have many Gourami's and preferably different type's in the tank to keep them from ganging up on the other fish. It is best to have at least 4 Gouramis in the tank and even better if you can get a mix of the blue, gold and opaline varieties. Generally, you want to stick to having only one male and the tank as they can be territorial.

The Blue Gourami enjoys the company of the other varieties of Gourami. You could keep Gold, Blue and Opaline Gourami together peacefully in the same aquarium. Oddly enough, if your tank has only one variety of Gourami with other species of fish, the Gourami will gang up on the other fish. When you keep a mix of Gourami in the tank among other fish species, the Gourami tend to focus on their own type and leave the other fish alone. It is recommended that you have a minimum of four Gourami's in your tank, with a mix of the different varieties.

The Gourami can get along in the tank with other fish of the same size and can live peacefully with Barbs, Clown Loaches, Bala Sharks, Danios, Rainbow Sharks, Red Tail Sharks, and Rainbows.
If you take excellent care of your Gouramis and provide them with the proper tank conditions, they can live to be four years old and grow to be 4 inches in length.


DALMATIAN MOLLY - Poecilia latinpinna

DALMATIAN MOLLY - Poecilia latinpinna


The Dos and Don’ts of KOI PONDS

English: koi pond under construction
Koi pond under construction (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
First, you must understand that Koi ponds are not just simply holes in the ground that you can keep fish in. For a Koi pond to work properly, and actually sustain fish, a number of different things must be considered when you begin planning it. A few simple rules will ensure that you do not end up with an expensive hole with dead fish.

First, unless you have a large amount of knowledge in outdoor landscaping, fish keeping, and construction, it may be a good idea to leave the pond building up to a professional. While some people think that building the pond yourself with save you money, this could not be further from the case. If your pond is not built properly the first time, you will end up spending a large amount of money on fixing the problems that come up. Not only that, if your pond is not properly setup, you may not even be able to keep fish alive.

Remember when you hire a professional, it is their job to give you what you want. They can give their knowledge when it comes to decision making, but ultimately, they will do whatever you want them too. Because of this, you cannot blame them if your pond fails to do to location, size, or other factors. However, beware of extremely cheap quotes as they may cut corners that could potentially cause you problems later. While quotes will come in different, there should not be a very dramatic difference between them.

Koi ponds are by no means, swimming pools or animal water troughs. This is the reason why so much care must be taken in planning and building your pond. It may cost more money then building a typical swimming pool, but the rewards are much greater. Be sure to keep all children and other none fish pets out of the pond, as they can cause problems. If your children swim in your pond, not only could they cause a chemical imbalance, but they could also cause major problems such as leaks. While it is typically ok to have other pets around your Koi pond, some pets may get the idea that is fun to mess with your filtration system or chase your Koi around.

Remember, the majority of Koi ponds are permanent once they are built. This means that you cannot decide in two or three weeks that you do not want you Koi pond in the front yard, that you would rather have it in the backyard. Carefully plan each and every aspect of your pond, because once it is built, there is little you can do to change it. Remember such things as size requirements and placement.

Finally, remember that maintaining a Koi pond can be a substantial amount of work. Make sure that you will have enough time to carry out the everyday needed maintenance, and remember that, like with any other pets, issues will arise that require extra special attention. Vet visits may be needed, or you may need to take some extra time out of your weekend to clear up an algae infection. Have a plan, and make sure that if you are going to be going away, make sure someone with enough knowledge to properly maintain your pond is available until you return.


Ahh! Saltwater Aquarium Pests And Parasites... Dealing With SALTWATER AQUARIUM Pests And Parasites – The Creepy Crawlies!

Cryptocaryan irritans.jpeg
Yellow tang with white spots characteristic of marine ich  Wikimedia Commons.

Saltwater aquarium pests and parasites might have an adverse effect on the health of your marine tank. Bacterial diseases can cause ill-health in your fish and invertebrates. Bacterial disease can also kill the fish in your tank. To get rid of the problem you might have to start all over again from scratch. This is not only very upsetting but also very expensive.

So it makes sense to be on the lookout for saltwater aquarium pests and parasites and to treat your fish at the first sign of illness. Marine fish usually fall prey to gram-negative bacteria. These include Pseudomonas, Vibrio and Myxobacteria. It is not always easy to spot saltwater aquarium pests and parasites in marine fish. Often you may not know that there is something wrong until your fish become seriously ill.

You can help prevent saltwater aquarium pests and parasites by making sure that conditions in your tank don’t encourage their growth. To do this you need to understand how and why saltwater aquarium pests and parasites occur in marine fish in the first place.

The bacterial disease is caused by a number of things, sometimes in combination. Such disease can be topical (external) – for example, fin and tail rot and ulcers or systemic (affecting the body internally) or it might be a combination of both. Saltwater aquarium pests and parasites are more likely to affect fish that are in poor condition. The healthier your fish are the more resistance they will have to saltwater aquarium pests and parasites.

However, fish that are weak, sick or stressed by environmental conditions in the tank are easily infected by saltwater aquarium pests and parasites. Bacterial diseases may gain entry into the body through the pores along the lateral line. The gills are another site of entry into the body of a fish.

So what environmental conditions make it more likely for saltwater aquarium pests and parasites to cause illness in your tank? The leading cause of the bacterial attack is poor environmental conditions in the tank. If conditions are allowed to deteriorate the health of your fish is impacted and this might make them more susceptible to diseases.

Saltwater aquarium pests and parasites will soon bloom and over-run the tank. If the water is white and cloudy and the fish have sores on their body, conditions in the tank are very poor and must be corrected.

Your fish may also be affected by saltwater aquarium pests and parasites if they have other infections. So treating them is crucial. If your fish are not fed properly they might not have built up a good resistance to infection. Any injuries that your fish have might allow bacteria to take hold. Fish that are stressed and harassed are also more likely to become ill.

Older, weaker fish are at increased risk of contracting a bacterial infection as are any fish that come from water that has been contaminated (for example tap water!). If a fish eats the flesh of a sick fish it may also become ill with the same disease. So how do you know if your fish are infected with saltwater aquarium pests and parasites? What should you look for?

If your fish are afflicted with saltwater aquarium pests and parasites they might show one or more of the following symptoms:

- Red frayed fins or fins that show red streaks.
- The fins might disintegrate (in fin and tail rot).
- Red areas around the lateral line (streaks or blotches).
- Open sores on the sides of the body and near the fins.
- Bloody scales at the fin base.
- Fast breathing.
- A grey film may cover the eyes.
- The fish may appear listless or lethargic.
- They may lose their appetite.
- The stomach may be swollen or bloated from saltwater aquarium pests and parasites that cause bladder infections, for example.

Bacteria are not the only saltwater aquarium pests and parasites that might affect your fish. Black Spot disease is a common marine illness caused by a parasitic turbellarian flatworm in the genus Paravortex. It makes its home at the bottom of the tank after which is attached to a host fish for about six days then falls off into the substrate again. It is common in Yellow tangs and Angelfishes.

If you notice tiny black dots on the body of your fish and they seem to be scratching against objects or have red skin and are lethargic they might have black spot disease. It is less common than some other saltwater aquarium pests and parasites (white ich for example) but should still be looked for.

If any of your fish contract the diseases mentioned above or other illnesses, they may not die immediately. But in general, if saltwater aquarium pests and parasites are not treated your fish will die in a one to two week period. There are viral strains that can kill fish within a day or two.  Even if you don’t know what the disease is you need to take steps immediately to isolate the ill fish.

Fish that are infected with saltwater aquarium pests and parasites should be placed into a quarantine tank. This is because bacterial infections will spread to healthy fish very quickly if sick fish are allowed to interact with them. Once the illness affects the internal organs the fish will stop eating, breathing rapidly, and lie on the bottom of the tank where it may be eaten by other fish or start to decay releasing bacteria into the water.

To protect your fish from saltwater aquarium pests and parasites diagnose and treat your fish with the appropriate antibiotics. Ask your aquarist for advice if necessary. Only place your fish back into the tank once they are completely healthy. This will ensure that your tank stays pest free. The most important way to guard against diseases is to make sure that your fish are as healthy as possible and you can do this by making sure that conditions in your tank are at optimum levels.


BLUE RAM - My First South American Cichlid

Ram cichlid, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi
Ram cichlid, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Blue Ram, Gold Ram, which is which?  This little dwarf South American Cichlid has had its name changed so many times it has every right to be confused. But whatever you call it, the Blue Ram, or the Gold Ram (originally I knew it as Apistogramma ramirezi) is one of the most intriguing fish you can keep in a passive aquarium community.  The fish has been also been called Microgeophagus (little dirt eater) and is listed in my copy of the Baensch Aquarium Atlas as Papilliochromis ramirezi.

Doesn't matter what they call it, at least scientifically, I like these fish.  They have a very gentle personality and are extremely passive, keeping pretty much to themselves when they are added to a community aquarium. In fact, this is often a problem, they are so easily intimidated by more active swimming fish that they may never become as colourful as they can be.  Even if other fish are not even trying to bother them, swift movements and rapid fish can simply be too much and the fish will waste away. For this reason, I most often will simply give the group a tank of their own and let the interactions in their own community offer the action in the tank.  In a species tank like this, I often see much more interaction between the individuals. It may only be my opinion, but the social characteristics of these fish as a group is well worth devoting a small tank just to them.

In my experience they can be quite delicate and prefer softer acid water, some of the books do note they will tolerate up to neutral (7.0 pH) water, but I feel that is a maximum limit, lower pH down to 6.5 are much more preferable.  Above all, they simply do not tolerate environmental changes well. Be very careful when adding any type of chemical, if you must treat the water for softness and acidity, try to do it naturally, possibly with peat rather than chemical treatments that can cause the conditions to rapidly fluctuate. It is much better to allow the change to be very gradual, rather than all of a sudden. and always ensure the water you are replacing during regular aquarium maintenance protocols has been properly treated outside the aquarium to eliminate chlorine and other toxins well before coming in contact with the aquarium.

If you give do give them the conditions they require and let them settle in and get comfortable, you will watch one of the true jewels of the freshwater tropical fish species as it goes about its business. Too much action by other species in the tank and it the entire group will become timid and easily spooked, but in the right conditions, it is truly a spectacular addition to the small community aquarium.  I have found the blue and gold rams can be mixed pretty easily and that they prefer to be in groups rather than simple pairs.  The interaction of the group is quite social, so having at least five or six in the tank gives them chance to interact with interesting results.

Most of the tanks that I have kept Rams of assorted types have been pretty bare of plants, but with lots of rocks and ornaments that allow them to hide and claim as territory. They have survived and flourished in a rocky environment, and even bred repeatedly on a flat rock or on a grave impression they have dug.  One of their many names was Microgeophagus - or little dirt eater.  My observations show this is a good description for them. They will dig and move the gravel and can create hollows in the bottom, some have even spawned there.  I would suggest using relatively small fine gravel for the bottom of a ram tank since they will be moving it around anyway, and large gravel will make the effort great.

I was not a fan of keeping live plants when I kept and bred these originally.  The fact that they move the gravel means that any plants you keep for them must be well anchored.  They do enjoy a planted tank with densely bunched plants that offer places to hide and disappear within, but like my previous environments, they do need plenty of open bottom swimming area as well.  In essence, the plants provide the same type of protection that a properly rocked aquarium will for them.  Either way, when planting or rocking the aquarium, concentrate near the back and ensure there is a plenty of swimming space is probably the best way to set the aquarium.  Other fish can be included in the habitat, but keep them to lazy swimming fish in the upper regions so there is little interaction between the rams and the other species.

The Gold Ram was the first Cichlid I tried my hand at keeping and breeding.  When I first saw them introduced a few decades ago to my area, I knew I wanted to see what they were about.  Once I looked into them, the general Cichlid species characteristics intrigued me, having had my fill of fish that evidence no parental behaviour, either giving birth and abandoning them as they drop or simply scattering eggs and ignoring them afterwards.  it was a refreshing change of pace to finally encounter fish that actually cared for their eggs until they hatch, protecting the clutch and the area from unwanted intruders. This is the time when rams become their most aggressive.

Sure there are a lot of other Dwarf Cichlids, and many of them are just as stunning, but I have yet to see any fish with the depth and brilliance of colour as a well-conditioned Blue Ram in full breeding colours showing off for a receptive female.  These dwarfs do not have as pronounced roles for the parental care as many of their larger cousins display. The roles blur and both do what is required without as clear-cut responsibilities.  They can be a problem to keep happy, but when they do breed and the eggs have been laid, it is best to remove other occupants and let the eggs hatch.  Once the babies are fully free swimming, they can be removed to a grow out tank.