October, 2011: Say, What is in that Food?
As Americans, we eat pretty well. Hopefully we choose wisely in the foods we eat. We feed our children healthy foods; rich in vitamins and low in chemicals. Why? Because we want our children to have strong immune systems, physically fit bodies, and healthy hearts, right?
So why would we do less for our tropical fish? Whether you are a breeder or just enjoy your fish, healthy fish live longer and keep their brilliant colors going strong. They are more active and sustain fewer diseases as well.
Flake, powder, granule, or crumble, look at the label on your fish food container. Chemicals, ground corn, and “by products” (be very afraid of the word ‘by-product’). Would you rather have a chemical called Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex added to your food, or dehydrated spinach, which is the natural, digestible choice, and a huge source of vitamin K?
How about Blue Number 2, Red Number 3, Yellow Number 5, Yellow Number 6, ethoxyquinn, chlolecalciferol, a-tocopherol-acetate, cobalt nitrate hexahydrate, and a list as long as your arm justifying the fact your fish food is mostly food coloring, chemicals and preservatives?
Next question to ponder: Say your fish food is produced locally and processed fresh, made in small batches, and shipped right? Your fish received fresh ingredients, and those ingredients are at their most potent, correct? How old do you think your chemically enhanced food is when it is made in a foreign country, and sits in a warehouse months before it is even distributed to wholesalers? The preservatives are enough to keep it from rotting for the next 50 years, but how much of the nutrient content is left by the time you buy it?
It pains me when I read on a forum “Don’t feed your fish mammal meat,” or “Stay away from ash” like ash comes from your fireplace or barbeque grill. ASH IS THE TOTAL MINERAL CONTENT OF YOUR FISH FOOD, not the stuff that falls off the end of my cigar.
When the the content of some of the minerals in your fish food are listed separately, (such as calcium or phosphorous), the ash content, (or trace minerals) will be lumped together under the word “ash” and thereby making the total ash content appear lower in a particular food. When all minerals are lumped under the heading, “ash,” the ash content will appear larger.
Still confused? Give me a call and you’ll learn all you never wanted to know about ash content in fish food!
Regarding mammal meat: If a cow or a gnu never got stuck in the mud of a river, or natives living on the Amazon never put on a performance for President Theodore Rooseveldt, how do we know it takes a school of starving piranha only a couple minutes to devour said cow or gnu?
Meat is meat. We are talking protein. As long as it is served in a digestible form, the body will utilize what it needs, and get rid of the excess. Granted, some cuts of meat contain larger quantities of of some minerals than others, but don’t disregard something that contains chicken liver or beef heart out-of-hand just because it isn’t fish meal. In the wild, fish eat any number of things which are not listed on a can of fish food.
In the coming weeks, We will look at fish nutrition, and some of the trends that are being introduced into our hobby. Until next time, drop me a line and tell me your own fish tale!
December, 2009: The Future of Fishkeeping
Where is our Hobby Going?
As 2009 draws to a close, I contemplate the future of many things. I’m not much into resolutions, because my New Year’s resolutions usually consist of thinking about eating a few less doughnuts or walking a few more minutes.
By February I know that it ain’t happenin’, so this year I have decided to take 2010 by the horns and work on a project worth while. I’m talking about preserving our fishkeeping hobby. The secret lies with our kids. It is absolutely imperative to the future of the hobby that we turn off the Nintendo and turn kids onto fishkeeping.
Recently, I have had the pleasure of meeting three of these future fishkeepers of America. These young people have a passion for the hobby that many hobbyists have somehow lost over the years. Minds like sponges, they learn from us-absorbing and puttng into practice information that we, as adult fishkeepers give them.
The Greater Chicagoland Cichlid Association puts on a fantastic fish swap every other month over the fall, winter, and spring months. I love these swaps; partly because it gives me the opportunity to speak to many young people, answer their questions, and get them headed in the right direction.
I also commend the parents of these kids, as they give up their Sunday football games and whatevers to be dragged from table to table for close examination of every fish bag in the place. Good for you, parents! Your dedication to your children will pay off ten-fold.
I had a few minutes to watch the reaction of some of the other hobbyists as young people approached their tables, and noted how they interacted with these inquisitive minds. Some hobbyists acknowledge them, some completely ignored them, and some took the time to answer their questions.
LISTEN UP EVERYONE-the almighty dollar might be an important aspect of these swaps-I have a mortgage too, but who are you going to sell to if you don’t take the time to invite young people into the hobby? Talk to them. Impart some of the vast amounts of knowledge you have accumulated over years in the fishkeeping hobby. Get involved in a school program! You might be surprised at how rewarding it can be.
And to Melanie, Spencer, Jake, and all the others I have had the pleasure of swapping fish tales and emails with-I am your biggest fan guys, and I hope your interest in the fishkeeping hobby grows as you do, because you ARE our future.
October, 2009: Overwintering Pond Plants & Fish
Winterizing Pond Plants
Up here in the Great White North, unless your pond is over three feet deep, much of what is in there will die before Spring unless you take the time and make the effort to winterize your pond plants and fish.
Small bodies of water freeze quickly, so start now to prepare your pond life for the deep freeze. Take out your submerged plants, hardy lilies and lotus plants and prune them-removing dead matter and cutting them back to a couple of inches above the soil line. If your pond is large enough, sink them in the deepest part. As long as your pond does not freeze solid in the winter, your hardy plants will make it.
If this is not an option, bring them indoors. Winter them over indoors by submerging them in an aquarium with a foam filter or an airstone, in a kiddie swimming pool, or in a large, plastic container.
Marginal and bog plants can be treated as houseplants-keep them in a pot that holds water and either place them in a bright window or keep them under a plant light.
Stored in the dormant stage, prune as you would the hardy plants, and store them in a cool, dark area of the basement. Cover them with a damp piece of burlap or cheesecloth, check on them periodically to make sure they are not sprouting, and make sure their covering is still damp.
Tropcal water lilies and other floating tropicals will either have to be discarded or floated in the kiddie swimming pool or plastic tub in the basement in 70 degree water under plant lights.
Winterizing Pond Fish
Tropical fish kept in a pond during the summer months must be pulled soon (early October in zones 5 and under) if you want them to survive. Keep tabs on the water temperature, but get your aquarium fish indoors in the very near future if you have not done it already.
If you don’t want to mess with your pond fish, check with your local fish retailer and pond outlet-some will “buy back” your pond fish for credit on next year’s pond stock.
If your pond is deep enough (36-48″ minimum), you can winter your gold fish and koi outdoors. Ideally, a 1250 watt de-icer/heater should be placed in the pond to maintain an opening for the transfer of dangerous gasses which accumulate in the deep part of the pond (where your fish wll hibernate). This size heater is large enough to keep a hole open in a large pond.
Aerators and water pumps may also work if you get the placement correct-too shallow and they will freeze in the ice, and too deep and they will circulate the cold water down to your fish and plants.
Stop feeding your fish when the temp drops below 55 degrees F. If you are wintering your fish indoors, bring them in before the temperatures reach 55. Using pond water in a kiddie pool will help minimize the transfer shock, and the water needs to be aerated and filtered. If you use a plastic container, make sure it is as large as you can make it.
In conclusion, research is your best tool when caring for your pond. Knowing the cold-hardiness of your plants and transferring your fish at the right time can save you hundreds of dollars in replacement costs, and will give you a jump on Spring when temperatures rise.
September, 2009: To Plant, Or Not To Plant?
Plants add aesthetic value to any fishtank. Though most hobbyists use bare bottom tanks for their breeding programs, landscaping display and community tanks with plants, rock and wood can create a stunning addition to your tank and a calming environment for your fish.
Giving your fish places to hide by adding plants, caves, and driftwood makes them feel safe and makes them less anxious. When your fish do not feel threatened, they tend to swim more freely about the tank. Plants are also useful for places for fry to hide in a community tank.
Before making the decision to use live versus artificial plants in a tank, one must consider a few factors:
A tank landscaped with live plants is a beautiful sight to behold. Plants aid in the breakdown of wastes in a tank, but as they die back and decay, can cause a chemical change in the water which is detrimental to your fish. Live plants can also carry unwanted stowaways such as snails and parasites.
Landscaping with an abundance of live plants can also create additional costs and maintenance for the hobbyist. Costly CO2 systems and special substrates, as well as fertilizers and special light requirements may not be within the family budget. Planted tanks are also harder to clean. The worst problem we have encountered however, has been planting a beautiful plant on Day One, and finding the skeletal remains of same plant on Day Two thanks to our herbivores having the munchies. Ouch!
Research is the best way to avoid the pitfalls of a planted tank. Finding out the light requirements, ideal temperatures and water chemistry of the plants you choose will save you a lot of money and frustration in the long run. Also beware of the type of fish in your tank and whether the plant you plant today will have any leaves left on it tomorrow!
For example, Madagascar Lace is an exceptionally beautiful and much desired plant in the aquarium hobby. But plant a healthy Madagascar Lace in your Discus tank and it will cost you dearly for the plants and cost you dearly when they die–and they will, as this plant needs a very cool environment in order to survive.
Though with artificial plants one does not not reap the same biological benefits as with live plants, using silk and plastic plants in the aquarium can be more cost efficient; and depending on the type, quality and placement, a lasting and beautiful addition to your tank.
An idea that has worked well in our display tanks has been to use both live and artificial plants along side each other. We stick to low-light plants, add driftwood, a cave or two for our plecos, and as you can see in the picture, our breeding pair of Leopard Superveils as well as the Cardinal Tetras are very comfortable in their mixed environment. The chew marks on the plants only add to the natural looking environment.
The decision to go live or artificial is a personal one. Ask questions and do your homework, and you will be rewarded with a tank that you and your fish will enjoy.
August, 2009: Corydoras
We love all of our fish, but our corys are our passion. At any given time, Bob has over thirty varieties of corydoras on hand. He has spawned thirteen varieties of corys, and is working to increase that number very soon.
We have a wide variety of corys on hand; from the tiny habrosus and pygmaeus to the giant robustus and the beautiful Brochis splenden. We also keep the more common aeneus and paleatus as well as the rare eques and teniente.
Corys are a lively and colorful addition to any community tank. Totally misunderstood in the old school pet store world, the cory catfish has always been displayed and sold as singular bottom feeders or detritus consumers.
Corys can exist alone, but they thrive in groups-the larger the better. They school, they play, and they dart to the surface for a bubble of air. Each species seem to have their own personality, and we keep several varieties in each of our community tanks.