Monday, December 31, 2012

One Sick Angel

I've had a pretty great run with my angelfish but over the past few weeks, I've been noticing a problem with one of them.

It's a female and she's been getting larger and larger. If angelfish were live bearers, I would swear she was pregnant. But since they lay eggs, I know her big round belly is a sign of something else - dropsy.

I had some snails in the tank until recently to help keep the algae down. Someone advised me to feed the snails turtle food to keep their shells in good, strong condition because turtle food contains calcium. Well, the snails never ate it. But I suspect this black angel did. Why? Because the same thing happened to a friend and her betta.

In the photograph here, you'll see her next to a male angel. The male is vertically compressed - as all angels should be - but the female (on the left) is obviously very well rounded.

The food may have obstructed her intestines. The remedy is feeding the fish green peas (out of the shell) and other foods that should dislodge the obstruction. But she won't eat.

If she was a human, we'd do surgery on her - just open her up, cut out the obstruction, keep her in the hospital for a couple of days and then onto a soft diet until the intestines healed. If she was a dog or a cat, chances are we'd do the same thing.

But what can you do with a fish? Know any good fish surgeons? I rest my case.

I had another angel that this happened with: a beautiful golden angelfish, the original Stevie Fishnick. Her mate wouldn't leave her side so I put both of them into a hospital tank and gave her medicine. Unfortunately, the medicine didn't help and within a few days, the angel passed away. Her mate was Fleetfish Mac (she had separated from Lindsay Buckingfish) and I put the big fella back into the tank and he eventually found solace in Christy McFish's fins.

Sadly, I don't think this angel will last much longer. She has taken to hiding from the other fish, which is a sure sign that she feels vulnerable. Tomorrow I'll discuss what to do when an angel is terminally ill.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Friends

One of my first rescue dogs was a Mastiff/Lab mix named Charmer.

Charmer grew to about 140 pounds, which is small for a mastiff. He was the gentlest dog I'd ever seen. He was also addicted to Frisbees.

When he was about six months old, he had the full run of the ground floor in my townhouse near Washington, DC. I arrived home one day to find that he had gotten lonely and decided to find out where I'd gone.

So he chewed a hole in the stairwell's drywall to get onto the second floor. The hole was large enough for a full-grown man to climb through.

He went through obedience school twice because the first time, he didn't get it. When it was obvious he had separation anxiety, I rescued another dog, a blue merle Australian Shepherd I named Buddy. Buddy and Charmer were constant companions. And Charmer never did try to chew his way through the house again.

Charmer passed away from old age. On a Tuesday, he was running around the yard catching the Frisbee and having the time of his life. On Thursday, his heart began to fail and the next day, he was gone.

He lived a great life. And I was very lucky to be part of it.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

When Tragedy Strikes

No matter how I try to keep conditions ideal, losing a fish is going to happen at some time or another.

When I notice a fish acting strangely, the first thing I do is observe the others in the tank. Are they all acting strangely? Or just that one?

If they are all acting as though they are in distress, there could be something wrong with their environment. The heater might have malfunctioned and is either getting the water too hot or allowing it to grow cold. If painting occurred nearby or a carpet was cleaned or cleaning vapors got into the air, their water may have become contaminated.

In that case, the best thing to do is fix the problem (for example, if the heater is malfunctioning) and change some of the water (if it has become contaminated.)

More likely, one particular fish might be in distress. I have small hospital tanks in which I can isolate fish who are ill. There is a practical reason for this. First, it prevents others from getting ill. Second, it allows me to medicate the fish in a smaller environment. Because my angels live in tanks that are 60-70 gallons, that requires a lot of medicating. And if the other fish are not ill, I am forcing medicines into their bodies when they may not need it. Placing a sick fish into a smaller 10-gallon tank allows me to concentrate solely on getting that fish well.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Why Angelfish?

I know many people who enjoy fishkeeping. Some have tanks filled with guppies or neon tetras. Others with shrimp or snails. Some have community tanks in which one or two from dozens of species are kept together.

So why do I keep angelfish?

I have to admit that a big reason I keep angelfish is because each one is unique. I also have a neon tetra tank and except on rare occasions, I can't differentiate between one neon and another. (Though I hope they can.) However, every angelfish has unique markings. Even those of a single color - such as a golden or platinum - have unique characteristics such as the height of their fins.

Angelfish can be taught to eat out of your hand. I love the size - several of mine are ten inches tall. (Shown in the picture here: Mick Fleetfish, the platinum angel; Christy McFish, a smoky leopard; and John McFish, a black marble.) Yes. I name my angels and my bettas because I can tell them apart.

I also enjoy watching them take care of their young. They are excellent parents.

However, angelfish can be aggressive toward other angelfish - especially when they are breeding or caring for their fry. They can be territorial and need more space than many other fish. Consider the neons or guppies, in which one fish per gallon is not overcrowding. But angelfish need a minimum of five gallons per fish and ten gallons is even better. During breeding, no matter how large your tank might be, it might not seem like enough.

Angelfish select their mate early and don't generally stray. They can live to be ten years old; far older than a lot of tropical fish.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Receiving New Fish

There are two main ways in which fish are purchased: through a pet shop or retailer or through direct mail.

If you are receiving fish through direct mail, they should be packaged in thick plastic bags, preferably with a water conditioner and heater or coolant in the box to keep their temperature stable. The plastic bags should then be placed into a Styrofoam box or some breeders use a material similar to drywall. Either method ensures additional safety and temperature control. The box is then placed into a heavy mailing box. It should clearly state that live fish are inside.

When receiving fish through the mail, it's important to turn off all lights and keep the fish from bright sunlight because they are coming from complete blackness. I set the bags into the tank and drape a towel over it to keep the daylight away from them. I keep the bags in the water for at least thirty minutes so the temperature begins to stabilize to the tank's water.

I then open the bags and wrap the plastic back in a roll so the bag floats on the top of the tank water (see picture above.) I do a water test to determine the Ph balance. Testing for nitrates, nitrites and ammonia isn't necessary because they will soon lose that water.

I use a turkey baster to suck up water from my tank and inject it into their open bag. I continue this process every fifteen minutes over a period of one-to-two hours until the Ph balance is identical to the water in which they'll be placed. This also helps with changes in water hardness, as many areas have softer or harder water than where the fish will soon end up.

Once they've become acclimated, I use a net to transfer them into the tank. I don't pour them in for one simple reason: I don't know if the tanks in which they originated had snails, and I don't want a snail problem.

I then remove the material that kept them in the dark but I don't turn the light on the tank for several more hours.

If I am purchasing fish from a local pet shop, I don't need to worry as much about water hardness. But I still use this system for angelfish, as they are more sensitive to water changes than many fish, such as tetras and bettas.

The picture in this blog today shows 11 baby angels shortly after I purchased them from a breeder roughly 600 miles away. They mailed the fish via overnight delivery. All the fish were received in healthy condition and they are now nearly a year old. Only one has had health issues unrelated to the shipping or environment.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Friends

If you've been following my blog, you may know that while I am working with the angelfish, I am surrounded by four rescue dogs.

I also had the good fortune to help start a program called New Leash on Life in Robeson County, North Carolina.

Volunteers go to the animal shelters and select dogs which are scheduled for euthanasia. Dogs that are more difficult to place are generally those that are large. Black dogs are more difficult to place in good homes than light-colored dogs. When a large dog is unruly and hard to manage, it's almost certain that he or she will be difficult to adopt out, and will often spend their life in a revolving door of homes.

In an attempt to make the dog more adoptable and give him or her the best chance at a good life, the New Leash on Life program pairs one dog with two prison trainers. The prisoners must apply for the job, get interviewed, and adhere to certain guidelines in order to keep their job.

They must take complete care of the dog, ensuring their safety, cleanliness, adequate food and water, freedom from ticks and fleas, adequate exercise, and plenty of love. They also learn how to obedience train the dog WITHOUT PUNISHMENT, teaching them how to sit, stay, come, heel, and lie down. The dogs love the training and attention so much, the prisoners usually teach them tricks as well, such as agility training.

After the dogs have been trained (usually in eight weeks) they are adopted by loving homes. The program has had a 100% effectiveness in placing the dogs. Only one has been returned due to an owner's terminal illness, and that dog was immediately adopted by another loving family.

Below is a video showing one of the prisoners demonstrating his dog's ability to obey commands using only the praise method and no punishment. Chevy, the dog in the video, is part Newfoundland and part Lab. His biggest problem was hyperactivity. You can see in the video below how calm he is; the trainer demonstrates sit and stay, heel, and lie down and stay.

More videos of Chevy are shown on YouTube. My channel is You'll find many other dogs in training there as well, as I had the privilege of working with several groups of dogs before passing the torch to another trainer.

Chevy was adopted by a wonderful family in Pennsylvania, who still phone me once a week to tell me how much they love him!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Moving the Angels

This week or next the first four angelfish will be moved to the local pet shop. In speaking to the owner about the process, I learned of another angelfish breeder who seemed to be doing everything wrong.

The water in which the parents are kept must be ideal because angelfish won't breed unless conditions are right. The breeder described his tank water as "green" which could mean he has algae growth. Although algae is not pretty to look at, it is not harmful to the fish and some actually prefer it.

But when the angel babies are prepared to be sold, the breeder fills the plastic bags with water "straight from the tap." When I heard this, I was absolutely horrified. First, the water he was using had chlorine in it - which burns a fish's gills. Second, the temperature would be different; fish are cold-blooded, which means their bodies become the same temperature as the water in which they live. Changing their temperature rapidly means the fish are instantly shocked.

He then transports them or mails them to the pet shops or buyers. It's no wonder his fish have a 100% mortality rate.

The proper way to move fish is to transport them in their own water. If a breeder is embarrassed over his or her water conditions, that is a serious red flag.

Second, something is added to the package (if mailed) to ensure a constant temperature. If they are shipped in the winter months, a heater is added to the box that keeps them from becoming too cold. In the summer months, a small packet of ice might be added inside the box (but not inside the bag) to keep the fish from steaming. In the hottest of days or the coldest of days, many reputable breeders will not ship them.

Fish are shipped by all postal carriers - USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc. They should be shipped overnight to avoid further shocking them in transit.

Tomorrow: what to do when you get your new fish.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Angels in a Community

In one of my larger tanks, I have seven angelfish who have reached puberty. They have paired off into three groups. It has been interesting to watch the two koi angels pair off, the two blue angels pair off, and the two Siamese/ light blue striped pair off.

The remainder is a koi angel who seems to move effortlessly between the groups. However, soon I may place Alfred (now known as Alfreda) into another tank to try and find a mate there.

The two koi angels who have paired off have decided to start a family. I know this because they are terrorizing everyone else in the tank. They want to have the entire 60 gallons to themselves without the fear of predators looking at their fry as a sushi bar.

I have had angels lay eggs in a tank filled with other fish but they usually do not survive, unless they have plenty of plants in which to hide. Because angels are very compressed (looking at them head-on, they don't measure half an inch even fully grown) they can get into some very tiny places - which means baby fish don't stand much of a chance.

Another option is to place these two koi angels into a tank by themselves, as I've done with Lindsay and Stevie. Koi angels are difficult to find and they are very beautiful, so I imagine their babies would be in demand.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Several Batches at Once!

Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick have discovered their passion in life is... passion!

Right now they have babies from three different clutches.

One set of larger fry are about three weeks old.

Another set is one week old.

And immediately after they began swimming, Lindsay and Stevie cleaned up the nursery and laid more eggs! They are still in the wiggler stage, hanging onto the leaf by their little heads until they are large enough to pop off.

I had wondered as they laid additional eggs if they would still be good parents to their older babies. And the answer, I am happy to say, is Yes!

At the present time, they have about two dozen fish swimming about and about three dozen wigglers.

Once the original four go to the pet shop, I will transfer the oldest babies to the new tank so they can grow and flourish.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ready to Sell

So the first four angels of Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick are old enough and large enough to sell.

It has been exciting to watch them grow from eggs laid on an amazon plant... to wigglers trying to grow strong enough to pop off... to swimmers sticking by their parents for safety... And now to bodies larger than a dime.

Lindsay is a black marble and Stevie is a platinum angel, so I was anxious to see the various colors of their babies. These four are primarily white, although three our of four have golden highlights coming in on their crowns. Though their bodies are larger than a dime, their vertical fins are quite large - nearly two inches from top to bottom. This means they will most likely be 8 inches tall or larger when they are grown.

Below is a recent video. Within the next couple of weeks, they will go to a local pet shop for a lucky fish lover to own.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday Friends

While I am busy writing the Black Swamp Mysteries series (the fourth book in the series is due to be released next spring) and caring for my own angelfish - adults, babies and eggs - I have four dogs surrounding me. I am definitely never alone in this house!

I have Mattie, a Treeing Walker Coonhound rescued by the Richmond, VA SPCA. (Her brother Skipper is in the background; unfortunately, he passed away about two years ago.) She is the matriarch, who I refer to as Mama Mattie to the rest of the pack:

I have Simone, the tri-colored collie, who nearly died before she was rescued by the Robeson County Humane Society and I fostered and then adopted her:

One year after adopting Simone, we learned of Eddie, the Jack Russell who had been rescued by the Robeson County Humane Society after he was shot in the leg:

And our newest addition is Lucy Lou (referred to as Lucy LOO when she first arrived and wasn't housebroken). She is part Jack Russell and possibly part Corgi or Basset, because she is very long. Below are what I call "The Three Faces of Lucy":

How can I have so many of them? I have a wonderful fenced yard, three sets of doggie doors, and fortunately for me, they are all well behaved, loving and adorable!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

When the CIA and Angels Collide...

Vicki Boyd thinks she's left the CIA behind forever when she moves to a sleepy little town to care for angelfish. But when the CIA recruits her for one more mission, she finds her future and her past and about to collide.

Below is an excerpt of Vicki working in the fish building when she is accosted by someone working on "the other side" of her CIA mission:

In a flash, he was upon her, his muscled arms grabbing her and slamming her backward. The fish tank teetered, the water sloshing over the side, as the angelfish parents scattered in fright. The slate with hundreds of baby wigglers crashed to the floor of the tank as she tried to draw the man away from it. A step away, his arms reached out to either side of her like a set of bars imprisoning her, slamming her against the far wall.
His face was contorted, his lip curling downward.
“Take your hands off me,” Vicki said.
“What do you think you’re going to do if I don’t?” he snarled. “You’re no match for me.”
“I have no quarrel with you,” she said.
“Oh, yes, you do.”
“Then take your hands off me and we’ll talk about it. I’m sure we can work something out—”
“Oh, we can work something out, alright. You say what I tell you to say. And if you don’t, you’ll be MIA.” His lower lip was contorted. His breath smelled like stale onions and she turned her head.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Stay out of the tunnel.”
“What tunnel?”
He pushed against her with his entire body, pinning her flat against the wall. “Stay out of the tunnel.” He venomously enunciated each word, spraying spittle on her as he spoke. He pushed against her again, and she realized he was silently threatening her with rape—or worse—if she didn’t comply.
She felt a chill creeping across her skin, leaving it tingling as though the circulation had been cut. His whole body felt like iron and he clearly intended on keeping her pinned to the wall until she complied with his demands. As he continued to exert pressure against her, her lungs began to feel weighted and she struggled to catch her breath. Even if she’d intended on agreeing to his demands, she was unable to speak.
He shoved against her once more, pushing the remaining air out of her lungs. She was suffocating, she thought with rising panic.
Then two tanned hands landed on both his shoulders, pulling him off her so abruptly that she nearly fell to her knees. As she gasped for air, she caught sight of him being pulled backward through the fish house, through the doorway and into the yard.
Her knees shaking, she rushed after Dylan as he slammed the man against the trunk of an ancient oak tree.
“This isn’t your fight,” the assailant said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
    Dylan slammed his fist into his abdomen, causing him to drop to his knees and double over with pain. “I’m makin’ it my fight.”

Dylan Maguire may have come to her rescue but Vicki soon learns that all is not what it seems to be at Laurel Maguire's rambling old home...

Vicki's Key is available from all fine book stores. It is also available online at amazon, at Barnes and Noble, and other retailers. You can order a copy now from and avoid all shipping and handling charges.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The CIA Come Calling...

Vicki Boyd left her job as a CIA psychic spy (based on the United States' real psychic spy program) for a summer helping an elderly woman care for and breed freshwater angelfish. Below is an excerpt from Vicki's Key, in which Vicki leaves the fish tanks to find her old CIA boss standing on the front porch.

Vicki finished logging in the statistics for the last tank in the room. It was amazing, all that was involved, she thought. But she also felt weightless while she was working, as if nothing mattered except the present.
She stopped in front of a tank where the slate propped up against the glass drew her attention. There were more than two hundred blobs adhered to it, each the size of a fat pinhead. And they were all moving.
Dylan had called them “wigglers”: baby angels, their heads literally glued to the slate through an act of nature, their bodies wiggling as if their lives depended on popping free. The parents were busily inspecting each one with a dedicated diligence as if each little wiggler was the only one they had to care for.
Vicki glanced at the clock against the far wall. It was nearing lunch time, and she was dying of thirst. She made her way back through the room, glancing in each tank as she neared the door.
Stepping outside, she could almost feel the humidity rippling as she moved through the back yard toward the house, and by the time she reached the kitchen door, her shirt was patched with sweat. She opened the screen door and tried the knob, but it was locked. Puzzled, she made her way around the side of the house.
Benita was strolling along the sidewalk toward downtown, out of earshot.
She continued around the side of the house. She emerged from behind the overgrown thickets and stopped cold.
On the front porch were two people. A man rang the doorbell and was waiting patiently for someone to answer, while a woman was peering casually into the front window. The curtains were drawn shut, as they always were, and she pulled back after a split second and glanced around the front porch as they waited.
She knew the man. Knew him too well, she thought. And he should have been anywhere else but here.

Of course, Vicki finds she can't refuse the CIA when they need her for "one last mission" and she finds herself straddling two different worlds: one of tranquility with angelfish and the charming Irishman Dylan Maguire, and a dangerous world of spies and counterspies halfway around the world in the remote border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Vicki's Key is available at all fine book stores. It is also available online at amazon, at Barnes & Noble's online store, and through other retailers. You can get a copy now from and get free shipping just in time for the holidays!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Learning About Angelfish

In Vicki's Key, Vicki Boyd must learn how to care for angelfish, something she has never accomplished before. Fortunately for her (and the reader!) she has handsome and charming Irishman Dylan Maguire to help her navigate the world of breeding freshwater angels.

Below is an excerpt from the book as Dylan shows her the fish house, a building in the back yard of Aunt Laurel's rambling old home:

Vicki didn’t know what she had expected, but she wasn’t prepared for what she saw.
The building was about the size of a small carriage house and located in the back yard, sheltered from the street by a hedge of giant wax myrtle. There were no windows, but the walls were painted a pale blue that brightened the interior. There were two rows of 20-gallon tanks on either side of the room, one above the other, stretching for nearly twenty feet. Each tank was sparse, containing only a piece of slate, some sprigs of floating plants, and two mature angelfish in each tank.
“Oh!” Vicki exclaimed, stopping in front of one of the tanks. “There are babies in this one!”
Dylan chuckled. “They’re called ‘fry’, and yes, that’s quite the idea. We should have fry in each of the tanks. It’s how we earn our money.”
“So this is it.”
He reached back and closed the door behind them. “Temperature control is very important.” He checked the thermometer hanging on the wall. “It should always be precisely eighty degrees. The tanks don’t have heat, you see—or fans—so we keep the air conditioner goin’ in the summer, but only to eighty degrees. No cooler. And it may feel like a bit of a steam room in here in the wintertime.”
They spent the next hour in the fish house, as Vicki’s head was filled with a myriad of facts ranging from water treatments to the various types of freshwater angelfish, to how they laid their eggs and how the parents cared diligently for their fry, to how they were raised to an age where they could be sold. She doubted she could ever remember all of it. But as she watched Dylan move easily through the room checking each tank, she had a feeling help was only a few steps away.

Vicki quickly falls in love with the dashing Dylan Maguire. But all is not what it seems to be at Aunt Laurel's home, and when the CIA arrive to recruit her for one last mission, she finds herself struggling between her past and her future.

Vicki's Key is available at all fine book stores. It is also available online at amazon, at Barnes & Noble's online store, and through other retailers. You can order it now from and get free shipping to anywhere in the world, just in time for the holidays!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Why Vicki's Angelfish?

I was asked recently why the name of my blog is Vicki's Angelfish and not named after me. It is named after a character in my Black Swamp Mysteries series, Vicki Boyd. In Vicki's Key, she leaves her job as a psychic spy with the CIA after a mission goes horribly wrong. Not knowing what she wants to do with the rest of her life, she decides to take a summer job helping an elderly lady in a small, sleepy town where nothing ever happens.

Below is an excerpt that placed her on the path to breeding angelfish:

Vicki could still recall the day she had stumbled upon this new path to her future. Her next-door neighbor had been struggling out of her apartment in Arlington, Virginia with two oversized suitcases. She always seemed to be travelling somewhere, disappearing for months at a time. But in Vicki’s line of work, she knew better than to chat with someone about their whereabouts; it opened the door to them asking about hers. And her career with the CIA was never to be acknowledged.
But on this day, with her resignation submitted and only out-processing left, Vicki had felt brazen.
“Vacation?” she’d asked as she helped her neighbor deposit the suitcases on the sidewalk in front of the building.
“Work.” She pulled out some paperwork. “I’m on my way to Italy.”
“Oh?” Vicki smiled and waited for her to continue.
“It’s a learning experience,” she’d babbled eagerly. “You sign up for a few weeks or months, whatever you want. And you get free room and board in return for work. They teach you all sorts of stuff—how to raise cattle, how to farm, beekeeping…”
And there it had begun. With the simple act of chatting to a neighbor for five brief minutes. Vicki had returned to her apartment with a website address and had spent half the night researching opportunities.
She hadn’t known what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. And still didn’t know. But it was obvious she needed to leave the CIA behind her. And that meant leaving the Washington, D.C. area. Starting fresh someplace else, someplace she knew nothing about.
The prospect had been daunting. Moving to a new town. Finding a place to live. Finding work.
This appeared to take care of all three.
Hosts advertised opportunities on several websites, ranging from office work to farm work and everything in between. It was almost like an apprenticeship, though there was no obligation on either party once the agreed-upon time had expired. They received free labor. She received a new start. And though she held no illusions of entering a new career, it bought her the time needed to rid her psyche of the CIA and its influence while she decided exactly what she did want to do with the rest of her life.
She’d contacted several hosts and in the end, decided upon the opportunity in Lumberton.
The home was owned by an elderly, widowed woman named Laurel Maguire. Nice Irish name, Vicki thought now as she thumbed through the papers.
Laurel Maguire, it turned out, was a successful tropical fish breeder. Her specialty was freshwater angelfish, a beautiful and exotic species. And, Vicki had reasoned, it required no time in the hot sun tilling the soil for organic gardens. No slobbering, ornery cattle. No helpless sheep. Or cantankerous ostrich. No farms miles from nowhere. No rising at dawn to collect eggs or closing barn doors after dusk.
And it wasn’t located in a foreign country where she’d have to get dozens of shots and worry about the latest uprising. It was here, driving distance from her old home and yet a lifetime away.
She took a deep breath and finished off her tea. So this was it. The door to her future lay here, in a cozy little town along the interstate. With a kindly old woman who needed assistance with her fish tanks. Nothing could be simpler or more stress-free.

Of course, the town wasn't as sleepy as she'd imagined and the job wasn't quite what she expected. When she arrives, she finds that Laurel has suffered a stroke and is confined to the third floor of the rambling home. Her nephew, Dylan Maguire, has arrived from Ireland to care for her.

Tune in tomorrow for what happens next!

Vicki's Key is available at all fine book stores. It is also available through amazon, Barnes & Noble online, and other retailers. We're now offering free shipping at for the holidays!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday Friends

While I am working with the angelfish and writing my suspense/thrillers, I am surrounded by four rescue dogs.

The oldest is Mattie. She is a foxhound and specifically a Treeing Walker Coonhound. She and her brother Skipper were adopted through the Richmond, Virginia SPCA. They were seized from a hunting lodge in South Carolina that contains hundreds of malnourished and neglected dogs ranging from a few weeks old to three years old.

Treeing Walker Coonhounds, when kept as hunting dogs, only average a lifespan of two to three years. It's believed this is due to poor nutrition (some hunting lodges feed them only whole chickens, bones and all), no medical attention, being kept on the edge of starving, and forced to run miles during a hunt. It's a horrible life filled with cruelty.

If they are kept in a home, however, even they occasionally hunt with their master, and provided good nutrition, proper medical care and plenty of love and attention, their average lifespan is eight years. This is still very short compared to other breeds. It's believed this could be due to genetics.

Mattie is now 10 years old, ancient for her breed. She has arthritis and a heart murmur. She has good days and bad days. And we all love her!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Trying to Survive

Now the babies are swimming freely. They will remain around plants or close to their parents. If any other fish are in the tank with them, they could be eaten. They are still helpless.

They will continue to grow in their torpedo shapes for about two weeks. At that time, they will begin to take on the shape of an angelfish. Only after the third week do they begin to take on the colors they will have as adults. Their colors will continue to deepen and become more brilliant as they age.

Here is a video of babies swimming around their parents, Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick. There are no other fish in this tank so they are free from predators. However, if one of the parents believe one is weak or deformed or sense something wrong with it, they will eat it. It will give the others a better chance of survival as the weak one is no longer trying to get to the same food.

At this stage, they are fed live brine shrimp three times a day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


The wigglers continue to grow until they look like little white torpedoes. When they are strong enough - after a couple of days of wiggling - they will pop off.

First the parents will gather them back up in their mouths and spit them back out onto the vertical surface.

But eventually, they will no longer adhere and will begin to swim freely.

Here is a video of Papa Lindsay Buckingfish gathering up popped-off wigglers and attempting to put them back where he thinks they will be safe.

When they no longer adhere, they should begin eating live brine shrimp - just about the only thing that will fit into their miniscule mouths!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Little Wigglers!

Within two days, the eggs will begin to hatch. The babies are not much larger than a pinhead and can't survive - or even swim - at this stage.

So when they hatch, the parents pick them up in their mouths and spit them onto another vertical surface, one they have been cleaning while waiting for their eggs to hatch.

The angels adhere to this vertical surface by their heads. They wiggle and wiggle while they grow for another day or two.

At this stage, they are called "wigglers" and the parents become even more protective of them because they are completely helpless.

You might be tempted to think these are eggs that have grown. But if you look closely you'd be able to see them wiggling.

The video below illustrates this.

Monday, December 3, 2012

How an Angel Begins

This week, I'll give you a quick series about how angelfish are born and how they develop. It's pretty fascinating!

Freshwater angelfish are egg-bearing. They lay their eggs on a vertical surface, such as an amazon leaf (which is why I have amazon plants in each of my tanks) or a piece of slate laid against the glass, or even on the glass itself.

I've had several couples lay eggs on the filter intake. It seems to be a popular place!

They can lay eggs every two weeks or so. They lay anywhere from 300 to 500 at a time. I've come to learn that the reason so many are laid in such rapid intervals is very few survive.

The female lays the eggs and then the male follows behind and fertilizes them.

Tomorrow: what happens when they hatch.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Friends - Treats

Several years ago when chicken tenders were made for dogs in the USA, a veterinarian suggested that I give those as treats to my dogs instead of treats made primarily of corn starch and preservatives. Chicken is 100% protein, better for the dogs and a healthier treat overall.

But when the chicken tenders began to be made in China, information surfaced that sometimes diseased chickens were being used and dogs in the USA were becoming ill - several even dying.

I didn't want to go back to giving them corn starch treats. Besides, they loved the chicken.

So I bought this dehydrator. It is fun and easy to use and the dogs LOVE the treats!

I used to pay $15.99 for a one-pound bag of chicken tenders. Now I pay $1.77 a pound. I buy boneless chicken breasts and I slice them about 1/6 inch thick. I simply lay the uncooked chicken on the trays - each tray holds roughly 1/2 pound, and there are 4 trays so I can make 2 pounds each time. I plug in the dehydrator, turn it on, and in about 7 hours I have completely natural chicken treats from chickens that were grown in the USA and are certified USDA for human consumption.

They sell jerky seasoning but my dogs don't care if I use it or not. They love the chicken just the way God made it and the dehydrator cooked it.

The gun came with it but I haven't used it yet. If I do, I will probably use ground turkey, which is very inexpensive.

My veterinarian told me another healthy treat for dogs is green beans so I am searching for a recipe I can use to make doggie treats in the dehydrator using green beans.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Growing Angel Babies

Four of the angel babies are now one month old.

They began as eggs and when they hatched, they hung onto a leaf by their heads (where their parents spit them) until they grew large enough and strong enough to pop off and swim. When they began swimming, they were barely larger than a pinhead and they were shaped like torpedoes and transluscent.

As they grew, they formed the fins that angels are known for.

When angels are crowded, their vertical fins are stunted and they end up squat and football shaped. When they have plenty of space to grow, they form beautiful, high fins.

Now that they are one month old, I am weaning them from the live brine shrimp they've been feasting on and have begun feeding them finely ground fish food flakes. They are now beginning to get their colors. The colors will continue to form until they are several months old; as they grow older, the colors will be deeper and more vibrant.

Here is a fun video of the four baby shrimp in their own 20-gallon tank:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Friends

Today is Friday Friends Day and I'd like to introduce you to Eddie, our Jack Russell.

Eddie was picked up by the dog pound after he was found running loose in a bad section of town. He had no identification and no one called or came by the pound to claim him. After three days of waiting, he was scheduled to be euthanised because he had a bad limp. That's when the Robeson County Humane Society stepped in.

One of the volunteers goes to the area pounds each week looking for dogs and cats she can rescue. She thought Eddie could have had a broken leg and she rescued him and took him to RCHS's no-kill shelter. But when he was examined, it turned out he had been shot in the leg. It had happened some time previously (he was only about a year old, so no more than a few months had gone by) and the outside wound had healed - but his leg was atrophied and the shrapnel was still inside.

My husband, who was volunteering at RCHS at the time, fell in love with the little fella. So we adopted him and brought him home.

Our collie Simone thought he was one of her puppies and immediately took him under her paw.

We took Eddie to a specialist in Cary, NC, who reconstructed his leg and put a metal plate inside so the bone could fuse to it. After his surgery, he ran around and jumped through the doggie doors with his little blue leg splint on. It didn't slow him down.

Here is Eddie playing with our other Jack Russell, Lucy. When Mattie, the foxhound matriarch, steps in to say "cool it, kids" Eddie stops - but Lucy doesn't. Watch her jump over Eddie's head over and over, trying to entice him to play with her. The barking at the end of the clip is Simone, the collie, who protects our house from neighborhood joggers. The others stop to watch the joggers go by.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Things Fish and Dogs are Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I am taking the day off so my dogs and angels have written what they are most thankful for today:

Mattie the foxhound is thankful for the cats who live behind us; they give her hours upon hours of exercise and excitement.

Simone the collie is thankful for a home where people don't yell and argue and other than the two Jack Russells, life is pretty laid back.

Eddie the Jack Russell is thankful for the doggie doors because he can run back and forth from the house to the back yard all day long. And all night long.

Lucy the Jack Russell is thankful for the boxes of toys throughout the house, which supply endless hours of joy as she rips each toy apart. She is also thankful for the steps next to Mommy's bed so she can hunker down after exhausting herself.

Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick (shown at right with Lucy) are thankful that I gave them their own honeymoon suite, which they are putting to good use.

The Buckingfish-Fishnick angel babies are thankful for their own infant ward, free from predators.

And all the other little angels are thankful that we eat turkey for Thanksgiving and not angelfish.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Meet Alfred

Alfred is a koi angelfish. When he arrived with ten other angels, he was the smallest one of all. His body was about the size of a dime, and the other fish pushed him to the back so they could eat first. As a result, little Alfred was becoming weaker.

So I began feeding him special brine shrimp at the back of the tank while the other angels ate in the front of the tank. Sometimes when regular fish food flakes are not enticing enough, brine shrimp will serve as a terrific appetizer.

Soon Alfred began to put on weight and grow.

That's when I discovered Alfred is a female.

How can you tell if an angelfish is male or female?

(1) Behavior. As angelfish mature, the males become aggressive. They are trying to profile for the ladies so they'll know they are big and strong and capable of protecting them - and their eggs. Females, on the other hand, just kind of hang around - unless they are protecting their eggs or babies.

(2) A hump. When male angelfish become mature and especially as they continue to age (they can live to be ten years old) they will often get a hump on the top of their heads.

(3) When breeding. The female lays the eggs and the male fertilizes them, so if you're lucky enough to watch two angels breeding, you can identify the male from the female. Their organs are so tiny that you almost need a zoom lens to actually see who's who - and only during egg laying and fertilizing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Siamese Angel

This is a rare blue Siamese angel.

I received this male a few months ago with several other blue angels and a group of koi angels.

As he had grown (he is now around 7 inches tall) the base of his fins are very vivid ice blue. They then turn to black as they stretch toward the ends.

He has selected this blue angel as his mate. They hang out together and have chosen one corner of the 60-gallon tank as their honeymoon suite. They have not laid eggs yet but may in the coming weeks.

What kind of habitat do angels have in the wild?

They generally live in brackish waters near the roots of trees. They eat smaller fish (such as neons and cardinal tetras) and plants. They also love bloodworms and any kind of fish eggs. Caviar!

But most angels sold in shops today are tank bred. The wild angel, also known as the altum angel, is very difficult to keep alive in fish tanks.

You can tell if a grown angel is from a tank or from a breeding pond by the way it acts around humans. I once bought four angels from breeding ponds and it took weeks before they were unafraid. They were used to swimming where there were no glass walls - and they were not accustomed to humans.

In contrast, the angel babies I am raising come to the glass when I approach because they know it's probably feeding time!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meet the Bettas

In addition to the angelfish tanks, I have two beautiful bettas. They each have their own two gallon tank on the counter between the kitchen and the breakfast room. It gives them plenty of opportunity to watch all that goes on.

One looks like a peacock. It is a double veiltail. It might be difficult to see the colors in this photograph but they rang from blue to green with white around the edges. He is about one year old.

The other is a golden double veiltail. He is about two years old. He lives with a snail, who helps to keep his tank clean. Sometimes bettas will tolerate or even enjoy a snail in their tank because it gives them someone to watch. Other times, they try to get aggressive. That's why the peacock betta does not have a snail living with him.

The tanks are side by side so the two bettas can flare up and profile to each other. But when they want privacy, they can go to the other side of their tank and hang out.

I've heard people say that they put bettas in community tanks. But you have to be careful when doing this, because their long, flowing fins slow them down considerably - making them easy prey for fish who like to nibble on those fins, like barbs and some tetras.

If they are placed in a tank with other fish with flowing fins who look similar to them (such as male guppies) they will often mistake them for another male betta and fight.

Bettas also need shallow water and they tend to live near the top of their tanks, because in addition to breathing through their gills they can breathe air from the surface. So the tall tanks I have for my large angelfish are inappropriate for the bettas.

They are carnivores, which means they only eat plants when they are starving to death. That means those vases with a plant stuck in them that are marketed to people wanting a single betta they never have to feed is simply cruel. It also gives people a very wrong impression about the care bettas need to thrive.

When male bettas are happy, they will build a bubble nest at the surface of their tanks. They are trying to entice a female betta to come on over and lay her eggs.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Friends

This blog is usually about my experience in raising angelfish but on Fridays I like to talk about the other creatures in my home - my dogs.

This is Simone. She is a tri-colored collie who was rescued by the Robeson County Humane Society (a no-kill shelter) and adopted by yours truly.

Simone was used in a back yard breeder's horrific breeding program. She was kept in a crate barely large enough for her to turn around in. She was not taken out of the crate - not even to use the bathroom. I was contacted by the Humane Society and asked to foster her because they did not believe she was going to survive without immediate intervention. I was stunned to find that she had no undercoat (a collie trademark) and although she was fully grown (two years old) she weighed only 42 pounds - half what she should have weighed.

She also had just given birth, which made her skeletal condition even more heartbreaking. We don't know what happened to her babies. Given her condition, they might not have survived. (At right is Simone when she was saved by the Robeson County Humane Society. What a difference in her appearance today! The day she was rescued, her head was the largest part of her body.)

I was soon to learn that Simone's physical condition paled in comparison to her emotional state. She was terrified of everything and had obviously been horribly abused.

After several months of nursing her back to health, I realized there was no way I could turn her over to be adopted. It had taken too much time for her to learn that we were never going to hurt her and she was safe with us. Fortunately, the Humane Society agreed wholeheartedly and we adopted Simone.

Everyone in the family adores her. She allows my granddaughter to brush her for hours on end (and loves it) and each of my other rescue dogs love her, too. The two Jack Russells act like she is their mama - and she treats them as if they are her bald children. She is the perfect lady and we're very fortunate to have her!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What Do Baby Fish Eat?

Baby fish eat brine shrimp. It's as simple as that.

Fortunately, baby shrimp are very easy to hatch.

I started out with this brine shrimp hatchery. You pour a packet into the black part and fill it up with water. Then you fill the little clear "glass" (really plastic) with water and invert it on top of the black piece. In less than 24 hours, the shrimp begin to hatch. As they do, they swim into the clear part to be closer to the light. At any point, you can remove the clear part and dump the brine shrimp and the water into the baby's tank. They eagerly swim after them.

The brine shrimp are about the size of the head of a pin.

Because I have so many babies right now, I bought a two-gallon tank and filled it with water. Now I add a spoonful of shrimp eggs and a larger spoonful of aquarium salt. Within 24 hours, I have literally thousands of baby brine shrimp. I dip a special cup (an old betta cup) into the tank and gather up several hundred and dump that into the tank with the baby angelfish.

The angelfish need to be fed about four times a day because their little tummies can't hold much at a time. If they are fed less often or not enough food, the weaker ones will starve.

I use San Francisco Bay Brand, which is known as a quality product.

Very soon I will begin feeding the two-week old angelfish some tiny flecks of dry fish food so by the time they are sold to the pet store, they will be well prepared for someone's aquarium.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Meeting Lindsay Buckingfish

This is Lindsay Buckingfish, the amorous papa of so many eggs. Just in the past six weeks, he's fertilized at least 1,000 of them!

Lindsay is ten inches tall from the top of his fin to the bottom. He is a black marble but he also has some orange on the top of his head, which is a very desirable feature in black marbles.

He is less than two years old.

Angelfish can live to be 10 years old if kept in the right water conditions. They mate for life. The easiest way to get at least one pair of angels is to buy several at a time and put them all in the same tank. You'll soon see them selecting their mates. When they do, they will almost never leave their mate's side.

Last year, I bought 11 angels - 5 koi angels and 6 blues. Out of that batch, I have 2 koi angels who have paired off, two blues that have paired off, and two blue marbles that are uneasily paired off - I don't know if they are male buds or a bickering married couple.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Babies are Beginning to Look Like Fish

It's been two weeks since these babies hatched. Unlike fish that give live birth, watching angels being born is a bit like watching tadpoles.

They begin as eggs on a leaf or vertical surface.

After they hatch, the parents move them to a clean location, where they dangle from their heads until they grow strong enough to pop off and swim.

When they first begin to swim, they don't look like angelfish at all but like little white torpedoes.

It's only after a couple of weeks that they begin to grow their trademark vertical fins.

The ideal angelfish is twice as tall as they are long. If they are squat, it means they have been overcrowded.

The angels in the picture above are smaller than the size of a dime from the top of their fins to the bottom. They will begin to get their colors now. When they are first born, they are very transparent - which is needed to keep them from being eaten by predators.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Third Batch of Baby Angels

There has been a third batch of baby angels from the same lusty pair of angels, Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick.

Here they are swimming on their first day of school (don't you just love puns?)

Since this video was taken, I removed Mama and Papa. They are now in a fresh 20 gallon tank with a new plant and the ability to make love again without so many youngun's in their way. I have moved the other baby angels from the batch that hatched a couple of weeks ago to the nursery. Everyone is getting along great.

Lindsay and Stevie are generally confused the first day or two when they are separated from their new offspring. But in the past I found that Lindsay came to look upon them as a food source after a few days.

I hope to have several very pretty angels to sell to the local pet shop, who has agreed to take them. I think it will be another month or perhaps two before they are large enough to be sold. They shouldn't be for sale if they are under the size of a nickle.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Friends

I started this blog about my angelfish but while I am working I usually have two or more dogs by my side.

I currently have four dogs: Mattie, a foxhound who was adopted through the Richmond, VA SPCA;
Simone, a tri-colored collie, who was adopted through the Robeson County Humane Society;
Eddie, a Jack Russell, who was adopted through the Robeson County Humane Society;
and Lucy, a Jack Russell and part corgi or bassett who was adopted through the Robeson County Humane Society.

When I adopted Mattie, I also adopted her twin brother Skipper. They had been seized in a raid of a hunting lodge in South Carolina that was neglecting and abusing the dogs. They were just five months old.

When Skipper was four years old, he suffered a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE), which means a piece of disk or a blood clot lodged in his neck. He was instantly paralyzed from the neck down. We took him to North Carolina State's Veterinary Hospital, which is renowed the world over for their work. They diagnosed him and stabilized him and after a few days, he was transferred by pet ambulance to ARWI, the Animal Rehabilitation and Wellness Institute in Cary, NC.

Under the supervision of top-notch vets and their staff, Skipper learned how to stand again by resting on a peanut (a ball with a scoop in the middle) while two vets gently moved him back and forth so he got used to his feet on the floor again.

He graduated from there to learning how to stand and walk on an aquatic treadmill. The vet techs would hold him up with a sling and the water kept him bouyant to take the pressure off his joints.

Special laser therapy broke up the embolism. And while he was at ARWI, he was not in a crate. He shared a large room with a Newfoundland. They had a television between them that played animal shows all day and the staff was fabulous at loving him as well as taking care of him.

After several months, he came home again. At first, he needed a sling to stabilize him as he walked. But after awhile, he got to the point where he could walk independently. However, if he ran, his back legs went at a different speed than his front legs so he would run in circles.

Skipper was a happy dog and lived for more than five more years. In the end, it was bloat that caused him to pass over the rainbow bridge, not the FCE. By then, I had a collie and a Jack Russell and I'm very thankful for them - they helped Skipper's sister Mattie get through what could have been a tough grieving process.

I am very grateful to everyone at NC State and ARWI for all their efforts in saving Skipper. They do fabulous things with animals these days; veterinary care has taken amazing leaps and bounds!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cleaning Day!

Decades ago (gosh, I'm old) I would remove the fish from the tank and clean it from top to bottom. Now I'd like to think I am much smarter - and my fish are healthier and the tanks are cleaner.

This morning I cleaned four tanks in less than two hours. That's less than thirty minutes per tank.

Here are my secrets:

I change 25% of the water in each tank each and every week.

And I use this hose.

My hose is 50 feet long. I have one end connected to my laundry tub so I can easily reach all but one of my eight tanks.

When I am ready to clean the tanks, I turn the blue button on the side and it siphons the water out of the tank. I can siphon 25% of a 70-gallon tank in less than five minutes. I usually clean just one side so the fish congregate on the opposite side. Then the following week, I'll siphon from the other side.

When I am finished siphoning, I turn the blue button on the side and it fills the tank back up. I have a gallon pitcher set aside for aquarium use only, and I add Prime (just half of what is necessary for 20 gallons, the approximate amount I have siphoned out), Ph Neutralizer (if needed) and aquarium salt (only if needed). Then I pour that gallon in slowly while the rest of the water comes straight from the tap through the hose. It takes about five minutes to fill back up.

I use a long-handled algae sponge (see the post from earlier this week) if I notice algae built up on the glass. With a pleco in each tank except the honeymoon suite and the infant tank, I usually don't have algae built-up except in those two tanks. And the algae is beneficial for the baby angels to eat.

The hose comes in longer lengths if needed and it eliminates the mess and time-consuming chore of emptying water into buckets and carrying them laboriously outside to dump.

When I clean the baby angels' tank, I use a hand syphon that does empty into a bucket. Their tank is only 20 gallons so I am removing about 4-5 gallons, enough to fill just one bucket. The hand syphon is much smaller and slower. It won't suck up baby angels in it unless they are very tiny. This has happened to me and I checked the bucket, got out the fish with a net, put them back into the tank and they were not any worse for the wear, believe it or not.

When working with the baby angels' tank, I only use a few drops of Prime. It is easy to overuse Prime and if you do, you are removing important and beneficial elements and bacteria from the water - things they need to survive. If this happens, you should remove about 25% of the water again.

Tetra used to manufacture a product called Cichlid Vitamins, which I loved - because my fish loved it. They stopped producing it so I've switched to amazon extract. I once had a problem with angelfish dying mysteriously and once I began adding this to their water, they thrived. I since learned that I was using too much Prime, stripping the water of all that was needed, and this additive put it back into the water.

I know they are happy with the water conditions because angels will only lay eggs if conditions are perfect. So if you have angels that are not breeding and you're relatively certain you have a male and a female, try the amazon extract.

Tomorrow: meet the dogs who are by my side while I work with the aquariums.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Angels are Aggressive!

If you have angelfish that have become aggressive, there's only one reason: sex.

Male angels are more aggressive and territorial than females. When they become juveniles, they will engage in pushing each other around by their mouths to impress the females.

Angels need a minimum of five gallons per fish. I prefer ten gallons. Anything less than five is overcrowding. Angels lay hundreds of eggs so both males and females will become very territorial when they are overcrowded. They want the other ones to go away so they can get down to business!

They will be most aggressive when they have:

Decided to lay eggs

They are laying eggs

They are protecting their eggs

Their eggs are hatching

Their babies are swimming

Watch this video of Lindsay Buckingham in a war lock with Pipsqueak Littlefish. Pipsqueak was told by the other fish that Lindsay and Stevie had opened a sushi bar. When he went to check it out, Lindsay warned him away - and Pipsqueak didn't listen.

Angels will waggle their vertical fins when fussing at each other. Watch the body language even before they lock lips!

Notice the tetras, the corydoras and even the pleco swim right into the middle of the fight and the angels take no notice of them.

By the way, no angels were hurt in the filming of this documentary. Pipsqueak and Lindsay made up a few minutes later.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pals for My Angelfish

Angelfish can be the ideal roommate or they can quickly go to the dark side. It's all in who you select to share their tank.

There are three things that go through an angelfish's little brain when they see another creature: Can it eat me? Can I eat it? Can I have sex with it?

Never put baby angels in a tank with other fish. A baby angel is anything whose body is smaller than a quarter. They are slow fish because of their tall fins and they can not out-swim tetras or predators. More aggressive fish will nip their fins.

Never put barbs in with angelfish. They love to munch on those long, beautiful fins. And as angels grow larger, they get even slower. Barbs are fast and are usually kept in schools so they can quickly surround an angelfish, hurt it, chew on it and make its life miserable.

Never put a fish small enough to fit into an angelfish's mouth in the same tank. This includes neon tetras, small guppies and ottos. They think you've given them a treat and the new little fish will very quickly come up missing.

So what works?

Long-finned tetras. Most of the tetras that are larger than an inch do well with angelfish but I prefer the long-finned variety, as they are naturally slower. If your angelfish are very shy, tetras will swim gleefully around them, showing them that there is nothing to fear - and you'll see your angels become calmer.

If you look closely at my tank here, you'll see a white long-finned tetra on the left and a fruit tetra beside the black marble on the right. I have about a dozen tetras in this tank.

Plecos. These fish get along very well with angelfish. Do not get Chinese Algae Eaters! They find the scales on an angelfish irresistible and they will hang on and suck until they have killed the fish.

Guppies. One angelfish breeder told me he had guppies in his tank and they got along very well. However, angels will eat guppy babies (and guppies give live birth) so you should remove any pregnant guppies.

Snails. Snails can clean the tanks of algae and uneaten food. Angels will be curious about them but they will not bother them. The best snails to get are mystery snails, which lay their eggs above the water line, making it very simple to remove before they hatch and take over your tank. And just in case they do hatch, angelfish love baby snails!

Corydoras. These fish are adorable and they can really liven up a tank. I keep them in all but my breeding tanks, as protective parents will attack them. There are so many varieties of them that you can have a lot of colors and designs. In one tank of mine, I have 7 angelfish, 9 corydoras and 1 pleco.

In the picture here, you'll see a small decoration with a "door" and "windows" on the left. This is a corydoras house. They prefer to come out at dusk or dawn. During the day, especially if the light is on, they prefer to sleep. They also like caves. So this allows them to sleep peacefully during the day without fear of an angel stumbling upon them. And if an angel did come upon them, they would just say "oops" and keep on going!