Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Friends

I thought you might enjoy watching this video of Lucy Lou, our youngest rescue and a Jack Russell/ Basset Hound mix, entice our tri-colored collie Simone to play.

I am often asked if our four rescue dogs get along. Thankfully, they do. I've never had any problems or fights at mealtimes or any other time. There is plenty of space for all the dogs to roam and if someone wants to be alone for awhile, they can find out of the way spots (like the bathroom floor in my office) to hide away until they are ready to rejoin the pack.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A New Couple in Love

I have a 55-gallon aquarium in my bedroom that contains six freshwater angelfish and about 11 corydoras and a pleco.

The six angelfish have been separated into three couples since they were very young: two blue marbles have claimed one corner, two bright orange koi angels have claimed the opposite corner, and two silver blues are kind of caught in the middle (which isn't necessarily a bad thing.)

However, lately the koi angels have decided they are ready to start a family. The problem is, they want total privacy. Meaning they want everybody else to leave the aquarium.

They claimed the filter intake that is dead center in the middle of the tank and began cleaning it in preparation for laying eggs. This won't do, as everyone else in the tank will be badgered relentlessly because they have no means of escaping the lusty couple.

So I located an old filter intake that is no longer in use and I placed it into the far corner the koi angels used to claim as their own. I also added an amazon plant for good measure, as angels love laying eggs on the amazon leaves. However, it's been my experience that the novice lovers will often go for the filter intake first.

Now the couple is busy cleaning the new filter intake (which isn't connected to anything). I expect to have some eggs in the coming days or weeks. I know it might take them several tries before they get things right. If they keep trying and the eggs eventually begin to hatch, I will move them to a separate honeymoon suite like I did Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick.

I think I might name this couple The Captain and Tenillifish.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Separating the Parents from the Babies

Now that the four baby angels from the first batch of Vicki's Angels have left home, I have an empty tank. It is 20 gallons because it's an infant tank or breeding tank. Below it I have the tank with Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick and their four newest babies, who are about three weeks old.

The babies should be separated from the parents in a small tank. It gives them the opportunity to grow higher fins and larger faster. I would have preferred to have separated them earlier because I wasn't sure if Lindsay or Stevie might look at them as a tasty snack some evening. Fortunately, they have proven to be great parents.

Faced with the decision of moving the babies or the parents, it's always easiest to move the parents. As angels grow and their fins become much longer, they are slower and easier to catch. The smallest babies, however, leap like fleas when you try to catch them; it helps them stay far from predators' mouths.

So I have moved Lindsay and Stevie to the infant tank recently vacated. It usually takes about 24 hours for them to get accustomed to a new tank but they realized pretty quickly this time around that it was their old honeymoon suite.

Meanwhile, without the parents in the infant tank, the four babies are venturing further out. So stay tuned for more pictures soon! In this latest batch, I have two black marbles who look very much like their Papa, one that looks like the platinum Mama, and interestingly, an orange one!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Baby Angels in their New Home

I had mixed feelings letting my first batch of Vicki's Angels leave home.

I would have loved to have kept them, knowing they were born here. But I had a new batch of babies who needed space to grow and Lindsay and Stevie were at it again with plans to expand their family.

When I saw these pictures of the four angels in their new home, I knew I had made the right decision. The black marble is the only one who lived from a batch of about 50 that another angel breeder had supplied and he (or she) was lonely. Now there are four friends to play with - and I know they are going to love their new digs!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Laying Eggs

No sooner had my first batch of angelfish babies leave home than Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick were at it again.

I had my iPhone handy but it doesn't zoom during videos so I had to take this video some distance away so I wouldn't disrupt their mating.

You'll see Stevie Fishnick (the platinum angel) move her belly up the leaf, laying eggs.

Then Lindsay Buckingfish (the black marble) will follow along the path of eggs, fertilizing them.

They will continue with one row after another until they have around 300 eggs on the leaf.

Tomorrow: pictures from the first batch of baby angels in their new home!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Friends

Once a week, I cook a special dish for my dogs that lasts all week long. I started cooking this chicken and rice dish when I adopted Simone, the collie who was almost starved to death. It helped her put on weight when she wasn't interested in dry dog food. Surprisingly, it also took weight off my two foxhounds, who were a little... plump.

I've continued making it every week now for about three years. I add it to everyone's dry dog food in the morning, so they still get the nutrients they need.

Ingredients Needed:

1 lb. chicken or turkey
2 cans green beans
1 can of another vegetable such as carrots or peas
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1.5 cups of brown rice

I have a slow cooker so once a week I simply put a boneless chicken breast or turkey breast into the slow cooker and add the cans of vegetables, including the juice. (I try to buy vegetables packed in water with no salt added.)

Cook it on low for about five hours. Add the cream of chicken soup and stir well. Turn it off and let it cool.

While it's cooling, cook the brown rice. I have a rice steamer so I just follow the directions on the side. It takes about 50 minutes, but you could also use instant.

When it's done, simply mix it all together in a container that can be refrigerated.

Each morning, I scoop out a couple of serving-size spoonfuls and mix it in well with their dry dog food.

This is a particularly good dish when one of my dogs is sick. The brown rice settles a stomach. When a dog is ill and doesn't want to eat but needs its strength, it's the first dish I turn to.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Phosphates in a Fish Tank

Earlier this week I mentioned that I got high levels of phosphates in my infant tank, which caused an algae bloom. I traced it back to my water supply. How did I do that? Easy. I have a white bucket in which I pour new water straight from the tap, add the necessary chemicals (Prime, Ph balance, aquarium salt) and use it while replacing the water during water changes. So when I am running water straight from the tap into that bucket and I see it turn green or brown, I know my water source is contaminated.

But are there other causes for high phosphates, which in turn lead to algae blooms?


If you are overfeeding your fish, the breakdown of the food often raises phosphate levels. A fish's stomach is roughly the same size as their eye.

Some manufacturers use phosphates in their flake food. Do some research and select one lower in phosphates. I use Tetra flakes and have not had a problem.

Clean the fish tank on a regular basis. Fish waste, uneaten food, plants decaying, or God forbid a dead fish left in the tank, will all raise phosphate levels.

Get some cleaner fish to help get rid of uneaten food that falls into the gravel. I love keeping corydoras with my angelfish. They are both very peaceful and while the angels tend to stay in the middle of the tank, the corys prefer to hang out at the bottom - except when they party while the angels sleep. Snails and a pleco will also help to keep algae levels down.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cleaning Algae from Tank Decorations

If you have high levels of phosphates in your fish tank, it will often result in an algae bloom. Yesterday, I mentioned adding Purigen (manufactured by Seachem) to your filter to absorb the excess phosphates.

But what do you do if your decorations have an algae growth you can't get rid of?

My first step is to clean the decoration with plain old baking soda. It won't harm the fish if any residue is left on, although it will alter your Ph so you'll want to monitor the Ph levels and add the necessary neutralizer or Ph adjustments.

Often, I'll sprinkle the baking soda on the decoration and just let it sit for a few days. Between the drying out process and the baking soda, it will often kill any algae spores.

I also have a toothbrush set aside to help knock off any algae growth and clean the decorations. Make sure it's a new toothbrush you use just for this purpose, as some toothpastes can leave a residue that could be harmful to your fish. I've seen stiffer brushes for sale and have used them, but often find the softer bristles of a toothbrush work best.

When the algae gets completed out of control, I use AlgaeFix. I never add this to the tank itself. That's very important. Even though the instructions say it's perfectly safe with fish, I've found it removes some of the nutrients from the water that the angels need to survive.

But I have an old water bucket set aside just for old fish water and cleanings, and I'll put the decoration into the bucket, fill it with water and add the AlgaeFix. Let it soak for a few hours or a few days, remove it and finish cleaning it up with that old toothbrush.

Make sure you rinse it off completely before adding it back into your tank. However, if any residue still exists on the decoration, unless you overused it, it should not have any adverse affect on your fish.

Tomorrow: how to keep phosphate levels at a healthy level.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

So This is Embarrassing...

One goal of the Vicki's Angelfish blog (named after one of my book characters, Vicki Boyd, whose front as a CIA Agent is a freshwater angelfish breeder) is to provide good information to folks around the world who want to successful keep or raise angelfish.

So imagine my embarrassment when one day quite out of the blue, the water in my infant tank turned green.

I was changing 25% of the water every three days. In my other tanks, I usually replace 25% of the water once a week. But the one I cleaned the most had an algae outbreak.

I took an empty water bottle, filled it with water from the tank, and brought it to my local pet shop, Carroll's Pets in Lumberton, North Carolina. The great folks who own the store, Carroll and Shelli, tested my water.

Ph was a bit high for angels, above 7.0, but in the acceptable range.

Nitrates were at zero.

Nitrites were at zero.

Ammonia was at zero.

But then Shelli tested for phosphates.

It was extremely high.

High phosphates will not harm the fish unless the situation gets out of control and in fact, my angels have been thriving. They are very healthy, always hungry (a great sign of good health) and have very high fins, a sign they have a plenty of space to grow and flourish. But the down side of high phosphates is it often results in an algae bloom, which can be very difficult to eradicate. (More on that in a moment.)

So, how did it get there?

It turns out that some communities have old water pipes. Instead of replacing the pipes, which can be costly, the water treatment professionals add chemicals to clean out all the gunk that builds up in the pipes. The result: high phosphate levels.

How to get rid of it:

The most important factor is to keep the water clean. This meant up to 75% water changes every 2-3 days, replacing the high phosphate water with new, clear water. I have no decorations in the tank, as this is an infant tank - very small babies that I need to be able to see, which can be difficult with decorations. Tomorrow I'll discuss cleaning decorations that have heavy algae.

Secondly, I purchased Purigen, which is made by Seachem. It's a great algae reducer. You measure out the required amount, add it to a mesh bag, and drop it into your filter. In my Eheim filter, I used it as one of the layers. As it absorbs the phosphates, it turns from an off-white color to brown. You can rinse it off and reuse it, but it's just as easy and inexpensive to replace it. My local pet shop, Carroll's Pets, carried it so I took it home that day and added it to my tank. I also added it as a precaution to every tank.

It has taken a couple of weeks but the water is noticeably clearer than it was during the algae bloom.

Tomorrow: what to do if your decorations have high concentrations of algae on them.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mama and Her Baby

I have four more angel babies who have just begun to take on the shape of an angelfish. Because the original four babies, who are about two months old now, are still in the infant ward, I have kept the last batch with their parents, Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick. I've been concerned if I put them together, the new babies would become sushi for the older ones.

A few days ago, this picture was snapped of Stevie Fishnick swimming with one of her babies sticking close to her. The baby sure looks a lot like Papa!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Friends

So once a month I dutifully put Advantix on my dogs' necks. Because we rarely see a frost in coastal North Carolina, fleas and ticks can be found year 'round.

But I've noticed one of my dogs, Eddie, a Jack Russell, throws up within 24 hours of having the medicine put on his neck. I found the connection when I began documenting when it occurred, as it always happens when he's asleep in bed with me. Or make that, I am trying to sleep and he should be asleep!

None of my other dogs have this problem. The other Jack Russell, Lucy, doesn't like getting her neck all icky but she doesn't get ill. Neither does my collie or my foxhound; in fact, they don't seem to even notice.

How does your dog react when they get the flea and tick ointment put on their necks? What do you use?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Target Fish

Yesterday I spoke about dither fish, other fish that you might want to add to the tank to encourage shy angels to come out and play.

Some folks use target fish to help keep aggression down between angelfish.

If you have too many male angelfish in a tank or you have overcrowding, the angels can become more territorial and aggressive. In the case of overcrowding, the only recourse is to get a larger tank or move some of the fish to a separate tank.

But something interesting happens when fish who were aggressive with each other feel a threat from outside: they bound together. You can see this happen when cleaning a tank. My tanks are so large that I clean one side one week and the other side the following week, removing about 20% of the water each week. When I am working on one side, the angels all gather on the opposite side. Territories are forgotten.

The same thing happens when introducing another type of fish to the tank. Sometimes these target fish give the angels something else to think about and they stop picking on each other.

Some considerations if you try this:

The target fish must be faster than the angelfish. You really don't want casualties. Otherwise, just buy them some shrimp or feeder fish.

The target fish can not be aggressive toward the angels. Barbs, for example, love to nip at an angel's fins and being much faster than the angelfish, they can make your angels truly miserable.

I've found that my angels largely ignore other fish in the tank. They are curious when seeing something foreign for the first time - such as a pleco or a snail. But once they've decided they can't eat it, it can't eat them and they can't have sex with it, they tend to leave it alone.

If you have target fish in your tank, what type are they?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dither Fish

You might have noticed in some of my videos that I have other fish in the same tanks as the angels. In the Honeymoon Suite, I have only Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick - because, quite frankly, they are likely to kill or at the least make anybody else completely miserable as they are defending their eggs and babies from potential predators.

I also do not have other fish in the same tank as the infants, because I don't want anyone to mistake them for a meal.

But where my largest angels reside, I have dither fish. In the video below, you'll notice even while Lindsay Buckingfish was defending his corner from Pipsqueak Littlefish, the smaller fish - primarily tetras - continued to swim as though nothing was amiss.

Dither fish are fish that are generally out in the open swimming and having a good time. Angels move more slowly and they tend to be very cautious, even shy, when they are not completely at ease with their surroundings. Dither fish are more gregarious and because they are openly swimming and having a good time, they send signals to the angelfish that all is well and they are safe. This, in turn, gets the angels out from behind plants and into the open.

In my 70 gallon tank, I have a variety of tetras. They were carefully chosen for their colors and their size - but most particularly for their peacefulness. You can not place barbs, for example, with angels because the angels' long, flowing fins get nipped and eaten by the barbs. Tetras are generally good choices, although you should stay away from the smallest tetras such as neons. If they are too small, the angels will eat them.

In my 55 gallon tank, I have a number of cories. I like these best of all because they are very gregarious, very lively, and completely unafraid of the much larger angels. They also eat any food that has fallen to the bottom and would be ignored by the angels, who prefer to eat at the surface. I also have a pleco in each tank to keep any algae down.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Three Pair of Angelfish

I have a 55 gallon tank in my bedroom and the six angels who live there are a constant source of entertainment. They were part of a group of 11 that I bought less than one year ago. As they grew and began to pair off, I moved half of them to my largest 70 gallon tank.

It has been interesting to me to see these six pair off. They are attracted to the angel that looks most like themselves. The two blue marble angels have claimed one corner of the tank. In the video above, you could see where a blue angel comes over to see what I am doing, and they tell her to get out of their space. The blue angel has paired up with another blue angel, a very rare Siamese angel with a blue-white body and black fins. They have claimed the center of the tank. At the opposite end are two koi angels (bright orange) who have been inseparable since they were the size of nickels. Now each of these angels is at least 6 inches tall, and some are exceeding 7 inches.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Look at John McFish

Last Thursday I showed a video of my largest tank, which is 70 gallons. I realized after I viewed the video that one of my largest angels, a silver angelfish named John McFish, was not visible.

I found him at the end of the tank, hanging out with friends. As I taped him, others came to see what I was doing.

It's this curiosity that angelfish have with humans that is one big reason I love keeping them. You may notice other fish in the background, including a variety of tetras and a rainbow fish. They continue to swim and go about their business as though I wasn't there. But the angels always notice me and come to the glass. At times, they will line up in a neat row to watch me.

When my dog Lucy chases her ball around the room, they will also follow her, swimming from side to side like they are sitting in the bleachers watching a good football game.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Friday Friends

If you've been following this blog, you'll already have been introduced to some of my rescue dogs. These pictures were taken over the holidays and I wanted to share them with you.

This is Simone, a tri-colored collie. Fish have it so much better than dogs in a breeding situation. Fish must have ideal conditions or they won't breed and can't be forced to - the water must be good, they must have adequate food and ample space. Simone, on the other hand, was kept confined to a cage and was tragically malnourished. She wasn't expected to make it when the Robeson County Humane Society rescued her from her horrible circumstances. They asked me to foster her. That was three years ago, and she's never left. Nor do I want her to! She is always the perfect lady. Now healthy and happy, I try to give her all the love she deserves.

We recently added to our family with Lucy, who is part Jack Russell. We believe she is part Basset Hound or corgi, as she is very long! But she acts like she is part cat.

Lucy is the third dog we have adopted through the Robeson County Humane Society. She was rescued about seven months ago and immediately came down with parvo. She went from 14 pounds to 10 pounds and fought for her life. Fortunately, she fully recovered and is having the time of her life with our three other rescue dogs.

The neighbors behind us own several cats so they are kept busy jumping through the doggie doors throughout our home and running along the fence line while the cats sit primly on the other side and watch them.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

An Update on the Largest Tank

I am happy to say that the black angel who has dropsy has begun eating again - a great sign, though she is still showing the symptoms of dropsy (enlarged abdomen). She isn't hiding or staying by herself now as she was just a few days ago, which is also a sign that she is feeling better. I'll continue to monitor her situation and let you know how she progresses.

I have focused more on the Honeymoon Suite - the 20 gallon tank where Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick continue to lay hundreds of eggs two weeks apart - and the Infant Ward, another 20 gallon tank in which the babies are raised to the age where they can be sold.

I have other tanks, including a 70 gallon tank that currently houses seven angels who are fully grown or nearly so. The largest in this tank is a koi angel that is mostly white - he was named Pipsqueak Littlefish when he arrived because he was barely the size of my thumbnail. I now know he was probably less than a month old, and too young to be sold to a pet shop and then reacclimated at my house. But he has done well and is now about 10 inches tall.

Others include three koi angels that are largely orange, including Alfred, who I recently moved from another tank, a blue marble, a silver angel and the black angel who is experiencing the health issue.

I have not moved the black angel, by the way, because dropsy is not contagious.

Here is a video of my largest tank:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

How to Humanely Euthanize a Fish

Yesterday, I wrote about a black angel that has dropsy (shown here), which occurs when the intestines are blocked. I know this post won't be for everybody but I am writing about this unfortunate circumstance to help other fish owners.

You see, about a year ago I had a sick betta named Butch Cassidy. (The Sundance Kid was in an adjoining tank.) He was old (nearly three years old) and simply began to go downhill. My first preference is to allow nature to run its course. If he had been ill with something that could be diagnosed and treated - such as the ick - I would have been transferring him to a hospital tank right away to treat him. In fact, I keep an arsenal of medications here in the event of common, treatable problems. Because if something goes wrong, it will happen when the pet store is closed and it's an emergency!

But this betta didn't pass away. He curled up so his nose touched his back fin. He lay on the bottom of the tank, motionless. Each morning and each afternoon I thought he was dead but when I put the net in, he made a determined effort to swim to the surface for air.

This went on for THREE WEEKS. Obviously, this fish was suffering. He wasn't eating. He wasn't swimming. He was lying on the gravel. He was dying. Only his suffering was continuing day after day after day. (He is shown here in happier days when he felt so good he made a bubble nest to attract a female.)

I knew he wasn't going to get better. So the only humane thing to do was help to put him out of his misery - quickly.

I researched this issue all over the web. Suggestions from experts ranged from putting him into a ziplock bag and putting him in the freezer to placing him in a bowl filled with chemicals. In each case, it was going to take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours for him to pass away. I couldn't do that to the little fella. I couldn't put him in my freezer and check on him periodically to see if he was frozen solid yet. Just couldn't do it.

And for God's sake, don't ever flush a live fish down the toilet.

So as bad as this sounds, this was the only way I could ensure that his suffering ended as quickly as it possibly could. And I want to state for the record that this was an action of last resort, not something I would have willingly done if there had been any other way to help him.

If you face this situation, you'll need three things: a net, a ziplock bag and a hammer.

I timed it - from start to finish, this took 8 seconds:

I netted the little fella and placed him into a ziplock bag (without water.)

I sealed the ziplock bag shut very quickly to prevent unnecessary suffering.

I laid the bag on the counter and I hit it once with the hammer.

Trust me, he was dead.

I think the most important thing was to do it quickly. I hated doing it but once I decided it was the only humane thing to do, it needed to be done swiftly to prevent more unnecessary pain.

Then he had a proper burial.

God rest his soul.