Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Friends: I'm Stumped

Lucy gets more than her share of attention. She demands it. She is extremely bright, catches on quickly, and loves to play.

We've had her for about 16 months - close to a year and a half. She was more difficult to house train than any of our other dogs. But then she seemed to get it. We have three doggie doors that allow her into a fenced back yard that is about half an acre in size, and she can come and go 24 hours a day.

So why has she started urinating on the carpet again?

We did not get any new pets - dogs or cats or anything else other than fish babies who stay in their tank.

Nothing traumatic has happened. No one left for college. No one got married or brought a stranger into the house. No furniture has been moved. I'm so boring I am totally predictable.

She is spayed and is perfectly healthy.

We have a collie (female) who is extremely docile. And a Jack Russell (male) she plays with constantly. Neither of them are having issues.

Any ideas on why a dog will suddenly lose their house training?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Eggs for Breakfast

I noticed after baby angelfish hatched that their parents often laid additional eggs immediately afterward. This stumped me because if I was in their shoes - uh, fins - and I had 200 babies swimming around, why would I want 200 more?

Then I realized the parents were laying the additional eggs as a food source for the babies. I watched as the babies ate the eggs and the parents swam around, as if encouraging them.

I thought it was very interesting that the parents would come up with this ingenuous food source. Talking about growing your own!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Weak Babies

Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick have had numerous clutches of baby angelfish. I've come to the conclusion that they lay 300+ eggs and about 200 babies hatch each time, because the vast majority of them will not live past a few days. Otherwise, if they all grew to adult angelfish-hood, we'd have swarms of them in every pet shop, wouldn't you think?

But this last batch really surprised me with how weak they are. I have only one baby left and I've decided if he/she lives and is able to hold its own in the community tank, I will keep it. It is a beautiful white with black markings. Baby Angel is now in the betta tank, which is 2.5 gallons. She won't be able to stay there for long because an angelfish needs a minimum of 5 gallons, but she'll be okay while she's growing.

One thing I've noticed with this latest batch: they didn't learn to eat from the surface of the water. They remained with the parents far longer than normal because my infant tank was being used by a pair of honeymooning koi angels. And they became accustomed to eating the food as it fell through the water. If they didn't happen to see it fall, they were oblivious. And with the parents remaining overprotective, they hid behind the plants whenever I came near.

One more thing I noticed about them: a surprise food source I'll cover tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Death of the Betta

Sad news to report. The golden, double-comb betta passed away.

For the past month, he had taken to staying at the bottom of his little tank, though he did rise to the surface to eat twice a day and he would periodically come up for fresh air.

I change his water frequently and there were no nitrates or nitrites. I have also been checking the temperature, and it is well within the correct range.

I added Betta-Fix to his water, but that didn't help at all.

Then I found him floating along the surface this morning when I went into the kitchen. His tank was on the counter between the kitchen and breakfast nook, where he could keep an eye on everything.

He may simply have lived out his little life.

May he rest in peace.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Blue Marbles

Here is a video of a pair of blue marble angelfish in a community tank. They share this tank with the two blue angels I videoed last week. The blue marbles have staked their claim on the right side of the tank while the blue angels claim the left side.

But when the four sleep, they drift all over the tank.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Eddie Sings

I took a break from writing and found Eddie, the Jack Russell, sitting next to my desk. His favorite song is the Andy Griffith song, and I sang it with him several times. But when I pulled out my iPhone to film, he became shy and hid for a bit under my desk.

He does start to sing, though!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Blues

Here is a fun video of my two blue angelfish in a community tank.

They are my largest angelfish, along with Lindsay Buckingfish, the black marble in the Honeymoon Suite. These angelfish are ten inches tall.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Symptoms of a Sick Fish

Because fish have such short lifespans, I can spot a fish who is naturally nearing the end of it's life versus one that has a virus or bacterial infection.

In this video, I have a white long-skirted tetra in the tank with a variety of tetra and angelfish. Symptoms that she is nearing the end are:

(1) Weight loss

(2) Staying away from the other fish, often hiding

(3) Not eating with the others and having no appetite

(4) Swimming with the nose up instead of the usual horizontal swimming

(5) The eyes will often look much larger as the fish loses weight

In a case such as this, it's important not to treat the entire tank with antibiotics or other remedies, as you'd be treating all the healthy fish. Treating healthy fish means they will develop an immunity to the remedies and when they need them, they will be ineffective.

Instead, the two choices are: allow nature to run its course or remove the affected fish from the community tank and place her (or him) in a hospital tank. For the average sized fish, this can be as small as one or two gallons. For an angelfish, it should be 10 gallons. This allows you to treat the sick fish with smaller doses.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Angelfish Thriving in Betta Tank

Well, these unlikely tank mates are getting along just fine.

The three angelfish are doing very well and are swimming around much more than they did under the overprotective care of their parents.

In the video, you can see the golden double-comb betta resting on the bottom of the tank. He's been that way for several weeks. He comes up and eats, and also checks the surface for air every now and again, but seems to be content resting on the bottom.

The betta hasn't tried to bother the baby angels, and they have not bothered him at all.

This tank is only 2.5 gallons so the angels can't stay there for very long. Once their bodies grow to the size of a quarter, they will be ready to go to the pet shop and then to their forever homes.

I believe the black angel is a male. I am not sure yet about the two white marbles.

Monday, August 19, 2013


The last few days have been tough. For some strange reason, the newest batch of baby angelfish have not grown nearly as large and robust as previous batches. I've contributed it to the parents, who remained with them much longer than any previous time, because the Infant Tank was being used by an aggressive koi angelfish couple, Robert Redfish and Susan Saranfish.

The parents have remained extremely possessive of the babies, so that long after they should have been rising to the surface and eating food and coming to the front of the tank to greet me, they were still hiding in the back behind the plants.

Then one by one, I've found a dead baby each morning.

I am down to four angelfish, and one of those I thought was dead but found he was still breathing. So I did something drastic. I moved them to the betta tank.

Before you gasp and have images of the betta having the babies for breakfast, I should mention that the golden betta has been ill for the last couple of weeks. I've seen bettas go through this stage before as they reach the end of their natural life. It has no virus and no bacterial infection; it's just old and spends 99% of his time on the bottom of the tank next to his favorite castle.

So I decided I would move the angelfish into the 2.5 gallon betta tank, observe them, and if the betta appears the least bit curious, out he would come and into a nice betta bowl.

But he hasn't paid them any attention at all.

They are gathered next to the heater in the tank. The temperature gauge is about six inches, so you can see how tiny they are next to it. Two white patterned and one black marble appear robust. A fourth black marble is the one that I thought was dead but was still breathing - I don't know if he will make it.

I'll play things by ear, keeping a very close watch on the babies. In the future, I will separate the parents from the babies when they are much younger. I believe it helps the babies grow stronger when they are not overprotected.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Friends - Lucy Waits

Last week, Simone went to the beauty shop to get her hair done. Being a collie, she goes to the beauty shop as often as I do... And Eddie went to the same wonderful shop in the afternoon to get his nails clipped.

While they were gone, it was just Lucy and me.

And I caught her sitting at the side door, staring down the street, waiting for Simone and Eddie to come home.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Feeding Time

The video below was taken during feeding time. I have noticed these fish are not as large at six weeks as the last two batches have been. The parents are still over-protective, which keeps the babies hidden much of the time in the plants.

I would have preferred to have separated them by now, but the infant ward was turned into another honeymoon suite for the koi angels, who have yet to successfully hatch eggs but who terrorized the community aquarium when they decided they wanted to mate.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Weaning Off Live Brine Shrimp

The babies are now six weeks old and they're getting hungrier. That is terrific news, as it means they are now ready to be weaned off live brine shrimp and onto fish flakes. They must be able to eat fish flakes exclusively before they can be brought to the pet shop and sold.

I am crumbling fish flakes on top of the water for them twice a day, but until they are completely weaned off the brine shrimp, I am adding dried brine shrimp to the flakes. This will make the transition easier for them.

The purpose for feeding live shrimp when they are newly hatched is two-fold: the tiny live shrimp are the only things small enough for their mouths when they are first hatched, and instinct tells them to go after the shrimp swimming in the water. Fish flakes and dried brine shrimp, on the other hand, first float on the water before falling.

Soon they will be eating from the surface of the water.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Babies Growing and Flourishing

As the babies continue to grow, they have become more active. They've discovered they have no predators in the tank so they are swimming further from the safety of Mama's and Papa's fins. They have beautiful vertical fins now. The height of the fins is directly related to the amount of space they have in which to grow, and it sets the stage for the rest of their lives. With Papa, Lindsay Buckingfish, being ten inches tall, these babies have good genes.

The blue thing in the upper corner is a way to clean the algae off the glass without me having to put my hand in the tank. With the parents vigilantly defending their babies against any perceived threats, I really don't want a fish bite when I'm just trying to clean. The blue cleaner has two parts - one on the inside and a magnetic one on the outside. That way, I can move it around on the outside of the glass and the corresponding piece on the inside cleans off the algae.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Miniature Versions

The angelfish babies have become miniature versions of their parents:

And with Mama, Stevie Fishnick, checking on them:

They have begun coming to the surface of the water looking for food. Soon they will be weaned onto dry fish flakes. Now they continue to eat live brine shrimp, plus I have been adding some dried brine shrimp to their diet as well. Of course, Mama and Papa Fish get flakes so they can taste those whenever they feel like it - though their mouths are still too small for much of that.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Friends - Update on Monkey Man

A few weeks ago, I brought home a Monkey Doll for Lucy. It's become her favorite toy.

Here's how he looked shortly after he arrived home:

And here's how he looks today:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Observant Angelfish

One of the things I love about angelfish is how observant they are.

I can be across the room, and they will follow my movements through the tank, watching me.

When the dogs are playing with their toys and running from one end of the room to the other, they frequently follow them from one end of their tank to the other.

And when I approach the tank, they almost always begin to look to the surface of the water for their food. When angelfish are watching closely, they will often move from side to side. With an eye on each side of their heads (versus ours, which both face forward) they can see almost 360 degrees. Their only blind spot is directly behind them but their peripheral vision is far better than ours.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Angelfish in Miniature

The angelfish in Lindsay Buckingfish's and Stevie Fishnick's tank are now five weeks old. They are beginning to look like miniature versions of their parents. It's during this time that their colors really begin to form. Each one is so unique, from the black ones who have their Papa's marbling to the lighter ones that have a variety of markings from light to dark and from a little to a lot.

It is now that their vertical fins really begin to grow. The largest and tallest ones will be the males, most likely, while the most petite ones are most likely females.

The video shown here was taken during feeding time.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

New Plants

I picked up some new plants at my favorite pet shop, Carroll's Pets in Lumberton, NC.

Angelfish love amazon plants and they gravitate toward brightly colored plants, especially. So I picked up some large red amazon plants.

I also picked up these deep purple plants. They are a bit stiffer than the amazon plants, which makes them stand more erect.

Not only are plants pleasing to the eye, but they can be of practical use when I have more than one pair of angelfish in the same tank. I placed these right in the middle, which creates a visual barrier. Each pair feels like they have more privacy to... do their thing.

On one side, I have the Blues - Jake and Elroy. They haven't laid eggs yet so I'm not quite sure which one is the male and which is the female.

On the other side, I have the Blue Marbles - Billie Holifish and Kurt Ellifish - who jazz things up.

They can easily move from one side to the other, but the plants also help them establish their territory. This tank is 60 gallons and also has a variety of tetra and corys, as well as one pleco who remains well hidden during the daylight.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Struggling to Figure It Out

The koi angels, Robert Redfish and Susan Saranfish, are having difficulty grasping this whole concept of hatching eggs and caring for young.

Angelfish have fins on either side of their body, called pectoral fins. When they lay eggs, the parents should take turns fanning the eggs with those fins. When eggs are separated from the parents, an air stone should be placed under them to keep the water moving and the fungus off.

When the parents don't have the instinct or the experience to fan the eggs, fungus forms. When that goes unchecked, the eggs will not hatch and instead, the fungus will just continue to grow.

This is what has happened with Robert and Susan.

In the picture at right, the eggs have fallen from the arch due to the weight of the fungus. It's the white "stuff" you see in the corner of the picture - and if you look closely, it's also on the snail, who is probably loving this protein-rich meal.

I can do a regular water change, in which I can place the suction hose directly atop the fungus and eggs to suck them up and away. Or, if there were only a few, I can use a turkey baster to suck them up. (Of course, the baster is ONLY used for the fish tanks - no need to avoid my house on Thanksgiving Day!)

Because Robert and Susan have laid eggs multiple times, they will continue to lay them. Eventually, they will figure it out and at some point, the eggs will begin to be taken care of properly (we hope).

Friday, August 2, 2013

Mattie and Skipper Once Again

Last week, I set the post below to go out and for some reason, it went onto my blog but didn't generate an email to my followers. This normally wouldn't matter to me, but this blog was and is important to me because it's about Mattie, the foxhound who passed away just a couple of weeks ago.

So here it is again...

Last Friday, I mentioned that my foxhound Mattie had passed away of old age. I'd like to tell you about her and her twin brother Skipper. But I'll have to begin with the dogs I had before them.

Years ago, I had an Old English Mastiff named Charmer and an Australian Shepherd we named Buddy because we adopted him to be a friend to Charmer. Both were rescue dogs and they were inseparable. When Charmer passed away of old age, Buddy was inconsolable. He refused to eat and he sat for hours on end staring down the long driveway where he'd last seen us load Charmer into the car and drive him off to the vet. He grieved so strongly that I was concerned that he would also pass away.

So one day, we put a bright red bandana on Buddy and we made a trip to the Richmond (VA) SPCA. And Buddy helped us pick out not one new companion for him--but two. We selected the foxhounds from a litter of five which the volunteers had named "the Butters". Skipper was originally "Peanut Butter" and Mattie was originally "Apple Butter"; their siblings were Nutter Butter, Lemon Butter and Almond Butter.

They were five months old and Buddy, who from this point on would be Uncle Buddy, was twelve years old. He was fabulous with them. One day I was sitting at my desk when out of the corner of my eye, I saw Buddy leading the two pups through the house in a line. Curious, I watched Buddy walk into the bathroom and drink out of the toilet bowl, and then nudge Skipper toward it. Mattie was so apprehensive that it took Buddy getting behind her and pushing her with his nose into the bathroom, where she discovered that big white bowl held the best water. He then walked them to the other two bathrooms, where they repeated the exercise.

We lived in Virginia then and our back yard was over an acre. Skipper and Mattie used to race around the back yard at a hundred miles an hour, with Uncle Buddy barking the whole time. There was the day when I brought home some mulch in bags and left them on the side of the house. When the Twins discovered it, they barked furiously, ran away, then raced back and barked some more, as if the giant bags were going to come after them.

Uncle Buddy had bad knees which at that time were not repairable and one cold winter, he passed away. The next spring, we moved to North Carolina and the Twins had a new home. Instead of living in the country, they were now in town with a wrought iron fence they could see through. They loved watching people walk or jog around the neighborhood and until Skipper's health prevented it, I used to walk them around the neighborhood. Having two large dogs pulling on the leashes, checking each culvert for signs of fox or cats, was better than lifting weights.

Then one day, Skipper became paralyzed from the neck down with an FCE (fibrocartilaginous embolism). We brought him two hours away to NC State's world-renowned Veterinary Hospital and within the week, he was transferred to the Animal Rehabilitation and Wellness Institute, where he learned how to stand and walk again. During that time, I drove each day to see him. When I came home, as long as Mattie could smell her brother on my clothes, she was okay. I'd spend the evenings with her, telling her that Skipper would be home soon.

When he came home, Mattie was ecstatic. She wanted to play but quickly learned that Skipper was weak and still needed help to walk. He grew stronger and Mattie always watched over him to make sure he was okay. (Shown below: Skipper coming home from the hospital. The shaved areas on his back were done at the hospital.)

We eventually adopted Simone, a collie, and Mattie became the Matriarch. When we adopted Eddie the Jack Russell, she became known as Mama Mattie. She helped with housebreaking and she showed them the ropes the same way that Buddy had shown her.

Simone was emaciated and there was a time in which we didn't think she'd make it, which was why we fostered her through the Robeson County Humane Society, fell in love with her, and adopted her. I wanted her to learn how to go in and out of the doggie doors so she would have a freedom she'd never experienced before. But she acted like we were trying to stuff her into a tiny box. So I asked Mattie to teach her. Mattie would jump through the doggie door, bark on the other side, and then jump back through and nudge Simone. Very quickly, Simone was learning that it was okay to go through it and it opened up a whole new world for her.

When I wanted Simone to know she would come to my office upstairs any time she wanted, I tried to get her to walk up the stairs. She was terrified of them. So I again asked Mattie to teach her. Mattie ran up the stairs, barked at the top, ran back down, and nudged Simone. I went on to my office and heard Mattie up and down, up and down, barking. About ten minutes later, there was Simone, coming into the office.

Skipper passed away about two years ago, not from the FCE but from his stomach twisting. By that time, we had Simone and Eddie and we soon added Lucy, another Jack Russell mix who is also a rescue. (We don't buy any dogs; we always rescue them.) Mattie was fabulous with them all. Below is a video of Mattie and Simone playing with Eddie. Skipper was too infirmed to play so he was standing beside me as I filmed.

Simone, especially, missed her terribly in the days after she passed. I spoke to her a couple of times, mentioning Mattie's name, and letting her know that she was with Skipper now. She seems to understand.

In my mind's eye, I see Mattie and Skipper the way they were when they were younger, racing around the yard at breakneck speed, leaping off the deck onto the ground below, ensuring our yard was free of birds and squirrels. And all the time, Uncle Buddy is barking his head off at them and Charmer is still chasing the Frisbee he loved.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Buying Compatible Angelfish

I spoke to someone last week who told me that he'd never own freshwater angelfish again because they kill each other when they get older. I've lost count of how many angelfish I've raised; at the present, I own 14 adult angelfish, not counting the babies. I've had two lock lips once but neither sustained a lasting injury (see below). And I've never had any kill each other.

So why did his kill?

One reason could be that he had too many males in too small a tank. Male angels are much more aggressive than females. They are territorial by nature, choosing a specific part of the tank - or even a particular plant - to guard. Adult angels should have a minimum 10 gallons per fish.

Female angelfish tend to be smaller and they are far less territorial - unless they are actively laying eggs and trying to protect them with their mate.

Another reason his angels could have killed would be to protect their young. I have four angelfish in a 60-gallon tank where I used to have six, but when the koi angels became too aggressive during spawning, I removed them to their own honeymoon tank. When they were in the community tank with the others, they aggressively pushed everybody to the far corner of the tank while they claimed the rest of it. But their aggressiveness never even led to fin nipping.

If you're looking to purchase freshwater angelfish and you'd like to keep several in the same tank, look for the smaller angels. If they are all from the same clutch, the smallest ones tend to be the females.

Observe their behavior. If you see one going after the others, that aggressiveness will only intensify as the angel gets older and larger.

If you want only two angels and you would like for them to breed, select two of the same coloring and choose one large one and one petite. That's no guarantee that one is a female, however, so if the larger one begins to bully the smaller one, they should be separated. The only way to know for certain that you have one male and one female is during mating.