Friday, February 28, 2014

Playing in the Snow

Seems like we've gone from winter to spring and back to winter!

Here is a video of the dogs, Eddie (a Jack Russell), Lucy (a Jack Russell/ hound mix) and Simone (a collie) playing in the snow from a couple of weeks ago. All the snow is melted and now the storm is just a memory.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Feeding Baby Angelfish

When angelfish first begin to swim, it's time to start feeding!

The first food I feed my angels are live brine shrimp and First Bites. Live brine shrimp will cause the fish to grow very quickly and become more robust. It's very easy to hatch brine shrimp; one of the easiest methods is with a brine shrimp hatchery. But you can purchase the eggs at any pet shop and by adding aquarium salt to the water and shrimp eggs, you can grow them in almost anything, from old milk jugs to glass jars.

First Bites is an alternative if you don't want to grow brine shrimp yourself. This is prepared especially for newly hatched fish, so it is miniscule. When a tiny spoonful is put into the water (I use an 1/8 of a teaspoon) it floats through the water like live "bait". Angelfish are born with the instinct to go after this tiny food in the water, as well as any algae forming on plant leaves or glass.

Now that the angelfish are four weeks old, I have switched to dried brine shrimp instead of live. By crumbling it into the water, it's larger than freshly hatched shrimp and a bit more filling.

Within the next couple of weeks, I will be adding dried fish flakes to their feeding. By the time the angelfish are between eight and ten weeks old, they will have been weaned completely off the brine shrimp and First Bites and will be eating a diet consisting solely of dried fish flakes. This allows them to settle in much more easily with a community tank.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Angelfish Babies Learning Their World

I'm really happy to report that the angelfish babies are continuing to thrive. Just a week or two ago, they remained near the gravel, as close to the bottom of the tank as they could get. They traveled in a school and whenever I came near the tank, they moved to the far back.

As they've grown, however, and especially once I removed the plants they were hiding behind, they have become more confident with their surroundings. They've begun to swim from the bottom of the tank to the top. And they've fanned out, no longer feeling the need to remain in a school.

In the wild or in a community tank, plants or decorations with very small openings are necessary to keep the baby angelfish from being eaten by predators - even other (adult) angelfish. Remaining in a school can be necessary for survival as well.

But in an infant tank like I have set up, there are no predators. I don't even have corydoras or other bottom-feeding or algae-eating fish, because they can find newborn fry very tasty. So there are no predators and the angelfish are learning they are perfectly safe.

I've been asked about the sponge on the intake filter. I bought the sponge at my local pet shop and cut it so it slips onto the intake. This prevents very small and weak angelfish from being sucked into the filter. It also provides a place where brine shrimp can become lodged, which the babies will pick off without having to worry about getting sucked in. The water can still circulate through the filter, providing both filtering and water movement that is essential to keeping the water oxygenated.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Angelfish Begin to Form Their Shape

The angelfish are just over two weeks old, and they have begun to form their distinctive angelfish shape.

The more angels you have in one tank, the shorter and squatter they become. The more space each one has to grow, the more likely they are to have very tall fins.

It is difficult at this point to count the fry, but I believe there are close to three dozen in this 20-gallon tank, which should give them plenty of space to grow over the next few weeks. When they have reached a body size of a quarter, they will go to the local pet shop. Some breeders sell them when their bodies are the size of a dime. I believe this is entirely too small, as the water changes from the breeder to the pet shop and then to the buyer's tank often results in high fatalities.

I changed the water the day before this video was taken. Water can become very dirty with babies, because of the brine shrimp that is fed to them - it creates cloudier water than fish flakes, which they won't be able to eat for several more weeks. During the water change, I removed the plants. This confuses them for a day or two, but it makes it more likely for them to get used to me, so they won't hide from people in the pet shop - or in their new home. They'll come to associate people with food.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Loving the Snow

My collie, Simone, is loving the snow. This week, a more severe storm moved in (Pax) which brought a reported five inches of snow to Robeson County on Tuesday, and an estimated .75 inch of ice on Wednesday.

Though it shut down the town, Simone loved the cold so much that she spent part of her day sitting in the snow.

In case you're wondering if she was left out there for long, note the doggie door on the side of the house. :) The dogs have three doggie doors so they can come and go as much as they'd like. I have discovered, however, that they will run around and play in the snow for a few minutes, then come inside for Mommy to dry them off, they'll warm up, and a few minutes later, they're back outside in it!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Babies Thriving

Since I moved the parents to a different tank, the babies have been exploring their tank more thoroughly. There are no predators so they are perfectly safe swimming about. There is no need for them to hide among the plants, as their parents were keeping them.

You can see the difference in size. The smallest are most likely female, and the largest are most likely the alpha males - the ones most likely to get to the food first, and who will be more assertive as they age. When looking for a pair, it's often best to select one of the largest (most likely, a male) with one of the smaller ones (most likely, a female). Getting two of the largest often means you've selected two males, which can result in territorial issues.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Parents Fighting

Last evening I was sitting across the room from the Infant Tank when I noticed Stevie Fishnick and Lindsay Buckingfish fighting. I had never witnessed this before; they are usually quite compatible. As I approached the tank, they locked lips and tugged at one another.

There is only reason for this to have happened. One of the parents (most likely, the male) decided to begin culling the babies. In the wild, the parents will often select the weakest to kill (or eat!) which helps the strongest to survive, as there are fewer competitors for food or resources.

However, this can cause a problem if the only parent does not agree with the culling decision.

So I believe that Stevie was continuing to protect her young - but the tables had turned so she was now protecting them from their own father.

I removed them both immediately to the empty tank directly above the Infant Tank. I had planned on moving them anyway when the babies got a little larger, but truthfully, the babies can do well on their own as soon as they become free-swimming. Because there are no predators in the tank and the filter intake has a baby-proof sponge on it, there's no reason for the parents to keep them hidden among the plants and leaves.

Tomorrow: how the babies are doing on their own.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Last Week's Snow

It doesn't usually snow in coastal North Carolina, but last week we received about four inches. This was Lucy Loo's first time to experience snow.

Lucy is the one who is running from one dog to the other, trying to get them to play with her. Even our 87-pound collie looks small with all that snow surrounding her. Her thick fur coat really came in handy. Eddie is a Jack Russell and Lucy is a Jack Russell/hound mix.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Angelfish Babies Growing and Thriving

It's been about two weeks since the latest batch of angelfish babies hatched. Angelfish make terrific parents. In the video below, you'll see the parents in a 20-gallon tank with their young. The young still have torpedo-shaped bodies but within the next week or so, they will begin to get their distinctive angelfish shape. The more crowded the babies are, the shorter and squatter they become, which is why you'll want to look for angels with very tall fins. They should be twice as tall as they are long.

Even at this young stage, you'll see a large discrepancy in the size of the fry. The largest tend to be male and they also tend to become the alphas - those who are more aggressive or assertive when feeding and when mating. The smallest tend to be females, who will not get nearly as large as their male siblings.

Each batch by these parents tend to be half black marble and half white marble. They will go to the pet shop for sale when they are between 8-10 weeks old. At that time, they are completely weaned off brine shrimp and are eating fish flakes, and their bodies are around the size of a quarter. Anything smaller than a quarter-sized body often results in high fatalities, as each move to new water stresses the youngest fry.