Archive | December, 2013

Fish and reptile books that I treasure

4 Dec

When I need a quick answer to a fishy question I go right to the Internet. It’s amazing and it’s wonderful but I still love to look at my old books. I’ve had some of these since I was a little kid.

These are my favorites:

Let's put Mr. Innes' book right where it belongs...at the top.

Let’s put Mr. Innes’ book right where it belongs…at the top.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is the pronunciation key for scientific names. A lot of the names are outdated but you learn how to say those big Latin words.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is the pronunciation key for scientific names. A lot of the names are outdated but you learn how to say those big Latin words.

At 13 years of age I checked this book out 7 times in one year. No, I didn't steal this one from my school! It was a thrill to find this library discard on Ebay.

At 13 years of age I checked this book out 7 times from our Junior High library. No, I didn’t steal this one from my school! It was a thrill to find this library discard on Ebay.

Famous names in the Discus world. Axelrod, Schultz and Wattley.

Famous names in the Discus world. Axelrod, Schultz and Wattley.

A classic reptile book that proves even a reptile book can be politically incorrect.

A classic that proves even a reptile book can be politically incorrect. This copy is from 1936.

But I love the inscription inside, from Edwin S. Cieslek to Jan "

But I love the inscription inside, from Edwin S. Cieslak. ” To Jan, to encourage him in the pursuit of science “

We all loved these Golden Guides by Herbert Zim, right?

We all loved these Golden Guides by Herbert Zim, right?

A classic by Carl Kauffeld. I bought it for 8 bucks some years ago. I remember reading about the Trans-Pecos Rat Snake when I was teenager.

A classic by Carl Kauffeld. I bought it for 8 bucks some years ago. I remember reading the chapter about the Trans-Pecos Rat Snake when I was teenager.

I bought this last year for maybe 50 cents at a city-wide garage sale. There was a worn sheet of lined paper inside with a 4 line poem titled Suicide. I wish I could hand that paper back to the person who wrote and say " Hey, you made it, you're fine, hang in there."

I bought this last year for maybe 50 cents at a city-wide garage sale. There was a worn sheet of lined paper inside with a 4 line poem titled Suicide. I wish I could hand that paper back to the person who wrote it and say ” Hey, you made it, you’re fine, hang in there.”

These are two actual books I have had nearly my entire life. I used to stare and the pictures and imagine having those creatures as pets.

These are two actual books I have had nearly my entire life. I used to stare at the pictures and imagine having those creatures as pets.

Here's a modern book that I highly recommend by Frank Indiviglio.

Here’s a modern book that I highly recommend by Frank Indiviglio.

Here's abook I saw in Florida in 1973 and finally found it online and bought it about 30 years later. Most of the book is ridiculous, and I used to dream of owning this book!!!!

Here’s a book I saw in Florida in 1973 and finally found it online and bought it about 30 years later. Most of the book is ridiculous, and I used to dream of owning it!!!!

From 1974, a copy of The Plecostomus, the newsletter of the Black Hawk Aquarium Society, headquartered in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois.

From 1974, a copy of The Plecostomus, the newsletter of the Black Hawk Aquarium Society, headquartered in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois.

Imagine the work to create this every month. the artwork, the printing, the copying, the stapling, the research. Amazing.

Imagine the work to create this every month. The artwork, the typing, the printing,  the stapling, the research. Amazing.

Every fish owner had this book, by Axelrod and Schultz.

Every fish owner had this book, by Axelrod and Schultz.

As a teenager I would go to the local library and special order International Zoo Yearbooks. These yearly books are very expensive, written by zookeepers for other zookeepers. 40 years ago I filled a notebook with handwritten copies of the articles I wanted, like this one about Iguanas at the Dallas Zoo.

As a teenager I would go to the local library and special order International Zoo Yearbooks. These yearly books are very expensive, written by zookeepers for other zookeepers. 40 years ago I filled a notebook with handwritten copies of the articles I wanted, like this one about Iguanas at the Dallas Zoo.

I must have thought I would own a Tuatara someday.

I must have thought I would own a Tuatara someday.

A stack of magazines from 1969-1970. A British fishkeeping magazine that is still going today! And i named my blog before I ever heard of them...so there!

A stack of magazines from 1969-1970. A British fish-keeping magazine that is still going today! And I named my blog before I ever heard of them…so there!

Pictus Catfish are jumpers

4 Dec

Be careful with the Pictus Catfish, they are very active fish and can jump out of the tank.
A few months ago I came home and was looking at a tank that has a group of young Jack Dempseys. Suddenly I saw one of my Pictus Catfish swimming in that tank! He had leaped out of his tank through a small gap, cleared a few inches of space and went into the neighboring tank. A lucky fish.

Eventually I found a dried-up Pictus Catfish on the floor. So now I only have two.

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Transferring Mr. Pictus back to his original tank. By the way, when catching Pictus Catfish try not to use a net. You can “herd” them with a net, then try to catch them in a big plastic cup or suitable container. The spines get caught in nets. Bad for the fish and maybe bad for you!

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I face their wood hideout to the front of the aquarium so I can watch them.

I brought in some water lilies and also dropped in a handful of washed, dead Oak tree leaves. I think the Pictus appreciate the natural hiding places.

I brought in some water lilies and also dropped in a handful of washed, dead Oak tree leaves. I think the Pictus appreciate the natural hiding places.

The Oak leaves look good in the Tiger Salamander tank. They help keep the tank moist and make it so I never ever get to see the salamanders.

Oak leaves also look good in the Tiger Salamander tank. They help keep the tank moist and make it so I never ever get to see the salamanders.

Water Lettuce and Water Hyacinth in the Turtle Pond

4 Dec

The first 3 years that I had my turtle pond I couldn’t keep any live plants in the water. The turtles (Red-eared Sliders) annihilate everything.
This year, I came up with a strategy that seems to work:
I start by having Water Lettuce growing in my aquariums during the Winter.

Indoors, the Water Lettuce plant stays small under average lighting.

Indoors, the Water Lettuce plant stays small under average lighting.

I have not had any luck growing Water Hyacinth indoors. It must require much stronger light than I have.

Once Spring comes, I put a bunch of little Water Lettuce plants outside in the shade to acclimate it to the Sun.

Once Spring comes, I put a bunch of little Water Lettuce plants outside in the shade to acclimate it to the Sun. I leave them in the shade for at least a week and bring them indoors if it gets very cold.

Little Water Lettuce in the small pond. SEE THE FROG!

Then, into the small pond. SEE THE FROG!

It grows like mad and covers the little pond.

It grows like mad and covers the little pond.

The Water Lettuce gets bigger. See the frog again?

The Water Lettuce gets bigger. See the frog again?

I start putting Water Lettuce into the turtle pond. I also acquired some Water Hyacinth from a pond keeper nearby.

I start putting Water Lettuce into the turtle pond. I also acquired some Water Hyacinth from a pond keeper nearby.

The turtles proceed to eat the plants, mostly the Water Hyacinth.

The turtles proceed to eat the plants, mostly the Water Hyacinth.

But the 30 gallon pond keeps supplying me with Lettuce and Hyacinths and I begin to win the war.

But the 30 gallon pond keeps supplying me with Lettuce and Hyacinths and I begin to win the war.

The Water Lettuce gets gigantic outdoors. The turtles start to get sick of eating it!

The Water Lettuce gets gigantic outdoors. The turtles start to get sick of eating it!

But they LOVE the Water Hyacinth.

But they LOVE the Water Hyacinth.

The pond stays so much clearer with lots of plants to shade the water and filter it.

The pond stays so much clearer with lots of plants to shade the water and filter it.

It was so hot and dry we even had a toad living in the pond.

It was so hot and dry we even had a toad living in the pond.

I take some medium sized plants indoors and , before you know it, I am giving them away for aquarium use or even throwing them away.

Before Winter I take some medium sized plants indoors. They soon spread over the surface of the aquarium.

Before you know it, I am giving them away for aquarium use or even throwing them away.

Before you know it, I am giving them away for aquarium use or even throwing them away.

The Gold Barb ( Puntius semifasciolatus )

3 Dec

I bought a group of young Gold Barbs at the Fish Club. At the time I didn’t know how many I had purchased. It turns out I have 16 of them! They sold them cheap, it probably worked out to less than 50 cents per fish.

They’ve grown a lot these past few months and I have to say they are a terrific fish. I think they are so happy because I have them in a school. It makes me wonder how many Barbs school together in the wild. Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? And we put them in tanks, maybe two or three at a time, sometimes all alone!!

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While other fish cruise around the upper levels, the Gold Barb tends to hang around the lower third of the tank.

Gold Barbs are only about 2 inches long. They are sharing their tank with some young Angelfish.

Gold Barbs are only about 2 inches long. These are sharing their tank with some young Angelfish.

When you can, buy schooling fish in schools! We all have a tendency to buy 2 of everything. Believe me,  I have done it.

If you are setting up a tank to make a visual impact the way to do it is not with 40 fish of 20 different species but with, let’s say, 35 fish of one species and a few pairs or loners of other kinds.

The most beautiful planted aquariums in the world ALWAYS have large schools of fish, like Cardinal Tetras or Rummy-nosed Tetras, or Congo tetras. The possibilities are endless.

Well, anyway, don’t forget the Gold Barb. I’m glad to have gotten my little school of them.

Wild animal pictures!

3 Dec

OK so these are not Wild Animal pictures, but they are close!

They are pictures of our cats because…EVERYONE loves cats.

No wait, that’s not right. Cat owners love cats. Lots of other people HATE cats.

I happen to think owning a cat is incredible. A domesticated animal that retains a streak of wildness. I love my dog the most, but the truth is dogs have become soft and dependent. Cats are still cunning and…wait a minute. One of my cats weighs 20 pounds. He’s a big, fat lazy slob of a cat. I have no idea what I’m talking about here.

Here are some cat pictures.

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Hard to tell what this is? A black cat contorting himself to drink from a faucet. A dog will drink from the toilet bowl.

Hard to tell what this is? A black cat contorting himself to drink from the faucet. A dog will drink from the toilet bowl.

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Hey what about me???? Woof.

Hey what about me???? Woof.

Contest Number Five: What the heck is goin on around here?

3 Dec

Can someone tell me what the heck is going on here?

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This summer I found these chewed plants scattered in various places in my yard.

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My first thought was that a squirrel did it but we rarely see a squirrel. Our neighborhood is only 15 years old and most trees here are small. Also, I think it happens at NIGHT!

Other creatures that inhabit Iowa are Opossums, Raccoons, Woodchucks and...

Other creatures that inhabit Iowa are Opossums, Raccoons, Woodchucks, Rabbits, Skunks and…

…White-tailed Deer. Could it be Deer passing through at night? Or Bigfoot? I seriously want to know.

It’s not my dog chewing these things up. Mice are too little. Birds? I don’t think so but…you tell me, please.

I did some Googling to see what this plant material is. I think I figured that out but I’m not telling!

I want to know WHO is doing it!

Turtle egg report for Summer 2013

3 Dec

This past Spring, on May 1 to be exact, I reported that the momma Red-eared Slider (also known as  Banana) was outdoors digging a nest. When the sun went down that night it quickly became VERY cold, under 30 degrees F.  So I put the mother into a dry tub for the evening, where I hoped she would rest until the next day. But instead of resting, she laid her eggs in the tub. Then the eggs got jostled and stepped on. I still hoped they might survive. I put them in my homemade incubator but none developed. All of the eggs, 5 of them as I recall, quickly shriveled and/or fungussed.

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Two months later, in July, the momma was out wandering again and this time I saw her on three consecutive days. That can mean only one thing. She was looking to nest, but I never saw her digging. I searched hard for the nest, hoping to rescue the eggs, as my past experience of leaving eggs underground did not go well. Last year, a nest left to develop naturally was destroyed by several types of worms and grubs. So it’s possible there was a nest of turtles but with the drought conditions here I doubt the eggs ever developed or that the babies could even dig out. And if they dug out what would happen? Would they crawl to the pond only to be eaten by their parents?

During the entire month of August we had one measurable rain and it was only a few tenths of an inch.

Rain was so rare that I ran out and took a picture of the pond.

Rain was so rare that I ran out and took a picture of the pond.

One day in September I came home from work and Banana the Turtle was on land, hiding in the shade under some plants. The ground was very hard. I turned on a sprinkle of water, raining down gently over her, but within a minute or so she scampered (yes, turtles can scamper) back into the pond.

And that’s it for 2013. No eggs to be found.

I decided to construct a sand nesting area that the turtles can use next year.

I dug a hole...

I dug a hole…

...and filled it with exactly 100 pounds, or 45 kilos, of sand.

…and filled it with exactly 100 pounds, or 45 kilos, of sand.

A turtle beach!

She’s indoors now for the Winter, and I have a 55 gallon aquarium ready for her of she acts like she needs to lay eggs. I have about 6 inches of mulch in the bottom of the aquarium. I think I’ll just take her out of her water habitat every week or two and put her in the dry aquarium.

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Sometimes a pregnant turtle will lay their eggs in the water, where the eggs quickly die. Or the mother turtle may hold the eggs in and become egg-bound. That is not a good thing. An adult aquatic female turtle  needs a place to lay eggs. If you see a major behavioral change in your water turtle, and you suspect her to be pregnant, put her on dry land for a few days.

The behavior change you notice may be that she gets extremely active, trying to escape the tank she is in, or just the opposite, sitting on the bottom of the tank , fat and miserable, like Americans on Thanksgiving.