We have a couple of very cute chinchillas in the store, about three months old. They’re less than full adult size, but still large enough to handle fairly easily. Yes, they’re “poppy” – they do tend to pop out of your hands if you don’t keep good hold of them – but they’re pretty good about being held and they’re not hard to catch, so we can see that they’re taming down all the time.

Chinchillas are fairly quiet pets. They’re nocturnal, so they’re going to spend most of the day sleeping, and be active at night. A large cage is important, and it’s better if it’s tall rather than long. Chinchillas like to bounce and climb from level to level, and they’re happier in an enclosure that allows them to do that.

Chinchillas can live twenty years or so in captivity with good care.

Bunnies! Bunnies!

We have three five-week-old bunnies in the store. They’re fairly calm and easy to handle, and, of course, cute as a button.

It’s also close to the end of pond season. David will be taking down the pond section out at the back of the store. Some of the larger fish will be coming in. The Tiger Shovelnose, Dr. Wellfish, has had a happy summer out in the large pool. There are a few other large fish still available.

Little sweethearts

That’s how David describes the three lutino cockatiels he got in a couple of days ago. They’re about a year old, hand tame and very friendly. They’re talkative, too, at least in cockatiel – you can hear them “fweep”-ing all over the store!

Here are a couple of photos.

Pop goes the weasel!

We have an adorable, friendly, pettable young ferret who has just come in to the store. This is a sable ferret, the dark-coated, dark-eyed variety rather than the albino or any of the more obscure colours. He’s obviously been gently handled because he’s very sweet and tame.

Almost all ferrets in the pet trade are neutered within a few weeks of birth. A ferret can live as long as 12-13 years with good care. They’re a hardy, friendly pet, sleeping about 19 hours a day and fitting an entire twenty-four hours’ worth of energy into the remaining five. A ferret should have a secure sleeping place, such as a cage, so that he doesn’t take off and find his own corner in which to hide and drive you crazy trying to find him. An adult ferret can fit through a 1″ x 2″ hole, so that corner could be just about anywhere!

There are specially formulated ferret foods for these critters, and a high-quality kitten food is also an option.

Need a cow stripped?

The piranha arrived today. It’s the first time in weeks that we’ve even seen them on any of our suppliers’ lists.

Contrary to their reputation, red-breasted piranha are timid, and far more likely to be hiding out behind the filter than gnashing their teeth at passersby. It takes them a few days to get used to the tank and come out to where they can be seen. Once they do calm down, they can be seen schooling together in the aquarium, waiting for a passing cow to step in.

“If you stick your finger in there, will they attack it?” is the question we’re most often asked. The answer is “no”. Black piranha, now, are another matter altogether. They will bite the hand that feeds them and cleans the tank. The red-breasted ones are very much less likely to bite, especially if they’re well-fed. We do recommend keeping them well-fed, as they’ll turn on each other if they get hungry enough.

The outdoor ponds

The outdoor ponds have been set up, and the koi, pond fish and turtles moved out. We’re expecting a small order of new koi – kohaku and sanke – this afternoon. Plants will be coming in a week or so – water lettuce and water hyacinth, and probably lilies as well.

Plants serve many functions in a pond. Some, like hornwort, are active oxygenators. Surface plants such as water lilies and water lettuce cast shade and provide shelter and hiding places for fish. Fish who have somewhere to hide are more likely to come out. They feel secure knowing they can hide when they’re threatened.

Plants also cut algae growth two ways. They reduce light, and they take up nutrition. Algicides are illegal in Canada, so any help you can get to keep algae down in your pond is good.

The showpiece of the outdoor section is the big pool, 1400 gallons. Currently the large koi from inside the store, as well as a large ID shark and our own Dr Wellfish, the tiger shovelnose catfish, have been moved outside. Fish do better in sunshine, and koi with hi (pronounced “hee” – the red colour) become very much brighter with exposure to sunlight. Algae helps their colour, too.

The pond department

The pond department is going up at Animalia.

Pond plants and pond fish look better and do better when they’re outdoors, so for the next few months Animalia will have an extension on the back to let the Koi, goldfisha nd plants catch some rays.

On Tuesday the koi we’ve overwintered in Wharncliffe will be coming back into the store and going straight out to a custom-built outdoor above-ground pond. About two weeks from now, on June 3rd, we’ll have new small koi which will also be in an outdoor pond. These new fish will be hand-picked from our supplier’s tanks, and we’ll be bringing in the prettiest ones we can find.

We know from past years that the small koi go quickly, especially the sanke (white with red and black spots) and the kohaku (red and white). Be sure to get in early for the best choice! In the meantime, if you haven’t got your pond filter going yet, this weekend is a good time to start it up.

Budgies? We don’t need no steenkin’ budgies!

But we have them!

When David worked at Menagerie in Toronto, they used to order from Fish and Bird. Now Fish and Bird is making biweekly deliveries to Sault Ste Marie. They come on the off-week for Straits, which means that we get a fish order every week. We’re getting different things from the two different suppliers. Straits doesn’t carry birds – unless they’ve recently hired Monty Python to staple fins to finches – but Fish and Bird does.

We have some lovely young budgies available . People always ask “Are they hand raised?” Chances are, no. But more important than that is that they’re young birds and will be easier to tame.

Here’s a little secret: paying a premium for a hand-raised bird in a pet store is probably a waste of money. Yes, a hand-raised bird is tamer than a parent-raised one, but only if it is consistently handled. If you leave that hand-raised baby in a cage, it will lose its special tameness. Most pet stores don’t have the time and personnel to keep handling the birds.

If you get those hand-raised babies fast enough, yes, they’ll still be more handleable and tamer than their parent-raised fellows. If you don’t, you’re starting again. The good news is that young birds can be tamed quickly with a little effort and patience.

Another good bet is an older bird that’s come in from a home where it had lots of attention. We’ve placed birds that people have brought to us because they had to give them up, and some of those birds have bonded beautifully to their new owners. If you can give a bird enough attention, you can win its little feathered heart.

Koi coming

At the end of May I’ll be driving down to Southern Ontario to choose the koi for the year. It’s one of my favourite things to do for the pet store. While I like to get some of the popular patterns like kohaku (red and white) and sanke (white with red and black spots), I also look for some unusual patterns, like karasu (black) or chagoi (brown or bronze or greenish, tea-coloured fish).

Recently we got some large koi from someone who was no longer keeping a backyard pond. These fish are beautiful and in excellent condition, with smooth, healthy skin and good body conformation. One sanke (bottom left) has lots of shiro (white) with a branching pattern of sumi (black) along the spine and several large spots of hi (red). The other (top right)  has a rather cloudy sumi overlying the hi. The large koi is doitsu (scaleless) with large mirror scales along the spine. Finally, there’s a lovely darker fish, possibly a goromo (robed), with black markings over what appears to be hi (red).

Bear in mind that all the koi you find in the pet trade are lower-grade koi, not the high standard show koi. The prices reflect this. While a large koi in the pet trade might cost you as much as $200-$300, that wouldn’t begin to cover the cost of a top-grade show fish.

All the same, the only reason to buy a koi is that you like the way the fish looks. Try to see it from the top, as that is how you’ll be seeing it in the pond. Koi are bred to be viewed from above, so the side view of the fish doesn’t matter that much.

Most of these new koi are about 12″ in length, as you can see by the ruler included in the picture. (We put that in for scale – snicker!) The white doitsu is about 14″ long. We have some 5-8″ koi which will be coming into the store in a couple of weeks.

The fish I’ll be choosing at the end of May will be considerably smaller and less expensive. We buy some small koi every year, in spite of the saying that “Only a fool would buy a three-inch koi, and only a fool would sell one.” This is because the colour changes a lot as the fish grows and matures. A promising three-inch fish can turn muddy or lose most of its red colour. Alternately, an uninspiring-looking three-incher might turn into a lovely adult. You never can tell.


The cricket drought seems to be over. We’re still holding our breath a little, and the jumbo crickets aren’t as jumbo as they used to be, but it looks like the cricket supply is back to something more closely approaching normal.

During the months when crickets were hard to come by, a lot of people gave up their reptile pets, and more turned to alternate food sources, such as mealworms. Mealworms are convenient, quiet and relatively inexpensive, but they’re also not the best food source for most lizards.

A lizard on a diet of mealworms is like a human on a diet of donuts – lots of carbs, lots of fat, not much protein. Crickets are much higher in protein and lower in fat. They’re better for your animal’s overall health.

However, like humans, lizards prefer the taste of fat and carbs to the taste of protein.  Getting your lizard back onto crickets is going to take a bit of patience. The lizard is going to try to psych you out. It’s going to refuse crickets and hold out for mealworms. Bear in mind that no healthy animal will willingly starve itself, and when your lizard gets hungry – and it will – crickets will be back on the menu.

Now for those pictures I promised you. Unfortunately, the spiny mice did not come in. Darn. They’re cute little things, and we’ve been trying to get them for a while. But here are some other critters.

The mudskippers are a goby. They spend a lot of time out of the water. As long as their gills are wet, they can breathe, and they do take frequent dips.

They’re funny-looking little fish, and always make me smile. Mudskippers are a brackish water fish, and need salt content in their water. One-third of the salt concentration you would use for a marine tank is about right.


We’ve also got some African butterfly fish. These surface feeders will take small crickets.  

We like glass tetras, but most of the ones you get in the pet trade have been painted. This isn’t good for the fish. We’ve tried to avoid bringing in painted or strip-dyed fish whenever possible.  Last Friday’s shipment included some glass tetras – unpainted, unvarnished, and, we think, pretty cool.




The volitans lionfish is also pretty cool – one of my favourite marine fish.



Finally, not fish, but birds. We’ve got a few baby budgies on hand along with the society finches and zebra finches.








The fish order today is small; we’ve ordered mainly feeders. But keep watching this space for more new fish, reptiles, birds and small mammals.



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