It isn’t easy not being green

Algae is an ongoing part of any endeavour involving water. Most aquarists and pond-keepers don’t like it, and we get a lot of questions about how to control it.

Algaecides – chemicals which kill algae – are illegal in Canada. While this is a bit of a nuisance for people who want a sparkling clean pond or aquarium, we regard it as being generally a good thing. It’s too easy simply to kill off what you don’t want, without considering the underlying situation that nurtured the algae in the first place. Killing it off won’t fix that, and may make it worse.

Algae needs light and food to thrive. “Food” in this case is nutrient in the water, and “nutrient” usually means something is decaying. That something could be fish poop, plant material or uneaten food. Whatever it is, the algae is removing it from the water. This is a good thing, unsightly as the algae may be.

To kill algae without harming your other aquarium or pond denizens, remove either the light or the food. Simply turning off the aquarium light won’t do it, because ambient light, while not enough to keep aquarium plants happy, is plenty for algae. You need to cover the aquarium with something which will keep out all the light, while still permitting air to get in. Our usual suggestion is a black plastic garbage bag. Open it, drop it over the aquarium, and don’t seal the bottom. After a few days the algae will die from lack of light.

Of course, if you don’t deal with the nutrients, the algae will be back as soon as the lights come on again. Reducing the nutrients involves better filtration, regular water changes and probably a reduction in feeding.

To reduce light and nutrients in a pond, use plants. Surface plants like water lilies cut off the light. Oxygenators like hornwort use nutrient in the water, reducing its availability for algae. Of course, you should also make sure that your fish aren’t overfed, that your pond isn’t overcrowded, and that you practice good pond maintenance with water changes and adequate filtration.

Managing the factors that nourish algae is more work than simply killing it off with an algaecide, but in the end your pond, and your fish and other plants, will be healthier and happier for it.

Welcome to the Hotel Animalia

One of the things we started early on in the life of the store was a boarding service. Several customers complained that if they went away, there was nobody reliable to take care of their bird, ferret, or – surprise – snake.
We said, “We can do that!”
We don’t board cats or dogs, but we’ve had snakes, lizards, birds, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs and fish. Yes, fish!

A gentleman came into the store a few years ago and announced that he had three discus which he’d owned for five years. He had to go to Europe on business, and he didn’t trust any of his family to be able to care for the fish. Would we do it?

We cleared a tank for his fish. Discus are a South American cichlid, and as adults they can be six, sometimes even eight, inches across. These three were almost five inches across, and beautifully marked. For two months we kept them, checking their pH daily.
Daily, and several times daily, we also had to tell people that they weren’t for sale. It’s the “instant gratification” gene – instead of buying a toonie-sized discus and raising it to adult size, people like to have the adult ones now.

We could have sold those fish ten times over in the time we had them. But we resisted, oh, yes. Their owner was delighted to find them alive and happy when he returned, and they’re still occasionally guests at the “Hotel Animalia”.

Other regulars are Kivi, a Senegal parrot, April, a sweet and gentle rabbit, and Eragon, a bearded dragon. Once or twice we also kept Cato, a Congo African Grey, whose vocabulary and obvious intelligence were impressive.

Oh, and you can check out any time you like.
But you’ll be back.

Here comes Peter Cottontail…..

We have BUNNIES! Four adorable little lop-eared bunnies, just weaned, came into the store yesterday. There’s a black one, a tortie (brown with grey points) and two blue.

Renovations on the fish room are coming along. Right now all the tanks are lined up on two sets of racks down the middle of the store, but when the fish room is done, ’twill be a thing of beauty!

Speaking of fish, look at our “Schedules” page for information on the next fish order. It shows the next three delivery dates, and when the order is in for the current one, we’ll show what we’ve ordered.