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.

Fish order today

We’ve found a second fish supplier, and there’s an order arriving today. No, this is not an April Fool’s Day joke.

We have salt water fish on the order. We’re expecting domino, yellowtail blue and green lyretail damsels. You might know those last as green chromis. We also have a volitans lion coming, and several kinds of shrimp.

We haven’t had mudskippers for quite a while, but we’re getting them today. These odd little guys spend a lot of time out of the water, and are brackish-water creatures rather than marine ones. Pop by and have a look at them.

In freshwater, we have show guppies, catfish of several kinds, including the farlowella , and assorted African cichlids. We’re also expecting hermit crabs and spiny mice! I have to wait for David to get pictures to me before I post them, but they’re coming this weekend.

It’s also coming up to pond season, so we’re bringing in more goldfish, including Chinese black moors, calico telescope eyes, and the bubble-eyed goldfish.

A couple of years ago David told me that a woman had asked him, “Are those bubbles under the fish’s eyes their lungs? If you poked them with a pin and burst them, would the fish drown?”

No, and no. But they look pretty cool in your pond.

Fish day tomorrow!

There’s have been some changes in the fish delivery. The fish now arrive on alternate Thursdays instead of alternate Wednesdays. This change is reflected in the page on deliveries.

What’s coming in tomorrow? Well, that still remains to be seen, but I can tell you what we’ve ordered.

We’re expecting three kinds of gourami – chocolate, golden honey and red honey.

We’ve ordered our usual neon tetras, and also neon gold barbs, as well as male and female bettas.

Look for long-nosed loaches, microrasboras, otocinclus and assorted platys, as well as some Metynnis silver dollars. We’re also expecting Thailand glass catfish.

And of course we’ve ordered the crickets and other feeders, including ghost shrimp.

Please remember that the order usually doesn’t arrive until around three in the afternoon.


This week we received nine dwarf bunnies. The parents look like they weigh two pounds maximum. These little guys are really small – definitely one-hand bunnies – and in a variety of colours, including black and white spotted. 

We also have some large striped Raphael catfish in the pond fish bins near the front of the store, and we’ve moved the large tiger shovelnose cat up there, too.

Now that fall is here and people are back from vacation, things are picking up in the pet store. David’s made good use of the summer quiet to get the store arranged. It’s airy and open, easy to move around in. There are lights on the reptiles and fish now, and Victoria is getting the stock sorted and arranged.

This new location is much better than the old one. Next step – paint! We want to get away from the dull greyish green we inherited and move to some brighter, more cheerful colours.

The cricket orders are starting to increase again. We still don’t know when we’ll get the large crickets in, but we are getting more of the medium ones. This has been rough on everyone, and we appreciate the patience of our customers.

We’ve sold all the specially-priced aquariums. All right, there might be one left, if you get there before someone else does.

Ferrets and lizards and snakes, oh, my!

Yesterday we drove down to Sudbury to pick up an order of reptiles and four baby ferrets. The ferrets are all neutered and come with a certificate of health.

David and I used to breed ferrets, although we haven’t had any of our own now for close to fifteen years. Sky had never been as close to one as she was to the four in the cat carrier on the way home. Perhaps that’s one reason why she was so eager to be in the lap of the person in the passenger seat!

Spook, my orange cat, was also not impressed. “There are weasels in my house!” he said. He wasn’t really happy until they left with David this morning. Even now he’s still being a clingy cat.

The reptiles are gorgeous – a sunbeam snake, a red-tailed green rat snake,  a pipe snake, a Fischer’s chameleon, a sailfin dragon and a water monitor. We also got a few more whiptail scorpions, which are not scorpions, but get the name because of the way they look. These are really cool, interesting non-venomous arthropods.

This is the pipe snake. It’s about 12-14″ long right now. Our supplier had some together in one container and said one of them tried to eat another. We’re offering earthworms, as long, thin things seem to trigger the impulse to eat. There’s an orange spot on the nose, and another on the tail, which is blunt and rounded, rather than tapering. The pipe snake doesn’t want you to know which end is which!

The red-tailed green rat snake is about three feet long. We always figured this animal was named by someone who’d been in the rainforest so long that anything that wasn’t actually green looked like red to them. The tail-tip is really a warm grey colour, and the forked tongue is blue. These snakes put out their tongues and do a slow flicker, rather than a fast one, which is quite unusual.

The Fischer’s chameleon is in very good shape, plump and active.

The sailfin dragon is rather like a Chinese water dragon in terms of care and feeding – this one is skittish and will nerd gentling.

The water monitor is quite calm. He’s fairly small right now, perhaps 12″ nose-to-vent, but he’s going to be seven to nine feet long when full-grown and he’ll need a lot of heat. 

And here’s a picture of the whiptail scorpion.

The ones we now have are rather small, but they’ll grow.

The reptile section is looking a lot better than it has at any time since we moved. Things are coming along. And, oh, yes, we do have crickets again. Right now we’re limiting the numbers people can buy just so we can make them last. With any luck at all, the cricket situation will be back to normal in a few months.

And, just because I now have it, here’s a picture of the pygmy chameleon!

Fish delivery day!

Today – August 25th – is fish delivery day. We’re expecting, in the freshwater order, bettas, clown plecos, pim pictus catfish and silver hujeta gars in addition to our feeder fish.

In the salt water order, we’re expecting a Xanthurus angel, a couple of dragon gobies, two different triggers (Niger and rectangular), a peacock lion, a sand skate and a masked rabbitfish. The invertebrates ordered include anemones, five different shrimp (blood, camel, cleaner, sexy and golden  coral-banded), featherdusters, two jellyfish and an Ultra Crocea Clam.

The feeder order includes crickets, mealworms, hornworms and silkworms. We still don’t know how the cricket situation is; the last we heard it seemed that the disease was still killing crickets over about 1/2″ in size. The last order we got no crickets at all – we’re hoping to get at least the smalls and mediums on this one, but we won’t know until later today. Check back for an update after 4 p.m.

It bugs us, too

Yesterday was fish order day, and along with the fish we are supposed to get crickets.

Unfortunately, there were no crickets. Yes, we ordered. Yes, our supplier said she would get us what she could. But her supplier didn’t have any crickets big enough to ship.

It’s been four weeks now since we got a shipment of crickets. It’s been much longer than that since we got anything approaching our usual shipment. So the question is, what to feed those reptiles who eat crickets?

Let’s start with mealworms. We carry both small and large ones (super worms), and we’ve bumped up our mealworm order since the cricket troubles started. They’re fattier than crickets, with less protein for the weight, but they do contain some protein.

Omnivorous reptiles, such as beardies, can eat a bit more in the way of veggies and fruit.

Try catching insects, as long as you can be sure they haven’t been exposed to pesticide. Field crickets, moths, smooth-skinned caterpillars (hand-pick those tomato worms – lizards love ’em!), but not grasshoppers. The “tobacco juice” grasshoppers spit in self-defence is toxic. You can try earthworms, too.

Larger lizards can also eat pinky mice to get their protein.

There was, unfortunately, no way to foresee these problems with the cricket supply. We’ll just all have to hang in and improvise until things get back to normal.

Jack is the supervisor

…of the fish room renovations now nearing completion. 

David says that Jack has taken up his post on one of the metal crossbars of the racking for the aquariums. He sits there all day, forsaking the attention of customers and even his courtship of Lily. It’s hard to tell if she misses him – she’s probably playing impossible-to-get, or maybe she really doesn’t care.

Of course, as long as David’s in there building, and Jack is supervising, Jack gets David all to himself. All becomes clear – he’s not really interested in the fish room at all!

Go to your room!

We can say that to the fish now! The fish room has been insulated and wired, lights are up and the freshwater fish have been moved into ten-gallon tanks under lights.

We’ve also been bringing in salt water fish again. There are some lovely tangs, one Naso and one 4″ long regal tang (also called a blue tang). We have ocellaris clowns again, and blue damsels, and coral-banded shrimp.

This moving business just takes more time than we expected. Somehow, for every hour in the day there are two hours’ – or more – worth of tasks to be done. But things are really coming together now, with a reptile section set up and the fish room now open. Jack and Lily have an open window (with a cage over it) for some fresh air, the tortoises are set up in their own little habitat and there’s iced tea in the fridge. Yes!

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.

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