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.

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.

Spring is sprung

Most people open the cottage on the Victoria Day weekend. Jack, however, is getting a head start. David has put up a spacious outdoor cage, which Jack can get to through the side window above his sleeping cage. We don’t know if Lily will like this new “cottage”, but we know Jack’s happy with it.

This month you’ll notice some fencing going up at the back of the store. We’re putting the koi ponds and pond plants outside this year, where they’ll benefit from the sun. Koi develop brighter colours in outdoor ponds, even without specialized feed. We’ve noticed that the yellowish hi utsuri we took home last fall has become quite bright.

At the moment we have four large koi, but we’ll be bringing the smaller ones in from their winter quarters¬† as soon as the outdoor pond is set up at the store.¬† We’re pretty sure, by the way, that the large white doitsu with the mirror scales down the back, the one at the top of the picture, is a female.

On June third we’ll have brand new koi. We’re hoping to get them from Gord at Koi Koi Koi, but we’ll have to see what he has, as he’s moving and has had to cut back on stock for this year only.

For those of you who’d like to hear more humourous stories from the pet store, check out Elizabeth’s new blog, North by NorthEast, at Pet Product News.

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.

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.

Of conures and koi

The conures have laid a second egg! We just might have babies – fingers are crossed!

There are still some beautiful koi left at very good prices. Most of them are going at $7.49 and $12.49, with a couple of larger ones at $49.99.

The larger koi are the ever-popular kohaku (orange and white), a couple of dark-coloured butterfly koi, and a couple of black and yellows. At least, they’re black and yellow right now, but the yellow on them is going to darken with maturity to red. That means these beautiful, though not showy, fish are going to turn into gorgeous hi utsuri (hee ut-SOO-ri), stunning red fish with black markings.

We buy our koi from a supplier in Southern Ontario. Gord is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic koi keeper. Every time I go to buy koi from him, I learn so much about these lovely fish. When we started to go to him, we saw right away that his koi were better quality than the ones we’ve had from other fish suppliers. Our customers notice it, too; the year we couldn’t afford to make the trip and wound up buying koi from somewhere else, everyone remarked on how much nicer the fish had been the year before.

There’s one good reason for this – he’s a specialist. He has time to know what the qualities of a good koi – or a great koi – should be, and we get the benefit of that knowledge when we buy from him. So do our customers.

Koi can easily live as long as seventy years if they’re well cared for and not overfed. They’re smart and friendly enough to learn to eat from your hand.

There are still several months of pond weather left, and koi kept outdoors get brighter and more beautiful. In part it’s the exposure to sunlight that deepens their colour, but they also benefit from eating algae off the sides of your pond.

Just another good reason to love koi!