Why We Wait Until May 1st to Sell Pond Fish & Plants

Springtime = Pond Fish Time!

At our retail store in southcentral Pennsylvania, there are a few things we can always count on as soon as the temperatures start to rise: that particular fragrance as farmers get their fields ready for planting, new road construction projects, and our pond customers to start looking for new pond fish and plants for their outdoor ponds. However, those first warm days of the year aren’t the best time to start stocking your ponds. In our area in particular, the first warm days don’t mean it will stay warm. It is pretty common during a Pennsylvanian spring to have sunny 70 degree days followed by chilly 30 or 40 degree nights and even snow flurries. Even if it is warm during the day, that is only the air temperature…water temperatures and ground temperatures take far longer to warm up and stay a consistent temperature.

 

Springtime is one of the more dangerous times of the year for new and old pond fish alike. Moving fish that are kept in a climate-controlled indoor system like our retail store to an outdoor pond with cooler and inconsistent temperatures leaves them extremely vulnerable to stress and secondary infections like the dreaded Aeromonas bacteria. Fish already in a pond that are “awoken” from their winter dormancy by the warm temperatures are also vulnerable as the water temperatures affect their metabolism and immune systems.

 

Garden Pond

So when should you add new pond fish and plants or “open up” an existing pond for the spring?

Keep an eye on the water temperatures and wait until the temperature is consistently above at least 50-60 degrees. Do not feed any fish already in your pond until water temperatures have stabilized above 40 degrees as your fish will have trouble digesting food in cold temperatures, and use a Spring and Fall Formula fish food that is easily digested until your ponds temperatures have stabilized above 60 degrees. For plants, wait until any danger of overnight frost has left your area. Weather websites like AccuWeather.com often have Lawn & Gardening sections that can help you determine when the best time is for your area. It may be necessary to wait even longer for more tropical, warmer-water plants like the popular Water Hyacinth.

 

While the weather conditions in your area may vary and the seasons are always a little different every year, we’ve found that for our area, May 1st is a good guideline for the safety and health of the fish and plants. This is also around when many hatcheries and nurseries start having the best stock available as well so we can get you the best variety and healthiest stock possible!

For more information on Spring Pond Maintenance, check out these related That Fish Blog posts:pond lilly

Goldfish as Bait – Why They Are Illegal and How They Affect the Ecosystem

Here at That Fish Place – That Pet Place we are doing our best to educate our customers on the dangers and risks of using goldfish as bait. In addition to offering an extreme risk to native species, anglers also face steep fines if they are caught in possession of goldfish for bait.  In Lancaster County Pennsylvania, where we are located, there are several bait and tackle shops that offer better alternatives for fishing.

 

History of Goldfish in the US

A western aquarium of the 1850s

A western aquarium of the 1850s illustration from Shirley Hibber, The Book of the Aquarium and Water Cabinet

Goldfish are freshwater members of the carp and minnow family.   While many of us admire them from the view of our tank, they are actually one of the first aquatic invasive species to reach North America.  How did the goldfish go from being the cute googly eyed fish you would feed after school, to being such a widespread risk to native plants and species?

Goldfish began to come to the America’s in the 1600s as ornamental fish for aquariums and water gardens. If the fish became too large for their surroundings, or the owner became tired of it, they simply got rid of it in the closest freshwater source.  Today, goldfish are becoming reintroduced as livebait.  Pennsylvania has stepped in, as well as many other states to make it illegal to use goldfish as live bait.

 

The Real Issues

goldfish_credit_ontario-streams

Goldfish (Carassius auratus) photo by Ontario Streams

Goldfish will typically eat their own eggs when held in captivity, so breeding is not a large issue for most hobbyists unless they are intentionally breeding their goldfish.  Given the right conditions, goldfish can spawn several times a season.  A lot of the eggs will get eaten by the adult goldfish once they are laid, but several hundred eggs are produced at each spawning.  With only a few eggs eaten, and fry hatching within 48-72 hours, you can imagine how just a few goldfish can turn into a large problem rather quickly.

Often referred to as the “little piggies” of the aquarium, goldfish are opportunistic feeders and will not stop eating of their own accord.  While goldfish typically feed off of crustaceans, insects, and various plant matter; when this food is scarce they will eat eggs from native species nests.  The native egg-laying species populations have now been disrupted, and due to that, the population has declined and disrupted other wildlife food chains.

 

Law on the Books

downloadIt is unlawful to use or possess goldfish, comets, koi and common carp as bait fish while fishing in the state of Pennsylvania. If you are caught fishing with feeder goldfish or any other illegal bait fish there is a minimum $120.50 fine, and you can be fined an additional $20.00 – $50.00 per illegal bait fish.  Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission wants you to know that you aren’t off scot-free just yet.  Law enforcement also has the authority to confiscate or seize, any fishing equipment as evidence of your violation of the law.  The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission may, upon proper notice, suspend or revoke your fishing privileges, boating privileges or other permits of any person convicted (or acknowledging guilt) of a violation of the Fish and Boat Code or Fish & Boat Commission regulations.  That would also include your naive fishing buddy.  Should multiple violations occur within a 12-month period you will be given a fine of $200 in addition to the previously mentioned summary offenses.  That $0.10 feeder fish now cost you a fishing license, a fishing rod, fishing equipment, a whole lot of cash, a boat, and a fishing buddy. The consequences per state will vary, so check with your local Fish & Boat Commission for more information.

The employees at That Fish Place – That Pet Place are all avid hobbyists, and a lot of us live in the local river towns where fishing is just a way of life.  We don’t want to ruin the sport for other enthusiasts, just as much as we don’t want others to ruin the sport for us.  We will always strive to do our best when it comes to conservation efforts, and want to encourage others to do the same.  Thank you for reading!

 

 

Keeping Finding Dory Characters in the Home Aquarium

The saltwater aquarium hobby has seen huge blooms after the release of Disney’s “Finding Nemo” in 2003 and again with “Finding Dory” in 2016. Many movie-goers want to take a real live Nemo or Dory home for their own aquarium but don’t realize what that actually involves. So, what do you need to take your favorite animated fish home without becoming a Darla?

© 2016 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

© 2016 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

© 2003 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

© 2003 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The fish and other sea creatures featured in these movies are, first and foremost, saltwater animals. That means they need a saltwater aquarium. This isn’t as easy as putting some table salt in your home aquarium. The water has to be mixed to the correct levels (Specific Gravity 1.020-1.024) in a separate container before being added to the aquarium. Most of these creatures are also tropical, which means the tank needs a heater to maintain warm water temperatures (75-80 degrees F). The décor of saltwater tanks is usually different than freshwater as well; unfortunately, ornaments like Mount Wannahockaloogie just don’t work very well in saltwater aquariums. Most saltwater aquariums use natural crushed coral substrates and live rock although non-animated decorative ornaments are usually safe. For more information of basic aquarium care, visit our Saltwater Aquarium Basics Guide.
So what about the fish and other animals? Some of the movies’ characters are obviously impossible and even illegal to keep in home aquariums. Others are very difficult while some are very common and easy for hobbyists to care for. We are only going to discuss those characters here that are within the scope of our hobby.
( ❶ “Finding Nemo”, ❷ “Finding Dory”)

 

Hippo Tang (Paracanthus hepatus)

Hippo Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus)

“Dory” and her parents: Hippo Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus) ❶ ❷

Max Size: 12”
Minimum Tank Size: 150 gallons
Difficulty: Moderate
The Hippo Tang is a fairly delicate fish with a weak immune system. They also grow too large for many aquariums. Although tempting, only experienced aquarists with larger, established aquariums should attempt this fish. Like other tangs, Hippo Tang can become very territorial and only one should be kept per tank.

For more information on keeping Hippo Tangs, visit our Tangs & Surgeonfish Care Guide. 

“Nemo” and “Marlin”: Clownfish (probably Amphiprion ocellaris) ❶ ❷

Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)

Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)

Max size: 4”
Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Difficulty: Easy
We could debate about exactly which kind of clownfish are featured in these movies, but they are probably Ocellaris Clownfish. Percula Clownfish are also very similar in care and appearance (they just develop thicker black margins). Clownfish like these are some of the easiest saltwater fish to keep and can be kept in much smaller aquariums than many of their costars. Captive-bred fish are much hardier and better for the environement than their wild counterparts. Their anemone home is much more delicate however and has some much more intensive requirements. Most clownfish – especially captive-bred – don’t need an anemone to be happy and healthy.

For more information on keeping Clownfish, visit our Clownfish Care Guide and Clownfish and Anemone Preference Guide.

 

Common Octopus (Octopus vulgaris)

Common Octopus (Octopus vulgaris)

“Hank”: Octopus (Octopus sp.)

Max Size: Depends on species
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons for small species
Difficulty: High
Octopus are very specialized and difficult to care for and need a specially built aquarium to keep them from escaping like Hank so often does in “Finding Dory”. They will also eat almost any tankmates they are kept with. Only expert aquarists should attempt an octopus.

 

“Gill”: Moorish Idol (Zanclus canescens)

Moorish Idol (Zanclus canescens)

Moorish Idol (Zanclus canescens)

Max Size: 7”
Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons
Difficulty: High
Although not as delicate now as they were even when “Finding Nemo” was first released, Moorish Idols are still difficult to maintain for long. It is difficult to keep these fish healthy through collection and it can be tricky to get them to eat in home aquariums. It is best to stick with hardier lookalikes like the Longfin Bannerfish (Heniochus sp.) for new or novice aquarists.

 

Porcupine Puffer (Diadon holocanthus)

Porcupine Puffer (Diadon holocanthus)

“Bloat”: Porcupine Puffer (Diodon holocanthus)

Max Size: 20”
Minimum Tank Size: 200 gallons
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Although these puffers are usually only a few inches in length when they are sold for aquariums, they can grow to almost 2 feet long! Puffers also have very strong beak-like teeth and can crush through shells. Unfortunately, most of his tankmates in Dr. Sherman’s office wouldn’t have survived being kept with a puffer. Puffers “blow up” as a stress reaction and, while comical to us, this is very stressful and even dangerous to the puffer and should NEVER be provoked for any pufferfish.

 

“Peach”: Starfish

Red Knobbed Starfish (Protoreaster lincki)

Red Knobbed Starfish (Protoreaster lincki)

Max Size: Depends on species
Minimum Tank Size: Depends on species
Difficulty: usually Easy
It is difficult to tell exactly what kind of starfish Peach is but most of the thick-bodied starfish like her are fairly easy. However, most of these also eat snails and other inverts so use caution when choosing your starfish and its tankmates. They are sensitive to water quality and changes in water quality so make sure the tank stays clean and stable.

 

Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)

Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)

“Gurgle”: Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)

Max Size: 4”
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Difficulty: Easy
Royal Grammas are colorful fish found in the Caribbean and western Atlantic Ocean, unlike the Pacific homes of most of the other fish in the movies. They are hardy and easy to keep, but can be territorial. Only keep one basslet in the aquarium unless it is very large with lots of rockwork.

 

“Bubbles”: Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

Max Size: 8”
Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons
Difficulty: Easy
Yellow Tangs like Bubbles were some of the first to be kept by home aquarists and are still some of the most popular. They are hardier than tangs like the “Dory” Hippo Tang but are also more aggressive. Once they establish a territory, they will not tolerate other tangs – or possibly even any other fish – entering it. Only keep in a large tank without any other closely-related tangs or closely-colored fish.

 

4-stripe Damsel (Dascyllus melanurus)

4-stripe Damsel (Dascyllus melanurus)

“Deb”: 4-stripe Damsel (Dascyllus melanurus)

Max Size: 3”
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Difficulty: Easy
Damsels like Deb are some of the hardiest and easiest saltwater fish to keep. They are usually recommended as the first fish for any saltwater hobbyists to attempt. Most damsels can get very territorial however so make sure the tank isn’t overcrowded and there is plenty of territory for these fish. The 4-stripe Damsel specifically is one of the milder-tempered of all damselfish.

 

“Jacques”: Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)

Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)

Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)

Max Size: 3”
Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Difficulty: Easy
Like Jacques, shrimp like these will clean parasites and dead scales off of other fish, but they will also eat almost any other food they are given. They are some of the easiest shrimp to keep but, like the starfish, need stable and pristine water quality. Shrimp molt their shell to grow so it is common to find an empty shell every now and then. Don’t keep with predatory fish (like pufferfish, for example) as shrimp are often easy prey.

 

Seahorse (Hippocampus sp.)

Seahorse (Hippocampus sp.)

“Sheldon”: Seahorse (Hippocampus sp.) ❶❷

Max Size: Depends on species
Minimum Tank Size: at least 30 gallons for most species
Difficulty: Moderate to High
Seahorses are easy now than years ago and captive-bred seahorses are becoming more and more available. They are still very delicate though and keeping them with any other tankmates is difficult. It is best to keep them in a seahorse-only tank and by advanced aquarists only.

 

“Tad”: Yellow Longnose Butterfly (Forcipiger flavissimus) ❶❷

Yellow Longnose Butterfly (Forcipiger flavissimus)

Yellow Longnose Butterfly (Forcipiger flavissimus)

Max Size: 9:
Minimum Tank Size: 100 gallons
Difficulty: Moderate
Because of their very thin “beaks”, it can be difficult to get these fish to eat in home aquariums. They need small food items at least once or twice a day. They may also eat some corals as well as the tubed feet from starfish and sea urchins.

 
These characters are just a few of the sea creatures that Disney’s revolutionary “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory” franchises have brought to the forefront of the both the aquarium hobby and pop culture, but they are the most suitable for aquarium life. If you choose to bring any of these movie stars into your home, choose carefully so you can give them the best home possible. Remember, as Bruce and his crew have taught us, “Fish are friends”!
© “Finding Nemo”, “Finding Dory” and all the characters within are created by and property of The Walt Disney Company.

Plant Profile: Baby Tears vs Pearl Grass

“Baby Tears” is one of the most popular aquarium plants available and is popular as a foreground and midground plant. It has very small leaves and will stay short to cover the bottom under high lighting or will grow taller and bushier under moderate lighting. However, as is often the problem with common names, when we discuss “Baby Tears”, we may be talking about different plants. There are several plants that may be referred to as “Baby Tears”. That description above can apply to any of them. They all have small roundish leaves and grow in similar conditions…so which is the “real” one? That’s as tough to answer as the sneakers/tennis shoes/running shoes/trainers name debate.

Baby Tears and Pearl Grass

L: Baby Tears (M. umbrosum)
R: Pearl Grass (H. micranthemoides)

“Baby Tears” vs. “Pearl Grass”

The two most common “Baby Tears” available to aquarists are Hemianthus micranthemoides (also called “Dwarf Baby Tears” or Pearl Grass) and Micranthemum umbrosum (the species most often known as Baby Tears, also called “Giant Baby Tears”). The main difference between these two plants is in the leaf shape. M. umbrosum (“Baby Tears”, from here on out) generally has round, almost completely circular leaves. H. micranthemoides (“Pearl Grass”, for the rest of this blog) has elongated leaves, more tear-dropped or elliptical in shape.

 

Both of these plants have almost identical care and can usually be used interchangeably but there are some small differences here too. Baby Tears is usually easier to care for and tends to grow a bit faster than Pearl Grass, but Pearl Grass is a better foreground plant that will stay shorter and have smaller leaves under high light. Baby Tears tends to be taller and bushier but either can be pruned and trimmed to maintain a height or growth pattern. Both plants can be grown in bunches or on a surface like driftwood, rock or a plastic mat to form a thicker carpet; use fishing line or string to hold it in place under the roots start to attach.

 

A thick mat of Glossostigma in an aquarium

A thick mat of Glossostigma in an aquarium

Glossostigma: A Third Look-alike

 

Another plant, Glossostigma elatinoides (usually shortened to “Glosso”) is also very close to Baby Tears and Pearl Grass in appearance and is sometimes confused with these two plants. It has pairs of small, round leaves that are somewhat in between Baby Tears and Pearl Grass in shape, a rounded teardrop but with the widest and roundest part of the leaf at the end rather than by the stem. They stay short and small under very high light but the leaves will become bigger and taller under lower light. This plant can also be planted in the same way by attaching it to a hard surface or planting each stalk individually until it begins to spread on its own.

 

 

Oct 2016 UPDATE: Recent publications have listed that the Pearl Grass found in the aquarium trade may correctly be Hemianthus glomeratus, not H. micranthemoides. Though these two plants are very similar, they have some slight differences in native range and in the flowers. H. micranthemoides may actually be essentially extinct and it is thought that the Pearl Grass known to aquarists in the recent hobby is likely H. glomeratus.

 

(Baby Tears image by Alex Popovkin, Bahia, Brazil from Brazil (Micranthemum umbrosum (J.F. Gmel.) S.F. Blake) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Dave’s Bucket list and the Great Barrier Reef

School of Yellow and Blueback FusilierDave here. Most of you have heard of making a “bucket list”, a list of things that you feel you have to do before you die to make your life complete.  Well, I am far too disorganized to have much of a list, but one thing that I would have had on by bucket list if I were to have made one, I have been lucky enough to do:  Diving on the Great Barrier Reef.

Maxima ClamI just got back from a long awaited vacation to Australia, part of which I spent in Northern Queensland, where I was able to make a couple of visits to the outer reefs for some amazing diving and snorkeling fun.  Having been born in Australia, and still being an Australian citizen, there are questions that I have been asked all my life from friends and acquaintances. Have you ever seen a Kangaroo? Have you ever held a Koala Bear? What the heck is Vegamite?  Yes, I have seen a Kangaroo, and held a Koala, and Vegamite is an Aussie thing that defies description, if you know, you know.  The question that I have been asked a million times over the years that I have always had to answer “NO” to, I can finally answer “YES” to. YES, I have been diving on the Great Barrier Reef.  I have been a certified diver for 16 years, and ever since I began thinking about diving, the Barrier Reef has always been one of my target sites.

Tomato Clown in host anemone The reef was everything that I had hoped it would be, truly amazing.  I have done many interesting dives, mostly wreck diving in the Carolinas, and some diving in Florida and the Caribbean.  It just does not compare. The shear size of the Barrier Reef is overwhelming, you could spend a lifetime exploring, and still only see a small portion of it.   The pictures that are posted in the blog are from my trip out to the Agincourt Reef System, which is a portion of the outer Great Barrier Reef system about 40 miles off shore out of Port Douglas, Queensland

You could tell that I was the only reef geek on the dive boat.  While most of the divers on my boat were hoping to see a shark, or a turtle, or maybe a migrating whale (don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to experienced a dive with a whale), I spent most of my time in shallow water, looking in all the nooks and crannies, taking pictures of “nothing” as I heard someone say.  The diversity was amazing, and some of what I saw was quite surprising to me.  There were huge colonies of brown Sarcophyton and Lobophytum leather corals, growing very near the surface, and large colonies of White Pom Pom Xenia on the outer reef.

Fromia sp. starfishA couple of the things in particular that I was looking forward to seeing were some wild Clownfish, and Giant Clams, neither of which I have had the opportunity to see here in the Atlantic.  The reef delivered big time.  I saw some massive T. gigas clams that had to have been at least 4′ long, as well as T. maxima, T. crocea and T. squamosa.  Some of the clams were in fairly deep water, one of the T. gigas that I saw was in about 50 feet of water.

Clownfish litter the reef, wherever their host anemones can gain a foothold.  Common to many of the large coral boulders were clusters of Green Bubble Tip Anemones (E. quadricolor), which hosted mostly Clark’s (A. clarkii) clownfish, and also some Cinnamon (A. melanopus) clowns.  There were also quite a few spots where what I believe were Long-tentacle (M. doorensis) Anemones hosting mostly Clark’s and a few Maroon (P. biaculateus).  The most spectacular anemones that I saw were a few bright blue and purple colored Magnificent or Ritteri (Heteractis magnifica) Anemones hosting Pink Skunk Clowns (A. perideraion).  There were others that I caught glimpses of, but I was not sure of the species.

Soft Corals as far as the eye can seeThe large schools of fish that dart about the reef are equally impressive, one of the more brilliant schools that I saw was one of hundreds of Yellow and Blueback Fusilier (Caesio teres), which are quite common to the reef.  Also seen on the reef were large schools of Green Chromis that dart in and out of the reef formations as they sense danger.

I hope you enjoy the pictures from my visit.  I think that this experience needs to appear on my list a few more times, as once was definitely not enough.

You may check out lots more underwater pictures I took of the GBR at the That Fish Place Facebook page.

Until Next time,

Dave