Tails Blog

Did you know? Cats in New Zealand

Steve Coppell - Saturday, September 18, 2010

A group of cats is called a Clowder.
The catdoor was invented by Sir Isaac Newton.
Cats have 30 teeth.
The first Cat show was held in London.
The oldest cat on record lived to be 38 years old.
The Japanese word for cat is Neko.
A cats pregnancy lasts for 9 weeks.
A cat sweats through its paws.
In New Zealand there is an estimated population of 1.5 million cats.

Keeping an Axolotl for a pet in NZ

Steve Coppell - Saturday, September 04, 2010

These creatures are found in the wild only in the canal system of the former lake Xochimilcho in Mexico. These strange amphibians are easy to keep, and make  attractive, if unusual, aquatic pets.
Although officially an endangered species, Axolotls have been available from captive breeding stock since the 1830s.
They will grow to 30cm and should live for 10-12 years in captivity. However, older species of some 20 years have been reported.
An unusual feature of Axolotls is that they do not go through a normal amphbian life cycle in which eggs are laid in water by the adult hatch into tadpole like larvae and then metamorphose into adults. At this stage the animal frequently leaves the water to take up a more terrestrial lifestyle. Axolotls have forgone the need to metamorphosis. They remain in the aquatic, larval stage and reproduce without the need to become adult. The ability to do this is called Neotony.

                       MEXICAN SALAMANDER

An Axolotl can only change into adult form when the hormone thyroxine is introduced into the diet or when there is an increase of iodine levels in the water. The Axolotl gradually loses its gills, the tail reduces, and upon leaving the water, becomes a  Salamander. Metamorphosis will not normally take place without this special treatment.

Amazing Fact
The Axolotl is studied in earnest because it has the ability to regenerate lost or damaged limbs. A lost limb will regrow over a period of about 8 weeks. The new limb will be just as good as the old one, and full flexibility will be retained.

Have a think about how you might best lay out your tank intended for your axolotl. Keep in mind these creatures can ruin a delicately planted environment. Large structures, rocks and the like create visual appeal and give your axolotl some platforms from which to rest.
An external filter is recommended to clean and aerate the water but is not essential. Weekly cleaning of the furnishings and partial changes of the water is an acceptable, although more time consuming alternative.
Lighting  the aquarium can help to add to the visual appeal.
Generally speaking, Axolotls are best housed separately, since they have a tendancy to eat each others limbs. Keeping these creatures seperate does not usually cause problems, since they seem totally unconcerned about the lack of company.
Keep the water in your tank about as deep as the axolaotl is long.

Handle your axolotl only when it is necessary to, for example when your maintaining its tank environment. Be gentle cradling them in your hands or with a net, and always transfer them between waters of similar age and temperature so as not to cause them to go into shock.

Foods and Feeding
Axolotls are predators and they will eat a large variety of foods. Worms, crickets, small fish, fish pellots that sink or float, cubes of heart or lean meat are all suitable foodstuffs. Keep food pieces small. Mouth size chunks because axolotls cannot chew.
Axolotls tend to suck their prey in literally.Their teeth are very fine and they will not hurt the more adventurous keeper willing to hold a piece of food between finger and thumb.
Feed every second day. Hungry Axolotls seem to patrol their environment more than their well fed companions inducating more feeding may be required. Remove uneaten food as soon as possible to minimize fouling of the water environment.

Once your pet is 2 years old the sexes can be distinguished easily. Viewed from above, the male axolotls head is longer and narrower than the female's, his tail is longer, and the swelling by the cloaca is greater.
In captivity, the breeding season coincides with our winter and spring, when a change of temperature often triggers breeding behavior.
This can be done artificially by raising the water tempurature to 22 degrees celsius for about a week or so, then allowing it to drop quickly. With luck and a good diet, breeding behavior should follow. The female becomes attracted to the males sweet excretetions produced from his cloaca. She follows him around the aquarium, and they dance and swim around each other for some time. Eventually the male releases triangular jelly masses, called spermatophores, that sink to the bottom of the aquarium.
The female is led over these masses until she takes some up into her cloacal opening. Some hours later she will start to spawn, and some 300-600 fertilized eggs are laid.
The egg masses are best reared seperately from the parents to prevent them from being damaged or eaten. The eggs need good but not too strong aeration from a pump. After about two weeks at 20 degrees celsius, the larvae will hatch and can then be fed on brine shrimp, tubiflex, powdered fish food, or other microscopic foods. As they grow, daphnia, glassworms, bloodworms, and mosquito larvae can also be consumed. Ample space is required to ensure a good survival rate for the hundreds of young, otherwise they will constantly snap and bite each other.

Did you know?
The name Axolotl comes from the Aztec god Xolotl, who, legend says would throw himself into water and become one of these creatures to escape his enemies. It has a number of translations including water beast, water dog and water doll.
Axolotls are frequently born as albinos.
Females have a wider head than males, while males have two large swellings between their legs.
Axolotls are native to Mexico where sadly due to predators, they are now a critically endangered species. However captive bred stock is plentiful and continues to be sold in pet shops around the world.
Light coloured axolotls develop darkened toe tips when they become sexually mature.
Axolotls get most their oxygen through their gills and skin, but they also have lungs meaning they can breath above water as well.
Axolotls don't have ears.

Treat foods for birds

Steve Coppell - Monday, August 30, 2010

Bread (Wholegrain)
Cereal (Without the added sugar)
Corn on the cob
Crackers (Baked without the added salt)
Dandelion Greens
Pasta (dry or cooked)
Rice cakes
String Beans

Keeping Turtles

Steve Coppell - Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Common problems

Most common problems can be avoided if you keep your turtle warm, vary their diet, keep the water in their habitat clean, and use the correct lighting.
Soft shell
Soft shell is simply that, softening of the shell, (hatchling shells are quite soft anyway in their early months) and in adults the shell becomes very soft and spongy. This condition is caused  by a lack of calcium in the diet and a deficiency of full spectrum lighting. This condition is very easy to avoid. Make sure the staple diet contains the essecial calcium and vitamins
Also, turtles must have an area in their tank where they are able to leave the water in order to completly dry themselves off. U.V rays are provided by the sun and are absorbed by the turtles when they sunbath. U.V. light provided  by artificial lighting will assist their shell to grow and harden.

Swollen Eyes

99% of the time this condition result from not changing water regularly. A turtle swimming around in a tank filled with bacteria from food waste and excretions is bound to develop sore eyes. The eyes appear to be bulging out of its head and are swollen. Consult yor vet for medication if you experience this problem.

Shell rot

There is debate and conflicting views as to the cause of shell rot. The most popular reasons for shell rot are, over crowding, rough sunning areas, shell bites, and poor water. Small pink dots appear, mostly on the under shell, and if left, grow wider and deeper. The easiest cure is to carefully dig out the infected area and treat with an antibiotic ointment. If you suspect you have this problem a visit to the vet is strongly recommended.

Bacterial shell infection

This first appears on the top of the shell of the turtle as small white blotches along the edges of the scutes (a bony external plate or scale, as on the shell of a turtle) and quickly expands toward the middle of the scutes.It is thought that this occurs when the turtle is not able to completly dry itself due to high humidity in the air within the tank. Removing the lid of the turtles sunning area will remedy the humidity problem. There is no quick fix to the infection on the shell. The white blotches will remain until the turtle sheds the outer layer of the scutes. The new layer of the shell will be free of infection after a couple of sheddings if you keep the humidity low and provide a dry sunning area.

Turtles can easily catch a chill which quickly leads to pneumonia. Most chills arise from the following:
No lid on the turtles tank overnight during winter months resulting in cold air verses warm water.
Taking your turtle outside on a cold day.
Having your turtle out of its tank when your room is cold or your tank is not heated during the winter months.
Symptoms of this condition include:
The turtle spending excess time out of the water with its head drooped.
The turtle is lethargic and not eating
Swimming lope sided, with rasping sounding breath. Pneumonia is almost always fatal with turtles. When the symptoms start showing generally its too late.

Did you know? Pets and Feng Shui

Steve Coppell - Saturday, August 14, 2010

Feng Shui is about environments and people and originally pets would not have played any part in the design of homes at all. Animals were domesticated as long as 8000 years ago but until quite recent times they were mainly used to work for their owners, and regarded as property rather than as best friends to human beings.
Although we get pleasure from our pets and studies have shown that stroking animals can relieve signs of stress, we should not be blind to the fact that they can cause health risks in the home.

Just as human beings enjoy better health with good food and excercise, so pets will remain healthier if they are not imprisoned in confined spaces and fed on poor diets for the duration of their lives.

Fish symbolise success and wealth in China, and an aquarium by the entrance or in the sitting room is thought to encourage this. Eight  gold fish and one black one in a tank are believed to be an auspicious combination.
When fish die it is not regarded as a sad occasion since it is thought  that they are absorbing the bad luck of the family and the fish are replaced immediately.

The use of animals as luck symbols
 is widespread in China, and their symbolism lies deep within the culture of the country. In chinese lore the money frog, (or Chan Chu) carrying a coin in its mouth and placed inside the front door is thought to drive away evil, protect goods and money, and attracts wealth to the house.

So why spey and neuter rabbits?

Steve Coppell - Sunday, August 08, 2010

Speyed rabbits can't get pregnant.

Rabbits can mature as early as 16 weeks old. Getting your rabbit speyed prevents unwanted pregnancys.

Speyed / neutered rabbits generally live longer than unspeyed rabbits.

Speying and neutering reduces the risk of reproductive cancers and infections which are very common in rabbits. In females 60% will develope a reproductive cancer in their life time.

Speyed  / neutered rabbits make better behaved pets. The procedure helps reduce undesireable behaviors like biting. The rabbits are calmer as the urge to mate has been reduced. They are also easier to litter train, they are happier to be handled and are more affectionate to their owners.

Speyed or neutered rabbits can safley be left with other rabbits, without the risk of aggressive sexual behavior. 

Aquarium equipment starting out

Emma Coppell - Sunday, August 01, 2010

Transporting your new fish home

Goldfish are transported home in a plastic bag.  Ensure that the bag in half-filled with water from the tank which the fish was taken from.  Ideally put the bag into a box or pet carrier and make sure the fish doesn’t get too hot or too cold on the journey home.  Be sure not to bounce the fish around too much either.

Gently put the fish (still tied up in the bag) into the water of its tank.  It will float on the top and leave it floating for 20 minutes.  This allows the temperature of the water in the bag to become the same as the water in the tank.  After 20 minutes open the top of the bag and scoop some of the tank water into a jug and pour it gently into the bag, wait for another five minutes so that the water can mix, then push down the side of the bag and your fish will swim out into its new home.


In spite of considerable knowledge available today on tank design, manufacturers still produce the traditional globular bowls with a narrow neck.  These vessels have nothing to recommend them other than their cheapness.  They lack a fundamental requirement, which is that of the surface area ratio of the water they contain.  Fish breath oxygen just as we do, but they extract it from water that is passed over the gill filaments.  The surface area of the water will largely determine the amount of oxygen that a given volume of water will contain.  The ideal shape of a fish tank is oblong, with the tank’s length being about twice its height; this will grant a suitable surface-to-air ratio.

The tank can be all glass, plastic (acrylic) or metal-framed glass.  As a rule always purchase the largest tank you can possibly afford, as it will look better, offer more potential for aquascaping and will allow more fish to be contained in it.

Theoretically, if you have a good balance between plants and fish, then the water will remain in good condition without filtration.  In reality, however, this is rarely the case, and it is advisable to purchase a filter that will remove debris created by the waste of the fish, uneaten food, and dead organisms that sink to the bottom of the tank.

This could be overcome by changing the water in the tank each week; however, this is both extra work and is not actually beneficial to the fish or plants, which require water that is matured - by which is meant that the water has within it the right balance of organisms and minerals conducive to good health.  

The amount of oxygen contained in the water of the tank can be increased by the use of an air pump attached to an airstone or similar porous material.  The airstone should be set near, but not on the bottom of the tank.  Goldfish require more oxygen in the water than do tropical fish, so air pumps are very useful extras; they have the further advantage that the currents they create will help to keep the temperature at a more constant level throughout the tank.  

The tank should be set where it will benefit from daylight - but not direct sunlight. Lighting will be required for healthy plant growth, so a suitable fluorescent or tungsten light should be fitted under the tank canopy.  A glass sheet should be fitted on the top of the tank to act as a condensation plate and to reduce surface evaporation of the water.  Light will be required for about 12 to 14 hours daily.

Goldfish will survive within the range of 0 to 22 degrees centigrade.  There are numerous thermometers that  can be fitted to either the inside or the outside of the tank.

Goldfish kept in home tanks are normally subjected to temperatures at the higher end of the temperature range, and that presents no problem.  In fact, many of the fancier varieties of goldfish prefer a warmer environment.  No fish should be subjected to abrupt temperature changes.

Although goldfish do not have the same need for specific water conditions, water than is neutral to slightly alkaline is probably best.  A pH reading of about 7-7.5 will be required.  Fill the tank up to about 5cm from the top.  It is best to leave the tank alone and running for at least three days so that the water time to matures or you can use a water-aging product.  

How do you stop a mouse house getting smelly

Steve Coppell - Saturday, July 31, 2010

The ammonia vapours from urine that develop in your pets’ cage can make owning mice less than pleasant.  The harsh smell is also uncomfortable for the mice.  Ammonia is a severe irritant and is detrimental to the health of mice.  It affects the mucous membranes of their eyes and respiratory tract.  The health of mice can worsen if they are regularly exposed to ammonia vapours, and it can make mice more susceptible to opportunistic infections.  

The development of innovative bedding products has been spurred by the quest to control or eliminate odour.  Scientifically developed bedding products made from a variety of materials, such as recycled paper, do not just mask odour, they are designed to reduce odour by controlling the formation of ammonia.  Such beddings promote a healthier environment for mice compared with traditional wood shavings and are highly recommended.  If your mice are housed in an aquarium, if you are neglectful in cage cleaning, or if family members despise your pets because they smell, use innovative, odour-controlling bedding.

Cage Accessories
Place your mice’s food in a dish.  If you have a metal cage, you can attach the dish to the side to prevent your pets from tipping it over and spilling the contents.  If you use a freestanding dish, make sure it is heavy enough that you mice cannot tip it over.  Mice are not always fastidious and some mice will go to the toilet in their food dish.  Because of this tendency, choose a smaller rather than a larger dish; your mice should not be able to stand in their food dish. You can buy litter containers and house train your mice.

Provide you mice with fresh water, using a gravity-fed water bottle.  A special holder, enables you to hang the water bottle in an aquarium.  Do not use an open dish to provide your mice with water.  Mice will fill an open contained of water with their bedding and droppings, and the water will become unsanitary and unsuitable for drinking.  The increased moisture from a spilled dish of water can also create an unhealthy, damp environment, especially in an aquarium-type cage.  In case the bottle leaks, do not place it over your pet’s food dish or near their nest box.  The bottle’s water tube should be a comfortable height for your mice to reach and drink from, but should not be so low to the cage floor that bedding could contact the tube and cause the bottle to leak.

Your mice need a nesting box for sleeping and security.  A “bedroom” is necessary because it gives you mice a safe hiding place to retreat away from loud noises and any disturbing activity outside their cage.  A variety of types are available, including ones that are made to satisfy a small animal’s natural instinct to chew, such as fruit-flavoured cardboard tunnels, huts made from natural plant fibres and wooden blocks that a pet hollows out.  You can also make your pets a nest box from an old cereal box or cardboard milk carton.  Once the box becomes chewed up or smelly, you will need to replace it.  

Give your mice unscented tissue paper or paper towels to shred into nesting material.  Shredding paper into a nest is a favourite activity among mice.  

Selecting good healthy fish

Steve Coppell - Saturday, July 31, 2010

Check that all the fish in the tank look clean and that their fins are not torn or that any have white spots on them.  The fish’s skin should look bright and shiny, and their eyes clear.  The tank itself needs to be clean and the water must be clear.

Do not buy a fish if there are any dead fish in the tank.  All the fish should be moving around the tank not sitting on the bottom or floating on the surface of the water.

It is best to buy goldfish when they are still quite small ie no bigger that 8cm (3in) long.

Choosing a turtle for a pet

Steve Coppell - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

So your thinking of keeping a turtle for a pet.
It's a big commitment. Turtles live for around 30 years in captivity, so take this into consideration before you make the dicision to go ahead.

Selecting a healthy turtle
How do you know whether a turtle is healthy or not?
If you are buying a turtle from a pet shop, ask to see the turtle being fed. A healthy turtle will swim level and not lop sided. The turtle will feed heartily and quickly, especially if there are other turtles in the tank.
Ask to hold the turtle. If you are not sure how to handle the turtle ask for advise from the assistant.A healthy turtle should be very active and continually trying to escape from its holder.
Check that the eyes are clear and are not puffy and half closed.
Check the shell for injuries. An adult turtle's shell will be very hard and won't flex when pressure is applied. Be sure not to apply forceful pressure if the turtle is a young hatchling. Hatchling shells won't harden  until a size of around 10 cm is reached. If the turtle you are inspecting has deep soft pitting in the shell or raw looking injuries around the edge of the shell, then I would recommend strongly against purchasing it. It could be a disease called shell.
Key points
1/Feeds heartily
2/Swims level
3/The turtle is very active and not lethargic.
4/Eyes look clear and bright. Not half closed and puffy.
5/The shell is firm and free of injuries and soft raw spots.

Info courtesy of Chris @ Hot House Turtles