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The Sumatra barb, more popularly known as the tiger barb, is a tropical fish that is immensely popular amongst hobbyists. In this comprehensive care sheet we’ll discuss everything you need to know to successfully keep your tiger barbs happy and healthy. Habitat While the tiger barb is native to Asia and Africa, where it is ... Read moreTiger Barb Care Sheet The post Tiger Barb Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping Exotic...
The Sumatra barb, more popularly known as the tiger barb, is a tropical fish that is immensely popular amongst hobbyists. In this comprehensive care sheet we’ll discuss everything you need to know to successfully keep your tiger barbs happy and healthy.
While the tiger barb is native to Asia and Africa, where it is usually found in streams and rivers, this fish can survive well in aquariums.
There are a number of factors to be taken into consideration here. This includes the size of the tank that the fish will be living in, the temperature of water, its composition, the plant content and other aquarium equipment.
Let’s tackle all of these individually.
Tiger barbs are about 3-4 inches long and between 1-1.5 inches wide at adulthood. This means they aren’t particularly large and you may think that a small tank is enough to keep them happy. Think again.
Tiger barbs are very active. This means they will be zipping from one end of the aquarium to the other. While smaller 10 or 20 gallon tanks work for cherry barbs and gold barbs, the slighter bigger species like tiger barbs, black ruby barbs and others need bigger aquariums – at least 30 gallons.
In addition to this, tiger barbs are sociable fish that like to interact with each other.
For this reason, it is important that you have at least six tiger barbs (if you can accommodate more, it’s even better) in your tank at any given time. They should have enough space to swim around. This also prevents the tiger barbs from attacking other species.
As tiger barbs are tropical fish, they need the temperature to remain between 75° F and 80° F (between about 24° C and 27° C).
There are some things to keep in mind when you are trying to set the ideal conditions for tiger barbs to survive.
The traditional composition of the water in which tiger barbs are found naturally is soft and a little acidic. As a rule of thumb, keep the pH level of your aquarium between 6 and 7.8. The ideal alkalinity level should be between 50 ppm and 140 ppm.
In addition to this, you need to install a good filtration system and focus on changing anywhere between 10% and 25% of the tank’s water every other week.
When it comes to equipment, the first thing that comes to mind is a filtration system. If you want any fish to survive, you will have to invest in a high quality filtration system.
The lighting inside the tank should be of good quality and the base should be filled with fine substrate (where plants can root themselves).
Lastly, remember to have a lid on top of the aquarium so that tiger barbs don’t jump out from the open space.
Tiger barbs are very active fish. They are constantly on the go, swimming from one side of the aquarium to the other.
However, they aren’t the best choice of fish when it comes to community tanks. The main reason behind this is that tiger barbs communicate with each other by nipping. This is why they are put in the “semi-aggressive” temperament category.
While it isn’t really a problem for other fish that are just as active and fast as them, it can terrorize other types of fish that are slower or have long, flowing fins – even if they are larger in size than the tiger barb.
This is also the reason why at least half a dozen of these fish are kept together. When there are a decent number of tiger barbs in the tank, they will keep engaging with each other and not harm the other types of fish in the aquarium.
As tiger barbs are quite high on the hardiness scale, they do not take much time to adapt to different surroundings.
If you have set the temperature and composition of your tank’s water according to the parameters mentioned earlier, these fish will not take much time to adapt. However, if you want to be safe and not expose your other fish to any infection, you may want to quarantine the tiger barbs for a short while before they are introduced into the water tank.
During this period, you can watch out for any signs that indicate that the tiger barbs are not in the best possible health. Quarantining is especially important if you are interested in breeding, but more on that later!
There are a couple of factors that need to be considered when picking tank mates for tiger barbs.
Firstly, they shouldn’t have long fins for the tiger barb to come and nip at.
Secondly, the fish should be fast enough to swim around the tank at a speed that can be compared to the tiger barb.
The third factor, which is just as important, is that you shouldn’t put very small fish in the same tank as the tiger barb is an omnivore that will eat things that are smaller than it.
Tiger barbs work best with tank mates that move quickly. Some examples are:
As has been mentioned before, any slow moving fish cannot survive in a tank with tiger barbs – regardless of the fish’s size. Even if the fish is quite large, the tiger barb will keep trying to nip at its fins, which can turn into an uncomfortable situation and some injuries.
Along the same lines, the fish that is kept with tiger barbs should not have very large fins. Some examples of fish that you should avoid keeping in the same tank as tiger barbs are mentioned below:
Tiger barbs love their food and they aren’t picky about it. They are omnivorous by nature, which means that they can source their nutrition from both plants and animals.
A good staple is a vegetable-based fish food. An example of this would be Omega One Veggie Rounds.
You could also feed them good quality flake food, for example tropical fish flakes.
The most attractive feature of tiger barbs is their colorful body and you should ensure that they are fed food that supports vibrancy.
You will also have to take their protein needs in mind. To fulfill this, you can feed them frozen or live food like brine shrimp, daphnia, beef heart and bloodworms from time to time. Not only can tiger barbs eat cooked vegetables, they can also consume many different types of small aquatic invertebrates with great ease.
Finally, it is important that you add variety to their nutrient intake so that they can live a healthier and longer life.
While the male tiger barbs are brighter to look at, females are bigger in size. An interesting way to distinguish between them is that the males can be spotted with a red nose during the spawning period.
If you are interested in breeding tiger barbs, the process is a little complicated but still simpler than many other species of fish.
First, you will have to set up a separate breeding tank where you can place about 6 or so tiger barbs. Give them some time to make pairs and you will have a breeding pair soon enough.
This pair will have to be moved into another breeding tank that has some plants, soft water and a bare bottom. It is important to observe this tank continuously as tiger barbs consume their own eggs if given a chance. As soon as you spot the eggs and the male fertilizes them, move the adult fish out of the tank.
The eggs hatch over the next two days, after which point the fry should be allowed to swim around in that tank for another 5 days. During this period, feed them some brine shrimp and switch to flake food at a later stage.
The cleanliness and maintenance of the aquarium is of utmost importance if you are looking to prevent any health issues to your fish. Tiger barbs do not specifically suffer from any particular disease but there are some common diseases that afflict a number of aquarium fish.
The most common of these, which are also commonly noticed in tiger barbs, are mentioned below.
Tiger barbs are beautiful creatures if you are looking to brighten up your aquarium. They are great to look at and easy to maintain because of their minimalistic needs.
This doesn’t, however, mean that they can just be thrown into your aquarium without any preparation. Keeping their temperament in mind, you will have to choose the right kind of tank mates for them. This means not just any fish can be added to an aquarium where tiger barbs are being kept.
Other than this, they are not picky eaters, they don’t need many special conditions and they are quite playful when you are looking at them from outside the aquarium.
African fruit beetles like Pachnoda marginata are some of the easiest tropical pet beetles to keep and breed in captivity. The adults grow to around 3cm in length, being an attractive combination of orange/yellow and brown. They’re reasonably active – especially when provided with suitable light and heat – so can make an attractive display ... Read moreFruit Beetle (Pachnoda marginata) Care Sheet The post Fruit Beetle (Pachnoda marginata) Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping...
African fruit beetles like Pachnoda marginata are some of the easiest tropical pet beetles to keep and breed in captivity. The adults grow to around 3cm in length, being an attractive combination of orange/yellow and brown. They’re reasonably active – especially when provided with suitable light and heat – so can make an attractive display species.
If I’m honest, though, I initially started keeping this as a feeder species, so that with very little effort on my part I could have a regular free supply of grubs for feeding to my tarantulas and day geckos. Since then, however, they’ve become an important part of my collection and have encouraged me to investigate keeping other species of beetle too.
If you’re looking to keep Pachnoda marginata – the most common fruit beetle in the hobby – then read on for my detailed care sheet…
Pachnoda marginata hails from a wide area over Africa. Here they are used to high temperatures and reasonable levels of humidity. They are commonly found on the forest floor.
Like many other beetles, the grubs spend most of their life below ground level, feeding on decaying plant matter such leaf litter, rotten wood and ripe fruit. After some months of development they will turn into a cocoon, before appearing soon afterward as an adult beetle.
While keeping fruit beetles on a substrate of leaf litter is most common in captivity, I did stumble across one interesting field study where Pachnoda marginata was found living in a bat cave in Ghana. The scientists in question found them living successfully among the guano that had been produced by the bats, and found that specific bacteria found in the fruit beetle’s gut allowed it to feed on this unusual food source.
Fruit beetles can be kept in a variety of different cages and can be both cheap and easy to accommodate as pets. For the best possible display consider one of the glass tanks built specifically for exotic pet keepers, such as Exo Terra’s range of glass terrariums.
These terrariums are easy to heat, look great, have practical front-opening doors and can be lit with a special lighting canopy from above.
There are, however, a number of weaknesses to such cages, despite their amazing experience. Firstly, they don’t provide much depth of substrate – something which is considered important for Pachnoda marginata.
Additionally, there’s no denying that Exo Terras are far from cheap. For people on a budget, or who are planning to breed Pachnoda marginata as feeders, therefore some other options are suitable.
Firstly, some people opt to use an old fish tank, where adding a solid depth of substrate is easier. Note that adult fruit beetles have wings and can fly quite well, so if you opt to use a fish tank then be sure to add a tight-fitting lid. A number of mesh vivarium lids are currently available and make a worthy investment to prevent escape.
Another suitable option – and the one I’m personally using at the moment – is to make use of suitably-sized plastic containers. Whether you opt for a faunarium (which includes a decent mesh lid) or just a plastic box is entirely up to you.
Right now I’m using plastic boxes of around 30cm long x 20cm wide x 30cm deep. These have close-fitting lids being sold for general household storage. I have used an electric drill to add ventilation holes around the top of the cage. This is probably the cheapest option of all, though admittedly doesn’t look anywhere near as good as a proper glass tank.
Giving an idea of what cage size Pachnoda marginata requires is difficult. On the one hand these are small beetles, so can potentially be kept in quite small cages. On the other hand, you’re likely to purchase a number of these rather active beetles to start your colony, so I would suggest a cage no smaller than 12” long. As your colony grows you may opt to split it into several colonies, or to rehouse your fruit beetles into a larger cage.
Once you’ve selected a suitable cage for your Pachnoda marginata fruit beetles there are a few extra things you’ll need to fit out the tank. The most important of these is the substrate.
As fruit beetle grubs feed on dead and decaying plant matter they should be provided with leaf litter, dead leaves and rotting wood on which to feed. Personally I have an area at the bottom of my garden with some trees, so it’s simple enough to gather up some leaf litter and fallen wood. This can then be mixed with more traditional exotic pet substrates like coconut fibre or potting compost (I have used both with success).
Alternatively a small number of exotic pet retailers sell specially-prepared “beetle substrate” which, while more expensive, is equally as effective.
Experts disagree on the perfect depth of substrate that you should provide. Once again, I believe this will largely be determined by how many grubs you’re keeping in a single cage. A typical recommendation is at least 6” of substrate, but as the grubs don’t get overly large I’ve also had great results from a far shallower substrate depth closer to 3-4 inches.
While we’re talking about tank decor it is worth mentioning the value of wood. I find that the vast majority of my Pachnoda marginata grubs choose to attach their cocoon to the underside of flat pieces of wood. I don’t know why this is, but it can make monitoring your cocoons quite easy – simply pull out the piece of wood, turn it over, and look at all the cocoons waiting to hatch. For this reason I now like to include a flat piece of corn bark on (or close to) the surface of the substrate.
Coming from tropical Africa, sun beetles appreciate a warm environment. The hotter they are kept – within reason – the more quickly they will develop. For tarantula keepers and reptile enthusiasts keeping Pachnoda marginata as a feeder animal, it therefore makes sense to keep them towards the top end of the scale.
For hobbyists, however, it may be more practical to keep your fruit beetles at a more modest temperature.
A good range of temperatures is somewhere between 20-25’C. My office, in which I house all my exotics, remains a constant 20-22’C year round thanks to the range of heaters present, so I personally don’t provide my Pachnoda marginata with any supplementary heating. If your home gets cold, or you want to speed up the development of your fruit beetles, then some supplementary heating may be advisable.
Probably the easiest option here is to use a low-powered heat mat. As the grubs burrow in substrate it is not a good idea to place the heater underneath the tank – as is typical with many exotic pets. Instead it is wiser to tape the heater to the outside back or one side of the tank. This will ensure that your beetles can move about and select the area that suits them best, as one area will be warmer than the others.
As with any form of exotic pet heating it is advisable to use a thermostat to prevent the risk of overheating, especially in warmer weather.
Note that sun beetles are well-named, as the adults seem attracted to sunlight and will be far more active in brighter conditions. You’ll therefore want to make sure that your adult Pachnoda marginata are exposed to decent light for much of the day.
There are a number of ways to provide this requirement. The easiest option I have found is to place the fruit beetle cage on a north-facing windowsill. In this way they get maximum light, but without the risk of overheating in any direct sunlight.
Some of my other colonies have access to artificial light, being kept close to my day geckos, meaning day-long artificial light shines into their cage.
As a golden rule, I aim to provide a dish of water to all my exotics at all times so they can drink if they so choose. Sadly Pachnoda marginata makes this very difficult indeed, as you will find that the substrate is constantly moving. Anything placed on the surface of the substrate slowly disappears beneath the surface, making the provision of a waterbowl almost pointless.
Instead, I let my beetles absorb the moisture they need from their food.
One area where moisture and humidity is important relates to the substrate itself. You should aim to keep the substrate moist but not wet. This may involve regularly spraying the cage with a houseplant spray gun.
Note that a stale, stuffy environment should be avoided, so good ventilation is important. Experiment over time with a combination of ventilation and spraying until you find the right routine to maintain a moist substrate but without any mould or fungi building up.
The feeding of Pachnoda marginata can be separated into their two key life stages – the subterranean grubs and the sun-loving adult beetles.
As discussed, the grubs will feed almost entirely on rotting leaves and wood. This means that once your tank is set up for the first time very little ongoing feeding is necessary. Simply keep an eye on the proportion of leaves and wood present in the cage and top up occasionally as necessary to offer a constant supply.
Adult fruit beetles, as their name suggests, feed primary on very ripe fruit. Scientific studies have found that they can recognise dozens of different fruits based on their scent alone. Any soft, sugary fruit such as banana, melon, citrus or mango is suitable for the adult beetles.
Interestingly, the grubs will also sometimes feed on such foods, dragging them slowly under the substrate. Of course, great attention should be paid to hygiene, lest your Pachnoda marginata cage starts to smell of rotten fruit over time.
Another option, which is cheap, easy and very practical, is to make use of jelly pots sold specially for beetle keepers and breeders. Simply tear the lid off and place it on the surface of the substrate so your adult beetles can feed.
If you “pop” the entire jelly out of the pot and leave it loose on the surface of the substrate you will normally find that your active grubs gently drag it down into the substrate and eat it out of sight.
Pachnoda marginata can be handled without too many issues. These beetles tend to be quite docile, and unlike some other pet beetles they don’t any unpleasant projections that can do you any serious damage. That said, appreciate that they can fly, so try to only handle them in an enclosed room.
One common observation when looking at praying mantis is that they look so “alien”. If that is true then Idolomantis diabolica, the so-called Giant Devil’s Flower Mantis, is the most alien-like of all. Idolomantis diabolica is a huge praying mantis. Some people suggest it is one of the largest known to science. The adults are ... Read moreIdolomantis diabolica / Giant Devil’s Flower Mantis Care Sheet The post Idolomantis diabolica / Giant Devil’s Flower Mantis Care Sheet appeared...
One common observation when looking at praying mantis is that they look so “alien”. If that is true then Idolomantis diabolica, the so-called Giant Devil’s Flower Mantis, is the most alien-like of all.
Idolomantis diabolica is a huge praying mantis. Some people suggest it is one of the largest known to science. The adults are bright mottled green, have leaf-like projections on their legs and maintain an impressive threat display.
If you’re looking for the “ultimate” pet praying mantis then you’ve found it in Idolomantis diabolica. While these mantids can be relatively expensive to buy, and are known for being quite difficult to care for in captivity, once you’ve gained some experience with easier mantids like Ghost Mantis and African Mantis then it’s time to upgrade to these beasts!
If you’re considering investing in one of these fascinating invertebrates then read on for my full Idolomantis diabolica care sheet.
The Giant Devil’s Flower Mantis is a widespread mantis found across much of Africa. It is known to occur in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda. In other words, this is a mantis that is used to high temperatures; something which is key to their successful care in captivity.
Originally described by Saussure as long ago as 1869, female Idolomantis diabolica can grow up to 13cm long (5”), while males attain a slightly smaller 10cm (4”). In the wild these impressive predators will feed on anything that they can subdue.
When keeping such a large species of praying mantis you’ll therefore need to ensure you have a decent-sized cage for your pet, with a constant supply of live insects to fuel their growth.
Cage sizing is of crucial importance for all praying mantis. Praying mantis moult by attaching their legs to a fixed object and then “sliding” out of their old skin. This means that suitable vertical height is crucial.
Generally speaking hobbyists recommend a cage that is 2-3 times as tall as your mantis is long. This is a rule that has worked very well for me over the years. For large Idolomantis diabolica this means a cage of some 30-45cm in height.
Width is less of a concern, but should be at least twice as wide as your mantis is long. Roughly speaking, therefore, a large juvenile or adult mantis will appreciate a cage of around 20-30cm in width and some 30-45cm in height. Please note these are minimums, so if you can provide a larger cage then all the better.
It is worth re-iterating that these are large, impressive, alien-like insects, so they can look fantastic in a naturalistic tank setup.
One factor worth bearing in mind is that Idolomantis diabolica can have difficulties climbing on very smooth surfaces. This should be taken into consideration when selecting a tank, to ensure they are able to clamber about effectively.
There are three common types of cages that can work well for Devil’s Flower Mantids. These are:
If you want to create an amazing display where you can really enjoy watching your pet then Exo Terra’s can represent a great option. I use these for many of my invertebrates including tarantulas and mantids. My larger Idolomantis diabolica happily inhabit the 30cm x 45cm model.
Mesh cages are very popular among Idolomantis diabolica keepers because the mesh is so easy for these mantids to climb on.
Exotic pet owners are masters of “repurposing” containers intended for other purposes. There are now more plastic storage boxes available than ever before. While many are “opaque” so may not offer the very best view of your mantis they’re easily sourced, cheap to buy, and with a little DIY can become a suitable home for your mantis.
None of these cages are necessary “better” than others, with each having their strengths and weaknesses. With the right knowledge any of these can become a practical cage for your Idolomantis diabolica.
A range of different containers can be used to house smaller Idolomantis diabolica. Here are some popular options:
Deli cups are a cheap option popular with mantis keepers. These can be sourced either made from plastic or polystyrene. The polystyrene option is better, as the material is easier for your mantis to grip. Be sure to add ventilation to the top, either by puncturing holes in the lid or, even better, throw away the lid entirely and use a small piece of muslin or net curtain held on with an elastic band.
If you’re like me then you’ll receive a constant supply of clear plastic cricket tubs. For tiny mantis these can make suitable cages. I stand them on end and line the inside with a few layers of kitchen paper. In this way the cage not only has suitable vertical height, but the paper towel allows the young mantis to grip easily.
In for adults, plastic storage boxes can make suitable cages, if you ensure that your mantis can climb the sides OK. For example, plastic sweet jars can be used, so long as twigs and branches are includes to aid with moulting.
Most praying mantis species are not only carnivorous – they’re also cannibalistic. This means that they will slowly feed on each other if kept together. While there are some species that are considered at least semi-communal (such as the Ghost Mantis) experts cannot agree on the Devil’s Flower Mantis. Some keepers claim to have successfully reared this species communally, while others report eye-watering losses.
Personally, with such an expensive mantis, I haven’t yet dared try my luck.
That said, if you do decide to try and rear Idolomantis diabolica as a group then please appreciate that you’ll need to provide a much larger cage.
While it is possible to keep Idolomantis diabolica in an attractive, naturalistic set-up (as I do for some of my adults) in all fairness this isn’t really suitable for smaller mantis.
The easiest set-up is really quite minimalist. Either use no substrate at all, or line the base of the cage with kitchen paper. Include some suitable perches such as twigs, branches and pieces of cork bark and your Idolomantis diabolica should be perfectly happy. Even better, routine feeding and cleaning becomes super simple.
I keep numerous spare tubs for my babies, so I can simply open up a tub, move the mantis gently into another identical tub I have set up. I then remove the kitchen paper from the old cage, give it a quick wipe around, and then move the next mantis into this freshly-cleaned cage. This maintains hygiene with the minimum of effort.
Coming from Africa, the Devil’s Flower Mantis needs a warm environment to thrive. Many experts claim that they require a temperature of up to 30’C in captivity, though I find that my specimens do well at a temperature of 24-26’C.
The key message here is that your Idolomantis diabolica is almost certainly going to require some supplementary heating.
Heating large juveniles and adults is reasonably simple. Unless you’re lucky enough to have an animal room that is constantly heated then a low power heat pad or heating cable can be a great way to keep your mantis warm. These are quite safe to leave on 24/7 and cost very little to run.
The flipside is that these low cost heaters don’t get particularly warm. They may be suitable for tarantulas, and they may even work well if you’re housing your Idolomantis diabolica in an Exo Terra. However if you’ve opted for a mesh cage, or you live in a very cold area, then you may require a heater with rather more power.
There are a number of options here. For example, some mantis keepers use a heat lamp – combining both warmth and light. Others opt to use ceramic heaters, which will get much hotter but don’t produce any visible light.
Whichever option you select, there are two important considerations…
Your mantis should be able to move to warmer or cooler areas as suits them. If you’re planning to heat your Idolomantis diabolica cage to the high twenties then your pet must be able to escape from the worst of this warmth on occasion. Aim to heat one part of the cage, while leaving the other area unheated to provide this temperature gradient.
Exotic pet heaters can get very hot indeed; especially ceramic bulbs. To prevent any chance of overheating you are strongly advised to combine your mantis heater with a thermostat. You can learn more about choosing a thermostat in my guide here.
Like other mantis, Idolomantis diabolica is diurnal, meaning that it is awake during the day. They have excellent eyesight, which they use to zero in on their prey.
This means that your mantis will need sufficient light to behave naturally and successfully catch their prey.
It can be advisable to keep your mantis is a light, airy room which benefits from plenty of natural sunlight. If you do this, however, be sure that no direct sunlight reaches your mantis cage, or overheating can occur.
As an alternative one can provide artificial lighting. My larger mantids are housed in Exo Terras, where the stand-alone lighting canopy makes adding a light simplicity itself. Younger mantis are kept en masse in separate containers, all housed within an artificially-lit vivarium.
Great disagreement exists regarding the “correct” humidity level for Idolomantis diabolica. Some keepers claim they need a high humidity at all times, while others claim that juveniles are best kept much drier.
Personally I have taken to keeping my specimens in reasonably dry cages, but lightly misting the tank twice a week with a houseplant mister, so that my mantids can drink from these droplets if they so choose.
So far, this system seems to be working well.
I do not provide an open waterbowl, for fear of my mantids accidentally drowning.
The Devil’s Flower Mantis is carnivorous and will eat any prey that it can successfully subdue.
As pets, this generally means feeding Idolomantis diabolica on live insects.
Many experts report that Idolomantis diabolica will only eat flying prey – fruit flies (Drosophila) as hatchlings, and larger flies as adults. It is easy to purchase these as non-bleached maggots, which will soon hatch into adult flies.
All the same, my personal experience so far is that Idolomantis diabolica won’t only feed on flying prey. To date I have managed to rear numerous specimens to adulthood on a diet of crickets and locusts of varying sizes.
Like many other pet invertebrates, the Devil’s Flower Mantis will typically go off their food for a week or two when they are preparing to moult. Otherwise I feed my Idolomantis diabolica on a daily basis.
Idolomantis diabolica is both large and easily-stressed. Indeed, some mantis enthusiasts have suggested that regular handling of Idolomantis diabolica may actually shorten their lifespan. Others routinely handle their mantis – apparently without issue.
The so-called “deimatic display” than Idolomantis diabolica shows to scare off potential predators is thoroughly impressive, but you shouldn’t deliberately try to trigger it by scaring your mantis.
So we have here a species that, as an adult, can fly, has large spiked front legs and that may suffer from stress. Consequently while it is possible to handle this mantis, in my opinion it is better to consider this a “display” species for your collection.
If you do need to want to handle your mantis then let it walk onto your hand, nudging it gently from behind to coax it along if necessary. Never “grab” at the mantis or you may elicit a negative response. Lastly be sure to keep windows and doors closed lest your Idolomantis diabolica tries to fly to freedom.
The post Idolomantis diabolica / Giant Devil’s Flower Mantis Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.
Sand boas have become incredibly popular pet snakes over the years, and it’s not difficult to see why. They’re beautiful snakes to look at with all their yellow and brown coloration, and a number of color morphs are available now, really extending the possible range. They’re typically quite easy to care for in captivity and ... Read moreKenyan Sand Boas: Care, Habitat & Captive Husbandry The post Kenyan Sand Boas: Care, Habitat & Captive Husbandry appeared first on Keeping...
Sand boas have become incredibly popular pet snakes over the years, and it’s not difficult to see why.
They’re beautiful snakes to look at with all their yellow and brown coloration, and a number of color morphs are available now, really extending the possible range. They’re typically quite easy to care for in captivity and become tame-enough to handle.
However arguably most important of all is that these snakes are small. That means they require only modest cages, which are not only easier to fit into a small space in your home, but also cost far less than the average vivarium.
All told, Kenyan sand boas represent a fantastic pet snake, even for beginners.
If you’re considering purchasing your first specimen then read on for my detailed Kenyan sand boa care sheet…
Despite their common name, Kenyan sand boas aren’t only found in Kenya. Infact, they’re quite widely distributed across Eastern Africa, ranging through Egypt, Tanzania and, of course, Kenya.
All the same, they tend to favor a semi-arid habitat, where the earth is dry enough to burrow through.
As their common name suggests, sand boas – Latin name Gongylophis colubrinus – love to burrow through the earth. Indeed, take a look at a sand boa close up and you’ll see it has a number of fascinating adaptations for this lifestyle.
They have a short, squat, muscular body for pushing through the earth. They have thick necks which can make it challenging to tell the head end from the tail end sometimes. And lastly they have slightly flattened heads, with eyes higher up in their skull than most snakes, allowing them to more easily see upwards out of the earth.
In captivity these different lifestyle traits affect how they’re cared for. A small snake only requires a relatively small cage, but they also need lots of substrate to burrow in if they are to feel safe and secure. Let’s now look more closely at their captive husbandry requirements…
A “big” sand boa may, at best, reach around 2 – 2 1/2 feet (60-75cm) in length, though in reality the vast majority are quite a bit smaller.
At maturity, males are noticeably smaller, as they tend to grow to around one and a half feet (45cm).
This can make it super-simple to sex adult sand boas.
Just as importantly, it means that they don’t require the massive vivariums that a bullsnake or a rainbow boa may benefit from.
Most experts suggest that a single Kenyan sand boa can be safely housed in a 10 gallon cage, though personally I like to give a little more space if possible because these can be quite active snakes.
There are a number of reasonably-priced cages and vivariums which are suitable for sand boas. Some of the best options include:
I use glass Exo Terra terrariums extensively for my exotic pet collection. They’re quite easily sourced from many pet shops or online from places like Amazon.
I like the front-opening doors which makes routine maintenance a cinch. They look great. They’re easy to heat with either a ceramic heater or a heat mat (covered later) and the mesh lid makes it easy to maintain the arid conditions favoured by sand boas and you can purchase a separate lighting hood if you opt to add artificial lighting to your sand boa cage.
If there are two weaknesses for using Exo Terras for sand boas it is that they’re not the cheapest option on the market – important if you’re on a tight budget – and they limit the amount of substrate you can provide.
The glass “lip” beneath the front-opening doors is around 3” in height, so you won’t be able to offer any more substrate than that. If you want a deeper substrate then you may want to consider the alternative…
A glass aquarium (minus the water, obviously!) can make a fantastic home for your Kenyan sand boa. They’re cheaply and easily bought. You can provide a deep substrate to permit burrowing by even adult snakes.
There are really only two downsides. Firstly, you’ll need to be certain that your tank is escape-proof – that’s easy enough to accomplish with a special mesh lid.
These are available from Amazon and many other pet stores in a wide range of sizes. Be sure to purchase some clips if they don’t come included, so you can be certain to properly secure the lid to the top of the tank.
The second downside is that you’ll need to access the cage from the top. For some people that won’t be a problem; it’s more for people like me who maintain quite a large collection of exotics in shelving units.
All in all, however, these are a decent option and well worth considering.
Coming from East Africa it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Kenyan sand boas appreciate a nice, warm environment. Indeed, the suggested temperature for sand boas is quite a bit higher than those recommended for many other common pet snakes.
Kenyan sand boas appreciate a hotspot of around 90 – 95’F (32 – 35’C). Note that this heat should be applied to just one area of the tank – the “basking area”. This should be positioned at one end of the tank.
The other end should be allowed to remain cooler – a temperature of around 80’F (25’C) works well. In this way your sand boa can move from warmer to cooler areas to naturally regulate their body temperature exactly as they would in the wild.
Providing such a warm environment needn’t be too difficult, thanks to the wide range of high quality heaters currently available on the market. Ignore heat mats; they just won’t provide the level of heat you need, unless it is just as a source of background warmth in particularly cold weather. Instead opt for a good quality ceramic bulb.
The bulb should be placed into a ceramic heat reflector/holder, and rested on top of the mesh lid of the vivarium. In this way your snake won’t be able to come into direct contact with it – which could risk serious burns – but the warmth will instead be projected down into one end of the tank.
Note that ceramic bulbs can get very hot and the last thing you’ll want to do is accidentally cook your snake. As a result you must be sure to also use a reliable thermostat. The thermostat you select should be carefully chosen to ensure that (a) it works with ceramic heating elements and (b) it is capable of controlling the power of bulb you’ve chosen.
Learn about choosing the right thermostat here or about how to choose and install a ceramic reptile heater here.
Lastly in this section I would caution you to purchase a digital thermometer so that you can monitor conditions in your snake cage. I have recently started to use an infrared thermometer “gun” which allows me to quickly spot-check both the hot and cool ends in a matter of seconds, and without upsetting my reptiles.
Sand boas may come from semi-arid regions but they should still be provided with fresh water at all times. As these reptiles will spend much of their time burrowing try to choose a reasonably sturdy bowl which won’t be constantly flipped over.
I like to actually dig a hole in the substrate and place the water bowl into this to make it extra sturdy. Be sure to keep the water fresh by changing it regularly and don’t forget to scrub out the bowl on a regular basis.
There is no need to provide additional humidity for sand boas; they appreciate a reasonably dry environment. Indeed, if you do notice that the substrate is getting damp – such as from spilled water – you may want to consider changing it.
Most reptile keepers would assume that sand is obviously going to be the best substrate for a Kenyan sand boa.
There is some truth to this, though it is always advisable to choose special reptile-safe sand, bought from a reputable manufacturer – rather than simply making do with “builder’s sand”. This not only ensures that it is chemical-free, but if any is eaten by your snake then it should pass through the digestive tract without issue.
Sand may be a good substrate, but it’s not the only choice available. Aspen bedding can work well, as can corn cob granules or even dry coir substrate. Some keepers even like to provide an assortment of substrates in the cage, allowing their snake to explore different environments.
The key really is to offer a generous depth of substrate. I would suggest several inches in at least one corner of the tank – so that your pet can fully hide away from view and behave as they might in their wild habitat.
As Kenyan sand boas are such active burrowers it generally doesn’t make sense to provide them with too much tank decor. The risk is that they end up getting crushed by a rock or big piece of wood in their ongoing subterranean adventures.
If you do opt to include decorative items then be sure to properly fix these in place to prevent such accidents. Silicon sealant intended for fish keepers can be a handy tool for this.
While your sand boa is likely to spend much of its life partially buried in the substrate I still believe it makes sense to include at least one proper hide above ground. These can be as simple or as complex as you desire; the key is that your sand boa should be able to entirely conceal itself within.
Sometimes something as simple as an old cereal box laid on its side can work well; they’re cheap, they’re practical, they’re easily disposed of when they become messy and they’re very lightweight if your boa burrows underneath it.
Kenyan sand boas will eat a range of different prey items in captivity, though the easiest option is to feed them defrosted rodents. Due to their modest adult dimensions this typically means mice of varying sizes; from pinkies for hatchlings due to small adult mice for fully-grown female sand boas.
The best way to decide on the most suitable size of rodent prey is to consider the girth of your snake at it’s fattest region. Try to select a rodent of a similar girth and you should be fine. Over time you’ll want to slowly increase the size of prey items given.
I don’t recommend feeding live rodents to any snake. This not only risks damage to your snake (through bites and scratches) and also isn’t the most pleasant experience for the mouse. Instead buy frozen pre-killed rodents in bulk and keep them in the freezer at home. Just defrost one rodent once every week or so to keep your sand boa in top condition.
Kenyan sand boas are generally quite even-tempered and can be easily handled. Even a flighty animal should start to calm down with regular, gentle handling.
The first step is to try and avoid surprising your snake. Instead, let the snake know that you are present. If necessary retrieve it from it’s hide or beneath the substrate gently with a snake hook. You can then gently scoop your snake up, trying to support the snake’s body right along its length.
Don’t overdo it at first while your snake gets used to this new sensation. With a little patience you should be able to easily retrieve your snake from its cage and enjoy some quality time together on a regular basis.
As with other pet reptiles, try to hold your pet over a low, soft surface such as a couch or mattress. In this way, if you are unlucky enough to drop your pet then it should survive the fall without issue. Dropping a snake onto concrete from a good height is unlikely to end quite as well.
The post Kenyan Sand Boas: Care, Habitat & Captive Husbandry appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.
A bright and beautiful addition to your aquarium, the flowerhorn cichlid is unique as it is a hybrid. Cichlids are not very particular about choosing their own kind as a prospective mate. This means different types of cichlids mate with other cichlids to give birth to interesting hybrids – for example the flowerhorn. The origin ... Read moreFlowerhorn Cichlids Care Guide The post Flowerhorn Cichlids Care Guide appeared first on Keeping Exotic...
A bright and beautiful addition to your aquarium, the flowerhorn cichlid is unique as it is a hybrid.
Cichlids are not very particular about choosing their own kind as a prospective mate. This means different types of cichlids mate with other cichlids to give birth to interesting hybrids – for example the flowerhorn.
The origin of the flowerhorn cichlid can be traced back to the early 1990s when this fish was created in Taiwan and Malaysia by the crossbreeding of some popular cichlids from Central America.
They are extremely popular amongst hobbyists because of their bright color and unusual appearance – they have a large hump on their head.
The flowerhorn isn’t a difficult fish to take care of. Even if you are a beginner, you shouldn’t face many problems if you decide to add the flowerhorn to your aquarium.
If you are looking to buy this fish but are confused about how to take care of it, read this comprehensive care sheet that will walk you though all the basics.
As it is the result of crossbreeding in captivity, the flowerhorn isn’t found in the wild.
It is an ornamental aquarium fish that can be aggressive, but it should not deter you from getting it for your tank, especially if you have a large one and want colorful fish in it.
Before you buy this fish, it is important that you acquaint yourself with the tank and water requirements for maintaining healthy and beautiful flowerhorns.
The flowerhorn cichlid is a large fish. An average flowerhorn can grow up to 12-16 inches (between 30-40 centimeters). This means small tanks are not an option at all if you are considering flowerhorns.
If you want to add just one flowerhorn cichlid, you will need a tank that has a capacity of at least 75 gallons.
If you are planning to purchase two flowerhorns, the tank will have to be even bigger to give the fish a chance to swim about freely – anywhere between 100 gallons to 120 gallons.
Finally, if you are planning to keep more than two, the tank requirement can go up to even 200 gallons.
The flowerhorn is quite a hardy fish, which means that it doesn’t need too many special conditions to be met. The temperature of the water in which you have kept the fish should be anywhere between 75° F and 89° F (which translates to 24° C to 32° C).
As mentioned before, the flowerhorn is easier to maintain than some other freshwater fish.
This doesn’t mean that you can cut back on some essential factors.
Firstly, ensure that the water in your tank is dechlorinated. For the flowerhorn to grow and survive well, the water’s ideal pH level should be anywhere in the 7 to 8 range.
In addition to this, the hardness of the water should remain between 9 and 20 dGH.
The aquarium’s lighting can be similar to the lighting used for any freshwater fish. LEDs seem to work well enough.
As is the case with all aquariums, you will need to install a good quality canister filter so that the water remains clean at all times. The filter should be kept running for at least a week before you introduce the flowerhorns into the tank.
Their basic requirements are clean and moderately flowing water, with regular water changes each week.
Flowerhorns are known for making a mess while they eat so it is important to use an aquarium vacuum to remove this debris as part of your routine cleaning process.
Plants and tank decorations are really great to look at but they may not be practical for aquariums housing flowerhorn cichlids. The reason is that these fish are very active and enjoy digging. Any plants that you place in the tank are likely therefore to be destroyed soon after.
If you decide to add some ornaments make sure that they are anchored properly or the fish will simply topple them over. Some keepers even take the extra precaution to stick them in place with aquarium-safe silicone sealant to be sure they can’t be upended.
The flowerhorn cichlid was a result of man’s intervention and somewhere along the way, it also adopted some not-so-appealing parts of human nature. To be more specific, this fish is known to be quite aggressive and territorial about its space.
In addition to this, the fish is also predatory. Not only will the fish try to attack any tank mate that you place in the aquarium, it may also bite and attack you when you are trying to feed it, or when you are carrying out regular maintenance of the tank.
The flowerhorn is quite active and can destroy any plants or ornaments that you place in the aquarium.
For this reason, they are usually kept alone or in pairs, and placed in tanks that are minimalistic.
The flowerhorn is quite easy to maintain, especially if it is the only fish in your aquarium. Introducing them into a new tank is not a very difficult exercise but you must keep in mind that the water temperature and composition shouldn’t be too different from what the fish are already used to.
There cannot be a vast difference in the conditions that the flowerhorn is used to and the one that you introduce it into.
If you already have fish in the aquarium, you may have to check their compatibility with the flowerhorn, as the cichlid is very territorial and aggressive. This can lead to a number of unfortunate instances in your tank if you aren’t careful enough.
Other than this, flowerhorns do not take much time to get used to their surroundings and are pretty active and hardy.
The prospect of having a colorful aquarium with lots of different types of fish can seem very attractive but if one of these fish is a flowerhorn cichlid, you may want to rethink your plan.
As this is a very aggressive species, it is highly recommended that you either keep a flowerhorn alone, or introduce a pair into your aquarium.
Pairing these fish is also not an easy task. Many people buy multiple cichlids in the hope that they will automatically pair up but this can lead to a disastrous situation. While the dominant fish manage well, the less dominant ones end up getting bullied and die (or are eaten).
To avoid such a situation, you may need to approach a breeder who has a lot of experience in the field. That breeder may be able to hook you up with a pair that suits each other.
If you still want to keep other fish in your aquarium, you can try some of the species mentioned below:
Most fish cannot survive in the same tank as flowerhorn cichlids as they live under constant stress.
Flowerhorns can be big bullies when it comes to their territory, which makes it tough for any other fish – even the bigger ones like angelfish that grow up to 6-8 inches – to live with these aggressive beings.
Many people try different combinations of fish in their tanks before settling on the fact that flowerhorns work best when they are kept alone in spacious tanks with minimalistic décor.
Flowerhorns are very active. This factor, coupled with their great metabolism, means that they can eat a lot. They are carnivores and will need different types of nutrients to maintain their level of energy.
The flowerhorn cichlid should be fed 2 or 3 big meals everyday. As they have such massive appetites, you can choose from a wide variety of foods. While flake foods can only be given when the fish is very young (it cannot satisfy full size flowerhorn), you can feed them cichlid-specific pellets that are available in fish stores.
They seem to enjoy different types of live food, for example small fish, works, shrimp and so on.
Flowerhorns can also be fed meat but hearts and livers should be avoided.
Slightly cooked green leafy vegetables can also be added to their diet to fulfill their nutritional requirements.
There aren’t many ways to distinguish between the male and female flowerhorns.
The process of breeding these fish is fairly simple but you will have to be extra cautious because of their natural aggression. That is the only major complication that can arise when it comes to flowerhorn cichlids so it is important that you have a large enough tank to accommodate the pair.
Once you have identified a pair and placed it in a large enough tank, the female fish will lay eggs, mostly on a flat rock. The male flowerhorn will then fertilize these eggs.
Once the eggs have been fertilized it is advisable to separate the male from the female and her eggs by using a divider.
When the young fry hatches, it can be fed flake food, pellets and brine shrimp.
There are no specific ailments that affect flowerhorn cichlids but they are susceptible to some of the more common diseases of freshwater fish.
Any change in pH or water quality in the tank can lead to issues with the fish’s health so it is important that you ensure the ideal conditions.
Some common illnesses are:
The flowerhorn cichlid is a beautiful fish that will look great in your aquarium. Caring for this fish is fairly easy but it can get a little expensive because of the amount of space it needs and its diet.
It is also difficult to keep the flowerhorn with other types of fish because of its aggressive temperament.
If you are able to look past these factors and are on board with keeping just one or two flowerhorns, you can visit a reputable breeder and get this vividly colored fish for your aquarium!
Photo by Der Siems
The mandarin goby is a small, colorful fish that is popular for its unusual look and vibrancy. They are carnivores that feed on tiny crustaceans that live on rocks and sand. Mandarin gobies are also known as dragonets and are an aquarium enthusiast’s dream. But they can be tricky fish to take care of. Mandarin ... Read moreMandarin Goby Care The post Mandarin Goby Care appeared first on Keeping Exotic...
The mandarin goby is a small, colorful fish that is popular for its unusual look and vibrancy. They are carnivores that feed on tiny crustaceans that live on rocks and sand.
Mandarin gobies are also known as dragonets and are an aquarium enthusiast’s dream.
But they can be tricky fish to take care of.
Mandarin gobies can have a hard-to-please appetite. They need specific living conditions and thrive around established coral reefs. Ideally, you need to recreate a habitat as close to their natural habitat as possible.
The following is a detailed guide to taking care of a mandarin goby and ensuring you give it a happy, long life in your fish tank.
Mandarin gobies are by no means easy fish to take care of. Many fish tank owners may be attracted to their colorful exterior and want to have these beauties in their aquarium.
But the truth is, these fish require a lot of care and many factors need to align together in perfect symmetry for these fish to be happy and healthy. The first main factor is their living condition.
The following things are what you will need to care for when bringing a mandarin goby home:
These fish are best kept in reef-type tanks where they have ample space and cool corners to hide. The tank should be appropriately large – mandarin gobies like to have some space to swim around and feel the openness.
Depending on the specific species, the minimum size of the aquarium should be at least 30 gallons. An average adult mandarin goby can grow up to four inches (again, depending upon the species), so make sure there is ample space for all the gobies you put in your fish tank.
Remember that if your mandarin gobies are sharing their tank with other animals, these otherwise docile creatures may become territorial due to lack of space.
The water temperature of the tank should be anywhere between 72° and 82° Fahrenheit (22-25’C).
It is important to maintain this temperature and check the filter and temperature daily to catch and fix any aberrations beforehand.
This is a flexible range so it should not be very hard to maintain this temperature. But anywhere outside this range can be detrimental to the health of your fish.
The water composition is as important as the water temperature. The composition entails taking care of the salinity and pH level of the water. The ideal water composition should be the following:
Before you introduce your mandarin gobies into a larger fish tank with other fish, you will need to give them some time to adjust. Even healthy gobies need to be quarantined so that they can have the best integration experience after. To quarantine the fish:
If you are looking to pair mandarin gobies, be careful about the pair you choose. Gobies can be quite territorial towards their own species.
So while in a larger tank, two same-sex gobies may get along nicely, but it is still a risk you may have to take. Combinations of male and female gobies may work better for both small and large tanks.
Gobies are quiet but sociable fish that can potentially get along with all your tank inhabitants, provided you pair and integrate them strategically.
Once the quarantine period is over, integrating the gobies is the next big step. You have to do this slowly and carefully to avoid shocking your goby. While these fish are generally docile, they are not big fans of new faces. So they need to warm up to the new presence in their tank.
When integrating gobies, begin by filling one chosen side of the tank with food pods. Place the goby on top of these pods, away from the other inhabitants of the fish tank. The goby will be comfortable when there is ample food and a place to hide.
Gradually, they will feel more confident about exploring the tank and interacting with the other inhabitants in a peaceful and friendly manner.
As mentioned before, mandarin gobies like to eat. A healthy diet for mandarin gobies include copepods, a type of small crustacean. Mandarin gobies can often also be encouraged to eat pellets and frozen brine shrimp.
The key thing to remember is that gobies like to eat constantly. So ensure there is an endless supply of food. This can be tricky to maintain and can be expensive. The following is a pattern you can try:
Live copepods are living crustaceans similar to what is available in their natural habitat. Your gobies will love an ample supply of live copepods. You can grow them in a refugium. If you do not have a refugium you can always buy these at a local pet or fish supply store. In fact, by buying it at a store you can ensure that the pods are live, active and in good density.
While copepods are the main source of nutrition for mandarin gobies, after a point the fish will consume all the copepods and will slowly start starving. So the fish tank requires a healthy supply of other elements that will keep the population of copepods thriving. Which brings us to the next section — phytoplankton.
You should also supplement your tank with a healthy dose of phytoplankton. Dosing your fish tank and live reef with phytoplankton means you can help keep the natural population of food in the fish tank thriving.
Gradually, your live rocks will be able to support copepod colonies by themselves, reducing the need to feed as regularly. You will still need to add copepods to the tank but only to supplement the natural copepods being produced by the live rocks.
While some might say mandarin goby fish will outright reject frozen food and other supplements, a varied diet is actually quite an effective way to keep your goby happy. You can use supplements liberally in your fish’s diet.
While they are carnivores, they can still be open to a wide variety of items in their diet. So while captive mandarin gobies may enjoy live copepods the most, they can and will relish other supplements too.
To strike a healthy balance, you can try small worms, baby snails, etc. This boost in nutrition will keep them healthy and vibrant.
While they are called supplemental, these foods can actually be used quite regularly and in any amount. Do not worry about overdoing it; mandarin gobies are good eaters and will graze throughout the day.
A healthy mandarin goby likes to explore the space it is in, going from rock to rock in search of food. They are generally docile but friendly fish, though they also like their own space. So ample hiding spots in the fish tank are a must.
If you don’t see your goby for days because it is lurking in a hiding spot, do not worry. This behavior is characteristic of a healthy goby.
Healthy male mandarin gobies have an elongated first dorsal spine and displays brighter colors than their female counterparts. Both male and female gobies may release a toxic mucus to avoid predators.
Healthy mandarin gobies also have clear eyes and a healthy appetite. Their fins will be intact and undamaged. The first sign of any damage to the fin and you should consider that a red flag.
There are many other red flags you should look out for. The first sign of anything untoward or any disease, you should quarantine the fish and treat them separately, before the infection or disease is passed on to the other inhabitants of the fish tank. The following are some warning signs you should be mindful of:
There are some common health issues mandarin gobies may experience. But if you maintain the hygiene of the tank, these health issues can be avoided. These common health issues are:
What has been described above is a basic guide to mandarin gobies. While some details may differ depending on the species of goby you get, the basic requirements remain the same. A healthy goby is a happy goby!
Photo by David Robb
Photo by David Robb
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