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One last update before Christmas!
It's been a mixed few weeks since my last post, but on the whole the zoo continues to improve! I've had trouble with one of my Stinkpot turtles going off his food, and I lost one of my new Archer Fish to an unknown cause just a few days after they were acclimatised, but I seem to be making progress in some areas.
The dieting Stinkpot seems to be spooked by the addition of a few fish to the enclosure - 3 female Swordtails. These fish are the same size as the turtles, which I thought would be suitable, since they wouldn't be big enough to freak them out, but still a bit too big for them to catch. However, this doesn't seem to be the case. One stinkpot seems more confident, and is making good use of the corkbark basking area, whilst the other seems to have gone on hunger strike and is now being cared for in a smaller, separate plastic tub. I've caught him eating the occasional bit of Reptomin and bloodworm, but he has a lot of progress to make before I feel comfortable putting him back in the bigger tub (where it's not as easy to keep an eye on him!).
My two remaining Archer Fish have given me inspiration to set up a mangrove-style setup, with emersed roots and plants, which I have had great fun working on these past few days. I've put an old polythene grow tunnel (the type used in allotments) to good use to produce a canopy for a spare 2ft aquarium. This should hopefully allow me to see the Archers perform their insect-catching party trick, without the risk of them jumping out the tank! Being a schooling fish, I may have to get another 2 or 3 to ensure that they feel secure, but that might have to wait until the New Year.
The key part of this DIY Archer Fish paludarium, is its ability to cover the bottom part of the window in the reptile room. Having only measured the width of the window, I decided to purchase some blinds to replace the old curtains, but after going through the effort of fitting them, realised they're about a foot too short. It's nothing that an Archer Fish tank with a canopy can't fix!
Finally, the Pickerel Weed in my North American turtle enclosures (Slider and Stinkpot) is now enourmous, the largest being 120cm high at last count! I don't see how they can get any bigger, but I'll just have to wait and see!
I'll try to get another update in before the new year, maybe even with some pictures of an insectivorous alternative to Christmas dinner for the zoo, complete with all the trimmings!
All the best for the holidays,
The Pickerel Weed (Pontederia sp.) in my Common Musk tank has exploded into an aquatic monster, and has put out a huge tangle of roots, which you can hopefully see in the picture.
I'm really impressed at how this plant is doing, both in the Musk and my Slider setups, and it adds a whole new dimension to the enclosure design. So far the little stinkpots haven't done any damage to it, except for nibbling a few roots, but it looks like it will be well established in this setup at least! The Musks are much more carnivorous than Sliders, and show little interest in plant matter, although I do have a variety of floating pond species in there for them if they get peckish.
The Musk hatchlings seem to be doing well in the storage box setup, and have been using the pond planter and corkbark basking area when they feel like it, and often hang onto the underwater parts a bit like a riverbank. The water unfortunately always looks green, as the sand substrate is coated with algae, but hopefully this will clear up as the pickerel weed starts using up the nitrates in the water.
Anyway, it's not all about the turtles this week! I also picked up another type of swimming insectivore - a trio of young Archer Fish (Toxotes sp.), which are famous for spitting jets of water at unsuspecting bugs above the waterline. I haven't had the chance to witness this extraordinary talent yet, but they seem to be feeding well on krill, and should be interesting to design an enclosure around, with an extensive range of emersed plants and branches to perch livefood on. I've temporarily set them up with some plastic plants to hide in, but hopefully I can grow some salt-tolerant aquatic plants with them in the near future.
I've been having some trouble with the enclosures of both my Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko) and Columbian Rainbow Boa (Epicrates cenchria maurus), as both the climbing plants in the Gecko habitat seem to have died back, and the Rainbow Boa insists on crushing any plants I put in with her. The drainage in the gecko vivarium is not ideal, which may be the cause of the problem, but I'll allow the soil to dry out a little and see if anything recovers. It may not be great for plants, but there are thousands of tropical woodlice lurking in the soil and under the decorations. For the snake, I'll just have to grow the plants up outside the vivarium and transplant them when they seem strong enough to stand up to a bit of squashing! I'm determined not to go back to fake plants!
Finally, I managed to track down some wheat bran to try with my mealworm breeding rack. I've used porridge oats until now, which allows me to breed a reasonable quantity, but I've heard great things about wheat bran and I'm interested to see what effect it has in comparison.
If you'd like to ask any questions, don't hesitate to contat me using the email link below,