High summer is here and if nothing else, it means the rain’s a bit warmer. In garden ponds, fish will be concentrating on feeding and recovering from spawning.
• Cut back prolific self seeding plants such as Mimulus and Water Forget-me-not after flowering to control their spread next season
• Add late-season colour to your pond with Lobelias, Cannas and other flowering plants. Even exotic species can help provide nectar when other plants are setting seed.
• Consider how ‘summer-proof’ your pond is. Perhaps it needs extra circulation to keep oxygen levels high in the warm weather?
• With the holiday season upon us, don’t forget your pond pets. Start training a willing caretaker and check that all situations likely to cause problems are covered. Installing new filter foams that are less likely to clog is a good idea and their maturation can be hastened by adding a bacterial booster such as ‘Pure pond’. You may wish to leave a smaller quantity of food to prevent over-generous feeding causing water-quality problems, alternatively automatic feeders are available and can be installed and checked before leaving
• Consider adding a free-standing water feature to enhance those sunny evenings relaxing with a cold drink. Feature ponds are also a great way of adding interest to small spaces and make great summer housing for pets such as fancy goldfish
• Now is a great time to service aquarium heaters as ambient temperatures are high enough for them not to be needed. Remove limescale using pond pump de-scaling products and check that cables and fuses are in good shape. If still using an older style heater with a bi-metallic strip, consider pensioning it off in favour of an electronic version. It may not be too critical now but heater failure can be a disaster at any other time of year and there are few tanks where the value of the livestock doesn’t exceed the price of a top of the range model.
• As they’re cold-blooded creatures, fishes and invertebrates at the higher end of their temperature tolerances will be running at a higher metabolic rate. Make sure they receive a bit more food and that oxygen levels remain high.
• Fish can often get in trouble due to the generous nature of holiday caretakers. Prepare feeding rations as above and consider hiding the main pot of food to limit any over-feeding disasters. Small labelled envelopes containing the normal ration or even tablet foods can be useful for this task. For real peace of mind, it’s hard to beat an automatic feeder if set up in plenty of time and adjusted to suit.
• In conjunction with the above, consider leaving a ‘First Aid kit’ for your aquarium nearby. Perhaps a barrel of water for an emergency change, a dip-test kit, spare pump impeller, filter bacteria booster, fish net and the number of your regular fish shop for emergency help. Put lighting on timers and consider an automatic feeder as an alternative.
What's in store?
Summer still belongs to the pond fish and Koi (Cyprinus carpio) are still showing why they make such great wet pets. Like dogs, different breeds can have different personalities and the Chagoi is known as ‘the friendly carp’ for its tendency to be first to the food and easily tamed. These warm-brown fishes can give more nervous pets the confidence to their more ornate companions and soon become firm favourites with their owners. These ‘Chags’ at Cardiff were doing their best to get my attention.
Water Hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes). Thanks to its invasive status in milder parts of Europe, this plant is now being withdrawn from sale in the U.K. despite being unable to survive British winters. If you get in before the end of July you may be in time to enjoy a last summer of this useful tender floating plant.
Possibly more cold-hardy but more suited to indoor living, the fancy goldfish (Carassius auratus) appearing in store from a new supplier are continuing to impress.This batch of Red and white Ranchu at Woodbridge were very striking. Like all fancy goldfish, these are big, messy fish that need spacious aquaria or predator-proof outdoor accommodation when the weather is suitable.
Unlike the gaudy goldfish, some of their tropical cousins need a plantedaquarium and a little time to show their best features. During a visit to Leeds South, I was rather taken by the stunning Drape fin barbs (Oreichthys crenuchoides) sparring in their display tank.
A recent case of mistaken identity saw an unusual tetra appear in a number of stores, such as Swindon North. As is often the case with rarely imported fishes, it hasn't got much of a common name so we'll go with Socolof’s tetra (Gymnocorymbus socolofi). This Colombian native is related to the familiar Black widow tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) and should be kept in shoals to stop any antisocial behaviour arising from a lack of social stimulation.
A recent visit to Wenvoe saw a number of highlights, amongst them were some Zebra plecs (Hypancistrus zebra) of a size rarely seen in shops since the Brazilian ban on exports. Having seen this species go from an initial retail price of £265.00 in the late 80s, to a low of £30 before climbing back in price to reflect the extra work involved in producing tank-bred specimens, I'd say that for the hobbyist looking to acquire breeding-sized fish, this is a rare opportunity.
Captive-bred marine fish are growing in number and it's significant that some of the most popular have largely replaced their wild-caught counterparts. As a staggering number of colour variations and hybrids of Clownfish become the norm, it was a pleasure for me to see Percula clowns (Amphiprion percula) at Coventry in the familiar pattern as seen in the wild. Although many of the domesticated forms are the product of line breeding naturally-occurring variations that occur on the reef, there's something about that classic colouration that can't be beaten.
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