5 Best Pets for Small Spaces

December 19, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Pet Cats, Reptiles, Small Pets

5 Best Pets for Small Spaces

Guest Post by Michael David

The Pet Rat

There are many health benefits that come with owning a pet. They lower allergy risk in children, help you stay social, lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol, help you get more exercise, and boost your mood. But not everyone has the space for horses, a monkey sanctuary, or even a 150 lb Great Dane. Here are a few pets that will do wonderfully in a small apartment or home with a little yard.

  • Aquatic
    Fish are a hands-off pet, require no training, and can be left alone all day and not cause trouble. Studies have also shown that watching a fish swim around for 10-15 minutes a day will lower stress levels. You don’t even need a huge aquarium or a school of fish; a couple of goldfish or a Betta in a small tank sitting on your desk will work just as well. They are also good for those on a tight budget; goldfish and small aquarium supplies can be quite inexpensive.

    You could also find a hermit crab for something a bit more exotic. They are very social, and so keeping at least two together is recommended. They do not need a lot of space, and can be quite happy simply with some sand to dig into or rocks to climb on.

  • Small and Scaly
    In this category there are quite a few options – geckos, box turtles, small frogs, and snakes. These are also more solitary animals, content with a stick or a couple rocks to climb around, although once you have gained their trust they will let you hold them for a while. They do well with being left alone for long periods (as long as they’re fed), and are fairly easy to keep clean.

    Be sure you know how large your chosen pet will grow to be, though; if you only have a small space available for a snake, you don’t want to be surprised later on when it grows to eight feet!

  • Small and Furry
    Guinea pigs, hamsters, chinchillas, and small rabbits can be good for apartment living because they can stay in a smaller, centralized area that can easily be cleaned and maintained. They are more hands-on, cuddly, and social than fish or reptiles, but also can be left alone during the day while you’re working. If you have time for more maintenance, a ferret would also be a good option. They like having the run of the house and are temperamental towards visitors however, so keep those points in mind.

  • Cats
    Cats are more costly and time consuming than your other small furry pet choices, but also do very well in small apartments. They are easy to train to use a litter box, are very independent, which makes them great if you are gone all day, but can still be playful and interactive.

  • Dogs
    Dogs are the most hands-on pet on this list, so if you are hardly home or have no time to play, then it may be best to choose a different pet. Dogs are playful, social, and always happy to see you. They like to play outside and go for walks, so a small grassy area or nearby park would be good for them. Larger breeds will have a much harder time living in a small apartment, but smaller breeds will do just fine. Some of the smaller breeds to choose from include the Pomeranian, Corgi, Cocker Spaniel, Yorkie, Pug, Boston Terrier, or Chihuahua.

When choosing your new animal companion, be sure to put forth some serious thought before going out and buying the first thing that catches your eye. Make sure your apartment permits that type of pet and that you have enough time, funds, and knowledge to properly care for your pet.

Pets provide many wonderful benefits from health to companionship, and anyone can enjoy a pet no matter how small your living space is.

Author Byline
Michael David is a freelance journalist and blogger living in New York City. Michael loves writing about DIY projects, home improvement, and garden-related topics. He has recently been writing for Big Al’s Pets.

Fenced In: How to Keep Your Dog Safe and Free

December 3, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Pet Dogs

Fenced In: How to Keep Your Dog Safe and Free

Guest Post by Drew Kobb

The Norwich Terrier

Is your dog feeling trapped inside because he or she isn’t allowed outside? Or maybe your canine feels a little too free, jumping fences with no regard to boundaries or rules. There is a solution for both situations. Choosing the right fence for your dog is almost a science—you must take into account the dog’s size, temperament, needs, and your own desires and abilities. Here are some common options that you might want to consider to contain your canine.


A kennel is a great option for smaller, mostly indoor dogs that need a little more fresh air. It is a safe, contained outdoor area for your dog. The size of the kennel will greatly depend on the size and number of dogs you own. It can be portable (like wire or metal cage), or it can be a permanent run (a gated enclosure set over a concrete slab or run area). Outdoor kennels are especially helpful if it is directly connected to an entry to the house, such as a doggie door.

Traditional Fences

Either a property fence or a smaller fence to block off a certain area of your yard are popular and traditional choices for dog owners. Many dog owners are mostly concerned about dogs leaving the property, so a boundary fence is usually sufficient. These traditional fences are available in many different materials: chain link, wood, wire, or a combination of materials.

However, some people don’t like this option because of the visual aspect—fences can block views, or simply lack visual aesthetic. There can also be problems with dogs digging under the fence to get out, but some Calgary fencing companies just suggest burying a few feet of chicken wire underneath the fence to create a barrier. Other downsides could include problems with dogs jumping over the fence, and the fences need upkeep to make sure there are no escape routes.

In-Ground Fences

In-ground fences are a great option for those who don’t want to build a fence on their property, for financial or aesthetic reasons. To install, you simply bury the transmitting wires a few inches
underground where you want the boundary to be. This is a really good option for abnormally shaped yards or for homes with pools because it easily follows curves and is very customizable. You can even use this system to prevent fence digging and jumping—simply attach the wire to an existing fence.

The system includes a radio transmitter, with a receiver on the dog collar. A warning tone sounds when the dog is getting close to boundary, a static correction is transmitted if the boundary is
reached. Many people are concerned with the humaneness of the static collar, but it is similar to a static shock a human might receive on a dry, static day when touching a doorknob.

Wireless Fences

Wireless fences are similar to the in-ground fences, except for… you guessed it, no wire to install! Wireless fences are great for smaller yards or areas. The fence is set up with a wireless transmitter that creates a circular boundary around itself. It is very easy to install and adjust the area when needed. You can even take it with you when you travel, go camping, or spend a day
on the lake! As long as you have access to an AC outlet, you can set up your circular boundary.

These fences can be customized even more if you choose the system with programmable flags. The flags allow you to create a non-circular boundary, so you can tailor it to your yard area. The downside is that you have to keep a bunch of little flags all around your yard to keep the fence in place.

All of these options can help keep your furry friend safer. Choosing the right fence means the difference between anxiety every time a car passes your home, and comfort in having a pet that knows its safe boundaries. Sometimes, set boundaries can be a good thing.

Drew Kobb, in addition to studying civil law, loves long distance running with his dog and considers himself a health and fitness enthusiast. His interests range all over the medical field, and Drew highlights that range on his blog, Dr. Ouch. He also urges you to check out Calgary Fencing for your dog!

The Top 3 Guard Dogs

October 3, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Pet Dogs

The Top 3 Guard Dogs

Guest Post by Drew Kobb

With several recent advancements in home security technology, more and more people are resting easy knowing that if their homes are broken into, help is on the way. However, even the smartest technology has its flaws. Despite law enforcement’s best efforts to reduce response time, not all homes are in a convenient location for an immediate response. Additionally, while a home security system will alert the authorities of an intruder, your family isn’t necessarily safe until police arrive.

Adopting a reliable guard dog can be an effective way to protect your home and family. However, some dogs are better at the job than others.

The German Shepherd

German shepherd

German shepherds are known for their intelligence, strength, and protective nature. It’s for these reasons German shepherds are the most popular choice among law enforcement agencies’ K-9 units. German shepherds can learn simple commands after only 5 repetitions or so. They are also very obedient, responding to a first command 95% of the time.

German shepherds are also very strong, which is why they are often employed in search and rescue efforts. Larger shepherds can weigh up to 100 pounds or more, which is not a bad attribute to have in the case of a home intrusion. On average, German shepherds bite with around 236 pounds of force (that’s in comparison to a human male’s 80 pounds). They also rank high on speed and agility tests.

This breed is very good around children. As dogs are pack animals, German shepherds in particular have a keen sense of family; they can easily pick out who is not welcome. The one drawback is that modern German shepherds suffer from hip dysplasia, a genetic condition which can lead to arthritis in later years.

The Doberman Pinscher

Doberman pinscher

An intimidating figure, the Doberman pinscher is another intelligent breed that can be easily trained. One advantage to owning a Doberman is that they are very easily identified—stopping potential crooks in their tracks before they even start.

Dobermans are similar to German shepherds in a lot of ways, including their aptitude for companionship and their relative size and strength. And while they can be very aggressive toward unwanted guests, they also have the potential to act more hostile around any stranger—friend or foe. However, Dobermans tend to rank lower on overall aggression and are great household pets when properly trained.

The Rottweiler


If you want a big, mean dog standing guard, a Rottweiler might be the best choice. Rottweilers easily weigh in around 130 pounds or more. As opposed to the German shepherd, a Rottweiler’s bite force is somewhere in the neighborhood of 328 pounds of force.

In addition to being larger and stronger than most domestic breeds, Rottweilers are also known for their persistence and toughness. In other words, not only will Rottweilers ward off intruders, but they’re also more likely to chase after them, even if they are somehow injured in the process.

The average lifespan of a Rottweiler is around 9 to 10 years—a bit lower than the other two breeds. This may be due in part to their proneness to obesity. If you decide to adopt a Rottweiler, make sure it is not over-fed and receives plenty of exercise.

A Final Word

One advantage guard dogs have over automated security systems is that they provide companionship as well as security. They are pack animals and will be loyal to your pack if they are properly cared for. However, just like your parents have probably told you, dogs are a big responsibility. Your duty to your dog extends far beyond feeding and walking. There is a right way to train your guard dog—neglect, abuse, and starvation are the wrong ways. Before getting a guard dog, consult trainers, breeders, and veterinarians to help you know what to expect and how to keep your dog disciplined in a controlled and healthy way.

Drew Kobb, in addition to studying civil law, loves animals, and keeps himself up-to-date on training tips, new aquarium supplies and animal rights news. His interests range all over the medical field, and Drew highlights that range on his blog, Dr. Ouch.

The Chinchilla

October 1, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Featured Pets, Small Pets

Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Chinchilla!

I have to admit, one of my all-time favorite pets has been the Chinchilla. I didn’t start owning them until I was in high school, but after I got my first one, I was in love! I have owned 5 Chinchillas since that first one! Many people who keep chinchillas as pets will attest to their wonderful pet qualities. A niche market for chinchilla fur also exists and chinchilla breeders around the world abound for this very purpose.

Chinchillas are believed by many to be wonderful and personable pets. Being very loving and curious, they can easily bond with their owners. They also love exercise and are quite active little critters! In general chinchillas don’t have much of an odor and are very clean. Although I would recommend chinchillas as pets, they do have some more stringent care requirements. I learned from my personal experience that chinchillas are quite fragile and do not do well with stress or extreme temperatures. They also require regular dust baths to keep their fur in good condition.

Chinchilla Background

Did you know that the chinchilla has the most fur per square inch of any mammal? About 60 hairs emerge from every hair follicle. Their fur is extremely dense and soft which makes for a very nice feel. Chinchilla pelts are desirable for this very reason and are used for many different garments. The chinchilla fur trade has been going on since the 1500’s and many breeders only breed for the purpose of selling their furs. Two varieties of Chinchillas are available in the United States for the most part. The Chinchilla lanigera is usually the pet variety, while the Chinchilla brevicaudata is usually the kind used in the fur trade.

South America is the native home of these little guys. Peru, Bolivia, and Chile originally housed Chinchillas in the Andes Mountains, however they are now found only in Bolivia. This is because of extensive illegal hunting. In the wild the Chinchilla is very endangered. Domestic chinchillas are doing pretty well, however, with thousands of chinchilla breeders in the United States. The term “chinchilla” came from the Spaniards, who gave them their name based off of the South American Chinca Indians who lived there in the 1500’s.

Chinchilla Housing and Care

You will most likely want to keep your chinchilla inside your house, especially if it gets over 80 degrees Fahrenheit in your area. Chinchillas have extremely dense fur and have no sweat glands, so they can easily overheat. You will want to be careful on that. Provide a large, roomy cage with non-toxic bedding. Stress can be a problem for these little guys, so make sure to provide a hiding area for him to sleep in and feel comfortable in. Keeping more than one together is also a good idea, because in the wild chinchillas are very social.

Food is pretty simple. You can offer them commercialized chinchilla pellets, which contain just about all their needed nutrition. Give occasional treats, either commercial treats or fresh greens or fruits. Their teeth grow rapidly throughout their lifetime and they must chew regularly to keep them trim. For this reason you will also want to provide chew blocks to keep their teeth healthy. Dust baths 2 or 3 times a week are also a must. Rolling around in dust and then shaking themselves off is how they keep clean. Because of their extremely dense fur, getting wet is not ideal for them. If they get wet and stay wet, their fur can become a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria. Not healthy!

The Chinchilla

Chinchilla Health Conditions

As I mentioned earlier, I know from personal experience how fragile chinchillas can be! Not only are they extremely heat-sensitive, they also cannot be dropped or played with roughly. One of mine fell from the top of his cage and broke his leg. I took him to a veterinarian and they sedated him and fixed his leg. But, the whole experience stressed him out so much that he refused to eat or drink anymore and eventually passed away.

Other relatively common health problems are diarrhea, constipation, and runny eyes or respiratory problems. These can be caused by their diet or environmental conditions. Raisins are good to help clear up constipation. Also reduce the amount of greens you are giving if your chinchilla has diarrhea. If the symptoms don’t clear up on their own in a few days you will want to take your chinchilla to a vet to determine what’s going on.

Finding a chinchilla for a pet should be relatively easy. You can look up chinchilla ranches online or go to your local pet store. Pet stores will either carry them or can special order one for you. Finding a local chinchilla breeder might be more difficult, but you will have a lot more choice on what type and color of chinchilla you get!

Are you in the chinchilla pet business, or the chinchilla fur trade business? What are your thoughts?

Jasmine Hinesley is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

The Holsteiner

September 23, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Featured Pets, Horses

Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Holsteiner!

If you are a horse person and really enjoy showing and competing, the Holsteiner horse breed is definitely worth checking out. These are considered to be very athletic horses and are an excellent breed to use in Equestrian Olympics. Show jumping, hunting, combined driving, and dressage are all events in which the Holsteiner is competitive. Many people who are serious about athletic horse events vouch for this breed. On top of this, another great benefit is these guys are known to have a nice, gentle temperament. Usually they are easy going, quiet, and sometimes even a little lazy!

Holsteiner History

The Holsteiner, originally from Germany, is an older warmblood breed of horse. It is believed that they date back to the 13th century and a monastery was the driving force in developing this breed. In the Schleswig-Holstein area of Germany, there is a written record of the local Count of Holstein and Storman giving the Monastery permission to graze their horses on their land. These are believed to be the first Holsteiner horses.

To keep the breeding of these horses going and to ensure their quality, many incentives and laws were passed. Eventually the rest of Europe started importing this breed in large quantities. France especially, imported thousands of these horses in the 1770’s.

In the 1800’s the Holsteiner breed declined somewhat. This was due to the economy, wars, weather, and over-breeding. Up and downs continued and by 1960 there were only around 1300 Holsteiner horses left. At this time The Germany Verband Association took it into their hands to start breeding and bringing the breed back up in numbers. The American Holsteiner Association came into existence in 1978, and also began trying to accomplish the same goals. It is because of these efforts that this breed has definitely stayed strong.

The Holsteiner

Being powerful and carrying themselves well, Holsteiners are very elegant horses. In general they are graceful, muscular, and flexible. All great athletic qualities. Most people who are serious about these horses want them for competition reasons. Breeding them can be difficult because the only horses eligible to be bred have to adhere to a strict set of standards in order to ensure quality within the breed. These are large horses, usually between 16 and 17 hands tall, with two recognized types. The classic type Holsteiners are heavy and large boned while the modern type is not quite as heavy and has more refined features.

Competitive Holsteiner Activities

Jumping is the strongest trait Holsteiners possess. Many people use them exclusively in this sport. Flaws were decreased and eliminated by selectively breeding a few horses, and they are now known for Olympic-caliber jumping internationally. In fact, they make up a large number of successful show jumpers even though they only represent 6% of all horses in Europe. In addition to jumping, Holsteiners are known internationally for combined driving, dressage, and eventing. In North America they also hold their own as show hunters and hunt seat equitation horses.

Holsteiner Care and Health Conditions

Caring for a Holsteiner is not overly difficult. You can easily keep them in either a pasture or in a stall area with other horses. They can be fed hay, grain, and alfalfa as well as a mineral supplement. All other normal maintenance activities should be done as well, such as grooming, bathing, keeping their hooves cleaned and trimmed, etc.

In general, Holsteiners are strong horses and well-adapted to harsh conditions. However because they are used heavily in competitions, they are prone to problems. Becoming lame because of extreme tendon extensions is a problem they are more prone to. Using leg protection while jumping and boots or foot wraps for dressage work can go a long way in helping to prevent leg problems with these horses.

Holsteiner Availability

If you are serious about a Holsteiner, they can be found. Commonly bred in the state of California, that is a good place to start if you are located in the United States. They can also be found across Europe from various breeders. You can expect to pay at least $15,000 for a foal or yearling. But it is well worth it in the show business!

Holsteiners are no doubt a specialty horse. If you own one or have experience with one we would love to hear your stories! Please share!

Jasmine Hinesley is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Choosing an Aquarium Filter

September 20, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Freshwater fish

Which Aquarium Filter is Right for Me?

Guest Post by Michael David

Installing a fish tank can be a great way to add some color and life to your home or workspace. It can even provide a sense of peace in the midst of a stressful day. However, keeping your fish happy and healthy goes beyond the daily sprinkle of fish food. Proper aquarium setup and adequate water filtration is crucial to the survival of all aquarium life.

Why Do I Need a Filter?

Let me answer this question with an example from the news. A few months ago, Carnival Cruise Line’s Triumph experienced a power failure during a four-day excursion to the Caribbean. This power failure also disabled the ship’s septic system, resulting in backed-up toilets and human excrement littering every floor. These unsanitary conditions caused many of the passengers to become sick. Had they been out there any longer, the consequences could have been much worse.

Much like a cruise ship, your fish tank is an enclosed environment with a high-density population. In nature, fish do not normally need to share such a small space. However, the higher concentration of fish leads to a larger amount of fish waste. If left unchecked, fish waste releases ammonia, which is harmful to fish. Without some kind of filtration system in place, your fish will get sick and eventually die.

How is the Water Filtered?

Biological Filtration

In nature, this ammonia is removed from the water through biological filtration. Naturally-occurring bacteria will oxidize and break down the ammonia into a less toxic form which can then be absorbed by plant life.

Installing a biological filter is one way to replicate this break-down process. In addition to installing a biological filter, it’s also wise to plant some underwater plants to absorb any additional toxins not initially broken down by the bacteria. Biological filters require very little maintenance, however, the bacterial colonies will take some time (six weeks minimum) to develop, so avoid adding too many fish too quickly to your new aquarium.

If you’re looking for something very low-maintenance, you might consider an under-gravel filter. As the name suggests, these filters are placed beneath the aquarium’s gravel, moving water through the gravel and creating ideal conditions for the bacteria to grow. Wet-dry filters are another good choice, particularly if you want to install a saltwater aquarium. These filters are exposed to both the water and the air, which allows for the maximum number of bacterial colonies to spawn.

Mechanical Filtration

Unlike biological filtration, which breaks down waste products, mechanical filtration simply removes undissolved waste materials (excrement, uneaten food, and other debris) from the water. Mechanical filters usually involve a water pump as well as a mesh material that catches debris. And while this is a great way to remove waste from the aquarium before any ammonia is released, mechanical filters do require more frequent maintenance and thorough cleaning before placing them back in the water.

Both power and internal power filters are the most popular and effective mechanical filter models on the market. Power filters hang off the back of your tank while internal power filters are placed inside the aquarium itself. Many have replaceable cartridges, which makes for fast and easy maintenance.

Chemical Filtration

Another popular method for filtering waste from your fish tank is through chemical or active carbon filtration. Activated carbon contains numerous microscopic pores, which allow it to absorb any dissolved chemicals in your aquarium. This is a fairly low-maintenance method to keeping your tank water clean, but you will need to replace your carbon every couple months or so.

While canister filters can be adjusted to provide both biological and mechanical filtration, they are most often used for chemical filtration. The advantage to using a canister filter for active carbon filtration is that they are significantly larger than most other aquarium filters, meaning you won’t have to replace your carbon as often as you would with smaller filters.

Michael David is a freelance journalist and blogger living in New York City. Michael loves writing about DIY projects, home improvement, and garden-related topics, and suggests you look into aquarium filters.

Three Helpful Tips When Caring For Your Aging Dog

September 12, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Pet Dogs

Caring For Your Aging Dog

Guest Post by Morgan Sims

Having a dog as part of your family is a fulfilling, enjoyable experience for everyone, dogs and humans alike. Both you and your dog will benefit from having unconditional love and companionship. However, one downside of letting the family pup into your heart is that he won’t live as long as you do, and eventually you will find yourself providing extra care for your four-legged buddy as he ages. All dogs need to have good care, but here are three things you can do to make your aging dogs final years both enjoyable and rewarding.

Picture via Handi Ramps

Reduce The Risk Of Injury

Older dogs require more thought than younger ones when it comes to their activity level. It may be tempting to nix the daily walk all together once your best friend starts to weaken with age, but don’t stop just yet. In reality, maintaining a consistent exercise regimen will actually increase their longevity and enhance their mental clarity.

Older dogs often start having problems with their hips and joints and may be diagnosed with arthritis. This is a common problem. And the heavier your dog is, the more likely he will suffer from these problems. He may need a little extra help getting around the house than he used to as he ages. Household add-ons like pet ramps or pet will help him do the things that a simple hop used to achieve, such as laying on the couch, getting in and out of the family vehicle, and walking up and down steps. Installing these simple ramps throughout your home will reduce the risk of injury to dogs with conditions like osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, and other common ailments. The biggest thing you want to achieve is minimizing how much jumping your dog has to do. Even just purchasing pet stairs for such things as helping them climb up onto your bed can be a big help for them.

Image via Flickr by Quasic

Monitor Food Intake and Diet Requirements

While maintaining a proper diet is crucial at any age, feeding Fido the right way as he ages can make a tremendous impact on his energy level. Many brands make formulas for aging dogs, as their needs change over their lifetime. Check with your veterinarian and follow their advice; after all, they have a vested interest in the overall health of your dog, and have likely been treating your dog for many years. As mentioned earlier, you will want to keep your dog at a healthy weight as he ages as well. This is because overweight dogs are more prone to health and movement disorders.

Another point to mention is the use of elevated dog bowls. As dogs age they have a harder and harder time bending over to eat and drink, and it can be a big help to simply provide them with elevated dog dishes. This will reduce their need to bend over as much and reduce strain on their joints!

There are so many theories out there on the best diet for dogs that it’s probably going to be difficult to decide what’s right for you and yours. If you have a smartphone, you can easily get more advice on diet requirements and even make use of the many apps that are available for calculating canine diets. Just as there are calorie counter applications for humans, many dog diet calculators are available as well! They can be pretty handy!

Image via Flickr by Bekathwia

Make Them Comfortable

As your dog ages, he will become less likely to want to play along and keep up with the rest of the family. Keep him comfortable by providing a comfortable place to lay such as a memory foam bed in each room of the house he frequents. When he weas younger it may have sufficed to keep your dog bed in the living room or bedroom, but now it might be a good idea to place one in each room of the house. This way, no matter where he goes, your aging dog will have a soft place to lay down. He also won’t have to lay directly on the floor or walk across the house get to his bed.

Watching your dog go through the aging process can be a slow and painful experience for both him and your family. Understanding what he is going through, anticipating his needs, and doing everything in your power to ease his pain and make him comfortable will surely make your final years together enjoyable ones.

Morgan Sims is a writer and recent graduate who loves all things tech and social media. When she’s not trying out new gadgets and tweeting from her Samsung Galaxy S4, she spends most of her time with her mini doxie, cooking, and staying active. Follow her @MorganSims00

The Sulcata Tortoise

September 10, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Featured Pets, Reptiles

Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Sulcata Tortoise!

Has it always been your dream to have a gigantic tortoise? I’m guessing not! But just in case it is, the Sulcata Tortoise may be right up your alley! The pet store I worked at sold a couple of these guys, but it was usually only on special order. We didn’t normally keep them in the store on a regular basis. People who purchase these tortoises usually do so because they are very intrigued by their size as well as their many great pet qualities!

About the Sulcata Tortoise

I bet your first question is: Just how big do these guys get? Well, the males often reach 2 and a half feet in length and can weigh up to 150 pounds! Females come a little smaller than males, reaching a little under 2 feet in length and weighing up to 75 pounds. These are big tortoises! Without regard for its size, the Sulcata Tortoise has many attributes which make keeping it as a pet appealing. They are very tame, have good dispositions, are friendly, and don’t get sick easily.

The Sulcata Tortoise Geochelone sulcata, also called the African Spurred Tortoise, is the third largest tortoise in the world, coming in behind only the tortoises from the Galapagos and the Aldabras. The natural habitat of these huge tortoises consists of hot temperatures and dry scrubland areas where they can make deep burrows and have plenty of plants to eat. North-Central Africa is their native continent, just south of the Sahara Desert. There is cause to worry about them as they are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is rare to find one in the wild now, as well.

The Sulcata Tortoise

Caring For Your Sulcata Tortoise

Before acquiring a Sulcata Tortoise, you will want to be fully prepared. You can get one as a baby, but these guys grow fast! Make sure you have a large area or terrarium for them as they grow to their full size. If you keep them outside, you should also provide some sort of enclosure where they can go to get out of the elements. Provide them with heat lamps and different props and shelters to make them feel more comfortable and at home. These can be things such as logs, huge leaves and piles of straw. A good substrate is a sand and peat moss mixture (mostly sand). Because these tortoises come from a very dry part of the world, they do not tolerate humidity and dampness at all. DO NOT keep them outdoors if you live in a humid area. This can lead to all sorts of illnesses and conditions.

Feeding a Sulcata Tortoise can also be a chore! They can eat a lot, and they need a varied diet! Provide them with a whole mixture of different greens everyday, as well as such things as hay, dandelions, and grass. If you can get your hands on Opuntia cactus pads, these are also very good for them. This will provide them with a high fiber diet, which is crucial to their health. Sprinkle their food with a calcium powder a couple times a week as well. If you wish to give treats, only do so a couple times a month. Good, healthy treats could include apples or melons. Clean out uneaten food at the end of each day. Provide fresh water daily in a large flat dish.

Problems and Availability of the Sulcata Tortoise

The most common problems you will run into with this tortoise are respiratory illnesses. These almost always occurs due to improper keeping. If they are not kept in hot and dry environments they will inevitably become sick. Watch out for runny noses and eyes. Renal problems can also arise if they are not fed a high-fiber and nutritionally sound diet. So make sure they get their greens!

If you would like to acquire a Sulcata Tortoise, your best bet is a reptile store, online from reputable breeders, or a reptile show. The vast majority of specimens sold in the United States are captive-bred babies and are readily available when you look in the right place.

Isn’t the idea of keeping such a large tortoise fascinating? Do you have any stories of your own that you’d like to share? We would love to hear it!

Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

The Firemouth Cichlid

September 2, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Featured Pets, Freshwater fish

Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Firemouth Cichlid!

Are you a cichlid person? Some people like these fish so much that all they keep are cichlids. They may even keep several “cichlid tanks” around their home! Given that cichlids are so diverse in color, size, and temperament, this is completely understandable. The Firemouth Cichlid, in particular, is a popular one. Many people like them because of their beautiful colors and how easy they are to keep.

The Firemouth Cichlid Thorichthys meeki, is a great beginner cichlid. It is one of the easiest cichlids to care for and anyone can start out keeping them. A big reason these guys are easy to keep is because they readily adapting to most environments. Their major draw is the bright red coloring, which occurs on their underside and up through their throat area. Other attributes of these attractive fish are being small (for cichlids) and having relatively fun personalities. They often do well in community aquariums as long as they are kept with other Firemouth Cichlids and fish of the same size and temperament as themselves. You only have to worry about them becoming more aggressive than usual during breeding times.

The Firemouth Cichlid

About the Firemouth Cichlid

Central America is the native country of these cichlids. More specifically, they inhabit the countries of Mexico, Honduras, Belize, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. In the wild, the Firemouth Cichlid thrives in slow moving rivers and ponds. They usually stay closer to the bottom of the water where it is muddy and vegetation is easily accessible.

Feeding these cichlids is easy. They will eat almost any type of food offered to them! This includes, flakes, pellets, live foods, and fresh foods. Offering a variety of foods weekly is a good way to make sure they are receiving optimum nutrition. You will want to give them pellets or flakes every day and then add in some fresh cucumber and spinach as well. Live blood worms and brine shrimp are excellent treats but should be offered more sparingly.

Aquarium Care for the Firemouth Cichlid

Caring for the aquarium is no more difficult than for a typical tropical aquarium. As I mentioned earlier, Firemouth Cichlids are hardy fish and can adapt to wide range of aquarium conditions. However, regular maintenance is still needed to ensure their health! Most importantly, regular water changes are needed. About 20% of the water should be replaced every week. The gravel should also be siphoned out. These two cleaning activities get rid of decomposing organic matter and help limit the build-up of nitrates and phosphates.

A 30 gallon tank is the minimum recommended size for two Firemouth Cichlids. If you want a community cichlid tank though, you will need a much larger aquarium. A general rule is one inch of fish for every gallon of water. Equip the aquarium with a good filter and water movement. Cichlids appreciate plenty of rocks, plants and wood to hide amongst. Fine sand is a good substrate for the bottom because these fish love to burrow! They don’t need any special lighting requirements and the temperature can range from 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Diseases to Watch Out for With the Firemouth Cichlid

A common problem among tropical fish, including the Firemouth Cichlid, is ich. Many fish become infected with ich, usually when feeling stressed. The good thing is that ich can’t tolerate higher temperatures, but these cichlids can! So it can be easier to treat the Firemouth Cichlid for ich by simply increasing the aquarium temperature up to around 86 degrees for a few days. Other tropical fish diseases can also plague these cichlids. These include fungal infections, bacterial infections, and parasitic infections. If your cichlid has a disease check this Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments guide for a thorough description of most illnesses and their cures!

Do you keep a community cichlid tank? What is your favorite thing about keeping cichlids?

Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

The Blue and Gold Macaw

July 29, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Featured Pets, Pet Birds

Animal-World’s Featured Pet of the Week: The Blue and Gold Macaw!

Ah, the “king” of large birds. I don’t know about you, but when I think of parrots, the Blue and Gold Macaw comes to mind first thing! This is one of the most popular large birds and stands out with its defining bold colors. If you are looking for an exceptionally intelligent parrot, I can guarantee that this macaw is a very good choice. My mother is a Certified Avian Specialist, and because of that I have had the privilege of working with and interacting with many of these birds. I have also had several family friends who have owned these macaws. They all seemed very attached to their owners and every single one was a great talker!

Blue and Gold Macaws are affectionate parrots and can fit in with an entire family or do just fine with only one owner. If well socialized they can also do well with other pets and other birds. They have great personalities and are very adaptable to most environments. You will find a great friend who loves to be with you and participate in any activity you wish him to. Blue and Gold Macaws are great talkers, learning up to 20 words or phrases. They also can learn to do a myriad of tricks and imitations.

The Blue and Gold Macaw

About the Blue and Gold Macaw

When did the Blue and Gold Macaw Ara ararauna first become known? Well, their native habitat extends over much of Central and South America, which is a huge area. Diverse habitats including open grasslands, woodlands, and rainforests all act as homes to these birds. The people who lived in these areas for sure were aware of the existence of these large macaws, however they were first described in 1758 by Linnaeus. They primarily live high up in trees and live in pairs or groups. For meals these macaws will all fly together in the morning and at sunset to go feed on fruits, seeds, and vegetables.

Blue and Gold Macaws are so named because of their colors, which consist of primarily blue and gold or yellow! They are one of the largest macaws, with only the Green-winged Macaws and the Hyacinths being larger. However, there is a larger variation of the Blue and Gold called the Bolivian Blue and Gold (found in Bolivia), which can sometimes rival the size of the Hyacinths. In general though, these birds can weigh over 2 pounds as adults, with a length of up to 35 inches and a wingspan of 45 inches. If you want a life-long companion, these parrots are a good choice because they can live upwards of 60 years!

A Blue and Gold Macaw as a Pet

Determining whether you want a Blue and Gold should be a very well thought out decision. Not only do these birds live a long time, but they also require a lot of attention and plenty of room. This can be expensive and time-consuming. Make sure you have the room to provide a large cage, and you may want to even consider putting the cage in it’s own room – as Macaws can get pretty loud! A playpen outside the cage is desirable as well. Your macaw will need sturdy perches and food and water dishes which can withstand being chewed on. Most parrots will appreciate new toys regularly as well. You will want to let your macaw out for at least a couple hours every day.

Caring for your Blue and Gold Macaw

The best staple food for this macaw is a commercially prepared seed and nut mix. They also enjoy eating with people and many of the things you eat can also be offered to your parrot. Many macaws like protein and will eat chicken. Avoid avocados and chocolate, as these contain toxins for birds. Offer them fresh water every day and clean out their dishes daily.

Taking good care of a macaw is the best way to prevent problems. To keep your macaw healthy you will want to:

  1. Give them lots of attention.
  2. Let them out of their cage daily for exercise and play time.
  3. Offer varied supplemental foods in addition to their seed mix.
  4. Clean out their food and water dishes daily.
  5. Give baths daily (to prevent dry feathers and chewing).
  6. Keep their beak and nails trimmed.
  7. Clip their wings to prevent them accidentally flying off.

Acquiring Your Blue and Gold

Blue and Gold Macaws are one of the most readily available macaws as well as one of the least expensive. Many people get hand-fed babies at bird farms. You should also have no problem finding one at a local pet store or online, either. You may even consider adopting an older bird who has been abandoned or lost their previous owner.

Are you a fan of the large parrots? What species is your favorite and what do you like about them?

Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many pet articles and animal write-ups.

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