Monday, November 22, 2010

Feeding sharks rabbits and other marine fish keeping secrets (part 1), by Matt Bulman

These days, setting up a saltwater aquarium is an exciting endeavor, especially if you plan to keep some of the more luxurious and exotic creatures like tiger sharks, penguins, or the endangered beluga whale. But did you know that these amazing sea-creatures are actually a different species and require totally separate tanks, tubs or cages?

If this is new information to you, then you are likely what we aquarists call, “A beginner.” The next few paragraphs will be dedicated to you. If you were aware of the aforementioned scientific fact, you may choose to read the beginner’s section as a thorough refresher course. However, for the more advanced reader, feel free to skip ahead to the following section, entitled, “Advanced marine fish keeping secrets for the advanced and super-advanced (part 2).”

Now, sometimes a whiney new beginner will ask, “What if I don’t want a shark but want to keep corals, blennies and multicolored tropical fish instead?”

Shut up! Modern fish keeping is not a sport for pussies. What other hobby needs the following gear: Harpoon, hunter’s knife, nets, trip wire, at least one shotgun, bear traps, and secret booby traps?

These days you really only want to keep the big fish (technically speaking, whales are not are not fish because of their nipples, and penguins are a type of bird cursed by the devil…but we will call them fish because beginners usually make this mistake).

But if you are going to have sharks and penguins the size of small children roaming your house, you must realize this is a major responsibility. Therefore, you are going to require several weapons for defense from these predators. And unlike other circumstances, the serious marine household requires these weapons to be armed and loaded at all times, kept in most rooms of the house.

So you have probably already purchased your fish, returned home, and thought, “Now what?”

Hopefully, you already purchased your tank, own a tub or have a cage with lots of damp cloth and a hose. A simple rule of thumb is that all fish require something clear and wet, like water, but a damp towel will do in a bind. My friend and I once kept a tiger shark alive fourteen hours by chucking water-balloons at steady, hilarious intervals! Place your pet in their new chamber. Have ready a hose or bucket with plenty of wetness to douse your new pet, as this will reduce the stress from the trip home from Chinatown.

Feed them. The second scientific fact you need to be aware of is that fish love to eat. Whale fish and penguin fish will eat anything you stuff down their gullet, while the sharks are more feisty creatures that prefer live, carnivorous prey. One live rabbit or chicken per day per shark is a good rule of thumb. Feeding my sharks a live rabbit each morning is often times the highlight of my day. And what joy it brings to the faces of my children, who really seem fascinated by the bright swirls of color and fur in our pool.

Separate chambers. Has your beluga whale already eaten half of your expensive black-market penguin? Don’t worry, years of working with aquariums and their owners has taught me that many beginners make this mistake. Perhaps your dead penguin drove you to this very article in the first place. Another scientific fact is that, “big things eat small things, and blue things eat black and white things.” It’s a law of nature, and one of those mistakes you never make twice. It’s also why my remaining children are forbidden to feed the sharks or whales.

Now that we have been through the basics, you may wish to read part 2 of our series, “Advanced marine fish keeping secrets for the advanced and super-advanced.” Here we discuss relevant topics like disposing of carcasses, dealing with PETA, as well as more topical health issues of today, like Type II diabetes and your fish. Part 3 in our series looks to the future of fish keeping, in particular, genetic engineering. We have entitled this last part in our series, “Should monkeys have gills or scuba suits when kept in your tank? An ethical dilemma.”

Until then, my water loving friends, happy fish keeping.

(This author would like to acknowledge Dr. Ben Moore, Chiropractor, for his helpful insight into the keeping and feeding of sharks.)

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