Living Safari’s Thoughts

We recently were interviewed by Utah Family Magazine to include a section about selecting the right pet for your family. Below is the article by Kimberly Carlson.

Lots of people shop at pet stores that are not the best location for a happy, healthy animal. When you walk in the door and the smell of ammonia overwhelms you, that should be a BIG clue that the animals are not being taken care of properly. Ammonia is bad for all oxygen breathing animals and birds. The only way to rid the smell of a ammonia is to clean, clean, clean the habitats and cages. If you think that you are RESCUING the animal from that environment, you are not, you are mearly supporting and allowing the situation to continue. When you pay retail prices for an animal, which is living in those conditions, you are not rescuing the animal, they are selling it for profit as a healthy animal. Rescue facilities only charge a nominal fee to cover the costs associated with maintaining the animal. If you care about animals and their health, then the only way to rid those kinds of stores is to NOT support that business and support businesses that promote education, healthy pets and appropriate habitat needs.

A reptiles habitat is the most important part of their well being. Reptiles are a picky lot, and they must have environmental conditions which match their habitat surroundings in the wild. When it comes to eating, live or frozen rodents or fresh fruits and vegetables (greens), they MUST have a means to thermoregulate their body temperature. This means they must have a warm side and a cool side in their habitat. We recommend that all the heat sources be on one end of the habitat, and the other end is for food and water bowls. The ability to regulate their body temperature allows them the process of digestion of their food, it they can not regulate their temperature, they will most likely regurgitate the food to prevent it from rotting inside them. Along with the temperature gradient, the warmth of their cage will often determine whether they will eat or not. Most people feed their snakes out of the cage in a separate cage to reduce the chances of becoming cage aggressive. This doesn’t mean that temperature is not important to snakes for eating, they should be near their optimum temperature when removed from their cage to eat. Many snakes have varying degrees of feeding resistance, meaning that they may be shy, not warm enough, or only like to eat in the dark. If you have a snake which shows any of these signs, try something differnt in your approach to feeding, put the snake in its feeding cage and put it in a completely dark room, raise the temperature a few degrees of its habitat, or simply place a towel over its feeding cage. Most of the time, resistance to eating is temperature related. Some of the supplies you will need to ensure your reptile is living in the correct habitat conditions are: thermometer (infrared or analog), Hydrometer (humidity gage), UVB light to simulate the sun. One of the things to remember about keeping reptiles is that we are constantly trying to improve their odds of survival, from that of surviving in the wild. When reptiles are first hatched or born, they take constant care, to give them the best odds of making it to maturity. But even when captive breed, there will be some that just weren’t created to make it, they will come in the form of not as active, shy eater, skinny, malformed. That is why it is very important to get a reptile that is well started and a known good eater. We only sell reptiles when we feel they are past the critical stage of eating and growth (well started). We also only feed fresh greens, gut loaded crickets/roaches and live rodents as the animal will find in the wild. We supplement their food with the necessary Calcium with or without D3, multivitamin, and specialty created diets. You will not find healthier, more active and better cared for reptiles anywhere.

Many aquarium owners dread learning about water chemistry. But just by knowing the basics, you can greatly improve your track record in rearing healthy fish. Since the quality of water in your tank has a direct impact on the health of your fish, it’s important for aquarium owners to understand the basic internal chemistry of their fish’s water in order to correctly and safely adjust it. Aquarium owners who do learn the basics of water chemistry find it much easier to maintain a healthy and safe environment for the fish in their tank.

New Tank Syndrome (NTS) occurs when the water contains high levels of ammonia and nitrite and there are no beneficial bacteria to process it, resulting in fish loss. There are products that we offer that contain species of ammonia- and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria that prefer to live in the aquarium environment. These products will maintain ammonia and nitrite below toxic concentrations and establish a fully functioning biological filter in much less time than some other products and methods available. Establishing a new tank can be challenging and frustrating, but if you follow our simple rules and are patient, you will feel confident and your aquarium will startup with a minimum of problems.
New Tank Setup Procedure:
   1. Thoroughly wash EVERYTHING that is going into your tank, gravel, décor, filters, heaters, etc.
   2. Place your tank in a location that is not in direct sunlight (to minimize algae growth) and preferably on interior wall (temperature stability)
   3. Fill your tank with tap water or RO water. If using tap water, add a chlorine, chloramine remover.
   4. Add your washed gravel. (1# of gravel for each gallon of water volume)
   5. Add an appropriate heater for your specific type of fish and let your tank reach the desired temperature.
   6. Now for the fun, one of the most important factors in keeping a successful aquarium is to have a healthy and active biological culture. There are a couple of ways to do this, use a biological starter product, or obtain some aquarium gravel that is already in use. 
  7. Start your Hang On the Back (HOB) filter or canister filter and start water cycling through your tank. Sizing a filter is a matter of deciding how often you want to clean the filter or the flow required for your specific fish. Typically we like to recommend 5 cycles per hour. (so if you have a 10 gallon tank, you want a filter rated at 50 gallons per hour (gph).
   8. Continue to add the biological product at the prescribed rate. After 3 days, you can add 1” of fish per 2 gallons of water, this reduces the chances of a HUGE ammonia  spike and killing all your fish. Select fish that are inexpensive, because you will lose some fish.
   9. Check your water quality with a good test kit or test strips everyday. You WILL see elevated Ammonia and Nitrite levels, this is normal. But as your biological system begins to develop and function those levels will drop. That is when you can start to add additional fish.
   10. PATIENCE is the key to successful startup.

Now, after your tank is established and it comes time to clean the tank, it is IMPORTANT to NOT destroy the biological filtration system. That means do not clean your filters, and vacuum your gravel the same day. Get on a schedule where you are gravel cleaning a week or two before you clean your filtration system. The mechanical filtration will help remove the gunk you stir up while scraping algae and vacuuming the gravel. The biological filtration in the filter will help to keep your water quality within limits. When you clean the gravel you DO NOT want to thoroughly clean it, you only want to clean the top 1” of gravel, the bottom 1” you want to leave undisturbed, as there is beneficial bacteria there for converting nitrites to nitrates. When you are getting ready to do a 20% water change (recommended at cleaning) either put some tap water aside for 24 hours with the cap off to allow the chlorine to dissipate, or obtain some Reverse Osmosis (RO) water from your pet store. This is the safest approach to maintaining a healthy water quality.

The number one reason fish die is due to OVERFEEDING. Overfeeding food sinks to the bottom of the tank and begins to decay and release ammonia. Ammonia is what kills your fish.

NOW, go get a new tank and have a great time successfully creating a healthy environment for your fish and creating a relaxing and entertaining hobby for you and your family.

Purchasing USED setups and equipment:
Pros: Probably costs less than you would spend at a retail store.
           You may get all the appropriate equipment that your pet needs.
Cons: You probably will not get the appropriate equipment your pet needs.
            The lighting and heating components are used, thusly you do not know
                    how many hours or what quality of lighting you are purchasing.
            Cleanliness of equipment, potential for diseases, chemicals.
Purchasing from P__CO and P__MART:
Pros: Large variety of products.
           They have nationwide sales in-store and online.
Cons: Employees can be new and not EXPERIENCED with pets.
            Everyday pricing is almost always higher than locally operated stores.
            They have HUGE overhead, someone pays for that.
           They do not use all their products they sell, thus they cannot
                    appropriately recommend everything they sell.
           The staff is not adequately trained or educated nor do they have all
                    the hands on experience most locally operated stores staff offers.
           Health of the animals
Purchasing from Living Safari:
Pros: Very experienced Staff
            We carry only products that we use regularly, or have used in the past.
            Our pricing is almost always lower than the P__CO and P__MART.
            We offer hands-on experience, education and valuable information.
           We have sales and promotions
           You can interact with our pets
           We have our personal pets on display
           Very healthy animals
Cons: NONE