Monthly Archives: February 2009

Koi Bacteria Diseases

Taken from “Understand aeromonas, pseudomonas pathogenic bacteria in Koi ponds” by Tom Holder.

I am extremely grateful to Tom Holder the master distributor world wide of the revolutionary product KoiZyme also known as Genesyz for permission to reproduce this article on aeromonas and pseudomonas pathogenic bacteria.

One of the most important things in keeping your pond and your fish healthy is understanding pathogenic bacteria. There are a wide variety of pathogenic bacteria that can infect your pond. By far the most common are aeromonas and pseudomonas. These two bacteria kill more Koi each year than all the other pathogens combined. Understanding how these pathogens live, eat and attack your Koi is vital to controlling them.

Aeromonas and pseudomonas cause ulcers (also known as hole in the side disease), fin rot, mouth rot and tail rot. If left untreated the damage they inflict will eventually kill the fish. Many hobbyists believe that their ponds do not have either of these bacteria when their fish are not currently experiencing any of the above symptoms. This simply is not true. Aeromonas and/or pseudomonas exist in almost every Koi pond the world. You must understand that it is possible for Koi to be around these bacteria and NOT be infected. Koi have a defense mechanism that helps protect them against these bacteria. This defense is made up of primarily their slime coat and their immune system. It is important not to have a false sense of security because all your fish appear healthy. This can change quickly. The big question is: How much aeromonas and pseudomonas can Koi be exposed to without getting sick?

In 2000 when KoiZyme was first introduced to the Koi hobby, many hobbyists and dealers conducted their own tests to verify KoiZyme did what it claimed. Most of these people were kind enough to share their test results, as well as information on the condition of their fish at the time of testing, with Koi Care Kennel. Conducting these tests were relatively simple. A sample of pond water prior to dosing with KoiZyme was sent to a lab to determine how much aeromonas and pseudomonas was present. The pond was then treated with the five initial treatments of KoiZyme. Once these treatments were completed, another pond water sample was sent to the lab for testing. A comparison of the before and after test results verified a significant reduction in aeromonas and pseudomonas. At Koi Care Kennel we reviewed test results from around the country and found some most interesting information. One pond that was tested had 22,000 C.F.U’s (Colony Forming Unit) of aeromonas prior to dosing with KoiZyme. Most of the fish were experiencing various degrees of ulcers or fin rot. In this particular pond 22,000 C.F.U’s of aeromonas were enough to cause problems in the majority of the fish. Another pond tested had 86,000 C.F.U’s of aeromonas prior to dosing with KoiZyme. All the fish in this pond were healthy with no signs of ulcers of any kind. From this example, it can be seen that there is no set level of aeromonas that will cause ulcers. Other factors can enter in to the picture here, such as the virility of different strains of bacteria, etc., however for the sake of simplicity, what is most important to remember from this discussion is that the overall health of the Koi plays a huge role in how much pathogenic bacteria a fish can be exposed to and not get sick.

In an effort to help you manage aeromonas and pseudomonas in your pond, I have come up with some terminology that will hopefully help you to visualize the relationship between pathogenic bacteria and Koi health. Let me emphasize that this is NOT some scientific theory based on mounds of research, but a simple explanation meant to help the hobbyist understand some basics.

If you had your pond tested for aeromonas and pseudomonas, you would get back from the lab a C.F.U. count telling you how much pathogenic bacteria was in your pond. Imagine this number as a RED LINE representing the pathogenic bacteria level in the pond posing a threat to the fish.As mentioned earlier, fish have a defense mechanism against pathogens. Each fish has its own individual tolerance level to the RED LINE based on the condition of its slime coat and the strength of its immune system. Now take a number of C.F.U’s that represents the highest level of pathogenic bacteria that an individual fish can be exposed to without getting sick. Imagine this number as a BLUE LINE. To have a totally healthy pond with no sick fish, each individual Koi would have a BLUE LINE higher than the RED LINE of the pond. For example, if an individual Koi had a BLUE LINE of 25,000 C.F.U’s (the highest level of pathogenic bacteria he could withstand without exhibiting symptoms) and the ponds RED LINE was 18,000 C.F.U’s, the fish would remain healthy and safe. On the other hand, if this individual Koi’s BLUE LINE was 15,000 C.F.U’s, it would be sick because it could not tolerate the 18,000 C.F.U’s in the pond.

Let me give you a classic example of how this relationship works. This example may also help some Koi dealers and hobbyists the next time a dealer is blamed for selling a sick fish. A hobbyist we’ll call John has had his pond for some time and for the past three years all his fish have been healthy with no infections or problems. John decides it is time to finally go out and buy that special show quality Koi he has always wanted. He visits his friendly Koi dealer, looks around and sees nothing but healthy, beautiful fish. He feels confident in spending the money for the Koi he has always wanted. He buys it, takes it home, and quarantines it for three weeks. Lets say he even treats it for parasites and flukes during the quarantine period. At last, he puts it in his pond and it gets sick with ulcers and fin rot. How many times have you heard John say it was the dealers fault. John’s collection has been healthy for the past three years. His pond is not the problem, just look at his healthy fish.

Lets take a look at what could have happened:

John’s pond had a RED LINE of 40,000 C.F.U’s. All his fish were healthy. They had BLUE LINES of lets say, 45,000 C.F.U’s.

Now, lets look at the dealers pond. He works hard to keep his ponds clean and healthy.When tested, that show tank had a RED LINE of 10,000 C.F.U’s. The fish John bought had a BLUE LINE of 20,000 C.F.U’s. It was healthy in that show tank when it was sold. But what happens when that fish with a BLUE LINE of 20,000 C.F.U’s is put in a pond with a RED LINE of 40,000 C.F.U’s? It gets sick because it cannot tolerate that level of bacteria.

Obviously, this scenario does not pertain to sick fish being bought and sold. But it is easy to see what can happen with the red line and blue line when moving fish from one pond to another without knowing what the RED LINE value is in each of the two ponds. Even if you did know the pathogenic bacteria levels in the two ponds, how do you determine the BLUE LINE of the fish being moved? What can you do?

Fighting the battle on two fronts

Keeping your Koi healthy and your pond healthy is a battle. And it’s a battle you want to fight on two fronts. On the first front you want to work on lowering the RED LINE in your pond. That is, you want the pathogenic bacteria level as low as possible. You do this by focusing on good mechanical filtration to remove the Koi waste as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. Use KoiZyme to combat the proliferation of aeromonas and pseudomonas. At the same time you want to work on the second front, raising the BLUE LINES – the ability of the fish to tolerate pathogenic bacteria. This means raising the overall health of your fish, and strengthening their immune system. To accomplish this, water quality must be kept as high as possible. Check ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels keeping them within acceptable limits. Do periodic major water changes. Diet is very important to the overall health of the fish. They are what they eat. Feed a quality staple food and vary their diet. Feed collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, citrus fruit, watermelon and defrosted frozen peas. Adding a paste food as a way to get extra vitamins and fatty acids in your Koi’s diet is always a good idea. See our website for a paste food recipe that the fish love!

Another factor that can dramatically affect the relationship between the RED LINE and the BLUE LINE is parasites. In fact, it throws the red line/blue line relationship right out the window. Parasites can bore through the protective slime coat of the fish allowing any existing opportunistic pathogenic bacteria to cause ulcers regardless of the BLUE LINE. Even with an extremely low RED LINE in your pond, the moment parasites are introduced, secondary infections from the existing pathogenic bacteria no matter how few can occur. Keeping your pond parasite free is critical to maintaining healthy fish.

It is easy to assume that when ulcers develop, an aeromonas problem exists. However, if the pond is well maintained and the fish are well cared for, parasites could very well be the problem. A microscope is needed to confirm the presence of parasites. If you don’t yet have a microscope, you really ought to get one. It is a necessary tool in the Koi hobby. Check with your local Koi club to see if you can get a member with a microscope to help you take a scraping of your Koi. If you don’t have access to a microscope, then it may be a good idea to treat for parasites anyway. Use a safe and effective parasitic treatment such as Proform-C. This product can be used in water temperatures as low as 50 degrees (F).

Ultimately, the main goal is to get the RED LINE as low as possible and the BLUE LINE as high as possible. Good mechanical filtration to remove Koi waste and the use of KoiZyme is the most effective way to lower the RED LINE in your pond. Raising the BLUE LINE of the fish is achieved by giving attention to providing a healthy diet and insuring the best water quality possible. Keep in mind stress will lower the BLUE LINE of a Koi quickly, and remember that as the seasons change and water temperatures fluctuate, the Koi’s immune system is affected, thereby lowering the BLUE LINE of the fish as well. The bigger the margin between the RED LINE and the BLUE LINE the better the chances the fish have of staying healthy.

You can win the battle against pathogenic bacteria if you fight the battle on BOTH fronts.

Koi Medications Koi Pond Treatment and Fish Health water disease used Koi MedicationsKoi Pond Treatment and Fish Health

Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, man has been struggling with the problems of an imperfect world such as weeds, death and disease. This is very true for the Koi keeper who over the years has been forced to experiment with different chemicals and compounds in the quest to find the ‘magic bullet’ that will successfully treat his Koi.

Pond treatments are big business and it is evident how much as Koi keepers we are cursed with disease when viewing the range of bottles, boxes and powders stocked by Koi dealers to treat our Koi.

Once opened, many of the different branded treatments look very similar as they share very similar formulations, tried and tested over time. Historically, there has been very little financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to research new aquatic medications when confronted with extensive research costs and the limited market compared with the incentives for finding new drugs for the human medicine.

Some of the chemicals used in the hobby today have been introduced (and recently restricted) from fish farming and other disciplines, including human medicine. With several treatments under potential threat of withdrawal from our hobby, and the change in Koi keepers’ opinions away from chemical treatments, alternative methods are starting to enter the market.

As science becomes progressively applied to Koi keeping and in this age of information overload, more questions are being asked of what Koi are subjected to when treated for disease. Are the treatments environmentally friendly? Are there alternatives? Why do we use them? How do they work? What are the side effects for our Koi, filter and pond?

All medications are used for their toxic effects on the target disease organism, whether bacteria, fungi or parasites. Unfortunately, most medications are also toxic to Koi as well as filter bacteria and aquatic plants.

The approach to chemotherapy in the pond environment is quite unique in the pet industry in that the water is usually treated instead of the animal. The chemical dose is determined by the volume of the pond rather than the size or number of Koi. In this way, when using a long-term bath treatment it is necessary to know the precise volume of the pond rather than the size or weight of the diseased animals.

This has many obvious benefits in that the fish can be treated without being handled and potentially thousands of fish can be treated in a single action (a real benefit for the Koi farmer). Yet, the cost of treating 20 Koi in a pond compared with 20 Koi in a bowl would unavoidably be more expensive; but as most pond treatments are inexpensive, this still does not prove to be a financial problem.

Larger specimen Koi (and other large pond fish) suffering from certain bacterial conditions are sometimes better treated individually with antibiotic injections. In contrast, in this situation it is essential to know the size of the fish and the cost of the treatment is directly related to the weight of fish treated.

Chemotherapy (chemical treatment) immediately conjures up thoughts and images of cancer treatment and the appalling associated side effects such as loss of weight and hair. Such graphic side effects are due to the treatment also being toxic to the host. The key factor is treating with a dose that is sufficiently concentrated to kill the disease but not the host. The same is true in Koi chemotherapy.

It is better not to treat at all rather than under-dose as under-dosing stresses the fish and does not eradicate the target pathogen, perhaps even enabling future generations of that disease to become more resistant to treatment. This is already the case with some bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and some parasites being resistant to insecticides where the application of the medication has been inappropriate.

What do Koi medications treat?

There are four categories of pathogen (disease-causing organisms): viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites.

Very briefly, viruses cause diseases such as carp pox and are responsible for a number of notifiable diseases such as SVC in carp, and more recently KHV. Viral diseases cannot be treated because of their mode of action and this is why most of the notifiable diseases in the UK are viral. Once a fish has contracted the disease, it is untreatable and down to the fish’s own immune response to attack the virus. Notifiable disease is a disease listed by DEFRA/CEFAS whereby any occurrence of such a disease must be reported to DEFRA/CEFAS who control the movement of these fish and thus control the spread of the untreatable viral disease. (Notifiable diseases are responsible for closing down fish farms as a result of the strict practices that infected sites have to carry out.)

Fish, just like humans, can be vaccinated against certain viral diseases where they are inoculated with a weakened form of the virus that stimulates the body to produce anti-bodies against that virus. In future infections by that virus the body is at an advantage in that it already possesses the antibodies to attack the virus. The fish is then immune to that virus. Although trialed in Koi, fish vaccination is more common in fish farming and can be carried out using a dip or bath.

Bacteria are responsible for causing external complaints such as fin rot, gill rot, ulcers and ‘mouth fungus’ and are usually treated by dosing the water with a chemical treatment. Internal bacterial complaints which may cause haemorrhaging and possibly dropsy are better targeted using an injection of antibiotics. Antibiotics are only available under prescription from a vet and injections are only really suitable for larger fish. Vets can also prescribe antibiotic food.

Fungus is responsible for the cotton wool-like growths found on wounds or abrasions. Fungus is often quite difficult to treat, especially in advanced cases, as the protruding fungus growth is the tip of the iceberg in that out of sight, the fungus is penetrating deep into the living fish tissue. Unlike the other categories of disease, fungus is not contagious and affected Koi will not infect healthy and intact Koi.

Parasites can attack the exterior and interior of fish and range in size from being microscopic (Chilodinella, Trichodina) to those visible by the naked eye (Fish Louse, Anchor Worm, White Spot) up to those several centimetres long such as leeches and tapeworms. Parasites on wild fish remain in a finely balanced relationship where their level of infection does not cause the death of the host. It is in the parasite’s interests to keep its host alive. In captivity in a Koi pond, however, Koi and parasite relationships can become unbalanced causing the death of the host. Treatments for parasites vary according to the location of the parasite (internally/externally), the size of the parasite and its lifecycle.

What treatments are used?

It is no coincidence that many proprietary pond medications are very similar in colour and appearance. Most of them follow very similar formulae with differences occurring in the refinement of chemicals used, chemical concentrations and minor adjustments to the base formula. Other chemicals are used on their own and for toxic implications cannot be mixed with other active ingredients.

Commonly used chemicals include malachite green, formalin, acriflavine, potassium permanganate, methylene blue, antibiotics and salt. A Koi keeper at one time or other will have used at least one of the above to treat their Koi so it is pertinent to know what effect these chemicals have on the disease, fish and the pond environment.

How do medications work?

Malachite Green

Malachite is a strong dark green dye that has even been used as an antiseptic in wounds in humans. Different grades are available but the less toxic zinc-free malachite green is used in ponds to treat fungus and microscopic external parasites such as Chilodinella, Costia and White Spot.

Due to its broad action, malachite is often the foundation to many pond medications. Malachite is toxic to humans as well as fish and is a cancer-causing substance. Care must be taken when using it especially if in powder form as it is extremely concentrated in this form. Fish unavoidably absorb malachite through their gills and being a cumulative toxin it is stored in fish flesh. Its use in trout farming has recently been restricted as there is evidence that fish reaching the market contain traces of malachite green.

A replacement for malachite that is less risky to humans is being researched but as malachite is so effective and readily available, the financial incentive to research and develop an alternative is very small when considering the small size of the pond market. Such a change will only occur through legislation banning the use of malachite in certain circumstances.

Malachite permeates through cell membranes of parasites and fungi where it interferes with respiratory and metabolic processes within the cells. Consequently, treated pathogens are unable to generate energy within their cells, eventually dying.

If Koi are overdosed with malachite their cells suffer the same effects on a massive scale, potentially killing the Koi. There is no antidote for malachite over dose.


Formalin is a solution of approximately 40% formaldehyde gas. It is a clear, colourless, pungent and highly toxic solution. Regularly used with malachite green (Leteux-Meyer mixture) as the effect of the two combined chemicals is greater than the sum of each if used individually. It is very effective against microscopic external parasites such as White Spot, Chilodinella and Trichodina.

Formalin is a universal disinfectant and works by damaging the structure of proteins that form the structure of cells and the genetic information within the cells themselves. Technically described as a protein precipitator, formalin denatures proteins unselectively which unfortunately will also include Koi tissue, so the correct dosing is critical.


The antiseptic nature of acriflavine is known from its uses in human medicine as a treatment for mouth and throat infections and for disinfecting wounds. It is a deep yellow powder that dissolves easily in water and can be used to treat bacteria, fungi and particular parasitic infections. It is absorbed through cell membranes where it reacts with DNA inside the cells. This disrupts the pathogen’s ability to reproduce causing an accelerated death and preventing the spread of the infestation. It is still not clear why acriflavine has this effect on DNA within cells.

Potassium Permanganate

This is a dark purple crystal effective against bacteria and external parasitic infections and is routinely the treatment for dipping newly-harvested or imported Koi. It is a very toxic chemical that can quite easily kill fish if even slightly over dosed. Its mode of action can be seen by the naked eye in that it forms manganese dioxide giving surfaces a brown colouration. This forms a manganese-protein complex in contact with proteins (fish skin, mucus, parasites, bacteria) which interferes with the protein synthesis of the organism, causing death.

Its effect is greatly reduced by a high organic content in the water as the potassium permanganate reacts with the organic molecules in the water rather than the target organisms.

In the Second World War during the years of rationing, when tights and stockings were in very short supply, to remain fashionable, ladies regularly took potassium permanganate baths to turn their legs brown! This is not to be recommended.

Methylene Blue

Methylene blue comes as a very dark green powder, appearing blue when dissolved in water. Once very fashionable, methylene blue is now considered a ‘traditional’ medication for bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections. It is now used less frequently as it is highly toxic to plants and will wipe out the bacteria in a biofilter. It is easily absorbed through cell membranes and affects cell activity by raising oxygen consumption within cells. Its mode of action is unclear but it is thought that its action is similar to that of other dyes.


Antibiotics (literally means ‘against life’) are naturally occurring chemicals produced by fungi or bacteria that have an antibacterial effect. Antibiotics are now manufactured and produced synthetically but have the same effect.

The use of antibiotics in the UK is controlled by prescription to limit their use to treating worthy cases rather than allow their widespread use to prevent disease that would increase bacterial resistance. This has already been seen with antibiotics such as oxolinic acid and oxytetracycline which are now useless against many bacteria. This has been one of the major issues in recent years when treating ulcers in imported pond fish where the ulcer does not respond to antibiotic treatment due to bacterial resistance.

Antibiotics can be added to water in short term baths and dips, fed orally in medicated food or given via injection. They must not be added to a tank or pond as they will wipe out any biofiltration.

Their mode of action is varied and ranges from the interference of cell membrane formation in developing bacteria to the inhibition of genetic apparatus within microbes, preventing cell division and the multiplication of bacteria. As bacterial infections spread rapidly it is vital to stop the bacteria from dividing and multiplying and antibiotics achieve just that, unless the bacteria are resistant to that antibiotic.


Salt (sodium chloride) can have several therapeutic effects on Koi and is used quite regularly by some Koi keepers as a preventative as well as a treatment. It has effective antiseptic properties and can be used as a tonic in mild concentrations to stimulate the Koi’s metabolism. It can also be added to ponds to reduce nitrite toxicity. Used as a dip or a long-term bath, salt can also be used as a treatment against external parasites such as Trichodina, Argulus and Lernaea.

In stronger concentrations, salt is believed to have a three-fold effect on parasites. Acts as a skin irritant increasing mucus production, throwing off skin parasites – the high sodium ion concentration is toxic to external parasites – the osmotic change will cause parasites to implode.

If treating ulcerated fish, the addition of salt to the water also reduces the influx of water into Koi, taking pressure off its kidney functions. It is important to remember that salt will remain in a pond system until it is removed with a water change.

As it can be seen, the mode of action of many Koi medications is at the cellular level, attacking cell membranes or activities within the cell. Medications are not usually selective in their action but quite crude, with Koi surviving by virtue of their size and complexity in relation to the smaller, susceptible pathogen. Consequently, pathogens of just one or a few cells in size are easier to treat (and kill) than the more complex and larger parasites.

Medications are nearly always toxic to Koi and humans and administered on the basis that at the recommended dose rates, they are more toxic to the pathogen that the Koi. This is why medications should never be overdosed.

It is essential to acknowledge that while most disease problems are the result of a water quality problem, pond medications will not solve a water quality problem but only treat the disease. Therefore always try to identify and solve the cause of the problem before treating it.

Essential Facts for Treating Koi

1. Only treat your Koi once you have made a definite diagnosis.
2. Pond treatments will kill pathogenic organisms, but only your Koi are able to heal themselves. They will only be able to recover from disease if the water quality is ideal.
3. Pond treatments cannot be used as a substitute for a quality pond environment. When treating for disease, carry out any corrective husbandry as a priority, otherwise the Koi will continue to suffer from stress and ill health.
4. Always aerate your pond vigorously when treating, as pond treatments have a negative impact on dissolved oxygen.
5. Know the volume of your pond and filter system (in gallons or litres). Volume in gallons: Calculate the volume in cubic feet and multiply answer by 6.25. Volume in litres: Calculate the volume in cubic feet and multiply answer by 28.375.
6. Never leave a bath or bowl of treated Koi unattended. By definition, bath/bowl treatments involve high doses that can cause fish to deteriorate rapidly.
7. Always complete a course of treatment, especially when treating against external parasites.
8. Please also check out this UK Pond Doctor site:

Fish Swimbladder Problem

Just a little blog to set things straight.

Goldfish are prone to swim bladder problems? True!

Once a goldfish is infected does he die? No!

Swim bladder diseases are curable? No, only in exceptional cases!

Heavy food works to correct this? Wrong, it just changes the fish’s equilibrium or ballast!

What can I do? Virtually nothing, unless you get the disease in the first few weeks, after that the deformity is permanent.

How do I detect it? The fish swims or goes upside down.

How do I cure it? Pond goldfish treatment: Interpet 2626 code. Apply as soon as you notice symptoms. It IS a disease which is internal.

How do I avoid it? Use Biosafe or a similar product – it costs very little to prevent.

Goldfish are hardy but not immune, and bacteria attack from the inside as well as outside.

pH Effects on Koi

The pond. pH and its effects on our gorgeous fish.

Over the last decade I have investigated the Koi keepers nightmares, the water quality of Irish water and its effect on my prize Koi. Having fallen into the trap of ulcer disease I have successfully eradicated it from my pond. This will probably be the greatest achievement in my life as I fell upon the solution quite by accident.

Having lived in Ireland for the latter years of my life I extended my hobby from England to here in quite a substantial manner. I now sell Koi to people and help them maintain their ponds when required to do so. I have used my forty years of fish keeping helping others to help themselves in their environment and I still maintain my love of the subject without adding the sales technique that I have acquired as well.

I maintain being a good Koi keeper is deriving the information from books – the writings of better men than me and combining them with the knowledge I have gained over the period to become somewhat of an expert on the matter.

Now water quality has been one of my first defenses in the keeping of ornamental Koi. You can regularly see me first thing in the morning and last thing at night out with the test kits and ensuring that any deviance from the normal is taken care of. Having read that the prime killers in fish are ammonia and nitrite, steps have always been taken to neutralize them from the water if they occurred. Mostly they have never appeared unless an almost complete water change was done which killed off the filter and a complete re-cycling had to take place.

At the beginning of the year three and a half years ago I noticed a Koi which had a bit of mouth rot, as part of his mouth was eaten away. So I caught him and swabbed him and put it under the microscope and noticed that flexibacter and saprogenia were both present in the infection. I chose a standard pond treatment to eradicate the problem and it seemed to work quite well. About six weeks later a dead Koi popped up to the surface and about its body were ulcers and they affected the fish underneath so even if I had seen him before I couldn’t tell that they were ill. So in my panic I bought in the big guns with an antibacterial treatment from Interpet. Again the disease went into remission and I had no more problems for about three months until one after the other I started getting ulcers that you could see and fish that inevitably were dying. After another two treatments with antibacterial products from other suppliers I sat down and almost admitted defeat. Forty years of knowledge went absolutely nowhere in finding a solution to the problem.

I decided that a complete water change was the answer and couldn’t do any more harm as they were all dying anyway. So I changed the water and introduced salt as a buffer to compensate for peaks in the ammonia and nitrate cycle. I researched the salt and found that a 6% dip was the answer to the ulcers spreading further plus a 3% solution in the complete pond. This held the disease in check and it was very traumatic catching the fish, bagging and dipping them every two or three days but eventually I decided that this was not getting me any further with the solution.

I paid a visit to my father back in England and all the Koi I had left with him when I moved here were alive and well and had not experienced any problems whatsoever. So I decided that if the water quality over there was different to here I could help to solve the problem. Dutifully I filled two lemonade bottles from the water and took them back with me for testing.

The results were almost identical except that the pH was different by 0.3% – mine was 8.5 and his was 8.2. In both cases nitrate was non-existent as I had always maintained an eco system was best in any pond and both were well planted with the effect of zero nitrate.

I then turned back to my research notes from when I started the pond and I noticed that in all the records that I kept had only a slight variation in pH when cycling the filters at the beginning of each year and for some reason the pH had risen afterwards by the 0.3%. So I tested the pH four times a day and noted all the temperatures as well. I decided to investigate the pH syndrome to see if that had any answers. I discovered the following information from a website relating to carbon dioxide/bicarbonate/carbonate buffering system (a hold down for pH variation).

I introduced calcium carbonate into the pond gradually over a period of three weeks and together with the salt baths the ulcerations cleared up and the fish gradually recovered and re-grew skin where the ulcers were. I had succeeded to eradicate the problem from the pond, but now, when testing I also test for salt solution and water hardness in the form of calcium carbonate per mg/litre and maintain this as one of my routine chores.

In conclusion I established that the Irish water runs off from granite rocks and very little calcium carbonate is present. Whereas the English water in Sussex runs from chalk rocks with lots of calcium carbonate naturally present in it. This has the effect of reducing pH in the early to late afternoon sun – the technical way of putting it is that the carbonic acid dissociates to form bicarbonate and hydrogen ions. The hydrogen ions produced the acidic forming ions and counteract the high pH and if pH begins to fall then the process is reversed, much the same as in a kettle or a washing machine and a product called Calgon works on the same lines by dissolving the calcium and diluting it back into the water.

I also found out that a block of plaster of Paris about a pound for every 1000 gallons has a similar buffering effect on the water, whereas I thought that plaster had an adverse effect on the water quality and up until then had used a peat to bring down pH.

Just goes to show that no matter how long you are in this game you never stop learning the story, so that’s why I am telling you the tale; you never know it may be the answer to your problems too.

Pets and holidays

Having a pet is a responsibility not unlike having a child and just like when you have kids, there is no reason why you cannot go on your well earned holiday. Careful consideration and planning will see you on your way to a stress and worry free break.

Ideally, the planning for a major holiday takes place months in advance. This is the best time to decide what will happen to your pets while you are away, particularly if you decide to board them at a kennel or cattery in the summer months as there is no guarantee you will find a vacancy there at short notice. You really don’t want to be stressing about your furry friends when pre-holiday excitement is in full swing!

Just what are your options?
The individual needs of your pet must to be taken into account. A large dog generally needs more exercise, a pet that has no other animal company needs more human contact, a young kitten or puppy needs a LOT of attention and care. Taking a weeks’ holiday when your pet is only a few weeks old is not advisable unless you can arrange constant care. You might also miss out on some precious bonding time! If your pet is on medication or a special diet, he will need extra attention. Does your pet have any behavioural issues that affect their daily routine? Perhaps they can not be left alone for long periods or get bored easily.

So, with your pets needs in mind you can now look at your options. Having a neighbour come in to feed and walk your pets is one of the most common solutions however, it would not be suitable for everyone. There is very little human contact and no supervision. You may feel you cannot trust them to look after your pets special needs if he has any. Giving someone a key to your home is not something everyone is comfortable with. In a nutshell this is a good option if your pets are well adjusted and have no really special needs.

If you DO decide to go with this option, there are certain things you can do to make your absence less stressing for your pet. First and foremost you need someone you trust with your home and to look after your pets well. Knowing they are in good hands will be less stress for you and much better for your furries as well. Leave a plentiful variety of toys – the better the variety, the less boredom there will be. Remember that they will need toys they can play with on their own and with other pets (if you have any). There is no point in leaving a handheld tug rope that requires a human on one end! There are lots of toys that inspire the feline and canine imagination, pounce toys usually serve you and your pet very well. A pounce toy is something your pet likes to hide in wait for and ‘hunt,’ the kind of toy this is varies from pet to pet. It could be a jingly ball, a squeaky toy, a raggedy doll or even a sweet wrapper.

As your pets’ human, you will know what toys your pet enjoys.

Most pets chew. You want to prevent Princess from chewing on the upholstery so it is highly advisable that you leave some chew things like rawhide, nylabone, the squeaky toy they like to chew to name but a few examples. From your pets point of view, your home is bound to be smothered in your scent, which is a very good thing however, if you leave your pets in a part of the house where you rarely spend time you might want to think about leaving a little scent. Nothing untoward! A sweater you have worn recently could be left on a chair or near their bed. An owners scent can be very comforting and can ease anxiety.

You may not want you pets to have access to your bedroom or the dining room while you are away. This is fair enough, and a good idea if your pet is a bit messy in these rooms. Yet it has to be said that you should consider the amount of space you will let them have. An animal of any kind does not do well if they are locked in a dark and/or small room; apart from anything else it is unfair to confine them so. It has been shown to have a damaging psychological affect. A very workable solution is to cordon off the upper floor and keep certain doors locked by key (some pooches and even cats can open unlocked doors, the little Houdini’s!). Then remove or hide any breakables in the rooms where they will spend their time.

Litter trays will need cleaning and dogs will need walking for both exercise and urinating. It is essential that the dog is let out to do his business at least twice a day, they do not have magical bladders they can hold for 24 hours. A house trained dog will not like peeing in the house any more than you would like him to but if left with no option it will lead to an embarrassing situation for everyone. And so, you must be absolutely clear on the needs and rules with the person who will call around. Leave a list of instructions. If your friend is happy to spend 20 minutes playing with your pets each evening this would be excellent. It is no substitute to a full on play session but it really helps.

Leave a bag of your pets favourite treats with their temporary carer. Do not leave them in the same room as your pet or you can be sure they will not last. A few treats each evening will help your pets trust their carer and if your pet associates these treats with ‘good things’ it may help ease any fears of loss they are experiencing.

Back to the list of instructions. What should it include? Feeding information including any special dietary needs, medication information, notes about your pets behaviour (for example, Princess loves to have her belly rubbed – or she does not like to be approached by strangers), house rules such as ‘rooms they are not allowed in,’ anything they should be aware of when walking your dog (does he try to chase other dogs?), and the telephone number of your veterinary practice for emergencies.

You should encourage your friend to stick to a routine as much as is possible for them. Walking and feeding at certain times each day. Pets have an uncanny sense for time! And it seems they do appreciate some sort of routine. If it is possible to follow similar feeding times that they are used to, all the better. Finally, don’t forget to thank your friend with a nice Duty Free bottle!

Perhaps you have a relative or good friend who would happily mind your house and pets while you are away. In return for looking after everything, they get to stay in your house for the week/fortnight you aren’t there. This is much better than having a friend or neighbour call round, especially if your relative does not work full time. This means there is more company and supervision for your pets and they get to stay at home.

Kennels and catteries are a widely available option and if you can afford it is often a better option for your pet if they have special needs or are the only pet in your household. Not all kennels and catteries are the same, some will not take in a pet with particular needs. They do not all follow the same high standards. Sourcing a kennel or cattery you are happy with should be treated in the same way as finding a vet, clinic or nursing home. A friends recommendation is by far the best source to find a reputable and reliable kennel. But what if there is no such verbal offering? Researching has never been easier with the Internet at your fingertips. Check out the animal forums available and get some ideas from fellow pet owners. No matter how good you hear a kennel is it makes sense to go and see it before you go away; is it everything you thought? Are you happy with the facilities and their schedules? Will they look after your pets needs? Apart from making sure your pet will be cared for, it eases your own mind.

Lying on a sun lounger in Portugal is not the time you want to suddenly think “I’m worried Princess isn’t being fed enough, she’s a hungry wagon…” There are a few things you may consider doing if you go for kennelling:

1. Check what food the kennel/cattery uses; are you happy with this? It may be a brand your pet has refused to eat in the past.
2. Bring some of your pets own toys.
3. If Princess has a favourite blanket, don’t forget to bring that with you to the kennel and make sure the staff are aware that is belongs to you.
4. Your pet would benefit from having an old shirt which you have worn, with him at the kennel. Animals in kennels can suffer from anxiety and your scent will help calm them, especially if you will be away for more than a few days.
5. Kennelling fees start at 10 euros and cattery charges start at 6 euros per day. Charges vary from kennel to kennel and the size of your dog can affect the price. Some kennels will charge less if you supply your pets food. This is a great deal if you want to make sure your pet receives a specific food.
6. OAP’s and people on Social Welfare can sometimes get these services at a reduced price. However this is entirely at the kennels’ discretion, the only way to find out is to ask.

Please note that kennels and catteries only take in pets who are up to date on their vaccinations, a reputable kennel/cattery will ask to see a vet certificate as proof of this. If you leave your pet at a kennel or cattery that does not insist upon up to date vaccinations, the animals in their care could be at risk of contracting kennel cough, parvo and other canine/feline illnesses.

Very similar to kennelling, is pet sitting. This is a fairly recent innovation and has been picked up by us Irish in recent years. There are two types of pet sitter; in your own home or in their home. Either option is completely workable as you are paying for a service, the pet sitters aim is to look after your pet and their needs. Pet sitters are usually BIG animal lovers and thoroughly enjoy their job. We all know that a person who loves their job generally does it very well. Just as with kennels, you would be advised to do a little research before choosing a sitter, ask them for references and see what their past customers have to say.

Find out what their plans are, will your pet have other canine/feline company? Where will they sleep (if you decided upon a sitter who looks after your pet in their own home). What and how often will he be fed and walked? Pet sitting is not just for cats and dogs, there are sitters out there for small animals of the hamster, rabbit and guinea pig persuasion as well! We will look at small animals later.

Pet sitting costs vary depending on what type of sitting is chosen, the size of your dog and whether or not you supply the food. Costs for dogs start at 12.50 per night.

Small animals are often best looked after in their own home. Rabbits and guinea pigs have their own hutches and runs, thus having a neighbour or friend call to feed and water them each day is really the easiest option. A common mistake is assuming that that is all they need. Small animals do need company and attention. They are much easier to care for than a large dog or a cat but that is not to say they have no needs. If you are going to be away for more than a few days, your small pets will need some human company. Hamsters, gerbils and other kinds of rodents have usually got easy-to-transport cages, so finding a friend who knows how to look after them is your best bet.

Perhaps you don’t know anybody who knows how to, or who has time to look after your ‘smallies’ – and no one has a particular desire to learn how to either. Well the happy news is that there are some pet sitters who look after small animals. And from just two euros per day for hamsters or six euros for a pair of guinea pigs, you can be sure your little ones will be well looked after at what I have to say is a bargain price.

Would you like to take Princess on holiday with you? If you are holidaying in Ireland, there are many hotels, holiday homes and B&B’s that allow pets. Holiday accommodation that allow pets are places which allow your pet in your room. Be wary of places that advertise as being ‘pet friendly,’ some masquerade as being ‘pet friendly’ when in fact, they ask you to leave your pet in the car overnight or tied up outside; neither of which are suitable. A simple phone call before booking will clear this up.

Taking your pet with you is a great family holiday (pets are family members for many!), walks, hikes, treks, picnics, beaches. If travelling long distance with your pet in the car, they should be properly restrained. A cat should be in a cat carrier to prevent him from bolting when the car door opens. Equally, a dog should be in a crate or kept in the back of the car using a dog bar barrier. You can even buy dog seatbelt clips and actual seatbelts. Restraining your pet is not just for theirs, but also for your own safety. An animal wandering around the car can be distracting, they can get in the way and cause accidents.

On long journeys dogs need water regularly, particularly if it is a warm day. If your pet gets stressed when travelling there are remedies available. Many pet owners swear by Bach’s Rescue Remedy, which can be purchased in most chemists. If your pet is particularly anxious by nature, it would be best to consult your vet before you make your trip.

Taking your pet abroad is very much an option however, you need a lot of forward planning and research. There are rules in place that restrict international travel for pets. You can travel to certain countries without putting your pet into quarantine if you have a Pet Passport. You also need to be aware that some airlines will not take animals and those that do usually charge a large fee – an animal can rarely travel as ‘excess baggage.’ The animal must also travel in the hold of the plane in a crate, this is not something that every animal can handle, particularly old age animals, you should consult your vet before flying with any animal.

Not all ferries have kennel areas and some will only allow you to travel with your pet if you leave him in the car. If you have ever been in the car park area on a ferry you will know it is very stuffy and full of petrol fumes. As an animal should never be left in a car without a window open you can see how this could potentially be very unhealthy. So your international pet travel checklist:

1. Check the pet travel rules for your destination.
2. See your vet about Pet Passports (if necessary) and update your pets vaccinations and discuss your travel method and it’s potential affects on your pet.
3. Contact the travel company: airline, ferry or train and ask about travelling with your pet. What facilities do they have? Are there extra charges etc?
4. Book your trip once you are sure you can travel with your pet in a way you are happy with.

5. Prepare a travel pack of water bottle and bowl, anxiety remedy if necessary, food (in a cool bag perhaps), toys to keep him amused, his Pet Passport and all relevant vaccination documentation, contact details for a vet in the location you are travelling to if you are going on a lengthy trip.

Finally, be warned that a pet of any kind should never, under any circumstances, be left alone at home for days on end even if you leave lots of food out. Every year pets are rescued from such situations, they get dehydrated, emancipated, sleep in their own excretion and in severe cases they can become malnourished and die.

Now, pet taken care of, go have a happy worry free holiday!

Dog Fleas

The mighty flea.

Fleas are quite like fugitives, sneaking around and hitching a ride whenever they can. They are the bane of many a pet owners life, and of course the pet themselves. While they are often merely a nuisance and nothing more, they can become a very serious problem. Prevention is better than the cure, so they say and when it comes to fleas this really is the truth.

Contrary to popular belief, fleas cannot fly. They have very strong back legs so they can hop from animal to animal with ease. Your pet can pick up fleas in many ways, the athletic legged jumpers can just hop right in to your home, hitch a ride on your pet or even on you. Fleas can live on as many as 50 different species worldwide, so your precious could even pick them up from the local wildlife.

The flea has a four-stage life cycle and in fact the adult fleas, which drive our pets to distraction, are only 5% of the problem. The real battle is with the immature fleas; eggs, larva and pupa. Eggs are laid in their hundreds, a female flea can lay 15-40 per day and for every flea you see on your pet you can be sure there are 100 more. During a flea invasion eggs are everywhere; they easily fall off your pet and get into the carpets, floorboards and furniture. Anywhere where your pet spends a lot of time is bound to have a large stash of eggs hidden away. An even bigger problem is that eggs and pupa (the cocoon stage) can lay ‘dormant’ for several months.

The best way to tackle fleas is to try to prevent them. It is impossible to shield against all possible flea encounters but measures can be taken to reduce the risks dramatically. Frequent hovering is the obvious first step, especially when you have carpeted floors. It is very important to pay particular attention to high traffic areas and spots where your pet spends a lot of time dozing. The pet bedding also needs washing every couple of months at least, this is well advised not only as a flea tackling method but it also reduces any pet odour and lessens the amount of fur flying around.

A regular (monthly) anti-flea treatment is often suggested although is not a necessity. It is really a personal choice. You may chose to give your pet a monthly anti-flea shampoo or use a spray on your carpets: a thorough application of NorShield, which is designed for furnishings, can assist flea prevention in the home for up to 6 months. There are even natural anti-flea solutions. The simplest are garlic and bread soda. A little bit of either in your pet’s diet will make them less tasty for the fleas. While garlic is good for a dog in particular, it should be given in small amounts, as large amounts can be toxic.

Eek, is that a flea?
Your pet is likely to have fleas at some stage; the infestation may be so light that you aren’t even aware of it. Although itching is considered to be the main symptom of fleas, a pet does not always scratch! A sure-fire test to see if your pet is currently with flea is have him stand on a sheet of white paper, run your fingers through his fur in a ruffle motion and see if any ‘dots’ fall onto the paper – fleas are the size of a pin head and are dark brown or copper in colour. You may also see fleas on your pet if you check under his legs, as you part the hair you may see little dots scurrying away – fleas hate the light.

Get it away!
So, Fluffy definitely has a flea or a thousand, what to do? Fleas are a battle and a half but it is a battle you can win. The key is to break their life cycle. It makes sense to cleanse the environment before you tackle the fugitives on your pet or they will only pick them up again very quickly. The house and the outdoor areas both need to be tackled. A good Hoovering will remove approximately 50% of the eggs from the house, making sure you pay attention to hidey areas and as fleas like shade and moisture they tend to cluster under long curtains, furniture and pet bedding. Pet bedding will need a thorough hot wash, as will the crate or pet carrier.

You can then follow up with a good anti-flea spray that contains an insect growth regulator. What anti-flea products you use will depend on the extent of the flea problem, the breed, age and health of your pet, other pets in your household (birds can be quite delicate!) as well as health considerations of the humans living there (asthmatics and small children). Even if you have no children or sensitive pets to consider, research has shown that many anti-flea products can be toxic not only to the pet but to humans as well. Many of these products contain organophosphates (OP’s), which are insecticides. There are not yet strict rules as to what these products cannot contain so it is up to the consumer to read the labels and make their choice. That is not to say all anti-flea products are toxic, demand for safer products is leading manufacturers to rethink their recipes. As with any chemical, you need to take care when using an anti-flea product, we often forget to remove the flowers, bird cages and fish bowls from the room when we use a spray.

To treat the outdoor areas (the garden) you can buy sprays and ‘crystals,’ care should be taken when using these so that they cannot contaminate a lake, pond or river. Special attention needs to be paid to the doorstep, patio and driveway and any spot where your pet dozes outside. The car is often overlooked, if you often have your pet in the car there may well be flea eggs in there, either way it is better to be safe than sorry! A good Hoover, spray and fumigation should do the trick just nicely. Plus it’s a great excuse to give the car a spit-shine!

Now we are ready to tackle the little wretches themselves. There are many de-flea options: collars, tablets, sprays, shampoos and powders. Critics say that the collars are pretty useless as a flea killer and it has been shown that they are toxic to humans and even pets. Many opt for anti flea medication, sprays and shampoos. Advantage and Frontline products are often highly recommended by pet owners and vets alike. It is important to note that battling fleas takes time, the fleas on your pet must come into contact with the anti flea product and absorb it. You may well see fleas on your pet several hours after you used the product. A thorough cleansing of the environment may also take several sweeps with the Hoover.

Why treat for fleas?
Apart from the allergy many pets have to fleas, if they are left untreated it can lead to very serious problems. Fleas multiply quickly, a mild infestation soon becomes a full on invasion which is anything but fun for the pet. Excessive flea biting can lead to over scratching as your pet tries to ease the pain/itch. This can then lead to sores, loss of hair and a severe skin infection. The flea is an important part of the tapeworm lifecycle, if your pet swallows a flea which contains an immature tapeworm your pet will have a new problem.

Anaemia is the lack of red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body and there is a very real risk of it developing if a flea problem goes untreated for a long time. It can cause breathlessness, weakness, high blood pressure and even heart failure. Anaemia is very dangerous in young kittens and puppies, it can kill within hours of first developing. As you can not use regular anti flea treatments on such young animals they must be brought to the vet as soon as you notice they may have fleas.

Basic Dog Training

Basic dog training – the doggie treat manoeuvre.

You look at Fido and see two things.
– The little creature you love and opened your home and heart to.
– Then there’s the dopey demon running rings around you. He has already swallowed the wife’s Manolo’s and you swear he has his eye on your palm pilot! No doubt about it, something has to be done!

The thing is, people are not born well behaved and polite, it’s behaviour that we were TAUGHT. In the absence of such training, people learn their social skills on their own – sometimes with less than desirable and even disastrous results.

It is exactly like this with dogs, but made worse by the fact they naturally have a completely different social structure. If we sniffed someone’s backside to find out about them, we would get smacked or maybe arrested for harassment. Equally, a dog can’t just ask his neighbour Butch if he likes chasing cars or collecting bones. Dogs and humans learn to live side by side with a little training. We learn to understand each other as best we can. We teach them what is acceptable and reap the rewards that come with a well behaved and happy pooch.

Sit boy sit!
It all starts with the bare basics. You have to walk before you can run! In the beginning, the word ‘sit’ is the magical word that solves many a canine problem. Many dog trainers agree that treat training is one of the best methods of training there is.

So how do you get that furry butt to hit the floor on command? Well, here is the story of Mack. “Mack was very excitable for such a small dog, he used to nose dive on visitors and do the ‘doggie trampoline’ every time you did anything. It became a real problem when he darted after other dogs, jumped all over complete strangers and ruined peoples flower beds. If he had been a Labrador people, would have been terrified. So I took him aside and waggled a treat at him. I held it above his head until his bottom hit the floor and I immediately said “Sit…GOOD BOY!” and gave him the treat. When he started to associate the command with the action, I slowly replaced treats with praise, giving him the odd treat to reinforce the good behaviour. He sits when told now (he never knows when a treat will be forthcoming either!) and guests are not terrified of sitting on the couch for fear of being dog-mugged.”

Lie down boy!
Right, we have ‘sit’ in the bag, what about ‘lie down?’ “Homer is your average big dog, a boisterous nutter with unknown parentage. The main problem with him was his size. We travel a lot and he bounced around the car excitedly, anything he saw out the window could potentially send him into frenzy. He just loved the car – dividers, straps and restraints never really worked for him, he needed to calm down. He would sit on command but he was still very excitable from a sitting position. Then we realised ‘bingo!’ the only time he is really calm is when he is lying down! We used the treat training method, getting him to sit then pulling the treat from him across the floor, forcing him to lie down, giving him the command and praise. Over time he got used to doing this in the car without treats. I can drive without fear of him causing a crash now. It’s like freedom for us and he seems happy as I am calmer too.”

Once he is down, it’s getting him to stay that is the prize. “Zac was a terrible abuser of his training! He figured out that I gave him a treat as soon as he followed my command, so he felt he need not bother ‘staying.’ He would take his treat and his praise and then wander off to do whatever it is he did. So I had to trick the trickster. I started giving him treats to ‘stay’ and I would give the command. If he complied, I would give him a treat and praise straight away. If he started to get up I would repeat this, we would keep this up for a few minutes each day, gradually increasing the times. Then I started to give praise without the treats. He seems to live in hope of these odd ‘reinforcement’ treats.”

Many a dog can be coaxed with a treat; the key is to get them to link the command with the action. The treat is just a prize. Gradually you replace the treat with praise, giving the odd treat to reinforce this good behaviour.

Top tips:
– Training means consistency; don’t give in to puppy dog eyes or a persistent dog. They learn that patience and persistence pays off.
– Remember, nearly all ‘behaviour problems’ are perfectly normal canine behaviour. You need to redirect their natural behaviour to a suitable outlet.
– A dog ages approx. seven years for every one human year so their behaviour is ever changing, this is why dog training is life long.
– Start training in an area with few visual and sound distractions, gradually introducing distractions to help pooch adjust.
– Dogs bore easily so keeping training to 15-20 minutes a day and/or incorporating it into your daily routine will help you both stay sane! ‘Sit’ while you cook, ‘heel’ while you talk on the phone.
– We often let good behaviour go unrewarded and go bananas when pooch misbehaves. Dogs love attention even if it is negative. Praising good behaviour, even if he sits quietly chewing on his own toy, will help pooch understand that good behaviour is more rewarding.
– Following on from the last point, most dogs are so used to ‘No’, ‘Stop that’ and ‘Bad dog’ that it becomes background noise; reprimands ceasing to have meaning. Try to find a balance between reprimands and praise.
– Expecting your dog to be restrained and well behaved when away from the home will not work if he is allowed to run free of rules when he is at home.
– Although old dogs can indeed learn new tricks, the earlier a dog learns the better. An older dog has to unlearn habits; a pup has more or less got a nice clean slate.
– Trainers generally agree, there is no point in reprimanding a dog unless you catch him in the act. Otherwise he will not be able to associate the punishment with his bad behaviour.

Organic Aquariums

Organic aquariums are designed for the less enthusiastic fish keeper to ensure that his tank is the best-kept tank in the business. No hassle testing, no hassle fish health, in fact no hassle fish keeping. Organic aquarium treatment is made up from three different treatments and here is a short explanation of the product. The three products work together as a bio-filter, by good balanced micro-life being activated and contained to balance and control healthy water quality in a closed system.


Why is it relevant? Fanatics at the trade have long professed there is only one way to do the job. That’s by the age old tank cycling system (of course this age old cycling method has always had problems with new water syndrome). In short, get fish to make ammonia (natural occurring waste from fish and all other animals), grow nitrasamonas (ammonia eating bacteria, nitrifying bacteria) and turn ammonia into nitrite. Then grow nitrobacters (nitrite eating bacteria, de-nitrifying bacteria) and turn that into nitrate. Then remove the nitrate build up by changing water for low nitrate level water. Thereby keeping water almost perfect, free of ammonia and nitrite.

Hopefully this product will level out the peaks and troughs involved in this cycle that are responsible for fish wipe outs due to ammonia and nitrite poisoning on the peaks.

New tank syndrome

What is it? It is the peaks and troughs in ammonia and nitrite densities that cause fish loss and wipe outs. What does B-Bac do to help this? It promotes rapid growth of beneficial bacteria in a very little space of time, by activating dormant bacteria in the product, immediately combating the ammonia waste from fish. It’s like an ammonia filter. Contains dormant nitrosomonas that combat the high ammonia levels associated with fish loss.

It de-activates chlorine and other harmful chemicals in tap water almost immediately, by combating chloramines and releasing them into the atmosphere from the tank water. Takes harmful elements from the water and disperses them via gasses to the atmosphere, releases natural oils into the water to coat fish, enhancing a natural protection to combat naturally occurring pathogens (bad bacteria that causes fish diseases) in the water.

Thereby combating ‘New Water Syndrome’ (the fact that even new water can contain harmful as well as beneficial bacteria).

General treatment

Contains nitro-bacters including nitrosomonas to reduce peaks in the nitrogen cycle, by bacterial dissolution of waste fish products and evening out the peaks and troughs in the nitrite cycle, thereby helping natural bacteria levels to grow at a constant, maintaining a more streamlined cycle.

Contains a natural additive to release toxic waste from the water via natural dissolution of gasses out of the water and replacing them with oxygen gasses generated by the nitrification process, more suited to beneficial aspects of the fish keeping cycle.

Acts against fungus, by starving bad bacteria of their food (with no food, bacteria starve to death and can’t live). In the same way it controls algae growth, by denying chlorophylls the right to naturally occurring food such as dead nitrosomonas and dead nitrobacters. By removing and processing dead bacteria, it leaves no residue in the water to cause cloudy water.

Health treatment

Mixture of minerals and plant materials. Health treatment is active against dangerous protozoa types and against different fish pathogens. Cleanse wounds and prevents infections. Causes a mucus layer to cover the wound while it heals, repelling bacterial diseases and therefore adds to the fish health by prevention and not cure. Positively active on the skin membrane enhancing health and coloration.

Why you should use this product

Every fish keeper will understand losing a fish, mostly through no fault of his or her own. Now most of know that’s not true. If we had done this or that then ‘it’ would not have occurred. Most fish salesmen are very happy that fish losses are heavy as they sell more fish. This product is designed to help the more unfortunate of us that make mistakes by eliminating them.

It is not a substitute for tank cycling unless used on a daily basis and that’s not what most of us want to do. We want less maintenance, less time spent trying to answer complicated problems and more time enjoying the watching syndrome that enthralls us all.

Does not eliminate completely the need for vast surface areas to grow beneficial bacteria (filters or aggregate beds), more adds to the natural cycle to speed up the process. Add this product on a weekly basis (two minutes a week) chucking the right amount of this stuff to suit our tanks. This will ensure that whatever you do wrong reduces fish loss to the absolute minimum. Whether you use this product or a similar product it is packed in handy quantities and eliminates overdosing or under dosing each month by using a new pack.

Startup pack
This carries larger doses of ammonia decreasing bacteria and therefore must only be used for the first 28 days.

Maintenance pack
This carries the correct doses of continually needed bacteria and thus maintains a continually healthy bacterial balance in the water and should be used on a continuing basis.

As always there is a cost.

Small to medium tank 4-6 euros per week

Medium to large 6-8 euros per week

Larger 10 euros per week.

When you don’t have time to do the natural cycling (one hour or more per week) then it’s a small price to pay to keep your fish healthy.

Contact for more details.

Cat Tested Products

Here are some of the results from our freebie testing program:

Happy Pet Kitty Minis Bear with Catnip (W)(HP66023)

This toy is like a tiny teddy, the perfect size for feline paws! With catnip inside, it was bound to prove a hit with my moggie. The fabric used is soft and tactile yet it is not loose, easily pulled apart or ruined, a quality material that is built to last.

Jessie did not really ‘play’ with the toy, she loved to have it in her bed while she slept. She would curl up by it and fall asleep, occasionally waking up to give it a scratch! Another thing which she came to enjoy, is having the toy rubbed along her fur, it would leave catnip scent behind and she was more playful and serene for a while afterwards.

I believe this toy is like a de-stressing session for Jessie, not unlike a person unwinding with a glass of wine or having a relaxing bath!

I would certainly recommend this toy to a friend, especially for older cats who are more placid than kittens. In my mind it could be a nice toy for a cat who is not in the best of health, a nice distraction from pain and stress.

Enjoyment: 9 out of 10

Quality: 10 out of 10

Durability: 9 out of 10

Clockwork Mouse (P)(T4086W)

Just the look of this toy is amusing, with its sweet appearance and ’mad’ looking tail.

It is a lovely soft toy. The various parts (including eyes, ears, tail, wheels etc.) are very well put together and can withstand a lot of battering and bumping. The material used for the toys fur is excellent, it does not come out even if you pull on it quite hard. A very well manufactured toy all round. Suitable for even the most boisterous cat.

When I wind him up and let him run across the floor, Jessie is absolutely fascinated. She would by lying asleep somewhere and then becomes fully alert as the toy scoots about. The toy has a tendency to run about in circles, so it is comical to see Jessie’s head following it. She tries to catch him, but what she really loves is to watch and hunt. A great toy for cats and humans I must say.

The toy has become one of Jessie’s firm favourites, so I would have to recommend it. It is great amusement for any age of cat.

Enjoyment: 8 out of 10

Quality: 10 out of 10

Durability: 9 out of 10

Plush Wriggle Fig Cat Toys (P)(T4089W)

This toy has the cutest little face, with lovely eye pleasing colours. It has a lovely soft velvet/wool like fabric. When you pull the cord, it vibrates and jiggles. Although it is a nice toy with good material, it would not be suitable for boisterous adult cats who like to claw and pull things apart as it is quite soft material. I would have to say it would be the perfect toy for young cats and especially kittens, it is a smaller toy and would be pleasing for tiny paws.

The toy would be most durable in those tiny paws! Kittens are more fond of pouncing on small objects.

When I gave Jessie this toy she looked at it with a look of ‘what in the world?’ She was happy to keep it in her bed but she did not really play with it herself. I would recommend it to friends with kittens, it is a good toy for cats that like to pounce on stationary objects.

Enjoyment: 3 out of 10 (if Jessie were a kitten I would have said 7)

Quality: 7 out of 10

Durability: 6 out of 10

Fur Mouse with Sound on an Elastic (P)(T4081)

This is a slightly funny looking toy, with interesting coloured ears! The mouse makes a noise as it bounces around on the string. It has very soft fur material and felt ears. The string is well elasticised and strong. Although the fur does not seem to be the most durable material, it HAS taken a lot of chewing and scratching from Jessie and it still looks good as new and is all in one piece.

This is without a doubt, Jessie’s favourite toy. She simply loves it when I bounce the mouse around and drag it across the floor for her to chase. She has always been a fan of anything with a string and she does like the string but it is the toy itself that has her full attention. She scratches it, nips it and does a cat version of hugging it too (so cute to see).

This comes with not only mine, but Jessie’s full stamp of approval and if she could talk she probably say that every cat should have their very own dangly mouse.

Enjoyment: 10 out of 10

Quality: 7 out of 10

Durability: 7 out of 10

Plush Animals on Elastic with Catnip (P)(T4511W)

Now this is a cute little toy. With lovely ears for the cats to chew on. The toy is a felt/cotton mix type of fabric, nice and durable for claws. He comes with an elasticised string which has a little bell on it. The eyes are made of pure felt and unfortunately they do come off very easily, however the rest of the toy is well put together and will withstand a lot from even the boisterous cat.

Although I feel this is a nice toy for adult cats, I would have to say it is also great for kittens given its size.

Jessie did play with this toy, she seems attracted to the bell, she would chase it and hunt/pounce as I pulled the toy along the floor. She preferred this game to having it ‘dangled’ for her to bat with her paw.

This is a nice toy for quieter games with your cat and so I would recommend it for any cat of any age. It is really a toy that needs a human on one end however!

Enjoyment: 6 out of 10

Quality: 7 out of 10

Durability: 8 out of 10 (apart from the eyes, but they do no harm when they fall off due to the nature of the material. No one will choke on them).

Wobblies – Classic (P)(C0745W)

This toy has a lovely feel to it, it has a slight texture that would allow claws to ‘catch’ it much better than your average plastic ball which is far too slippery for claws. The ball is approx. 4 inches in diameter, which is a great size for small and large cats alike. It has a slight bounce in it, a bit like a ping pong ball. Which makes playing with it different depending on the surface the cat is playing on.

Jessie really did enjoy chasing and batting this ball around the room, little human interference to ‘get the game going’ is required as she would chase it and hide/pounce herself. She has had plain plastic balls and never really took to them, the velvet/felt fabric really makes all the difference.

This is certainly a toy worth recommending. I would not have thought Jessie would enjoy it as much as she did, as it is just a ball. But apparently it is more than just a ball to her!

Enjoyment: 7 out of 10

Quality: 9 out of 10

Durability: 10 out of 10

Interpet Feather Ball (G)(IP37350)

This is an unusual looking toy, and very pleasing colours. The ball is approx. 3 inches in diameter, it is plastic with coloured feathers. The feathers are stuck into the ball very securely and the ball itself is very sturdy, a human could squash it but a cat would be hard pressed to do that! The feathers are bound to get a little tatty with time, particularly if the cat chews them. However, as feathers go they are strong and soft, so they will withstand a fair amount of chewing. A well manufactured little toy.

This is by far another of Jessie’s favourite toys. She does not chase it or bat it around. What she loves is having the feathers rubbed along her body and over her face (particularly her forehead and ears) she goes into a state of bliss. She likes to chew on the feathers and ‘catch’ them from time to time during these sessions.

This toy may not be the ‘chasing’ toy it was designed for in this case, but it is so pleasing for Jessie that I would recommend it in a second. A fantastic little toy if you are willing to play with your cat and it is a great way to bring extra sunshine and happiness into your cats life.

Enjoyment: 10 out of 10

Quality: 7 out of 10

Durability: 6 out of 10

Introducing a Puppy

A new puppy – preparation and settling in.

The arrival of a puppy in a new home is a very exciting event. You are more than likely anticipating hours of fun and a lifetime with your devoted friend by your side. If you are willing to accept the challenges that come with the fun and live up to the commitment you made to this little bundle of fur, then this can be an accurate picture.

So you have decided to offer a home to a puppy and you may well have a good idea of the type of dog you want to your pup to be. The important thing is to research the various breeds that interest you. They all have different sizes, needs and general breed characteristics. You need to consider the commitment you would be making; have you the time to give a large dog the amount of exercise it needs? Or the time needed to devote care and attention to it’s special coat? If you would rather lie on a bed of nails than groom your dog almost daily you certainly won’t want a Maltese! Keep in mind that the breed information is only a general guideline – each dog is different.

If the parentage of the pup you are considering is not fully known, it can be hard to know what to expect with regards the size it will be when it grows up and what behavioural characteristics to expect. You can often get a good idea of what breeds the parents MAY have been just by looking at the pups features but it is not an exact science. That little Lab look-alike may turn out to be a Chihuahua cross!

If you already have a puppy on the way and have not have researched the breed, don’t panic, you can still do your research and find out what is best for the breed and what to expect. Training for both dog and the humans he lives with can solve a multitude of problems encountered!

Now that your puppy is lined up and you are quivering in anticipation you need to prepare your home and everyone in it for the new arrival. In a nutshell, you need to baby-proof your home, putting breakables on higher ground, hiding electrical cords, guarding the fire and maybe adding baby gates to the stairs. A puppy is a lot like a toddler; he has a lot to learn and little sense of personal safety. Let us not forget how everything ends up in a baby’s mouth, well it’s the same with puppies I am afraid. Everyone in the household needs to keep in mind that anything left lying around is potential prey for the puppy’s mouth, many a mobile phone or designer shoe has been mangled by a delighted puppy! At some stage you are certain to scream “Oh My God!”

Something every new puppy needs is Time. A pup needs a lot of attention and basic training when he first arrives, so you are best advised to take some time off work. If left alone too soon your pup may prove to be slow to train and will have trouble adjusting.

If you already have a dog and/or cats, the arrival of a puppy will upset things for a while. You will need to let the animals meet one anther and adjust on their own terms. Your goal is for the puppy to settle in to your home and be accepted by all, this can not be achieved if your other pets feel cast aside. You need to apply the same principles as you would if you were introducing a baby. Let your pets know that you as the master are welcoming the pup into the ‘pack’ and at the same time continue to lavish attention on your other pets as you normally would. If necessary you could employ the slow meeting method where the pup is confined to a puppy pen, you can let the other pets in to examine the new arrival without them getting too close and then gradually let them closer until they can be in the same space as the pup.

The day has arrived! Puppy le New is here, there is much fun to be had as the pup explorers his surroundings. He will most likely be quite wary of you at first, he has just been separated from his litter mates and he needs to adjust to human company. This is why most pups cry and whine during their first week or two. They are feeling separation anxiety and to top it all off they are in unusual surroundings that may feel imposing and threatening. Patience, understanding and kindness will soon have pup happy to be in your company and he will soon see your home as his home too.

There is more to his introduction than looking after his basic needs. One very important need is training. Right from the outset a pup needs to be shown how and where to go to the toilet. Accidents WILL happen during the first few weeks but with training and perseverance he will learn. An untrained pup needs to go to the toilet often and the only way he will learn is with your help. Praise goes a long way, many a dog pees correctly thanks to standing ovations when he was a nipper.

Like babies, pups chew. On everything. Nothing is safe. Not even the leg of the table. The key is to give him a selection of chew things as soon as he arrives. If you catch him chewing on the leg of a chair or anything else he shouldn’t be chewing then remove the object, say “NO” and give him a chew thing instead. Do this every time and he should learn.

Sleeping arrangements are something which need to be organised from the first night, whether you choose the living room, utility room, kitchen or your bedroom. A new puppy will cry at night, the separation anxiety will be at it’s worst. You will need to be prepared for a lot of fuss from your puppy. He will test your resolve, a crying and whining pup will make you feel guilty but he will adjust with time.

While your puppy is settling in you need to make first contact with your chosen veterinarian! Puppies need vaccinating from as early as 6-12 weeks, although the vaccination protocol varies from vet to vet and from dog to dog. Vaccinating puppies is essential, it gives them their immunity, allowing them to go outdoors in relative safety and can protect them against certain illnesses they can pick up from other dogs. Animals are very good at hiding their illnesses and pain. With that in mind you are well advised to have annual vet check ups.

Once your pup is settled in, the rest of your lives begin. It is not only your pup that needs to be trained, as his owner and master you need training too. You need to learn to understand each other in certain situations. For a dog living with a human, training is a lifelong thing, think of it in terms of learning a language, if you don’t practice it you forget it.