Guppies and other fish can help control mosquito populations
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Q: I have a little garden pond next to my patio with a few small water lilies and delicate aquatic plants. I do not want to put goldfish or koi in the pond as I do not want them to eat the plants. I put some rosy red minnows in the pond in the spring but they died as soon as the water got hot in June. I see mosquito larvae in the water and wanted to put some mosquito fish in the pond now to eat them but I cannot seem to find a store that sells them. My son has a 10-gallon tank inside with some guppies and other fish in it. Can we put those fish in the pond for the summer to eat the mosquito larvae and then take them out in the fall and put them back in the tank? --Richard Nelson, Riverhead
A: I do that every year with my tropical fresh water fish, and they just love it. By the end of the summer, they are three times the size from all the natural food, their colors are bright and intense from the natural sunlight and they have had lots of healthy babies. However, such a summer vacation for fish can only work if your pond is small enough to catch all the fish again in the fall. You really need to drain the pond to get them all.
When you put the fish back in your tank, you should add a medication to kill any parasites they may have picked up from being outdoors. Pet shops sell such preparations.
Q: My daughter has a cat and a Labradoodle puppy. She insists that it is OK for them to get their water from drinking out of the toilet. I cannot imagine that this is a good idea. What do you advise? -- Laurelee Hawkins, Farmingdale
A: Lots of pet keepers could add their experiences to this question, but it would take a vet or other medical personnel to provide data on the toxicity of toilet bowl cleaners, transmission of human pathogens to pets and so forth.
Whenever an expert declares that drinking out of the toilet is dangerous, we would get reams of letters from pet keepers who said that their pets drank out of the toilet and lived long healthy lives.
Here's my take: Pet keeping is supposed to be fun. I take great enjoyment in feeding my pets and giving them water. I get the same pride and satisfaction from washing out my pets' drinking bowls and filling them with sparkling fresh water as my grandfather got from waxing his old Buick until he could see his reflection. So the idea that a pet needs to forage through the house for a drink of clean water and the best it can find is in the toilet is ludicrous to me. If the pet's drinking vessels were large enough and clean enough to drink from, it would not feel the need to search for something better.
Q: To try to keep costs down, we have been shutting off our central air conditioner while we are not home. In the heat wave, I have noticed that when we get home our African gray parrot looks noticeably uncomfortable. He stands up straight, his feathers are all flat against his body and he is panting. After we turn on the AC, he is fine. How hot is too hot for a parrot? I would imagine that coming from the jungle they would be able to tolerate very warm temperatures. -- Randy Ruby, Riverhead
A: Grey parrots seem less tolerant of heat than most other tropical birds. They do come from warm climates, but remember that a bird in its natural habitat can pick and choose the coolest spot in its environment. A bird caged in a house has no choice except to suffer through it.
Keep the AC on, but set it to turn on when the room hits 85 degrees. This seems to be the temp at which most birds start to feel uncomfortable.