Q. We have a 30-gallon tank in our living room with red parrot fish and silver dollars. The same fish have been in it now for more than 7 years. I was wondering how long these fish can live and what is their natural life span? --Lance Backos, Holtsville
A. We really do not know the natural life span of many fish as it is hard for us to track them from birth to a death of old age in a natural setting. Many aquarium fish do live more than a decade in a fish tank, but that is not a natural environment. Thus it is hard to tell if their life span is longer or shorter than nature directed that it should be.
I have a friend who has had a silver dollar fish in her tank for just over 20 years. This fish has outlived three glass tank changes in its life.
I am sure many of our readers have similar stories of how long their fish live. If you have a geriatric aquarium fish, please let me know how long you have had it and what species it is. I will tally the responses in a future column.
Q. My 3-year-old Yorkie thinks that she is part otter -- she loves to play in water. The problem is that she plays in her water dish so much that she splashes all the water out in 10 minutes. Not only does this make a big mess, but then there is no water for my Chihuahua to drink. I give them as much as they want to drink when I am home and then take up the dish so the Yorkie cannot splash it out. They seem fine with this, but I hate the fact that if they are thirsty when we are not home then they have nothing to drink. What can I do about this situation? --Maria Bastidas, Uniondale
A. Pet stores sell heavy-duty glass water bottles with stainless steel mounting brackets and spouts. They are pretty much indestructible. I have even used them for big parrots and monkeys.
The mounting brackets are designed to be screwed onto the outside of a cage so that the bottle is mounted on the outside of the cage with the spout going into the cage so the animals can drink. However the bracket can be reversed so that you can screw it to a wall and then clip the bottle right up against the wall at a convenient height for both dogs. Then all they have to do is lick the water out of the spout. The spouts are 5/8 of an inch wide so the dogs will be comfortable with this, and there is a stainless steel ball inside the spout that falls into place when the dog is not drinking out of it to prevent the water from coming out. This should solve the issue for you, but remember that the water bottle must be taken completely apart every day and washed out to prevent bacteria from growing in it.
Q. I have had two parakeets together in the same cage now for three years. One has a beak that is just fine, but the other one's beak has grown so long that it is now touching its chest. I have a cuttlebone in the cage for them to chew on and one of those sandstone perches that are supposed to trim the birds' nails and beaks, but obviously the one bird is not using them. What can I do about the beak and how can I encourage the bird to use the cuttlebone? --Tina Andrews, Garden City
A. This is more a medical condition than a husbandry issue. The bird has some kind of medical condition that has caused the beak to overgrow. It could be a liver problem, but this is really for a vet to say. You need to take the bird to an avian vet to get the beak trimmed and to diagnose what is wrong with the bird so that the situation can be corrected. The problem will not go away by itself even if you trimmed the bill on your own.