Successful Fishkeeping: Did You Know?

You may think fishkeeping is the simplest when it comes to pets, but it isn’t. Successful fishkeeping is about knowledge, technique, and skill.

  • Did you know? To successfully maintain a Marine aquarium, You MUST run a Protein Skimmer to remove harmful dissolved organics from your water.
  • Did you know? You MUST replace the carbon in your filter every 4-6 weeks. Failure to remove old carbon can result in toxins leeching back into your aquarium, poisoning your fish!
  • Did you know? Tap water kills all of the good bacteria that reside in your filter which break down your fish’s waste. To maintain a healthy aquarium, and avoid ammonia and nitrite spikes, only wash your filter media in a bucket of water siphoned from your aquarium.
  • Did you know? Using a gravel vacuum is an easy and efficient way to carry out your fortnightly water changes. Not only does it help by removing old, polluted water from your tank, it also helps by removing all the detritus (fish poo!) that is trapped in your gravel.
  • Did you know? Aquarium light bulbs lose their growing power over time, long before the bulb actually blows! Ideally, to maintain healthy, rapid plant and coral growth, your bulbs should be changed as follows; WHITE (plant) – Every 12 months. BLUE (coral) – Every 6 months. REPTILE – Every 6 months. METAL HALIDE – Every 12-18 months. COMPACT FLUROS – Every 12 months.
  • Did you know? Fish are like people. You can put two people in the same room and they may or may not get along. Although we try our hardest to recommend fish that are compatible, we can’t always guarantee that the fish you choose will get along in your aquarium at home. Just remember, fish have personalities too!!! And just because “your mate did it” doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you!
  • Did you know? Overfeeding is one of the most common causes of “mysterious” fish death in the home aquarium. A lot of the time, the instructions on the back of the packet direct you to feed way too much food for your fish, which can result in bloating and severe water quality issues. To avoid overfeeding you fish and seriously depleting your water quality, feeding should be only one person’s job, and the amount of food given should be limited to an amount that is TOTALLY CONSUMED by your fish in about 30 seconds (even if your fish still look hungry afterwards!). Although a great treat for your fish, Bloodworms are exactly that, a TREAT. To keep your fish healthy and happy, bloodworm should only form part of your fish’s diet.

What do you know about successful fishkeeping? Add your knowledge to the comments below.


Keeping Siamese Fighting Fish as Pets

Siamese Fighting Fish (or Betta Splendens).

Siamese Fighting fish make great first pets, but like all pets, they need a little bit of knowledge, care and attention to ensure that you get the most enjoyment from your fighter.

Here’s a quick rundown on keeping Siamese Fighting Fish as pets.


Regardless of the size of the aquarium or bowl your fighter is in, water quality must be kept to a high standard.

This means regular water changes (i.e. at least 100% fortnightly depending on size of aquarium/bowl and the amount of food your fish is fed).

Gravel cleans either using a gravel vacuum or by washing the gravel under the tap should also be performed on a regular basis.

Water must be de-chlorinated to remove the harmful chlorine found in our tap water, and the pH value is best at neutral – 7.0. This can easily be achieved by using Seachem’s Betta Basics.

Water movement should also be kept to a minimum. I.e. Siamese fighting fish aren’t suited to aquariums with a strong powerhead or current.


Siamese fighting fish originate from warm water and should always be kept above 18°C. This means in winter you will need a small aquarium heater.


Male Siamese fighting fish are extremely aggressive towards each other and generally towards females when not breeding as well.

Males therefore cannot be kept together.

However, they are usually peaceful to all other fish so can successfully be kept in community aquariums providing there are no other fin-nipping fish.


Ideally, feed your fighter small floating pellets such as Hikari Betta Bio. Live blackworm, freeze-dried blackworm and frozen bloodworm make good treats that should only be feed on occasion.

We recommend feeding your fighter approximately 2-3 Hikari Betta Bio pellets only once a day.

It is also a good idea to skip one day a week to help prevent a fast build up of toxic ammonia from fish wastes.


Fighters are not difficult to breed and given the right care, will generally breed on their own. Males will blow a bubble nest to show they are ready to breed.

The willing female will then lay her eggs on the ground which are then scooped up and fertilised before being placed in the bubble nest by the male. The female must then be removed to prevent the male from bullying her. Once the eggs have hatched into fry, the male must also be removed and the fry raised on their own.

Animal Welfare Management Pets Philosophy Wildlife

Rainbow Lorikeets – Pet or Pest?

Rainbow Lorikeets were introduced to Australia in the 1960s and quickly grew in population size. Their natural habitat is rainforest, costal bush and woodland areas.

Due to not being native the Rainbow Lorikeet is both loved and hated by Australians, so let’s consider – are they a pet or a pest?

Why are Rainbow Lorikeets a pest in the wild?

Rainbow Lorikeets can be aggressive towards other native parrots, especially around nesting hollows. This prevents other native parrots from nesting, and since the introduction of the bird they have been known to throw Australian Ringneck nestlings from their home.

This is the key reason they are considered pests in Australia, and research has shown they disrupt the balance of native Australian birds and wildlife.

Why do Rainbow Lorikeets make good pets?

Putting the issues with Rainbow Lorikeets in the Australian environment aside, many Australians keep them as pets.

Whilst these birds are known to be aggressive around other parrots, as pets they are beautiful birds who love human company. Owners of Rainbow Lorikeets will tell you how chatty these birds are, with a playful and highly interactive nature. Simply put, they quickly become a part of the family.

They love to entertain and show off their bubbly personalities, both to you and your guests.

Rainbow Lorikeets also enjoy the company of the same species, especially when raised from a nestling upwards. There’s a saying about two birds being better than one, which is true for these birds.

Why do they NOT make a good pet?

Before you go out and buy one, lets take a look at the flipside.

Rainbow Lorikeets are messy.

Their feaces needs to be cleaned every other day, as if it isn’t it quickly becomes very unpleasant. Loris can also projectile deficate from their cage, which is due to their daily nectar diet along with fresh fruit.

Some owners prefer to use dry nectar as opposed to wet nectar which can help make their poops less “squirty”.

Lorikeets like to splash around in their water baths, usually twice per day, meaning the water goes all over the floor. You’ll be surprised at the mess they can make.

Male and Female Loris appear the same, so if you have two then it’s worth getting a DNA analysis by a vet.

Like other parrots Rainbow Lorikeets can be noisy, so make sure you get on with your neighbours if they’re in close proximity! 

Do you own a Rainbow Lorikeet? Are they a pest or a pet?


Do turtles make good pets?

Have you ever wondered to the end of a jetty and seen a turtle swimming around, then wondered if they make good pets?

Admittedly they’re not the cheapest pet to keep, but with a suitable terrarium they can make wonderful pets.

What turtles make good pets in Australia?

The most common turtles to have as a pet are the long-necked and eastern snake necked turtles.

Even though these are found in the wild, you are only allowed to keep them as pets if they are sold from pet shops or licensed breeders who specialise in them.

Wherever you live in Australia you’ll likely find a local (and reputable) breeder, and it’s worth joining a community of owners on social media where you can find help and advice.

How to house a turtle at home

Space is essential for keeping a turtle as a pet, and you will need both an indoor and outdoor area for them to be comfortable.

Indoor Housing

Pet turtles must be kept in a specialised terrarium, and you must ensure it is large enough to suit their needs.

Shell grit and sand must cover the flooring, with water deep enough for your turtle to immerse his whole body. The terrarium will also need a log big enough for the turtle to use to climb out of the water and back onto land. 

Outside Housing

The outdoor area must be big enough for the turtle to roam around in, and you will want to ensure he cannot dig his way out. Yes, turtles dig.

A pond is a necessity for your turtle to immerse his body into, and it is essential you keep the pond clean. Investing in a pond which is easy to clean is a good idea.

The outside housing should have shelter for protection. Options are logs, bushes, or rocks, but you must insure your turtle can escape full sun. 

Feeding a Pet Turtle 

Turtles eat meat and plants, and it is recommended these are fed in the water.

When you bring home your pet turtle it is recommended you buy turtle food from the pet shop rather than supermarket or butchers. It’s common for new owners to feed a homemade diet which is too fattening for them, so keep that in mind until you feel confident.

It is essential for calcium and other nutrients to be present in their diet on a regular basis, which is why a specialised turtle food may be a safer option.

Do you have a pet turtle in Australia, or elsewhere, and what advice would you give a new turtle owner?

Behaviour Pets

Alexandrine Parrots – Why they’re named after Alexander the Great

Everyone knows Alexander the Great but does everyone know “The Great Alexandrine” named after him?

What’s the deal with Alexandrine Parrots?

Alexandrine Parrots, or Alexandrine Parakeets, are known for their stubbornness and self-know superiority. They know what they do and don’t like, and will forcibly let you know.

In saying that, when you are the “chosen one”, usually male Alexandrines prefer the female in the household and the female Alexandrines prefer the male in the household, the parrot will show great affection and be more patient.

Keep that in mind if you decide to buy one of these beautiful birds, and make sure you buy a bird who is the opposite sex to you. In that way, your partner will be in awe of the parrot’s devotion to you instead of them.

The male Alexandrines can be distinguished by the black ring around the neck which appears at roughly two years of age.

Behaviour and lifestyle

Alexandrine Parrots easily amuse themselves when there is no human interaction by biting wooden toys, talking, or whistling to themselves. They love grazing through their food bowl with a tendency to pick out their favourite snacks.

If you’re looking at adopting an Alexandrine Parrot you must invest in a large bird cage due to their tail and wingspan, otherwise they will be unable to move around the cage effectively and can become destressed. Their environment plays a huge part on their health and mood.

You must be aware that some days an Alexandrine will be your best friend and the next day will want to bite your finger off. Yes, these birds are very prone to mood swings!

Many owners of Alexandrine Parrots will state their mood depends on “what side of the bed he/she woke up on”.

Why are Alexandrine Parrots named after Alexander the Great?

Alexandrine Parrots have the characteristics of a great leader, which you will quickly come to notice in their company.

They will always be by your side through thick and thin, testing your inner self, but always rewarding you with their beautiful and clever presence.

Once you really get to know your Alexanderine you will come to realise why he/she is named after Alexander the Great. 

Pets Wildlife

Top 5 Best Parrots for Beginners

More Australians than ever are buying parrots as pets, but they’re also being resold at a faster rate. The reason for this is a misconception of how easy it is to look after these beautiful creatures.

Parrots can be a misleading pet due to a belief they’re easy to keep, with many thinking they’re an easier option than a cat or dog.

This is not the case.

Realistically parrots need just as much attention as our feline and canine friends.

If your heart is set on adopting a parrot, then it is best to start off with a “beginner parrot”. Below we’ll look at five of the easiest parrots to keep as pets in Australia, which will make your life much easier if you don’t know what you’re in for.

Don’t worry though. Whichever of the five beginner parrots you decide to make a part of your family, you’ll find your new feathery friend will quickly become attached to you, and you to them.

Number One: Budgies 

Budgies are very social birds, they love to investigate every nook of your room and strand of your hair.

They love to ‘chat’ and are inexpensive to care for. Budgies are also native to Australia, which means they are more loved by Australians than other introduced parrots.

Lifespan 5-10 years in captivity. 

Number Two: Cockatiels

Cockatiels are beautiful singers, and they love imitating your sounds. Like other parrots they’re known for mood swings, but you can gauge their mood by assessing their crest.

Cockatiels are also native to Australia.

Lifespan 15- 20 years in captivity. 

Number Three: Lovebirds

Lovebirds are super cuddly and affectionate, which makes anybody want to socialise with them on a regular basis.

They’re one of the easiest parrots to care for, and when partnered with another Lovebird will have enough entertainment without needing your company. That makes them adaptable to your lifestyle.

Unlike Budgies and Cockatiels, Lovebirds are not native to Australia.

Lifespan 10-15 years in captivity. 

Number Four: Cockatoos 

If the Cockatoo is raised in the correct nurturing environment he will be your most loyal companion.

Their voice is usually described as “sweet” and they love to show off their newly learnt tricks.

Generally Cockatoos are a winner if you have neighbours in close proximity. They tend to make noises as the sun rises and sets, but the noise they make isn’t invasive or annoying.

As a pet they have a long lifespan, so keep that in mind if you’re looking to adopt one.

Cockatoos are native to Australia.

Lifespan 50-70 years. 

Number Five: Sun Conure

These loving birds are very sociable and easily bond with humans without huge amounts of time being spent as they can entertain themselves.

The Sun Conure will “squark”, and as it’s not the quietest of parrot noises it’s worth considering your neighbours. Hopefully they’re easy going and don’t mind.

These parrots can easily become your perfect companion, and they truly are beautiful, vibrant birds.

Sun Conure are not native to Australia.

Lifespan 15-20 years in captivity. 

Health Pets Psychology Research

Just walking the dog: what promotes healthy humans?

Did you know scientists are studying the ways that you walk your dog?

What motivates you, how long you exercise for, what features (like footpaths and dog parks) promote human activity – all these questions and more, are being studied by researchers, Hayley Christian and Carri Westgarth.

Hayley’s background in human health teamed with Carri’s expertise in canine behaviour and welfare have created a research team exploring the human, dog and environmental factors that best promote active and healthy communities.



Dog walking benefits! Dr Carri Westgarth & Dr Hayley Christian
Dr. Carri Westgarth & Dr. Hayley Christian

Westgarth, C., Christley, R. M., & Christian, H. E. (2014). How might we increase physical activity through dog walking?: A comprehensive review of dog walking correlatesInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity11(1), 83. [PDF]

Christian, H., Trapp, G., Villanueva, K., Zubrick, S. R., Koekemoer, R., & Giles-Corti, B. (2014). Dog walking is associated with more outdoor play and independent mobility for childrenPreventive medicine67, 259-263.

Westgarth, C., Christley, R. M., & Christian, H. E. (2014). How can we motivate owners to walk their dogs more? Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research9(6), e6-e7.

Christian, H. E., Westgarth, C., Bauman, A., Richards, E. A., Rhodes, R., Evenson, K. R., & Thorpe, R. J. (2013). Dog ownership and physical activity: a review of the evidence. J Phys Act Health10(5), 750-759.

Westgarth, C., Boddy, L. M., Stratton, G., German, A. J., Gaskell, R. M., Coyne, K. P., & Dawson, S. (2013). A cross-sectional study of frequency and factors associated with dog walking in 9–10 year old children in Liverpool, UKBMC public health13(1), 822.

Morrison, R., Reilly, J. J., Penpraze, V., Westgarth, C., Ward, D. S., Mutrie, N., & Yam, P. S. (2013). Children, parents and pets exercising together (CPET): exploratory randomised controlled trialBMC public health13(1), 1096.

Christian, H., Giles-Corti, B., & Knuiman, M. (2010). “I’m Just a’‐Walking the Dog” Correlates of Regular Dog WalkingFamily & community health33(1), 44-52.

For more publications, please see the researcher’s university profiles below.


Hayley Christian: University of Western Australia profile

Carri Westgarth: University of Liverpool (UK) profile

Header image: Flickr/Stefan Mortellaro

Behaviour Cognition Pets Research

Is your dog optimistic? Cognitive bias in animals

Does your pet have a glass half full, or glass half empty take on life?

It’s a recent discovery that many animals can be optimistic or pessimistic based on their experiences.

Dr. Melissa Starling holds a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and recently gained her PhD from the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney with a topic that covered elements of dog behaviour, personality, emotions and cognition.

She has long had a passion for animal behaviour and animal training that has intensified as she learns more.

In this episode, we talk to Mel about her PhD research investigating optimism and pessimism – or cognitive bias – in dogs.



Starling, M. J., Branson, N., Cody, D., Starling, T. R., & McGreevy, P. D. (2014). Developing an optimism index using results from a cognitive bias taskJournal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research9(6), e17-e18.

Starling, M. J., Branson, N., Cody, D., Starling, T. R., & McGreevy, P. D. (2014). Canine Sense and Sensibility: Tipping Points and Response Latency Variability as an Optimism Index in a Canine Judgement Bias AssessmentPloS one9(9), e107794.

Starling, M. J., Branson, N., Cody, D., & McGreevy, P. D. (2013). Conceptualising the Impact of Arousal and Affective State on Training Outcomes of Operant ConditioningAnimals3(2), 300-317.

McGreevy, P. D., Starling, M., Branson, N. J., Cobb, M. L., & Calnon, D. (2012). An overview of the dog–human dyad and ethograms within itJournal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research7(2), 103-117.

Dr Melissa Starling - Cognitive Bias in Dogs
Dr Melissa Starling – Cognitive Bias in Dogs


Melissa Starling on Twitter (@dogoptimism)

Creature Teacher (personal website)

Dog Optimism on ABC Catalyst

Video – Optimism in Dogs (Melissa Starling)

Optimism in Dogs

Cover image: Flickr/hoodsie

Animal Welfare Pets

Boarding kennels: are dog kennels cruel?

What happens when your scientific study results contradict all previous research in that area?

Science can be surprising, and for Dr Lisa Collins, researcher in Animal Health and Welfare Epidemiology at the University of Lincoln, UK, that’s part of the challenge – and the fun!

Lisa’s research focuses on the development and application of mathematical and statistical methods for the study of animal health and welfare in a wide range of species.

She has recently led three research projects to investigate the welfare of kennelled dogs.

This includes a 3-year study conducted in dog rehoming centres, where the aim was to develop a tool to assess Quality of Life based on a wide range of novel and traditional welfare indicators.

Lisa has been awarded a number of prizes for her work, including the 2014 British Science Association Charles Darwin award for excellence in science communication, and the 2010 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare’s Young Animal Welfare Scientist of the Year award.

In this episode, we speak with Lisa about her work comparing the welfare physiology and behaviour of pets dogs at home and in a boarding kennel environment, with some unexpected findings.

Are dog kennels cruel? Let’s find out.



Dr. Lisa Collins – Are dog kennels cruel?

Kiddie, J. L., & Collins, L. M. (2014). Development and validation of a quality of life assessment tool for use in kennelled dogs (Canis familiaris)Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 158, 57-68.

Part, C. E., Kiddie, J. L., Hayes, W., Mills, D., Neville, R. F., Morton, D. B., & Collins, L. M. (2014). Physiological, physical and behavioural changes in dogs (Canis familiaris) when kennelled: Testing the validity of stress parametersPhysiology & behavior, 133, 260-271.

Collins, L. M. (2012). Welfare risk assessment: the benefits and common pitfallsAnimal Welfare21(Supplement 1), 73-79.

Asher, L., Collins, L. M., Ortiz-Pelaez, A., Drewe, J. A., Nicol, C. J., & Pfeiffer, D. U. (2009). Recent advances in the analysis of behavioural organization and interpretation as indicators of animal welfareJournal of the Royal Society Interface, doi:10.1098/rsif.2009.0221.

More publications by Dr. Lisa Collins via ResearchGate


Lisa Collins on Twitter

LinkedIn: Lisa Collins

Header image: Flickr/Jeff Hill

Animal Welfare Pets Research

Wild behaviour: the science of why cats like boxes

Sandra McCune holds a PhD that examined the temperament and welfare of caged cats as well as qualifications in vet nursing and zoology. She knows the answer to why cats like boxes, and the science behind it.

In her current role as the Scientific Leader for Human-Animal Interaction at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, she manages a large portfolio of collaborative research projects.

These projects cover many aspects of human-animal interaction, in countries including US, UK, Austria, Germany, Sweden and Australia.

In addition to having written research papers and book chapters on several aspects of cat behaviour, cognition, welfare and nutrition, Sandra has lectured and advised many animal shelters, ethologists, animal welfarists, and groups of vets and vet nurses.

Sandra is sought out as a voice within industry and regularly speaks at international conferences on pet ownership issues and the bond between people and pets.

Today we’re talking to Sandra about pet cats, their incomplete domestication, our attachment to them and the behavioural links between wild big cats, and the cat in your home.

We also find out why cats like boxes!



Sandra McCune - why cats like boxes
Sandra McCune

McCune, S. (2010) Book chapter: ‘The domestic cat’. In: The UFAW handbook on the care and management of laboratory animals. 8th edition. Longman Scientific & Technical, Harlow.

McCardle, P, McCune, S, Griffin, J A and Maholmes, V (Eds.) (2011) How Animals Affect Us: Examining the Influence of Human-Animal Interaction on Child Development and Human HealthWashington, DC: American Psychological Association Press. 2011

Kurt Kotrschal, Jon Day, Sandra McCune and Manuela Wedl (2013) Human and cat personalities: building the bond from both sides. Chapter 9 In: Dennis Turner and Pat Bateson (Editors) The domestic Cat: The biology of its behaviour. CUP, Cambridge


Sandra McCune, Katherine A. Kruger, James A. Griffin, Layla Esposito, Lisa S. Freund, Karyl J. Hurley, and Regina Bures. (2014) Evolution of research into the mutual benefits of human–animal interactionAnimal Frontiers vol. 4 no. 3 49-5

Carri Westgarth, Lynne M Boddy, Gareth Stratton, Alexander J German, Rosalind M Gaskell, Karen P Coyne, Peter Bundred, Sandra McCune and Susan Dawson. (2013) Pet ownership, dog types and attachment to pets in 9–10 year old children in Liverpool, UK. BMC Veterinary Research, 9:102

Sandra McCune (1995)The impact of paternity and early socialisation on the development of cats’ behaviour to people and novel objects. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 45(1–2): 111–126.


Waltham Human-Animal Interaction Research

Waltham Science Publications & Resources

Video – Why cats like boxes

Why cats like boxes

Header image via Flickr:klengel