Friday, June 6, 2008

Feeding Live Food

Many beginners and even experienced shama owners have difficulty in keeping their insects, frogs and fish (“livefood”) alive. They buy a week’s supply only to see the livefood die within a day or two.

Below is information that I have acquired over many years on keeping and using livefood that I would like to share with you. Using the recommended methods, the livefood should have no difficulty living for 2 weeks or more.

• Never use water that is straight from the tap. Tap water contains chlorine which kills the fish. I use rain water that I collect. If tap water is used, allow it to stand for at least 24 hours to get rid of the chlorine.

• Guppies in Singapore usually live in brackish water. Add about a teaspoon of marine salt to the water.

• I use Styrofoam boxes filled with water to about 1½” to house about ½ a cup of guppies (by dry volume).

• The container in which the fish are housed should not contain more than 2 inches of water. Surprisingly, keeping the guppies in water to a greater depth will cause the water to go bad faster.

• If the guppies are swimming at the surface or if the water is cloudy, this is an indication that the oxygen is being depleted and the water needs to be changed.

• It is not necessary to feed the guppies. If desired, they may be fed with flakes or blood worms.

• When feeding the guppies to the birds, place them in unsalted water that just about covers their backs. This way the birds can get at them easily.

• Don’t worry if the shamas do not initially seem interested in the guppies. The movement of the fish will eventually tempt the shama to peck at them.

Baby froglets may be purchased from tropical aquarium shops. The size you want is about ½” but even then there are several types. One of the species is slightly larger and softer than the other. The shama will eat both types but prefers the smaller slightly more bony froglets. Also, the brown froglets are to be preferred to the black ones which are less hardy. The black froglets tend to die within a few days but the brown ones may be kept for 2 weeks or more.

I place the froglets in a container with a little water and tilt the container so that about ½ of the base is dry. This allows the frogs to crawl on to “dry land” when they wish.

As with the guppies, do not use tap water as the chlorine will kill them.

Also, as with the guppies, the froglets may be fed with bloodworms but this will mean changing the water more frequently. The benefit of feeding bloodworms to the frogs and the guppies is that it not only helps to keep them healthy but some of the bloodworms will also likely still be in their stomachs when the birds eat them and thus get the benefit of the bloodworms. I have tried feeding live bloodworms to the shamas but it is difficult to get them to eat it.

A benefit of feeding frogs and guppies to the shama is that their bones will supply the calcium that insects will not provide. As with all live-food, it will be found that some birds prefer some types of live-food over others. Also, food that a bird may eat a livefood that it had previously not found to its taste.

Fish, frogs and other live-food should always be left in shade. Exposure to too much sun will result in their deaths.

Many hobbyists are unable to keep grasshoppers alive for more that a few days. The cause is that the environment in which they are kept or their nutrition is deficient. Any animal, bird, fish or insect will live a healthy and happy life if the conditions in which they live are to their liking and they receive proper nutrition.

The primary problem with keeping grasshoppers healthy and alive is that the container in which they are often housed is often too small. The grasshopper has very powerful hind legs and every time he jumps he receives a concussion. With massive blows to his head every now and again, its no wonder that it does not live long in captivity. I use a container that is 2’ x 18” x 18” and this seems to be large enough to keep them in good condition.

We now come to nutrition. Grasshoppers are usually fed cow-grass, sugar-cane, sugar-cane leaves and other vegetables. I find that with food of this type there is a great deal of excreta. The grasshoppers also do not live as long as if they are fed with a slice of orange and/or apple. With these fruits there is very little excreta and the grasshoppers seem very healthy. There is also the benefit to the birds of eating the undigested or partly digested fruits that are in their stomachs.

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