Friday, November 20, 2009

The Multispecies Aquarium Community

You never know what you’ll find when you open the refrigerator in Pacific Science Center’s Animal Care room. Take for instance this past week. Inside the 40°F refrigerator, slowly swimming around in a plastic container were Flopsy, Mopsy and Peter Cottongills, our resident Axolotls. What were they doing there?

For almost a year our trio of Mexican axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) has lived in freshwater aquatic bliss only having to share their tank with a few docile guppies. Now the neighborhood has changed. Animal Care has recently acquired some African dwarf frogs (Hymenochirus boettgeri). What could be a better home for the dwarf frogs than the Axolotl tank?

Multispecies aquaria can be challenging to create. We must consider the temperature, salinity and pH of the water that the different species need. Are their environments compatible? With a little research we learned that the freshwater requirements of axolotls, frogs and guppies are pretty much the same.

Next we wondered: Can the African dwarf frogs peacefully coexist with moderately aggressive axolotls? Or should a separate apartment be created for the smaller animals? Considering that the tiny and aptly named African dwarf frogs are just about bite-sized for an axolotl, we elected not to test our luck. We reconfigured the aquarium with a pane of Plexiglas dividing a small portion of the tank for the frogs.

In addition to making spatial arrangements for our new dwarf frog residents we also gave the tank a full clean. As a regular readers may recall, keeping a clean aquarium for axolotls has been difficult. In the meantime, Flopsy, Mopsy and Peter Cottongills took up temporary residence inside the refrigerator, which gave a little shock to Animal Caretakers dropping off their lunches first thing in the morning.

The aquarium has since been put back together and our aquatic animals appear to be happy and healthy. Come check out our new multispecies aquarium on view for the public.

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