Let's Do the Zoo
Misc Frogs II
Misc Frogs III
Misc Frogs IV
Misc Frogs V
Pet World Visit
Introduction. Kirk Embree, Senior Aquarist at the Blank Park Zoo, and Matt Brown, M.D. came up with the idea of replacing the Zoo's 700-gallon tank of Iowa sunfish with a 700-gallon tank of African cichlids. Kirk did the work. Matt furnished the cash And Aqualand assisted with the 210 African cichlids at a very attractive bookkeeping fee. Part of the deal was we'd get a tour of the aquatic parts of the Zoo including the behind the scenes internal workings. So, one cold day in March we traipsed on over to the Southside and started looking for the newly refurbished African cichlid habitat. Kirk was in a meeting, so we wandered around finding different stuff for a bit. LA
No Yellow Brick Road. As we walked along the concrete path, we saw a quite large display of Madagascar day geckos -- maybe a half-dozen or so. They had lots of room and showed off very nicely.
Bit of a Jungle. We strolled thru a jungley room with weird birds in it. Some were shy. Others pretty much ignored us. That plant with the blooms appears in aquariums as the Brazilian sword plant. They also make excellent terrarium plants.
Bird is the Word. Not a clue what this strange duck is. Never saw one like it before. I'm assuming it's a male because of the crest.
Another Weird Duck. Here's another un-IDed critter. Never saw one before. They probably eat these in some countries
This Guy Looks Edible, too. And that's not all. Prairie chicken? Ruffled grouse? No idea what he is, however he looks edible.
Outside the Window. We finally saw a bird we recognize -- a peacock in non-display mode. He was outside on a cold day. The temp probably affected his attitude adversely.
Back on the Path. But, wait, there's more. Still progressing towards the aquatics room, we saw other strange birds. No doubt there were plenty more we just didn't see.
And Finally a Real Duck. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's probably one of these. Still, no idea what kind of (probably tasty) duck this is.
Cross Over the Bridge. We carefully walked across a swinging rope bridge with no trolls beneath it -- just a herd of plate-sized, red-eared turtles. These are just about as large as they get.
Hole in the Wall Gang. On the right hand wall we saw a brace of hefty red-tail boa constrictors. They looked to be about 12-feet long, but we couldn't get in there to measure them. The state of Iowa and Des Moines both prohibit the possession of snakes over six feet long.
Waterfall Optional. Since we'd already showered earlier in the day, we walked around this waterfall rather than under it. The philodendron on the left was nearly 20 feet tall.
Then We found an Amphibian Display. Easily the ugliest axolotl we've ever seen was loafing in the amphibian room. There was an equally chubbed-out salamander, too, but only his tail was on display. He didn't make the cut.
More Bug Eaters. We also saw several poison-dart frogs. They were fairly small but they had great colors. That cricket's about half an inch long.
Working Lab, also. Set in the wall, you'll see Kirk's area where he breeds saltwater critters -- clownfish and seahorses. You can see the baby seahorses to the left. He rears different baby foods in the bubbling containers on those shelves in the back.
Some Saltwater Critters. In an alcove in the same room, we saw these yellow seahorses. Seahorses are hard to keep. They won't eat prepared foods. They insist on a constant supply of live brine shrimp. This male looks to be incubating a clutch of eggs. Kirk breeds these seahorses at the Zoo. He says they are no longer available in the trade.
Seahorse Colts. Kirk showed us numerous baby seahorses he's rearing on newly hatched brine shrimp. These measure about an inch and a half. Born black, they turn yellow as they mature.
Baby "Nemos." Kirk had some baby clown fishes in this 2.5-galon drum bowl. They eat newly hatched brine shrimp also. He referred to this alcove as his fun area.
Jail Bird. He had isolated this destructive trigger fish in this same alcove. Apparently this guy was too rough to keep in their huge saltwater display in their aquatic room.
Expectant Father. Here a male clownfish (Nemo) fans a disc-shaped clutch of eggs. He says they're fairly regular spawners. Interesting. Then we wandered over to the Aquatics Room.
Finally, the Aquatics Room. This huge Amazon tank catches your eye as you emerge into their main Aquatics Room -- especially when the fog machine kicks into action. When you get closer (and the fog clears) you can see the full-grown Amazon River fish that fill this tank.
Big Fish. You get some idea of the size of this tank and its inhabitants from this view. This is the left half of the front of the tank. We keep telling you Pacús grow too large to keep. The five in this tank were about three feet long. Kirk says to mention that they don't need any more.
Really BEEG Pacús. These behemoths come right to the front and show off. They seem to realize their audiences are suitably impressed.
Red-Tail Catfish. Now we know South American red-tail catfish grow to at least four-feet long. Very impressive fish. Pretty. Not the most practical fish to keep at home.
Dwarf Caiman. Measuring six feet in length, these guys are nasty. Inspite of his grin, he'd rather bite than look at you. He's definitely not in the same tank. Check out that dental work. Another caiman was loafing in the water. This smiley little guy was looking for something to bite. Betcha he'd accommodate several foot-long pacús.
Massive Saltwater Tank. This huge saltwater aquarium takes up this entire wall. It's a bit murky here because it was just cleaned. To clean it, Kirk dons a wet suit and diving equipment to jump in and git 'er done. The shower equipment to remove the saltwater is upstairs on the second floor. There's an entire support system for all these displays upstairs.
Finally, That Which We Sought. Here it is -- 700 gallons of water, rocks, and 210 African cichlids, all from Lake Malawi.. Impressive. They currently average about two inches each. Lots of room to grow and beat on each other. About a dozen species of varying colors. They will grow into an excellent microcosm representing the variety of life beneath the surface of Lake Malawi.
Take a Close Look. African cichlids like to show off. You can get an eyeful at our Des Moines Blank Park Zoo -- even in cold weather. I don't know how much it costs (we get in free). If you'd like a look at the "back stage," it's upstairs on the second floor. You can't go there, but you can take a virtual tour in Let's Do the Zoo II -- currently still in the works. LA
Let's Do the Zoo II Preview. Also in the
Zoo's Aquatics Room you'll see a large columnar column of these surrealistic
jellyfish under black light. Nearly invisible under normal light, the
black light enables you to observe these alien appearing creatures in action.
Zoo II will give you more details about these strange looking critters and
include some breeding details -- plus other behind the scenes info and pictures.
3600 Sixth Avenue
Corner of Sixth & Euclid Avenues
Des Moines, IA 50313
Betta Breed 1
Betta Breed II
Betta Pla Kat
Pleco Costly I
Pleco Costly II
Pleco Costly III
Pleco Costly IV
Pleco Costly V
Pleco Costly VI
Pleco Costly VII
USD Gold Flake
Misc Catfish II
Misc Catfish III
Misc Catfish IV
Misc Catfish V
Jack Dempsey Spawn
Jaguar Spawning II
Rainbowfish, Dwarf Neon