Is There a Family Resemblance? PLUS Dogs, Cats and Fish!

Tweet If You Love Pets
Amelia Glynn - SF Gate

Twitter fans now have a central place to tweet about their furry pals. TwitPets the first pet-specific Twitter directory launched this week.

TwitPets founder, Texas-based "petrepreneur" Kevin O'Brien is also responsible for starting and as resources for people who are moving and traveling with their pets.

The goal of TwitPets is to give pet companies and pet lovers a better way to find and communicate with each other.

"On TwitPets, users will no longer have to shout for help into the atmosphere," said O'Brien. "We're giving pet enthusiasts a platform where they can share and connect."

Top Five Tips for Photographing Your Cat
Karen Nichols -

This month, Skeezix was one of the winners of Martha Stewart Pets’ Patriotic Pets Photo Contest, and I got a barrage of questions like, “Isn’t it all just Photoshop?” and “How do you get him to pose like that?”

No, it isn’t all Photoshop. We get him to pose by picking a time to photograph him when he is still a bit sleepy from his afternoon nap, and hubby does the wrangling while I shoot. Plenty of treats and toys make it a fun activity for him.

It takes about six minutes to get a usable shot, which is about the length of Skeezy’s attention span. When he mews, “I’m outta here,” we pack up and call it a day.

Lest you think, “I could never get my cat to do that,” or “I don’t have the professional equipment to take good photos,” I’m going to share my top five tips for photographing your cat, all of which are within reach of the average camera-toting cat lover.

Before you start to shoot, engage the services of a cat wrangler to position the cat while you man the camera. (I use my hubby, who happily complies because I let him move five he-man explosion movies to the top of the Netflix queue every time he renders his services. Your bribes may vary.) Employing a cat wrangler will decrease the complexity of the shoot by about a million percent.

Once you have engaged a cat wrangler, you’re ready to shoot. Here five tips to ensure success in photographing your cat:

1) Shoot in natural light; don’t use flash.
Shooting indoors using a flash does not usually produce good photos. You’ll have to deal with red-eye and color correction, and the flash will cast unwanted shadows. In addition, once cats learn that the box you’re holding is going to flash a bright light in their face, they squint whenever you point the camera in their direction. The solution is to shoot in natural light (daylight) without a flash.

If you have large windows with indirect light, you might be able to shoot indoors. Otherwise consider shooting outside (with a “cat wrangler” to keep hold of the cat at all times) in an enclosed area from which the cat cannot escape if she gets loose.

We set up on a table on our back deck, in an area that is out of direct sunlight. Early morning, late afternoon and early evening are the optimal times to get the best light.

If you absolutely have to use flash, consider using a diffuser to soften the light. For cameras with built-in flash, just tape a bit of tissue or a white coffee filter over the flash bulb. Stand at least six feet away from your subject to avoid an overexposed nuclear glow and harsh shadows (preview each shot to determine the optimal distance). Shooting from an oblique angle will decrease the red eye problem.

2) Use a fast shutter speed.
There’s nothing worse than capturing the purrfect pose, only to discover that it’s blurry.

Even most point-and-shoot cameras now give you the option of shooting at a fast shutter speed. If you have “modes” on your camera, this is usually the “sports” mode. It will eliminate the inevitable blur from your cat’s movements to ensure a nice crisp shot.

If you have a drive mode on your camera which allows you to fire off 5 or more shots at a time, use that as well. It will allow you to shoot several photos in rapid succession increasing the odds of getting one good shot.

3) Shoot against an uncluttered background.
A pile of dirty laundry on the floor behind the cat will take attention away from the subject. For best results, use a backdrop.

Although I have a professional backdrop, I never use it for the cat photos. My favorite setup is very inexpensive, portable, and only requires a trip to a good office supply store.

Take two 24″X36″ pieces of foam core. One forms the base (on which the cats sits), the other forms the backdrop. Then staple a piece of posterboard that has a sky pattern on it to the piece of foam core that forms the backdrop. And you’re done!

Position your cat a foot or so away from the backdrop so as not to cast any shadows.

4) Hit the floor.
Get down to the cat’s level. My knees are shot, so it’s easier for me to set the subject on a table. Otherwise, get down on the floor at cat-eye-level to take your shot. It can be the difference between a good photo and a phenomenal photo.

Gordy won the World’s Coolest Cat Contest with the photo on the right. It’s a brilliant concept, purrfectly executed. Can you imagine how much less impact it would have had if it had been shot from a standing position instead of at Gordy’s level? So get down, people!

5) Be generous with treats ‘n’ toys.
Skeezix’s favorite tinsel wand toy is indispensible in getting him to look directly into the camera. We reward him with treats to ensure that he views each photo session as a pawsitive, fun experience… for all of us.

His brother, Mao, loves having his photo taken so much that the minute I start setting up he jumps up, assumes a position in the center of the scene, and puts out a paw for some treats.

How To Pick A Good Companion Dog

If your kids are thinking of a good companion dog, you probably would tend to first look at just look at a few of your favorite breeds, choose a good selection of puppies and then pick the one with the best spirit. And there are hundreds of breeds to choose from - just think of the Bluetick Coonhound and the Toy Poodle. But, you would be better served to find dog that fits your personality. Seek a pet that has the qualities that you had in mind and can bond with you. Age is not really a concern most of the time. Breeds may have a certain reputation, but there are no hard, fast rules. These tips, though, can guarantee that you will find a good companion dog.

Find a dog that has a personality that fits your own personality and your experience. If you have experience with more indepentent dogs, then a more dominant, independent dog may work for you. However, if you are not aggressive or not aquainted with working with a dog, a more submissive animal may be a better choice for you. When you are looking at puppies, hold one and turn it over on its back. A dominant dog will fight you, trying to turn over. If it struggles, try to comfort it. If it calms down shortly, it is more submissive. If it does not struggle at all, but just lies there, you have a very submissive dog.

A dog that is calm and requires little care is better for you if you are more laid back and more sedative yourself. If you have an active life you may find a more active, hyper dog to be more your style. If you are gone much of the time and your dog would be kenneled during that time, you want to find a dog that is a little self reliant and will not suffer from separation anxiety.

You also will want your new companion dog to be intelligent and eager to please. This will make it easy teach it what you want it to know and it will happily learn the skills and perform them. If you are taking your dog out in public, you dont want a fear nipper or a dog that is aggressive to strangers. Obviously, this will come with effectively socializing the dog on a regular basis, but the quick learning dog will watch you to see who is a possible enemy and who is a friend.

Dogs can be superb companions having the right personality type for your needs. Also, while many folks feel that only young dogs can be trained, this is false. Many older dogs are rescued from shelters daily and they are trained quite easily. The key to getting a well behaved companion is bonding with it. When you have bonded with your dog, it will be happy to do what you want. They will learn to anticipate what your needs and will even search for ways to communicate with you. If you are attentive, you and your dog can establish your own special form of communication and this can give you a companion dog (even the Arctic Husky or Maltese that is invaluable).

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Is There a Family Resemblance? Part 5 of 6
The New York Times

"In this photo, my dog and I both have big smiles while enjoying this warm summer day with a trip to the pier side sprinkler." -- Naomi Kane - Location: New York, N.Y.

"This photo was on our wedding invitation with Kramer saying, "Finally.....they're making me legitimate." -- Sandy Gordon, David Leibowitz, and Kramer - Location: Highland Park, Ill.

"My son Sam and my grandpuppy Eli in Sam's vintage Benz." -- Ben Speckman - Location: Chicago

"A best friend's smile. This is Arlo." -- Kate Bryant - Location: New York, N.Y.

"My name is Nancy. My cockapoo's name is Nina. I confess that I absolutely chose her based on a few physical factors. Namely curly, dark hair. The curly, well, I needed a hypo-allergenic dog because of my allergies. Dark because I didn't want a white poodle. White poodles are all over the place and too precious for me. " -- Nancy Cola - Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.

"We had only had Kelsie, our shelter dog, about a month and she discovered riding shotgun in the pickup with my husband Ken, was the best thing in the world. She was not happy when I decided to ride along and she had to sit in the back of the cab." -- Marianne Hartgraves - Location: Parrottsville, Tenn.

"Well, we love to swim together in the river..." -- Christian Clausen - Location: Entre RĂ­os, Argentina

"My parents wanted to take some family photos, so we brought over a photographer to our farm. She was so delighted with my dog, Cutaway and my similar expressions and pointy faces that she insisted he be in all the photos with me. 5 Years later, we've both aged similarly." -- Crystal K. - Location: Seattle

"My brother and his dog Bene." -- Rachel Hollar - Location: Rochester, N.Y.

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Is There a Family Resemblance? Part 6 of 6
The New York Times

"Paula and I were hanging out in the Soho Grand Lobby. I think it conveys that dogs and their humans starting to look alike can be in attitude as much as actual features." -- Karen Dawn - Location: New York, N.Y.

"This is our dog Camille who we rescued from the SPCA in Montreal in 2005, aged 9 months. We moved to France in Oct 2009 and of course she came with us." -- Catherine Noyes -
Location: Montreal

"This picture of Siri (Canis lupus familiaris) and Devery (Homo sapiens sapiens) proves that owners and dogs do indeed look alike. " -- Clayton Glad - Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.

"Nina, our Golden Retriever, is very photogenic. It's wintertime in our house, and while we have to bundle up, she is as comfy as can be on the rug. I'm not sure if I look like Nina, but she certainly affects my husband and me - reminding us to cuddle, play and get a walk or run in every day!" -- Becky Bean - Location: Ithaca, N.Y.

"This is my Grandfather, Michael MacDonald, and his dog Bruce." -- Mill Herd - Location: Tacoma, Wash.

"My bulldog mix Izzy and I are on the beach. Me after a day of scuba diving and she after a day of frolicking in the sand. The photographer, my fiance Chris, called our names and we both look up at the same time with the exact same expressions and same wrinkles on our foreheads." - Location: Monterey, Calif.

"This is Redwood, our eleven year old saluki. He's sitting on our couch (which is actually more or less HIS couch) looking elegant." -- Kaaren Fladager - Location: Oakland, Calif.

"My dog, Coopy and I both have a really flat face and a pouty mouth." -- Kelly Russell - Location: Hollywood, Calif.

"Sita in Central Park enjoying her territorial ways." -- Jill Ettinger - Location: New York, N.Y.

What to Do If You're Allergic to Your Pets
By Ray Hainer -

( -- If you could snap your fingers and make your allergies disappear, you'd probably do it in a second. But what if your pet is the cause of your watery eyes, sneezing, and runny nose?

Suddenly that oh-so-simple decision becomes a much tougher call. For some, the psychological misery of giving up a pet may outweigh the everyday misery of allergy symptoms.

That was true for John Ceballos, 43, who kept his cat, Suki, after an allergist told him the cat had to go.

"The first thing he said during my consultation was, 'You must get rid of your cat. You are severely allergic to cat dander.'"

Dander is one of the most stubborn and common allergens. Cats, dogs and other furry or feathered pets produce dander, which consists of microscopic, dandruff-like flakes of skin and proteins from saliva and urine that can trigger allergies and aggravate asthma.

If you're allergic to dander, the easiest route to allergy relief is to find your pet a new home.

Ceballos, who lives in Melrose, Massachusetts, just couldn't do it. He kept Suki for 12 years until she died of natural causes. "She was family," he says. "I rescued her and couldn't imagine giving her up."

He's not alone. This advice is rarely welcomed or followed, even when the pet is causing serious problems, experts say.

"Some families can't fathom giving away their pet -- it's almost like giving away one of their children," says Anne Miranowski, M.D., an allergist at the Pediatric Lung Center in Fairfax, Virginia. "I see some children where exposure to their three cats is clearly making them sick, and the family insists on keeping all three cats."

Physicians and health organizations recognize the attachment that people have to their pets. If a family is unwilling to remove a pet, experts recommend a host of alternative measures, such as limiting contact between the pet and the allergic person (by keeping pets outdoors or out of bedrooms, for instance) and using air cleaners.

These measures aren't nearly as effective as giving away a pet, however, and going this route will likely have consequences -- more symptoms, more medication, and a potential worsening of asthma -- that should be weighed against the distress of seeing a cat or dog pitter-patter out of your life forever. Best ways to reduce pet allergens

And although there may be some breeds touted as better for people with allergies -- think the Obamas and their Portuguese water dog Bo -- there are no cats or dogs truly free from dander.

Your pet may not be causing your symptoms

Before you think about finding a pet a new home, it's important to figure out if you -- or your children -- are in fact allergic. Though it seems as if pet allergies should be obvious, they are sometimes harder to recognize than you think.

If your eyes start to swell and you sneeze uncontrollably every time you are near a cat, then yes, you are probably allergic to cats.

But some people with allergies or asthma who grow up around animals and are in contact with them every day may have more subtle symptoms. Instead of watery eyes and the other classic signs of pet allergies, they may experience chronic, low-level congestion, for instance.

"A lot of times people will say, 'My dog or cat doesn't bother me,' but when somebody is exposed to a pet day in and day out, they don't have the dramatic symptoms every time they see it," says Andy Nish, M.D., an allergist at the Allergy & Asthma Care Center, in Gainesville, Georgia. How to survive a bad air day

"It may be a more subtle and chronic inflammatory process, and they may not realize that the pet is causing them problems."

That was true for Ceballos, who was shocked to find out he was allergic to his cat. He had grown up with cats, and when he was a teen, tests suggested that he was allergic to tree and grass pollen -- but not felines. "Plus, I have so many other allergies that I didn't connect that Suki was an issue," he says.

This phenomenon sometimes works in reverse: In some cases, people with asthma may believe that their pet is causing them more problems than it actually is. Are you an asthma expert? Take our quiz

A respiratory condition in which the lung airways are chronically inflamed, asthma can be triggered by substances other than pet dander, such as dust mites, exhaust, smoke, and cold air, or even allergens from rodents and cockroaches. 8 causes of chronic cough

For some (but certainly not all) asthmatics, pets may actually be a relatively minor contribution to their symptoms, and some asthmatics may not be allergic to pets at all.

"There's no reason to consider removing a pet unless you can demonstrate that there is a sensitization to that type of animal," says Gregory Diette, M.D., an asthma specialist and associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, Maryland.

"One mistake I've seen [physicians] make is to generally recommend that asthmatics not have cats, dogs, or other furred pets when they haven't done the allergy testing to prove whether there's an abnormal response to that type of animal."

The easiest way to pinpoint a pet allergy is to visit an allergist and get a series of skin tests, in which the skin is exposed to small samples of the proteins shed by cat, dog, and other allergy-triggering substances, such as pollen or dust. Allergists may also use a blood test known as a RAST as an alternative to or in addition to skin tests.

What to do if you're allergic

If an allergy test comes back positive, it's decision time: Should you find a new home for your pet?

Experts unanimously agree that the best way to reduce allergens is to remove pets from the home. Even so, many people decide not to give away their pets even after an allergy is confirmed -- though it depends on how severe their symptoms are and, often, whether children are allergic.

Dr. Nish estimates that about 75 percent of the patients to whom he makes the recommendation ignore his advice. (Some of Dr. Nish's patients have written on their intake paperwork, before he has even seen them, "I have a cat and a dog and I am not going to get rid of them.")

If families aren't willing to remove a pet, the next best thing is to isolate the pet from allergic family members as much as possible, by keeping it outdoors, or at least out of bedrooms. If you live in a multistory home, restricting the pet to the ground floor is a good strategy.

Although these steps won't eliminate dander altogether -- dander is so pervasive that it can be found even in homes that have never had pets, as well as in schools, shopping malls, and other public places -- limiting the pet's roaming area will reduce it.

Though their usefulness is debated, other measures may reduce dander further. Plastic mattress covers help keep dander out of beds, and room air cleaners equipped with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can remove dander from the air.

"In contrast to, say, dust mites, which are heavy and sink quickly to the ground, both cat and dog dander are light and fluffy allergens, and they stay afloat for hours," says Dr. Miranowski. "HEPA filters can really remove some of that dander from the air."

Replacing carpet with tile or wood floors is also beneficial, since carpets tend to trap dander. Frequent vacuuming -- another common suggestion -- may actually be counterproductive.

Vacuuming tends to stir up allergens without necessarily removing them, and can actually increase the number of airborne allergens, even when newer vacuums containing HEPA filters are 10 ways to fight indoor mold

Ceballos frequently washed his hands and wore a face mask when cleaning; that's when his symptoms -- which included skin hives, wheezing, sneezing and swollen, watery eyes -- were the worst. He recommends keeping your pet out of the bedroom, and closets in particular.

"Cats love to curl up on your winter coat without you knowing it," he says. "But you'll surely figure it out when your allergy symptoms start the next time you put it on."

Some research suggests that bathing your pet frequently may help. In a 1999 study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, washing dogs with allergen-reducing shampoo for five minutes cut the dogs' allergen levels by about 85 percent.

But the allergens returned to normal in about three days, which suggests that the number of baths needed to make a difference is impractical. Similar studies using cats have had mixed but generally less dramatic results. (And the studies don't say how many days it took for the cats' contempt toward their washers to subside.)

Taking some or all of these steps may not reduce allergen levels enough to have a meaningful impact on symptoms, however. Allergens need to fall below a certain threshold to alleviate symptoms, and because dander is spread so readily, even quarantining a pet may not do the trick, according to Dr. Diette.

Living with your decision to keep a pet

Deciding not to give up a pet may have some consequences. For starters, you'll probably need to clean out some space in your medicine cabinet.

"If people keep the pet, they will almost always need more medication to control their symptoms," says Dr. Miranowski. For someone with allergies, this could include taking -- or upping the dosage of -- oral antihistamines and intranasal steroids, she says.

And people with asthma may require higher doses of inhaled corticosteroids or the addition of other medicines, such as leukotriene inhibitors. In some cases, patients may decide to get allergy shots that boost immunity to the allergen, a strategy that can be effective, according to Dr. Nish.

The cost of these additional medications can add up, and some carry a potential risk of long-term side effects. Though allergy and asthma medications are relatively safe compared to some other drugs, when taken consistently in high doses, some can cause bone density loss, glaucoma and other problems.

Ceballos relied on antihistamines, such as Benadryl, which "seemed to help a lot," he says.

The impact of pet allergens on allergies and asthma isn't entirely clear. Some highly publicized research in recent years has suggested that having pets around young children may actually protect children from allergies later in life (because the children develop a tolerance to the allergen, in effect), but the validity of this research has been questioned. (It certainly wasn't true in Ceballos's case.)

And, significantly, the same effect does not apply to children who already have pet allergies. Studies have shown that pet allergies -- especially cat allergies -- can lead some children to develop asthma if they are exposed to pets, and can make asthma worse later in life.

In the end, individuals and families need to weigh the potential health consequences of keeping a pet with the emotional damage that inevitably comes with losing a furry companion. The decision will be different for everyone, depending on the severity of their symptoms and how important their pet is to their quality of life.

After all, as Dr. Diette points out, "health" doesn't refer only to physical symptoms.

"It's worth considering the big picture around health and happiness and well-being," he says. "I haven't yet seen a study that takes into account the positive benefits of pet ownership. The average person, on balance, won't necessarily be happier not having the companionship of a cat or dog."

When Ceballos's cat, Suki, died of natural causes in 2002, he was "amazed by how much my symptoms went away."

"I feel guilty when I think about how much relief I felt," he says. "I would never consider getting a cat again -- I'm a total dog person now and I have no allergies to dogs."

If you're thinking about getting a pet and you suspect you might have allergies, Ceballos recommends getting tested before you bring your new pet home.

"It will save you a lot of potential heartbreak later," he says.

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The Age of Aquariums

Local experts advise bigger is easier when setting up your tank

Aquariums seem like the perfect pet: No noise, just a few fish in a crystal clear tank, right?

Uh, sort of.

Homeowners with little experience in setting up their first aquarium often decide to go for a small tank, and work their way up to a larger size.
It may seem counterintuitive, but one local aquarium specialist says the opposite is definitely true: Go as big as you can afford to go.

The reason is pretty simple: Bigger tanks are much easier to care for because the water conditions are more stable, especially the temperature and the levels of ammonia.

Debbie Densten, pet care manager at Pet Smart in Vineland, has been teaching homeowners about aquariums for 15 years.

The larger tanks have more surface area and more bacteria, which is a natural tank stabilizer, she said.

Jeff D'huyvetter, 41, president of the Southwest Florida Marine Aquarium Society, gazes into his 300 gallon salt water aquarium at his home in Lehigh Acres, Fla. The aquarium hosts live hard-coral and a variety of fish from clown fish to a dwarf lion fish. (Photos/Content One)

"The more you have, the more help you have in balancing the tank," she said. "It's breaking down that organic waste. I usually suggest that they go as high as they can go. It ends up being easier to take care of."
Among the common problems Densten routinely sees:

•Too many fish in too small a tank. The rule of thumb is one 1-inch fish per gallon of water. So, that would translate to about 10 (1-inch) fish for a 10-gallon tank. Any more than that could create problems in the condition of the water.

•Don't overfeed your fish. Again, the waste produced can create problems in the tank. According to the Web site, fish can easily survive without food for three to four days. It's likelier your fish will die because of overfeeding, not underfeeding.

•Listen to the experts. Densten says that people will ask her advice on an issue, such as why their fish are dying, and they will simply walk away and ignore the advice.

"We're here to help, not hinder," she said. "Keep a log of what you're doing with your tank."

•Ask an expert before adding fish to your tank. Some fish are incompatible. Keeping small fish with bigger fish might cause the little guys to turn into snacks.

•The first two weeks of owning your aquarium will be the toughest, Densten said. That's when you're waiting for the water and conditions in the tank to stabilize. The water might get cloudy, but as the days progress, you should see it improve. After that, "it's really just monthly maintenance."

Densten also offered a few suggestions:

Get your water tested. This is a good way to determine the problems in your tank, Densten said. And Pet Smart offers free water testing. They'll also suggest ways to help ease your problems.

Keep an eye out on the new technology. Densten said companies are always producing something to make life in the tank a little easier. For example, Densten said Pet Smart now has a gadget that helps keep algae under control called a UV sterilizer. It uses super ultra violet rays to neutralize algae spores. "That's one of the biggest headaches, " she said.

Enthusiasts appreciate aquariums for the color, light and motion that they add to their homes. And aquarium ownership is increasing mainly because aquarium technology has advanced, says Rich Windeler, owner of Boardroom Aquatics Inc. in south Fort Myers, Fla.

"It's on the rise, especially in salt water, primarily because we're able to do more," Windeler says. "In the 1970s, you couldn't keep corals alive more than six months. In the '80s ... technology began to develop. We learned things about lighting and filtration that allowed us to not just keep corals alive, but cultivate them."

And as aquarium owners learn more about their hobby, they predictably look to bigger tanks. That's when they get really creative.

"The 300-gallon tank is in front of the wall, but I've boxed the whole thing in with cabinetry, and I just added solar tubes," which resemble a mini skylight, says Jeff D'huyvetter, president of the Southwest Florida Marine Aquarium Society, a club centered on the care and conservation of marine life kept in reef aquariums.. "It now has the look of a floor-to-ceiling cabinet, but it sits on a stand."

Favorites in his collection include a large unnamed purple tang, which is shaped like a pancake with fins; a female clownfish that's 15 to 16 years old and bites, thus her unprintable name; and a Gold Flake angelfish named Buck Fifty, because his $150 purchase price makes it D'huyvetter's most expensive critter.

"It's addictive," says D'huyvetter. "Some people like the color, some like the corals."

All kinds of fansRon Lindensmith of Cape Coral, Fla., bought his first aquarium, a 30-gallon rectangular tank, five years ago at a neighbor's garage sale. He asked wife Elaine to bring home a couple of books on saltwater fish and corals from her job at the Cape Coral Library and started educating himself.

Two years ago, he upgraded to a 75-gallon tank, which is a reef aquarium with about 20 different kinds of coral, a few different shrimp and a few kinds of crabs.
"I have an emerald crab; he's a hoot," says Lindensmith. "I take a little nori (seaweed) and put it in a clip and dangle it in the water, and the fish who like seaweed come and eat it. He'll grab on it and swing from the clip."

With two 55-gallon tanks and one 14-gallon biocube, Gates Mariotti of North Naples, Fla., has fewer aquariums than most in the club. But then again, he just turned 10 -- plenty of time to catch up.

A yellow tang fish swims in one of several tanks at the home of Jeff D'huyvetter.

Though he's the youngest member of the local aquarium society, Gates can talk tanks with the best of them. They're all saltwater; the biocube and one of the 55-gallon tanks sit in his bedroom, while the other 55-gallon is in the kitchen.

"There are many reasons why I got started, but a beautiful fish tank at Sushi Thai (in North Naples) really inspired me with all those polyps, all those colors, all the lighting," Gates says. "Plus I always have had a passion for aquariums and zoos."
His critter census includes four clownfish, one blue cronus, two damselfish, an algae blenny, a dwarf angelfish and "an uncountable amount of invertebrates and corals," he says.

He and his father, Michael, hope to get a 90-gallon tank someday so they can combine the two 55-gallon tanks. For now, they're content to sit together and spend what they call "fish time" chatting and admiring the tanks.
"It's a great hobby ... and it's really beautiful," Gates says.

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