Label: Pets

May 22, 2014

I received many notes from students in New Jersey several days ago. They asked about the Rift Lake cichlids that I keep in an aquarium in my bedroom. The questions were great and I enjoyed reading them. You can read all of them in their entirety in the comments section of the original story, My Cichlid Tank.

Here are some things they asked and said:

Francesca wrote: "Wow!!! Those cichlid fish are the coolest fish that I have seen!!! They are so many colors and are really cool different patterns. I think that it is awesome that they react to their surroundings. I also agree to the fact that they are beautiful! I would also love to have a cichlid fish as a pet."

Kevin wrote: "I like that they swim with purpose unlike schooling fish, could you also tell how big they get and what they eat in the wild?"

Nehal asked, "how many eggs?"

Liam asked, "how many do you have?"

Here is my answer to their many questions:

  Cichlids swim individually and with purpose. They don’t school with each other and each seems to react to its surroundings. That’s why I like looking at them; each is an individual.  I just went upstairs to take a new photograph for this story, and this fish swam right over to see what I was doing!

These cichlids are all from the African Rift Lakes in the middle of the continent. They are hundreds of different Rift Lake species and they are found nowhere else in the world. Cichlids are egg layers and lay anywhere from a few dozen to hundreds of eggs. Many species of Rift Lake cichlids are very colorful and they come in a variety of colors and patterns.  In their native lakes cichlids eat a variety of smaller aquatic animals and insects.

Cichlids are often belligerent and you wouldn’t want to keep them in a normal community aquarium, so I keep them in a separate cichlid tank. They sort of pick on each other but not so terribly. I purchased these six cychlids at Eddie’s Tropical Aquarium near Albany, NY when they were about an inch or so long and now some of them are three to four inches long. If they grow too large for my aquarium I will have to bring them back to the aquarium store in which they were purchased and they will place them in much bigger tanks. They are not the easiest fish to keep in a home aquarium, but for me at least, they are definitely worth it!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(19) Comments  •   Labels: Kids Write, Pets, Fish   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 28, 2014











This is a photo of my cichlid tank. All the fish in here are African cichlids (pronounced SICK-lids), which means they originate from 3 very deep rift lakes that run from north to south along the Eastern coast of Africa. 

I love cichlids - in fact, I studied them when I was doing my Masters Work in Animal Behavior at the City University of New York. They are intelligent fish who actually react to what is going on around their tank (like when you walk over to look at them). And they swim with purpose, rather than moving aimlessly around the tank like schools of tropical fish do.

I think they’re beautiful, too, don’t you?

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(23) Comments  •   Labels: Pets, Fish   •  Permalink (link to this article)

December 7, 2013

Every so often, you have to do a big clean up in a freshwater aquarium. There’s too much algae, plants have grown out of control, and it’s just generally overcrowded.

That’s how I was feeling this week, so I pulled everything out, washed it all (no soap! it kills the fish!), trimmed back the plants and squeegeed all the glass. The fish were not happy - I think they were a little freaked out with all their hiding places removed.

But eventually I got everything back in shape and put it back together. Doesn’t it look great?!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Seymour Simon, Pets   •  Permalink (link to this article)

October 9, 2013

It’s Writing Wednesday and today we would like to hear from readers about what they named their pets, and why.

  My first dog was a Springer Spaniel named Nova. Nova means "a new star" and that’s what NOVA was: a new star in our family. I loved her so much that years ago, when I did a book called DISCOVERING WHAT PUPPIES DO, I asked the illustrator Susan Bonners to come to my house to use Nova as a model for one of the illustrations in the book! I was looking at the book today for the first time in a long time, and smiled seeing the dedication I wrote back then: "For Nova. Always a Puppy." She was a great dog and faithful friend.

My stepdaughter Jules had a Golden Retriever whom she named "Lyra," after the adventurous female character ‘Lyra Silvertongue’ in a book that she like very much, called The Golden Compass.

What did you name your pet, and why did your choose that name? Does it refer to something you love, like I love science or like Jules loved that fictional character? Or does it have something to do with the way your pet looks? How it behaves?

Write a paragraph or two about your pet, what its name is, and why you named it that. Include details that will help us understand why you love that name and how you feel about your pet. You can click on the yellow "Comments" link at the bottom of this page if you would like to share your writing for others to read.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(17) Comments  •   Labels: Writing Wednesday, Animals, Dogs, Pets   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 30, 2012

Good morning, and welcome to Writing Wednesday, where every week there is a new opportunity to publish your creative writing on the Seymour Science blog. This week, we are asking you to read an excerpt from Seymour Simon’s book WHY DO PUPPIES DO THAT?, and then write a convincing letter about why you want to have a dog.

From WHY DO PUPPIES DO THAT?, by Seymour Simon



Getting a puppy is a big decision. Taking care of a puppy takes a lot of time and attention. When puppies grow into adult dogs they still need love and attention from their owners. 

         Puppies offer so much in return for your affection. They are great fun to play with and always are ready to be your companion. They can cheer you up when you feel sad or lonely. They have helpful barks that can let you know someone’s at the door, or even warn you of danger. Perhaps best of all, caring for a puppy teaches you the value of loving and being loved.



Your assignment: Do you agree that dogs are more than just pets, but friends too? Have you ever wanted a pet dog, but you are not allowed to have one? Write a letter to an adult asking them to get you a dog. Think about several reasons why dogs make great pets, and decide what kind of dog you would want. Be sure to give plenty of solid facts about dogs in order to make a great case for yourself. You might also want to explain how to care for a dog, and the responsibilities that come with being a dog owner. Who knows, maybe you will have a canine friend before you know it!

When you are finished writing, click on the yellow "Comments" at the bottom of this post to enter your writing!


Photo: Kai Chiang

Note to Educators: Today’s Writing Wednesday exercise is designed to use in support of CCSS standard W.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(12) Comments  •   Labels: Common Core, Writing Wednesday, Dogs, Pets, Puppies   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 29, 2012

At one time, I had many freshwater tropical aquariums set up around my house. I was very much into the hobby of keeping tropical fish. I had all kinds of tropical fish in my tanks: angels, neons, barbs, tetras, guppies, white clouds, dwarf cichlids and many more. I even had several marine tanks set up and wrote a book about them called TROPICAL SALTWATER AQUARIUMS, How to Set Them Up and Keep Them Going. But over the years, I kept fewer tanks of fish and finally there were no tanks left.

I haven’t kept tanks for years.

 But I’ve started again. I’ve just set up two small freshwater aquariums. Here’s what I did. 

I washed out the tanks thoroughly, using NO SOAP at all, just water and a clean (never used) sponge. Then I rinsed the tanks completely and set them in safe places that were strong enough to support their weights when they were full of water, gravel, plants and fish. Water weighs a lot; you should figure that an aquarium averages about 10 pounds a gallon, so a ten-gallon aquarium is going to weight about 100 pounds.

I poured tap water into the aquarium and let the water age for several days. I also added a water conditioner, which helped the water age more quickly. 

I washed out about two pounds of gravel per gallon in a new plastic bucket (remember NO SOAP) and then poured the gravel into the aquarium.


I added a filter, a small water heater and then planted a few underwater plants. After another few days I added a few fish: white clouds, platys, cherry barbs and two small catfish.


So far the fish seem fine. I’ll keep reporting to you about how they are doing and also show you some photographs. If you have a tropical fish tank and home or in class, write about your experiences and send me some photos too!  

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Seymour Simon, Pets, Fish, Aquarium   •  Permalink (link to this article)

January 21, 2012




One of our readers, 11-year-old Cassidy, uploaded this photo of her puppy this week. Cassidy wrote: "My puppy GiGi was an amazing puppy and was soo lovable!" Knowing how many dog lovers there are among my readers, I suspect others of you are going to agree! 





Have you tried Seymour’s FREE eBook, FUN FACTS ABOUT PETS? Barnes & Noble asked Seymour to create it for everyone who buys either a Nook Color, Nook Tablet, and anyone who downloads the "Nook Kids for iPad" app. If you love pets, we guarantee you will LOVE this book!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(11) Comments  •   Labels: Dogs, Pets, Kids Photos   •  Permalink (link to this article)

December 11, 2011



If your family has either an iPad, Nook Color or Nook Tablet, you can have a free Seymour Simon eBook called FUN FACTS ABOUT PETS!

Last year, Barnes and Noble wanted to create a bonus for people who bought their new Nook Color. They asked Seymour to write an eBook that they could give away free as a gift to all their customers. That was Seymour’s first eBook, and the title is perfect - the facts are really fun! For example, did you know that dogs’ feet sweat? Or that a pot-bellied pig can open the refrigerator?!


Here is a sample page from the book, which also has "Read to Me" narration.


FUN FACTS ABOUT PETS is free not only for the Nook Color and Nook Tablet, but you will also receive it when you download the "Nook Kids for iPad" app. So, if you have any of these devices, be sure to check out this 48-page book. It is a gift to you from Barnes and Noble and Seymour Simon!

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: New Books, Animals, Animal Books, eBooks, Pets   •  Permalink (link to this article)

December 1, 2011

A student named Nequira wrote last night with a good question that I often hear when I speak in schools. 

Nequira asked: How do you come up with what you want to write, what pictures you are going to use, and what title you’re going to put on the cover?

          I have loved nature since I was a young child. Although I grew up in the Bronx – a very crowded part of New York City – the natural world was all around me. There is weather in the city, just as there is in the country. You can see the sun, moon and stars from a rooftop in the city. And I explored a vacant lot on my street, which wasn’t exactly a park, but still had birds, earthworms, small plants, and trees. When I grew up I became a science teacher, so it was natural that when I started to write books, I was writing about science and nature topics that interest me.

Then, the hard part starts! Whenever I want to write about a subject, I need to study. I start by looking at research that other people have done. What experiments have they run? What animals have they observed? By studying all the work that others have already done, I learn about the subjects that I write about in my books. 

Readers often ask about how I get the photographs for my books. Sometimes I travel to places myself and take the photographs. I have photographed glaciers in Alaska, volcanoes in Hawaii and wildfires in California. Other times, I arrange to use other people’s photographs. Often these are specialists - like a scientist who has been living in Antarctica and observing penguin behaviors. Someone like that has photographs that I could never get in a single, short trip.


In the case of my newest book, BUTTERFLIES, we searched long and hard for the perfect photograph for the cover. We finally found this one from photographer Kha Dang, who also raises butterflies for the Butterfly Magic Exhibit at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.

When it is time to decide on the title, I talk with my editor, who works at the company that publishes and sells the book. The editor gives me notes, suggestions and corrections on my writing (much as your teacher would), and also makes the final decision about the title.

Sometimes it is easy to pick a title (like BUTTERFLIES), but sometimes...

read more

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: New Books, Teacher Guides, Dogs, Teachers and Librarians, Pets, Awards   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 12, 2011


Today’s "Cool Photo of the Week" features 15-year-old Regina Mayer, who lives in Germany and wanted a horse in the worst way. Unfortunately, her parents didn’t agree.

So, Regina did the next best thing. When this cow, named Luna, was born on her family’s farm, Regina decided to train her. She put a halter on the calf and started taking her for long walks in the woods. Then, she tried walking her with a saddle on, and finally, she sat in the saddle. Now, she not only rides Luna, but she has taught the cow how to jump!



Photo: Kerstin Joensson / AP

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(5) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Cool Photo, Pets, Horses   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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