Aquarium keepers save fish, give valued scientific info!
New Report in Thailand finds that “Humanity Has Wiped Out 60 Percent of All Animal Life Since 1970”!
If there was a 60 percent decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.
Animal activist groups are fast to point a finger at the aquarium pet trade but there is little in support extinct fish are because of the pet aquarium trade and not human use of habitat or chemical issues. There is countless posts and web posts saying the aquarium trade is killing fish. the fact is and remains that over 90% of all tropical fish you find in the pet shops are domestic bred fish. From corals to clown fish to bettas and even the live and frozen foods people love to feed their fish are all farm raised.
Very few fish species maintained by the aquarium keepers have been successfully reintroduced to natural habitats after they’ve become extinct in the wild and that is a sad point. Securing habitats that are not parking lots or homes and creating practical conservation plans is time- and money-intensive.
Ornamental wild fish are more or less taken to the point of extinction by the habitat changing and not over fishing. Once a wild fish is taken into the aquarium trade some one will start to breed it and some one will start to take notes. Those notes are gold to scientist that can use that info to the good of the fish and help save or bring back a fish from the brink of extinction. But if the habitat is gone then there is little to be done unless the fish is in captive breeding programs.
The biggest factors contributing to the demise of all animals is the life support system, according to the report, over 98% could have been saved if the destruction of natural habitats, killing for food and chemical pollution could have been stopped. Some species are only saved because of the pet trade.
While it is perceived that hobbyists are doing nothing to help fix these two major drawbacks, as a whole, there has been progress towards minimizing them. For example, 90% of freshwater aquarium species are raised domestically and are not harvested from the wild. Interestingly, Maceda-Veiga et al found that aquarium keepers actually prefer these domestically raised fish due to their better appearances than the wild caught ones. But the some extinct wild fish exists. We still have the species because of the aquarium trade, whereas it would have disappeared out of the wild [and into extinction] years ago.
Serious aquarium hobbyists can aid scientists in freshwater fish conservation as well. Hobbyists often contribute to the development of basic knowledge of species through their observations and success as aquarium breeders. While the validity of these published findings in aquarium magazines and websites can be uncertain, they can reveal information to researchers to help them as they study a species. Hobbyists can also help to save species from extinction. Populations of fish kept in aquariums around the world can provide a gene bank to prevent the total extinction of a species or to help reintroduction programs. For example, the crescent zoe and the golden skiffia, two species extinct or nearly extinct in the wild, have been kept alive by dedicated hobbyists for over twenty five years.
The hobbyists have been more reliable than the professional institutions, in terms of keeping a species around, says a fish biologist.
While the aquarium hobby has its drawbacks, it also has a potential to help conservation efforts. With more collaboration between enthusiast and scientists, much can be gained in the area of freshwater fish conservation. Working together, the negative aspects of aquarium keeping can be diminished while promoting conservation and helping to protect the fish that both groups love.
Many of the most exciting new fish this past year come from places that have been difficult to reach in the past for geographical or political reasons. These species have the potential to become popular aquarium fish in the not-too-distant future as the wild populations suffer from dams, aquaculture run off and mining not over fishing or collecting, and all should be of great commercial interest to aquarium fish farms.
Olaf Weyl, a fish ecologist at the South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity, says he is generally supportive of breeding rare fish in aquaria, particularly because it raises public interest in and concern for them.
The current peace in the Congo has allowed collectors to bring fish not only from primary and surrounding locations in Kinshasa/Brazzaville but also from further outlying areas. Among these fish are two small but spectacular species that have not been in the hobby for at least 25 years because of political problems in the Congo. Both come from swampy regions with shallow, slightly acidic water.
Aplocheilichthys (Congopanchax) brichardi are the most striking of the lamp-eyed killifish. Like all lampeyes, they need to be fed on a regular basis and do not fare well at holding stations in Africa or during shipping. By the time the tiny fish (adult size is 1 inch) arrive here, they are often emaciated and can only be saved with large amounts of live brine shrimp and other tiny live foods. The males display fantastic metallic blue bodies and deep red fins, whereas females are less strikingly colored. These tiny fish are best kept in a group of at least six in a species tank or with other tiny soft water species. It took many years for this species to be exported again in 2006, and only a small number have been brought to North America and Europe; but this should be sufficient for killifish enthusiasts to establish it in the hobby.
The African clown barbs (Barbus hulstaerti) are perhaps the most beautiful African barb, but until 2006 they had not been exported from the Congo in nearly 25 years. They are fully grown at 11⁄2 inches, and will not harm plants or chase tankmates. They will eat all small live foods (e.g., Daphnia, brine shrimp nauplii). Among themselves, they are aggressive enough to be interesting aquarium fish, with the males establishing small territories and chasing each other in circles during courtship or territorial disputes. In aquariums with soft, slightly acidic water and many plants, the species will breed, and small numbers of young can grow up in the aquariums with the adults. This is certainly the nicest African fish to be exported in many years.
South America is normally the most likely place for exciting aquarium fish to be found, but this year there were fewer truly spectacular species exported. It has also been a year for some well-known favorites to receive scientific names as scientists try to catch up with the hundreds of recently found freshwater fish in South America.
A Fluval expedition team is reporting the discovery of a new species of pike cichlid in the wilds of Colombia. Both genders of the new fish sport a distinctive W-shaped trident near the gills. While identifying a new species is a wonderful accomplishment, it wasn’t why Fluval, a Rolf C. Hagen brand of aquarium products, sponsored the 13-day, 1,600-mile expedition across the Llanos, a tropical grassland in the shadow of the Andes Mountains. Because Fluval is in the fish business, company representatives wanted to take a field trip to view the ultimate end user of their products—fish—in a natural setting.
Corydoras weitzmani was the most-talked-about cory catfish in the hobby for a long time. Its type locality in the Peruvian Andes long remained uncertain, and there had been no sightings or photos of this species since its description in the early 1970s. In the past year, exporters from Peru have been sending this beautiful and hardy Corydoras species in small numbers. Like other cories, they will eat any food offered and accept most water conditions. The water should not be too hot (not more than 78 degrees Fahrenheit), and the pH range should be from 6 to 7.5. Armored catfish fans have already bred the species in captivity, and it should certainly establish itself in the hobby. Corydoras weitzmani will likely be produced by commercial fish farmers in Asia along with C. sterbai and C. panda.
Hypancistrus furunculus finally has a name: the mega clown pleco. When two beautiful specimens of this catfish were first introduced as LDA19 (in the 1990s), they were among the most sought-after plecos in the trade. Later, the species also received an L-number (L-340), which further added to the confusion surrounding this fish. Many of the loricarids are variable in color pattern, with only few of the H. furunculus displaying the well-contrasted orange (or yellow) bars and dark brown stripes. Certainly, this small catfish (up to 5 inches) is one of the most beautiful plecos that is now exported from Colombia in good numbers. Like nearly all loricarid catfish, this species is not an algae-eater, and needs to be fed properly with frozen foods, live foods and sinking prepared foods. They are not too difficult to breed in aquariums with warm water (82 to 86 degrees), a slightly acidic pH and significant current.
In the past two years, many new small fish from Southeast Asia have been discovered and exported for the first time. Most notable among them are many beautiful danios, freshwater puffers and some interesting barbs. The past year was the most impressive year for fish from this region.
Biologists in Thailand have discovered a new species of Betta fish amidst brackish waters and nipa palms of Samut Sakhon Province in Thailand. In their paper, “Betta mahachaiensis, a new species of bubble-nesting fighting fish (Teleostei: Osphronemidae) from Samut Sakhon Province, Thailand” published in Zootaxa, biologist Chanon Kowasupat of the Institute for Innovative Learning, Mahidol University, Thailand describes the fish as belonging to the Betta splendens group of fish but with distinctive characteristics.
Called Betta mahachaiensis, the fish is different from others in the Betta splendens group in that it has an iridescent green/bluish green coloration with a brown-to-black body. The color of its opercular membrane is also brown-to-black with no red streaks or patch coloration, and its dorsal, caudal and anal fins are brown and black. Two thirds of the dorsal fin feature black transverse bars, and the pelvic fins are brown and black with a green and bluish green coloration on the front with a white tip.
Kowasupat also describes Betta mahachaiensis as a candidate for extinction given the small geographical area in which it is found as well as the negative effects of industrial pollution and housing developments in the area. The fish is about 1.4 inches in length, and inhabits brackish waters in nipa palm swamps. The salinity in which the fish are located ranged from 1.1 to 10.6 ppt with a pH ranging from 6.87 to 7.80. The paper also notes that one respected fish breeder in Thailand has been breeding and working with the species for more than 10 years, and the fish has always bred true.
Celestichthys marginatus, known as the celestial pearl danio (formerly known as the “galaxy rasbora”), is both a good and unfortunate example of how much a new, colorful fish can excite the aquarium hobby. First discovered in a clear water hillside stream in 2006, this fish quickly became one of the most sought-after species from Asia. As scientists raced to describe the new fish, exporters set too many nets, and there were too many fishermen.
As quickly as the new fish had made a name, there was news that the habitat was in trouble, and collected numbers were dwindling. Shocking images of a habitat destroyed by aquarium fish collectors were shown on the Internet. This is a rare occurrence, because our hobby generally causes habitats to be protected by the people profiting from them. Most people in the developing world are aware of the damage caused by overharvesting a natural resource.
Within a year of the fish first being discovered, the price had fallen to one-quarter of the original value, then rose again as the fish became more scarce in its only known natural habitat. It is still uncertain if it is also found in other similar habitats in the surrounding hills, but breeders in Asia and Europe are already beginning to breed this small (about 1 inch) fish in good numbers. Certainly, this attractive fish will become a favorite in the aquarium hobby. It can eat any small foods, and water conditions should be a pH around neutral at 75 degrees.
Schistura is a genus of loaches from Southeast Asia. At the moment, there are 180 described species (most of them scientifically discovered in the past 10 years) of these often very similar loaches. There is little literature on these interesting fish, and almost no photos have been published to identify them. They are found in small, clear streams in the foothills of the mountainous regions of Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Vietnam, and they have spread throughout the region as far as India, Turkey and China. Most species attain a length of 2 to 3 inches.
In the aquarium, they require cooler temperatures (below 75 degrees Fahrenheit) and well-filtered, fast-moving water. Like all loaches, they will eat most sinking foods, but prefer live and frozen food of any kind. They make excellent aquarium fish that can be kept with barbs, gouramis and other small community fish. Some species are territorial, especially toward members of their own species. Recent imports from Myanmar and Thailand included small numbers of these beautiful loaches.
Sewellia lineolata is a sucker-finned hillstream loach from the Mekong Basin. Although it was discovered about 160 years ago, it has only been exported as an aquarium fish in the past two years. Known as the gold line sucker-fin loach, it is widely distributed in the hills surrounding the Mekong River in China, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Like all sucker-finned loaches, they require oxygen-rich water and frequent water changes. The background body color of Sewellia ranges from cream to fluorescent yellow. They are initially shy fish that quickly become favorites in a community aquarium. Despite a physical appearance that suggests algae eating, they prefer insect larvae and should be fed with high-quality frozen and live foods whenever possible. Their maximum size is 21⁄2 inches, and aquarium temperatures should never exceed 75 degrees. They will also eat most sinking foods, with a preference for live and frozen food.
Maceda-Veiga, A., Dominguez-Dominguez, O., Scire T. WorldBettas, Escribano-Alacid, J., Lyons, J. (2014). “The aquarium hobby: can sinners become saints in freshwater fish conservation?” Fish and Fisheries doi: 10.1111/faf.12097, ROLF C. HAGEN (USA) CORP