Not a day goes by that I don't question the moral decision to keep saltwater fish in the home aquarium. I'm not concerned with the possible destruction of our reefs, because I don't believe the hobby has any measurable effect on the reef habitat in comparison to oil spills, boat anchors, and fishing with cyanide. I also feel that the long term survival of the coral reefs may be saved by the hobby.
What I do question is allowing anyone who has the money to set up an keep a saltwater aquarium. This may be the only hobby which involves living creatures that kills such a high percentage of its animals! From what I have read and from the stories I have heard at the pet shop, I would estimate that only 1 in 10 fish which are caught even live for 3 months. Of those, probably only another 10% live for a year or so longer. The primary reason for most fish dying within the first 3 months is improper collecting and shipping methods. The primary reason the surviving fish do not live longer than a year is due to lack of proper care by the hobbyist.
I am very concerned about the future of our hobby when most pet shops I visit have 90% of the fish sick. Notice that I said MOST shops. There are a number of quality shops out there. Unfortunately, the bad shops far outweigh the good. Perhaps we should require some sort of licensing and random inspections of shops which sell marine livestock? This may be soon coming in the United States, as the hobby is already being investigated by our federal government and may possibly be regulated soon.
I blame the hobbyist for this situation. If we would stand up to the shop owners and tell them we refuse to do business there unless they clean up their act, then maybe we could have a positive effect. This means that we should not buy ANYTHING from shops which consistently offer sick fish or fish which are impossible to keep alive in captivity. We should tell the owner that we are going to "such and such" pet shop because that shop cares about its animals and then we should stand by our word. Hopefully by supporting the good shops who spend the necessary time and money to properly care for the animals we will help the hobby survive.
But we can not put all of the blame on the pet shops. We also must help our fellow hobbyists who set up saltwater aquariums with little or no knowledge of what it takes to keep the animal alive. It is time to speak up when we see a hobbyist purchasing a Mandarin Goby to put in a 40 liter aquarium. We need to speak up and offer our knowledge and help. We need to tell that fellow aquarist where they can go to obtain the proper advice and good quality fish. We need to spread the word!
One idea I have that I would like to see is a "library" of information available to hobbyists at the local fish store. Store owners could let customers borrow reference material such as old magazines and books. Perhaps a credit card or a deposit could be used as security for the pet shop. This would definitely be a step in the right direction for helping to educate hobbyists.
Finally, I was pleased to learn that, according to the AMDA, there have recently been additions to the list of captive-bred saltwater fish available to the hobbyist. The latest additions include the Blue-Hippo Tang, the Asfur Angel, and the Maculosus Angel! I think this is an incredible step for the hobby and I am very excited. I myself have purchased a captive bred Asfur Angel and so far have had great success! I am eternally grateful to those hobbyists dedicated to breeding and raising marine animals. Thank you!
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