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Reef Report for Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Keeping Clownfish at Home;
Some tips and thoughts about their conservation

The latest aquarium trend, purchasing Anemonefish and setting up an aquarium at home, has always struck us as odd. Think the storyline of the Disney’s film "Finding Nemo", it’s a tale of the adventures of a small anemone fish as it tries to find its’ way back home after being taken from the Great Barrier Reef and put in an aquarium. © Great Barrier Reef Enterprises We would hope that enjoying the movie would inspire the moviegoer to not be personally involved in such a tale, and think for a minute about the source and fate of these fish. If you are considering getting a tank of clownfish for your home consider the following before bringing any fish home.

Clownfish for the Home Aquarium, look for captive bred fish.

The vast majority of saltwater tropical fish, including Clownfish, are wild-caught, collected from coral reefs. Among the most common methods are using a slurp gun, which looks and works like a large eyedropper, used by a diver to suck up the fish. More destructive methods such as netting and the use of cyanide to stun fish are also used in areas that are less well-regulated.

Clownfish are one species of saltwater tropical fish that are captive bred. Enthusiasts have figured out how to care for clownfish, and to create conditions in aquariums that encourage them to breed. © Great Barrier Reef Enterprises Equally importantly, they have learned how to care for the tiny young babies and raise them to adulthood. These tank-bred fish tend to be more adapted to tank conditions than wild-caught fish. Using tank-bred fish is a wise choice, both for you and the coral reefs.

Leave Anemones in the Ocean

Caring for anemones is a different matter. Tropical anemones are very difficult animals to keep in home aquariums. They are very particular about light, water quality, and other conditions, and can quickly lose condition and die if things are not just right. These animals are also wild-caught, and each one removed from the reef is one less home for a family of wild clownfish. What’s more, they are thought to grow very slowly, so encouraging their removal from reefs will result in their decline, as well of the clownfish that are so dependent on them.

We strongly urge anyone thinking about starting a saltwater aquarium, and buying clownfish to consider the following:

Start with a Freshwater Aquarium, and them move up to a saltwater aquarium.

If you have never kept an aquarium before, start with a freshwater aquarium. Freshwater aquariums are much less expensive, and most species of freshwater fish are much tougher than saltwater species. They are also much less expensive; you can purchase an aquarium full of freshwater fish for the price of one saltwater fish.

Small variations in temperature, water quality, light and feeding can be a huge problem in saltwater aquariums, requiring your constant and careful attention. Neglecting one of these details for even a day or two can kill your fish.

Typically most keepers of saltwater fish started with freshwater fish, and as they acquired the caretaking skills of the hobby, move to start their first saltwater tank. We recommend that be the way you start and the path you follow. Many people will tell you that saltwater tropical fish are much more beautiful and have more interesting behavior that freshwater fish, but if you go to a specialized aquarium store and look around you will find the freshwater species can be colorful, and come in all shapes and sizes. Many species of freshwater fish will breed in home aquariums, behavior that is rarely seen in saltwater aquariums.

We really like a group of fish called African Cichlids. These fish are tough, beautiful, and most species readily breed in home aquariums. They can be a bit tough on less aggressive fish, so be sure to ask about the compatibility of the kinds of fish you intend to combine in your home aquarium. Ask the owner of the fish store about how to assemble a community of fish that get along and you will be happy with the results.

Consult Experts:

Often times the small local fish stores are owned and operated by enthusiasts, people who know and love the hobby. Utilize their experience and ask them lots of questions.

To Learn More:

Check our Reef News from last week.

About the Clownfish care.

A detailed guide on Clownfish care.

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as  many other local sources in the dive community.

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