Captive-Raised Saltwater Fish

for the week of 10/15/98

Unlike freshwater aquarium fish, many of which are bred and reared in captivity, the vast majority of saltwater fish are captured in the wild. However, a few species of marine fish, notably many of the Clowns, Dottybacks, and a few Gobies are currently being produced in commercial hatcheries and sold through around the world. Here’s why we should consider purchasing captive-raised fish:

Hardiness: Captive raised fish are hardy – much hardier than their wild-caught counterparts. Many wild-caught clownfish, for example, have been collected with drugs, are heavily infested with parasites – or both. These fish often refuse even living foods, hang in the tank’s corner for a few days, and then perish. Captive-raised fish often eat flake food within a few minutes of being released in their new home and appear to be much more resistant to infections.

Ecology: While there have been improvements in the policing of collecting practices, some wild-caught marine fish are still subdued with cyanide or other chemicals, which can certainly cause at least local environmental damage. Even the “safe” methods of collection, such as barrier nets or hand net / poker combinations, cause some concern, if for no other reason than that some balance is lost anytime anything is removed from its environment. Captive-raised fish, by definition, have no direct impact on wild populations.

Value: Most captive-raised Dottybacks are actually somewhat less expensive than the same species of wild-caught fish (try catching one of these babies out of a reef tank and you’ll know why), most Gobies are about the same price, while most Clownfish cost a little more. However, after factoring in potential losses and disease treatments, even the most expensive captive-raised specimens are true bargains.

Supporting Breeders: In order to encourage breeders to produce more and better specimens of more and more species, we need to show them a healthy market for their merchandise. Unfortunately, to date we have not done so, and several breeders have had to give up the business. With increasing legislation and loss of vitality of some collecting areas, captive-raised animals may well be the whole future of the marine hobby someday. How we support these breeders now will determine how rewarding our hobby will be then.

“Tip of the week” appeared regularly in 1999 and 2000.