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Acquiring Saltwater Fish – The Price We Pay

By: Dr. Amy Wolff

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Keeping saltwater fish has become a popular hobby. Aquarium enthusiasts have long had a large variety of freshwater fish from which to choose. Now more sophisticated equipment and an ever-increasing knowledge base has made it possible for the hobbyist to keep a wider variety of marine animals in a home aquarium.

Beautiful as they are, saltwater fish come to us at a price. At this time, the vast majority of saltwater fish and "live rock" are collected and shipped from the wild. The process of collecting these animals is not always done in an environmentally friendly way. Cyanide, dynamite and other destructive methods are commonly used on reefs to stun the fish to make them easier to catch. Many are killed, and reefs are often destroyed in the process. A reef is a living community that can take 50 to 100 years to establish, so once destroyed, it is not readily replaced.

Fortunately, some suppliers are changing the ways fish can be made available. There are certain species of fish that can be successfully bred in captivity. Damselfish are an example, which means that a population of fish can be supplied without having to take them from the wild. Some suppliers are now forming artificial reef, using bare rock and letting it be naturally colonized so it can be harvested without reef destruction. Ask your local pet store how the fish are obtained. If they have only wild caught fish, you may wish to explore more environmentally friendly options.

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