Captive bred fish and cultured corals – reducing our reliance on any one source

Our last post wrote about how wild caught ornamental fish are a sustainable and essential part of our hobby and are also hugely beneficial for the environment and the local communities that serve them. We have since shared this wonderful infographic from Tropical Marine Centre on Facebook as it really does put the facts of the matter into perspective.

However, we are equally proud of the work that we have been doing over many years to also increase the sustainability of the fish and corals that we import through captive breeding and culturing projects. This way we really do benefit from the best of both worlds rather than relying on a single source.

Cultured Corals

selection (3)We have previously written about our trip to hand select cultured SPS and LPS corals in Bali, this was back in 2012 and the grower continues to be a very close partner of ours and is now also producing micro SPS and soft corals as well.

All of the corals are propagated on site from cuttings (fragging) of mother corals and glued to artificial rock bases. In these natural conditions it takes only two months for each coral to grow from a cutting to a saleable size.

Corals to be returned to the reef
Here you can see some of the donated stock awaiting collection (note how fish are living on this ‘reef’ already!)

Not only are these corals cultured independently of wild stocks, the farm also voluntarily donates 10% of its crop to the government for replanting onto actual reef… actually expanding the biodiversity in the area.

As well as this we also found plenty of wildlife living in the area surrounding the farm which was previously just a plain sand bed with little life. As this area has been dedicated to farming and not exploited for tourism it is also a turtle breeding ground sanctuary – the beaches here are truly pristine unlike in the surrounding areas. You can read the original article in full here.

IMG_7335We are also now receiving regular shipments of cultured corals from a state of the art indoor facility in Germany, another way of diversify choice for our customers in a sustainable manner.

You can also read about this and see more pictures here.

Red Tailed Black Sharks

Red Tail Black Shark
Photo taken at our Edinburgh store

All of the Red Tailed Black Sharks that you see in the aquarium trade are captive bred. This species has been considered extinct in the wild until as recently as 2011 due to the destruction of its natural habitat through the construction of dams and draining of swamps in Thailand around 1970. There has since been a small wild population found in a single precarious location meaning these fish are listed as “Critically Endangered”.

The large captive bred population in the fishkeeping hobby almost certainly outnumbers the wild population, giving this species the security of survival in at least some form whilst it’s future in the wild continues to be threatened by environmental pressures.

L046 Zebra Pleco

Zebra Pleco brood stock

The future of this iconic and beautiful species is severely threatened by the Belo Monte Dam construction project in the Amazon rainforest which is well underway and will become the third largest hydroelectric dam in the world by diverting up to 80% of the flow of the Xingu River which is a major tributary to the Amazon River. In the process an area of 1,500 square kilometers of rainforest will be flooded and destroyed as well as the homes of 40,000 of the local population.

Unfortunately, the Zebra Pleco isn’t the only endemic (only found in this location) species threatened. So too are the Sunshine Pleco and Slender Dwarf Pike Cichlid along with hundreds of other species of fish and animals.

There have been numerous attempts to stop this project which was first discussed back in 1975 but seemingly to no avail. Clean energy hey?!

L46 Zebra Pleco
Some healthy new arrivals from our Asian partner at our Inverness store

We have been working closely with another partner of ours in Asia (a long way from the Amazon!) and he has been buying up as many of the remaining populations found in captivity around the world as possible from a wide variety of bloodlines in order to reproduce this notoriously slow developing species.

He has really got the knack after several years and has a continuous production line, from which he keeps a proportion for broodstock and sends the rest to friends of his around the world (like us!).

The Zebra Plec is yet another species with an uncertain future in the wild, but secured in captivity by the fishkeeping hobby.

F0 / F1 Genes

On a final point, another reason that captive and wild caught fish are complementary to each other comes down to genetics. It is widely know that if a genetic pool is too small then health issues and deformities will start to develop down the line. The best way to prevent this is to occasionally reintroduce wild stocks into captive breeding programmes to bring some fresh genes into the pool. As such “F1” (first generation) stock often commands a premium among hobbyists due to the strong health and colouration traits that they possess. Moving further and further away from quality livestock like this would result in a downturn in animal welfare – the absolute opposite of the intent of the Scottish Government’s proposal to review and restrict the importation of “exotic” fish whether captive bred or wild caught.

Please remember to support the #handsoffmyhobby campaign as soon as possible in the following ways…

  • Sign the petition at Change.org
  • Visit the dedicated #handsoffmyhobby campaign website for further educate yourself on this very important and pressing matter – www.handsoffmyhobby.org
  • Write to your local MSP and Richard Lochhead who is the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. You can find their contact details on the Scottish Government website including postal and email addresses. Contact them for free via www.writetothem.com. You could also contact them directly via their social media accounts! Remember – they want your votes too.
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