AQUARIUM HOBBYISTS HELP SAVE 30 SPECIES FROM EXTINCTION

Aquarium Hobbyists Help Save 30 Species from Extinction
The pet trade gets a bad rap for exploiting wild animals but sometimes the opposite is true. Aquarium hobbyists have played a role in preserving 30 species that have since gone extinct in the wild.

There’s a great deal of controversy surrounding exotic pets like sugar gliders, slow loris, and big cats. Animal rights supporters claim that wild animals belong in the wild and keeping them as pets is cruel. There is a difference, however, in keeping a wild animal as a pet and protecting endangered species by breeding them in captivity. Conservation breeding programs have saved a number of endangered species from extinction including the Arabian oryx, Przewalski’s horse, and the California condor.

While the practice of keeping wild animals as pets is often more harmful than helpful, it isn’t always the case within the aquarium industry. In fact, the aquarium hobby has helped bring 30 species of wild fish back from the brink of extinction.

Is the Aquarium Hobby Helpful or Hurtful?

The truth is there isn’t a simple yes or no answer to this question. When it comes to the preservation of natural populations, there are certainly instances in which the pet trade has been part of the problem.

For example, when the movie Finding Nemo was released in 2003, it led to a sudden spike in the popularity of clownfish. Increased demand for clownfish in the pet trade led to an increase in wild capture, causing clownfish to all but vanish from many areas. Some areas still use cyanide to capture fish for the aquarium trade as well which can be damaging to coral reefs.

 

 

Another problem with the aquarium trade is its contribution to the spread of invasive species. The lionfish is the biggest example. Native to the Indo-Pacific, lionfish can grow quite large and they have venomous spines which protect them from would-be predators. Experts suspect that people have been releasing unwanted lionfish from home aquariums into the Atlantic for years, contributing to a large invasive population that is putting native species and coral reefs at risk. Research shows that a single lionfish can reduce the recruitment of native fish to the reef it lives in by nearly 80%.

Though there are numerous examples of the aquarium trade negatively impacting wild populations, the opposite has been true as well. In fact, some aquarium hobbyists have devoted themselves to keeping and breeding species from the IUCN Red List.

The CARES Fish Preservation Program

Founded by enthusiast Claudia Dickinson in 2004, the Conservation, Awareness, Recognition, Encouragement, and Support (CARES) Fish Preservation Program encourages aquarium hobbyists to keep, breed, and exchange endangered species of fish to prevent extinction.

Since 2004, CARES has compiled a list of over 600 species of freshwater fish considered endangered based on their population in the wild. Many of these species have no commercial value in the pet trade and they aren’t among those favored by conservation organizations. Without the CARES list, these species would quietly go extinct with no one to care about them.

Not only does the CARES program encourage the preservation of endangered species, but it has also played a role in furthering their study. In reviewing the CARES list of endangered species, Jose Valdez and Kapil Mandrekar found 80 that have yet to be formally described by scientists. Valdez is a professor at Aarhus University and Denmark and Mandrekar at the State University of New York. During their investigation, Valdez found many hobbyists who take special interest in certain species, often going so far as to take trips to study them in the wild.

Aquarium hobbyists may actually be better equipped to study these endangered species because they are passionate about them and directly involved in the hobby. Scientists typically don’t have the luxury of traveling to remote areas to study species that aren’t scientifically important.

 

 

Species Saved by Aquarium Hobbyists

Through the CARES program and independent conservation efforts, over 30 species of fish are being kept alive that have since gone extinct in the wild. Though there may never be any organized effort to do so, dedicated enthusiasts may in the future play a role in reestablishing wild populations.

Here are some of the families of fish dedicated hobbyists are working to save:

  • Adrianichthyidae — Ricefishes
  • Anabantidae — Climbing gouramies
  • Aplocheilidae — Killifishes
  • Bedotiidae — Madagascan rainbowfish
  • Characidae — Tetras
  • Cichlidae – Cichlids
  • Cobitidae – True loaches
  • Cyprinidae — Minnows & Carps
  • Cyprinodontidae — Pupfishes
  • Gobiidae — Gobies
  • Goodeidae — Splitfins
  • Loricariidae — Armoured catfish
  • Melanotaeniidae — Rainbowfish
  • Mochokidae — Squeakers
  • Nothobranchiidae — Toothcarp
  • Poeciliidae — Livebearer
  • Pseudomugilidae — Blue eyes
  • Rivulidae — Rivulus
  • Valenciidae — Valencias

One example of a species that has gone extinct in the wild but continues to survive in home aquariums is the Finescale Splitfin (Allodontichthys polylepis). Originally described in 1988, this species was reportedly caught in the Arroyo Potrero Grande, about 9.6km east of Ameca. However, members of the Goodeid Working Group suspect this may be a typo as the type location is about the same distance west of Ameca. The name “polylepis” is derived from the Greek for “with many scales.” These fish used to live in clear creeks and streams at depths less than 0.5m, similar to the habitat of North American darters.

The Goodeid Working Group (GWG) is a nonprofit group run by volunteer aquarium hobbyists to help “maintain aquarium populations of Goodeids while assisting in preservation of remaining natural habitats.” There are others like it for various groups of endangered fish.

Though the marine aquarium trade has had a significant impact on saltwater species, freshwater fish are actually the most endangered group. Between pollution, mining, climate change, and the construction of dams, there are major threats to wild populations. Read on to see how you can help them survive.

 

 

How Can You Help Conserve Endangered Species?

Before bringing an animal into your home, you need to do your research. Not only should you make sure you understand the animal’s requirements for care, but you should check to see if it comes from a responsible source. As an aquarium hobbyist, you shouldn’t support the wild-caught aquarium trade.

To play a part in conversation efforts, buy from reputable fish dealers and always make sure the fish you purchase are captive-bred. If you purchase wild-caught fish, look for MAC certified retailers to make sure the fish were collected responsibly, not with cyanide and other techniques that can damage reefs. Support non-profit organizations and conservation efforts and do everything you can to care for your own aquarium fish properly. Never release aquarium fish into the wild.

Network with CARES members and other aquarium hobbyists to start keeping and breeding endangered species on your own. Remember, most species on this list are not commercially available. Your best bet to find them may be through the CARES exchange program. By connecting with other CARES members, you can receive fish by mail to raise and breed in your own home.

Here are the steps to follow as soon as you receive fish through the CARES exchange program:

  1. Immediately transfer the fish and the shipping water into a bucket or large container – don’t forget to cover it with a lid.
  2. Set up a drip line from your prepared tank to slowly siphon tank water into the bucket so the fish can acclimate to the conditions.
  3. Wait until the water volume has doubled then pour off as much as you can without leaving the fish uncovered.
  4. Restart the drip and let the container fill again – it doesn’t hurt to add some ammonia neutralizer at this stage to reduce stress.
  5. Carefully net the fish and transfer them to the new tank – don’t add any of the shipping water to the tank if you can avoid it.
  6. Leave the lights off in the tank for 24 hours or so to give the fish time to settle in – if they show signs of stress, add up to 1 teaspoon aquarium salt per gallon.
  7. Feed the fish sparingly over the first few days and avoid making too many changes to the water parameters – as long as you give them time to adapt the fish should be fine.

If you’ve already received fish through the CARES exchange program or you keep fish of your own, it’s a good idea to quarantine the new fish for at least two weeks before combining them. It’s much easier to treat the new fish in a quarantine tank than to expose healthy fish to chemical treatments or disease.

Though fish may not get as much attention as other wild animals, they are just as deserving of protection. As an aquarium hobbyist, it’s as much your responsibility as anyone else’s to do your part in conserving not only the trade but the animals that support it. Consider taking some of the steps mentioned above to participate in conservation efforts for endangered species of fish.

 

comments powered by Disqus
The Surprising Health Benefits of a Home Aquarium
The Surprising Health Benefits of a Home Aquarium
In stressful times, having a home aquarium could be a benefit.
3 Problems Every Aquarist Can Avoid
3 Problems Every Aquarist Can Avoid
Learn three common problems every aquarist can avoid.

MOST RECENT ARTICLES

Aquarium Hobbyists Help Save 30 Species from Extinction
AQUARIUM HOBBYISTS HELP SAVE 30 SPECIES FROM EXTINCTION
The pet trade gets a bad rap for exploiting wild animals but sometimes the opposite is true.
"Smart" Tank Technology is the Future of the Aquarium Hobby
"SMART" TANK TECHNOLOGY IS THE FUTURE OF THE AQUARIUM HOBBY
Modern advances in technology affect every industry - even the aquarium hobby.
Sea Urchins in the Saltwater Tank
SEA URCHINS IN THE SALTWATER TANK
If you are looking for a unique invertebrate to add to your saltwater tank, consider the sea urchin.

AQUARIUM NEWS AND TRENDS

The Science Behind Behavior: Fish Jumping Out of Tanks
The Science Behind Behavior: Fish Jumping Out of Tanks
Guppies are known, in particular, for jumping out of the tank.
"Smart" Tank Technology is the Future of the Aquarium Hobby
"Smart" Tank Technology is the Future of the Aquarium Hobby
Modern advances in technology affect every industry - even the aquarium hobby.
The Surprising Health Benefits of a Home Aquarium
The Surprising Health Benefits of a Home Aquarium
In stressful times, having a home aquarium could be a benefit.
Cleaning Your Tank Can Make You Sick
Cleaning Your Tank Can Make You Sick
Cleaning your aquarium is a necessity in order to keep your fish healthy.
Self-Poisoning: A Damaging Defense Mechanism
Self-Poisoning: A Damaging Defense Mechanism
If you have ever brought a group of corydoras catfish home from the store to find that they all died in transport, this article will be incredibly enlightening.
The Oldest Aquarium Fish
The Oldest Aquarium Fish
Some fish are simply going to live longer than others, but what species have the longest lifespans?
Trending: Jellyfish in the Home Aquarium
Trending: Jellyfish in the Home Aquarium
You have probably seen your fair share of jellyfish in zoo aquariums, but did you know that it is possible to keep these creatures as pets?
Media Reactors - An Innovative Approach to Aquarium Filtration
Media Reactors - An Innovative Approach to Aquarium Filtration
When it comes to aquarium filtration there are many options to choose from.
Aquarium Fish News: Bill Introduced to Limit Aquarium Fish Collecting
Aquarium Fish News: Bill Introduced to Limit Aquarium Fish Collecting
The saltwater aquarium industry takes millions of fish from oceans around the world each year.
Trending: Adding LED Moonlights to the Aquarium
Trending: Adding LED Moonlights to the Aquarium
With advances in aquarium lighting technology, you now have the option to add specialized nighttime lighting to your aquarium.
Trending: Glow in the Dark Fish
Trending: Glow in the Dark Fish
Glow in the dark fish may not be a new trend but new additions to the market have recently been made -- glow in the dark convict cichlids and angelfish.
Aquarium Hobbyists Help Save 30 Species from Extinction
Aquarium Hobbyists Help Save 30 Species from Extinction
The pet trade gets a bad rap for exploiting wild animals but sometimes the opposite is true.
How Has Technology Changed the Aquarium Hobby?
How Has Technology Changed the Aquarium Hobby?
Advances in modern technology have changed the world we live in, but how has it affected the aquarium hobby?
New Discovery Key to Keeping Pinnatus Batfish
New Discovery Key to Keeping Pinnatus Batfish
The Pinnatus Batfish is one of the most striking species of saltwater aquarium fish, but notoriously difficult to keep in the home aquarium.
Species Spotlight: The Axolotl
Species Spotlight: The Axolotl
If you are looking for a unique species around which to center your next tank, consider the axolotl.
Aquascaping the Aquarium: March 2017 Aquarium Trends
Aquascaping the Aquarium: March 2017 Aquarium Trends
The art of decorating a home aquarium is called "aquascaping" and it is a trending topic in aquarium social media this month.
The Bright and Colorful Discus Fish: Spring 2017 Aquarium Trends
The Bright and Colorful Discus Fish: Spring 2017 Aquarium Trends
Discus fish are some of the most brightly colored fish in the animal kingdom.
Shrimp in the Home Aquarium: Spring 2017 Aquarium Trends
Shrimp in the Home Aquarium: Spring 2017 Aquarium Trends
If you're looking for a unique way to stock your new tank, give freshwater shrimp a try.
Species Spotlight: New Corydoras Catfish Discovered
Species Spotlight: New Corydoras Catfish Discovered
A species of Corydoras catfish that was discovered in the 1990s has finally been officially described and named.
Cichlid Compatibility: February Week 2 Aquarium Trends
Cichlid Compatibility: February Week 2 Aquarium Trends
In the second week of February 2017, one of the highest trending topics in aquarium-related social media is in regard to cichlid compatibility.
Aquarium News: Five New Species of Dwarfgobies Discovered
Aquarium News: Five New Species of Dwarfgobies Discovered
Gobies are some of the smallest fish in the world and dwarfgobies are the smallest of those.
Betta Fish Trending Topics for January 2017
Betta Fish Trending Topics for January 2017
The betta fish is and will forever be one of the most popular types of aquarium fish.
How Aquarium Trends Affect the World
How Aquarium Trends Affect the World
Trends in the aquarium trade have an effect on more than just aquarium hobbyists -- they can affect the whole world.
Wireless Aquarium Lighting Solutions
Wireless Aquarium Lighting Solutions
One of the latest developments in aquarium lighting is wireless control of LED systems.
Study Reveals that Fish May Have Individual Personalities
Study Reveals that Fish May Have Individual Personalities
While some species like Oscars are known for exhibiting dog-like behaviors, a recent study shows that many fish are capable of developing individual personalities.
Newly Discovered Fish Species of 2013
Newly Discovered Fish Species of 2013
New species of plants and animals are being discovered every year.
Trending: Colorful Species for the Marine Tank
Trending: Colorful Species for the Marine Tank
Color has always been a main component of the marine tank but these species are keeping the bar high.
Your Aquarium Might Not Be as Peaceful as You Think
Your Aquarium Might Not Be as Peaceful as You Think
For many aquarium hobbyists, the aquarium is a source of relaxation and serenity.
News: Unique Species to Hit the Market
News: Unique Species to Hit the Market
The new year brings a new wave of unique species to add to your home aquarium.
Cramped, Boring Environments Lead to Anger in Fish
Cramped, Boring Environments Lead to Anger in Fish
A recent study conducted by a biology professor at Case Western Reserve University reveals that environment size and complexity has a direct impact on aggressive behavior in aquarium fish.
The Top New Coral Species of 2013
The Top New Coral Species of 2013
The saltwater aquarium hobby is ever-changing -- trends and even species come and go.
Innovations in Marine Disease Treatments
Innovations in Marine Disease Treatments
Treating marine aquarium diseases is easier than ever with innovations like medicated frozen fish food.
Trending: Nano Tanks More Popular Than Ever
Trending: Nano Tanks More Popular Than Ever
A nano tank is more than just a small fish tank -- it is a compact, self-contained ecosystem.
Trending: Sophisticated Water Quality Monitoring Devices
Trending: Sophisticated Water Quality Monitoring Devices
Testing your aquarium water is a chore that no aquarium hobbyist likes.
North American Aquariums Go Green
North American Aquariums Go Green
From recycling and organic farming, sustainability and conservation are two hot trending topics.
News: Trade Continues Despite Threatened Conservation Status
News: Trade Continues Despite Threatened Conservation Status
A recent paper published by the Conservation Research Group and the IUCN shows that more than 30 threatened species endemic to India are still being regularly exported, despite their conservation status.
Trending: Compact Aquarium Equipment
Trending: Compact Aquarium Equipment
One of the latest trends in aquarium equipment is compact upgrades.
Changes in Marine Aquarium Design
Changes in Marine Aquarium Design
The only thing that doesn't change in the world is the fact that things change.
News: Lionfish Invasion in the Atlantic
News: Lionfish Invasion in the Atlantic
Lionfish are a very popular species in the marine aquarium hobby but they have begun to threaten native populations in the Atlantic as they spread from their native habitat in the Indo-Pacific.
Read more articles (39)

READ AQUARIUM ARTICLES