My nephew made me watch Nemo with him today (honestly it must be the 15th time this year alone that he’s watched it). If you knew how much he loves “Nemo(s)(clown fishes)” it would come as surprise for you to learn how he hasn’t got an aquarium and how his parents simply forbids him to have one until he is much older and able to appreciate the true responsibilities of maintaining an aquarium – not just in view of being responsible for the little lives but also the responsibility he will hold towards the sanctity of the ocean’s eco-system.
Now the thing about having an aquarium is that whilst it may look like it hardly affects anything outside its tank environment, the truth is far from it because the trade that brings these fishes from coral reefs to our homes is a deadly and unsustainable act.
The once lively reefs are being emptied of their inhabitants, resulting in a devastating crisis for the crucial hubs of biodiversity. It’s a multifaceted problem, with no easy solutions in plain sight. Governing bodies have not actually stepped up to the plate in regulating/controlling the trade, but regardless of that fact, the power to make a difference lies in the consumers’ buying demands.
So if you really are a marine life enthusiast and you’re prepared to take on that heavy responsibility, here are some tips to ensure that you own a green fish tank which will help solve the major points of the issue (making keeping an aquarium a sustainable act):
1. Fill your tanks with only aquacultured live rock, sand, coral, and plants.
Previously I wrote about how corals belonged in the oceans and not around our necks as jewellery. Well truthfully they don’t belong in our aquariums either. When corals are harvested from their natural environment, we create and unsustainable imbalance in the marine world.
Green Option: Aquacultured live rock, sand, and even corals and plants are available to feed your desire to build that mini model of the ocean’s bed. These farmed reefs are likely to dig a little deeper into your pockets but weigh that cost against the cost of losing our oceans and it won’t seem much anymore.
2. Tank-bred fish versus those wild-caught.
There’s a difference between freshwater fish aquariums and saltwater fish aquariums and I’m not referring to the preference for them. You see while it’s probably safe to say most (90% even) fish sold for freshwater aquariums are farm-raised, the majority of marine fish for sale are forcefully taken from the wild. In fact many of the marine fish are “abducted” from coral reefs of the Philippines and Indonesia, where the trade is still largely unregulated.
The catching process is a vile one too because cyanide is often used to stun fish, making them more vulnerable and easier to catch. However, when cyanide is used, most fishes rarely even survive the stun, never mind the catch. Furthermore, the use of cyanide in the ocean waters cannot be contained its effect. That means when they apply cyanide to the waters to stun the fish, they are also applying cyanide to the surrounding coral and marine life which have not been targeted for capture.
Green Option: Today many popular species of aquarium fish are being aquacultured. Enthusiast will be able to find seahorses, clownfish (Nemo!), Cherub angel, snowflake moray eel and etc among them. The Reef Protection International has come up with a guide (Reef Fish Guide) for you that divides reef fish into 2 categories, Take Home and Keep Wild. The guide is not an exhaustive list but it will lead you towards responsible choices in selecting aquarium fish.
Another great reason to select tank-raised fish is how they have the advantage better survival in your aquarium. Tank bred fish are used to aquarium water conditions, not stressed by proximity to humans, and are able to accept commercial fish foods, all qualities of which the fish snatch from their natural habitats lack.
3. Aquarium fish, corals, plants, or live rock or sand does not belong in the natural ecosystem.
When you decide to keep an aquarium, you must appreciate the responsibilities that come with sustaining it. That aquarium is an eco-system on its own and it does not belong out in the natural ecosystem.
Whilst I appreciate the notion of setting animals free from captivity being one done out of good spirit, I believe it is also controversial one because often, isn’t very well thought out before taken. Freeing animals that were born and bred in captivity into the wild is usually more detrimental to them in terms of survival. Adding to that, freeing them because you have simply gotten tired and bored of them doesn’t make for a very good reason either.
Releasing a live organism into an environment that is not natural to them could also end up with disaster for the natural habitats of that environment. The released organism could very well end up being invasive, knocking the balance of the eco-system off the scales.