Good Aquarium Stewardship

Hobbyists on a Mission:

Recently, I was introduced to a group on a social media platform that was asking for help raising awareness about the endangered fish on the IUCN red list of threatened species in Madagascar. The group was new and needed help reaching out through social media to other groups of people potentially keeping Madagascar cichlids, killifish and rainbowfish. The main focus for the group is spreading the word about the plight of freshwater fish species in the country off the coast of Africa, identifying populations of Madagascar species, sharing information and experience at all levels from novice to professional about sourcing and keeping Madagascar fish (including a mentorship program) and putting hobbyists in touch with the American Cichlid Association, the American Killifish Association and the International Rainbowfish Group.

That’s enough to get you thinking. As a hobbyist that’s kept fish consistently for forty years, i’ve seen a regular decline of fish species in habitats around the world. Fish that were once common in the hobby are disappearing for many reasons. Drought, erosion, climate change, pollution, silting, mining, deforestation, invasive species competition, etc; These forms of habitat destruction are having dramatic impacts on fish catches worldwide.  There is a growing list of species being added to the IUCN red list of threatened animals, including fish right in our own back yard and maybe, just maybe, you might find species of those fish in your own fish tanks. When I worked briefly as the head teen aged fish geek at a Petland in 1985, the Blue Eyed Pleco was fairly common in the hobby. But, due to a single massive hydro-electric dam project, their home environment where they were usually collected was destroyed and they all but disappeared from the hobby. It wasn’t until isolated pockets were found later that they were preserved on the IUCN red list. 

What can a Hobbyist do?

The first part is simple. Do no harm to your environment. Let’s face it, we’re keeping non-native species of fish, plants and invertebrates in our aquariums. We might not be guilty of other people’s sins when they let invasive species into their local waterways, but we as aquarists are inheriting the ramifications of those actions and have a responsibility to do better.

If you can’t re-home your pets or just don’t want your aquatic plants and animals any more, consider reaching out to local pet shops, aquarium fish rescues and local aquarium organizations that might adopt. 

Alternative to flushing fish and plants?

If you have a dead fish in your tank, it’s perfectly acceptable to throw the fish out in your regular trash. With the risk of introducing a fish into the local ecosystem, this is the ethical preferred method of removal. If you have a sick, injured, deformed or otherwise fish to deal with, consider culling the fish. Placing fish in freezer bags and freezing them is a quick and painless method of euthanasia and the one we prefer to practice. Place waste plant material in the trash or compost it.

OMG I have an endangered species in my tank!

You can find the IUCN red list of threatened and endangered species search engine by clicking here. If you find yourself in possession of fish on the IUCN red list, don’t panic. Learn as much as you can about them so that you can provide the proper care for them. The best way to learn about them is to reach out to various groups and fish organizations to learn more about your fish. Several have mentorship programs and some have conservation programs that you can participate in. Even if you don’t want to breed your fish, other members of these organizations might be happy to find someone else that has them. Click below to learn more about these organizations:

American Cichlid Association

American Killifish Association

American Livebearers Association

International Rainbowfish Group

North Atlantic Native Fish Association

If you’re not from the United States, please consider reaching out to your local and regional fish keeping groups, or start your own!


Member: A.K.A., A.C.A, N.A.N.F.A., S.K.S..

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