Aquatic life selection made simple

Aquatic life selection is certainly the most exciting aspect of our hobby but it can also be daunting. Imagine this: there are over 1800 species and hundreds of inverts to choose from. And yet, less than 5% are present in 95% of aquariums. But that is still 90 species and for those wishing to create a colorful and eclectic ecosystem, many parameters need to be considered such as behavior, diet, environment, and thus tank size, lighting, water flow and so on. Researching all these parameters can be overwhelming. Fortunately, we can rely on some phone apps and websites to lessen that burden or at least provide a first level of understanding that will save us a lot of time.

But that’s not all. Wild-caught fish have different requirements than tank-bred/ raised fish. Matthew L. Wittenrich, one of the firsts to breed Mandarins tells us that “captive-bred fish eat captive diets”, while wild-caught fish need a very similar diet than the one they are accustomed to in their natural habitat. They can exhibit different behavior as well. Fish that normally are compatible “with caution” may live happily together when tank-bred or ones that are known to be peaceful with other tank mates exhibit aggressive behavior. 

And then, there is the broad issue of conservation and sustainability. Where do our wild-caught fish come from and how have they been collected? This topic is a heated one. Well managed fisheries have demonstrated to be sustainable. They not only offer beautiful species to the aquarium enthusiasts but also provide a very important source of income for local communities. But too often, the lure of a quick income or pressure from unscrupulous intermediaries push fishermen to use destructive techniques such as cyanide and rotenone to collect as many fish as possible in the shortest period, which will affect the surviving fish long-term health (heart, brain and nerve damage).

Shipping, handling and stocking have also an impact on the aquatic life’s well-being. Between the moment a fish is removed from its habitat in a faraway land and arrives to your local fish store, the stress it has endured might have caused its demised.

Breeding techniques on the other side have greatly improved, and an increasing number of species find their ways into our aquariums. Although some fish come from the same areas as wild-caught fish, their survival rate is greater. And yet not every breeder adheres to best practices, and one fish keeper might find it hard to keep one species alive while all along the faulty party is the breeder using poor breeding techniques.

The rule of thumbs when selecting your aquatic life:
1) Check their compatibility
2) Plan accordingly, make sure the fish won’t outgrow your tank too quickly
3) Decide between wild-caught or tank-bred (mixing both can be an issue)
4) Ask your LFS about its origin and the credibility of its supplier(s)
5) Select fish that have been in display for at least two weeks (reduce incidence of ich/ick in your tank)
6) Select young adults and avoid thin, emaciated, and lethargic fish
7) And do share with others your experience

I’ll be posting about this topic on our blog, so if you are interested, please visit us often.

Happy fishkeeping!



Marc Thibault