Breeding of Tropicals instead of wild specimens - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 10 Old 11-17-2006, 11:17 AM Thread Starter
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Breeding of Tropicals instead of wild specimens

I hope no one minds me kicking this off.

With all the technology we have and the ability to grow prett much any species of fish in captive settings, why isn't there breeding programs for most of the harder to find species so we don't have to take them from the wild? We can breed Giant Pandas and most other species of mammals, we farm shrimp and mollusks, there isn't much else we can't breed so why not species like otos, rare pleco, African Ciclids, and any other species that is so close to being extinct that it won't be long before we can't get it at all?

Even if a species is still abundant in the wilds of it's home territoties, why aren't we breeding them anyway?
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post #2 of 10 Old 11-17-2006, 02:57 PM
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Hi fish_4_all, and thanks for getting us started here. This board is here on a trial basis. I requested it because I thought it a good place for everyone to share their concerns about what is happening to our fish, both in natural habitats and in the pet trade.
In answer to your question, there are many reasons why your suggestion is not being performed more readily. First and foremost, the color strains in wild caught fish tends to be much brighter. Many people want extreme amounts of color, and the captive bred species are not known for carrying on this trait unless 2 wild parents are mated, and specifc attention is paid in keeping the wild bloodlines going in captivity. The food supplies are also different in wild caught fish, and will have A LOT to do with color.
Another problem, primarily in saltwater is the length of the larval stage of deveolpment in many species of fish. There are some where the larval stage can last up to a year or more, which, when you're speaking in terms of money and business, the profit margin just isn't there.
I do agree that more should be done to conserve our natural habitats and the species who thrive in them. The pet trade has done some horrible things to our wild fish populations. There are many species that don't belong in the fish trade at all, such as pacu, arrowana, red tail catfish, giant gourami, and many others.
What is the overall solution? There are many ideas, but few have the power or the money to act on these ideas.
Should we see how many suggestions we can collect here, on this board, and to weed through and find those that are practical for everyone involved?
Did you know that a tank raised clownfish is more expensive than a wild caught clown? Again we're dealing with larval stages, ability to feed them, and to keep the tank stable enough for them to survive.
What are some suggestions for the many species of fish, again, primarily saltwater, where we don't have any recorded breeding in captivity, and very little to nothing at all is known about spawning habits?
What can we do, as customers, and as hobbyists, to help the fish? I have already posted suggestions on another board, I will have to copy/paste those here.
Having worked in the fish store industry for so long, I have a lot of insight that an average person doesn't have the opportunity to know, because most in the industry aren't interested in making it public.... because it's not all good for their business. Where do we draw the lines?

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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post #3 of 10 Old 11-17-2006, 03:25 PM Thread Starter
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Well the idea goes back to an idea I had at one time for farm raising prawns. I hate the way they do it with all the artificial enhancers, extremely dirty "ponds" that wind up killing almost all of the life in that area.

I agree that is can be difficult in some instances but broccolli takes 3 years before it can be harvested.

If someone was to take the time to setup a filed about half the size of a football field and raise all the components neededto maintain both wild colors and natural habits, it could really be a majorly beneficial if not extremely profitable if they had vieweing tanks of the fish in envirnoments that showed their natural tendencies.

Salt water fish, a little more difficult but there again, a natural environment for the fish and only remove the eggs to a natural hatching environment.

I know if I had the money I would have about 40,000 acres somewhere and I would have many species in their natural environments for breeding. I can imagine how intriguing it would be to see common pleco spawn in the mud like they say they do! Kind of like slimy turtles burying their eggs in mud instead of sand.

I also like to raise insects already so natural food would be easy.

I guess it is one ofthose things, if it easierto catch tme in the wild then why do it artifically. A lot like oil dependance, shouold be 100's of oilless vehicles running the streets today but it is easier to stay the course than make the change, which is fortunately starting. Now if we can just see it with the tropical fish trade.

My shrimp farm idea goes on the same idea. Set up a facility, and yes it would be huge! That has all the stages of food that are needed to raise them as naturally as possible. No more dyes and no more polluted white meat. Same with fish farms.
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post #4 of 10 Old 11-17-2006, 05:09 PM
i can see that we would probly never get the same colors but i think we should just keep testing and try breed them. so if one goes extinct will always have a less color famliy member to go test and stuff on. i dont think any body but fish hobbiest would contribute to this and, that just not be enough $$$ for them to make a wild habitats to to breed all these lil guys :D ~joe~
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post #5 of 10 Old 11-17-2006, 11:38 PM
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Although I do agree with you, because I have worked in this industry for so long, let me play devil's advocate here, and give you the arguments that you would hear from the "business" end of this situation:
1) Setting up a facility for something like that would require A LOT of money. The return on such a thing could take years. Not many people have that kind of money to invest and are still willing to wait so long to see a profit.
2) Again, speaking of money, not only would the habitat set up take money, but caring for the fish would cost even more... there are supplies that would need to be purchased, and then there is money to pay people to do the actual work. This is not something that 1 person alone could handle, even if working it full time.
3)Location! Setting up a natural habitat in an outdoor location will also greatly depend on weather, natural predators to that area, and pollution levels.
4) Once more, money! There would be a lot of research involved in learning about a natural habitat and learning how to replicate it. This would require hiring people and using expensive equipment to record the data.
Believe it or not, there is some of this already happening, but because of the expenses involved, it is not always profitable, and there is little funding to get it started or to keep it running until some kind of profit can be made.
I am currently working with a friend of mine who is a marine biologist. His plan is to set up an offshore fish hatchery for "food fish" species off the coast of Florida, to help relieve the burden on the wild populations of fish that are being "over caught" to market for the food industry. The number 1 problem in this business.. money! So far, starting costs figure out to well over 1 million dollars, and there is not much, if any profit margin available, even if successful. Our goal is to do it as a non profit business, for the sake of the animals... but then how to fund it and how to continue to fund it in order to keep it running?
Many of the things listed such as additives and enhancers are used because of the time it takes to do things naturally. Most people trying to do something like this are doing it to make money... and many still lose money.
Another problem is working with the environment to make this all possible. There are large parts of the United States where this simply wouldn't be possible to do outdoors because of the weather. Tropical fish can't be raised outdoors when the winter months bring temps of 0 or below, ice, snow, and pollution levels.
Now, for arguements sake, lets say someone DOES get through all of the obstacles listed so far... the market for these animals is another new issue to face, and how to get them there. Shipping costs are huge in regards to live animals, and some don't ship well. This would be where the clownfish are a good example. If you go into a LFS as a customer, see a fish for sale... 2 different tanks, same kind of fish, one wild caught and one tank raised. The price on the tank raised or "captive bred" fish is going to be higher because of the initial costs to breed them. Which tank of fish are you going to choose from? The more expensive captive bred or the less expensive wild caught? The customers don't want to pay more for the same thing if they can get it cheaper, thus the market doesn't help to sustain the breeding program.
How many customers are willing to pay more to protect the environment and wild species of animals? With the number of people every year that take turtles from the wild so they don't have to "buy" them... what does that say for fish?
All good points, but for every positive we can come up with here, a business will give you 5 arguments against it. So, where is our solution?

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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post #6 of 10 Old 11-19-2006, 01:03 AM Thread Starter
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Unfortunately the solution is when countries start to place bans on the export of all tropical and native species like we are starting to see already with some plecos. Kind of like the purpose for starting shrimp farms and fish farms. Not enough fish to supply the world with fish and shrimp for food. There will be a need, and there will be an industry but it won't happen until someone is willing to invest in the idea and captive bred is less expensive than wild caught. unfortunately, the ones who start the breeding programs will be in the same places where they farm raise shrimp because of the simple cost factor. Just too many laws that are so hard to work with to do anything like that in the US.

Oh, well. Is just a thought when it comes down to it. I would also bet that there are quite a few "hatcheries" in the Amazon and other countries where these fish come from just because of the multi millions of dollars it brings in every year. Figure my LFS gets 100 BN pleco every year at $4.76 each so the ones collecting them are getting $0.50 each, just a figure. That means if they export 100,000 BN pleco they make $50,000 and that is just one fish. Add in every other species that comes from the same area and I would bet it is a $50 million dollar industry for just one region and that number is probably a lot higher.

I don't know the symantics behind getting started but shrimp farmers in the Middle East started with $6.2 million dollars in investments and now they are a multi billion dollar industry. Just seems like someone, and it will probably be some other country will get into this and make a small fortune doing it.

Oh well, I guess the good thing is that if we don't do it then the price will still stay low enough for us to still be bale to enjoy the hobby in the US.

After all, a company in Idaho makes millions on Blue Bottle Fly pupa and other "maggots" so anything is possible.
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post #7 of 10 Old 11-19-2006, 04:39 AM
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You're right, anything IS possible. That's what keeps me going, and striving to create change in our pet industry where fish are concerned. Laws will have to change somewhere, money will need to be invested, and it will take time, but it is possible to eventually eliminate most of the big problems in the fish keeping hobby.
Since this is a conservation board, I'd like to also touch on another factor that plays into this topic. The pet indsutry is enabled by the customers, so when it comes down to the basics, the general public is who regulates how things work. Because our current laws only see fit to establish a ban AFTER a problem has already gotten out of control, it may take quite some time to see any real change.
Let me put a few examples here for everyone to ponder:
When I first started working at the store, I has an older woman come in once a week for cardinal tetras... anywhere from 6 - 12 of them every week. She was unwilling to answer questions about her tanks when I attempted to "help her solve the problem" in keeping them alive, and she was rude when telling me that I must be stupid because I didn't know that those kind of fish only live for about a week, they're meant to be replaced. I found out later that she was keeping them in a 5 gallon, hard water tank without filter or heater, and that she didn't believe in water exchanges. I attempted once to refuse to sell her anymore fish, knowing she was killing them needlessly and out of ignorance, but was reprimanded by the boss for refusing a sale. It got to the point where I simply refused to help her, but someone always gave her what she wanted.
I was in a local LFS once, and just walking through the door made me sick. The fish tanks were filty, and full of dead and rotting fish... no decorations, and in some, no substrate. I could spend all day describing the horrible fish conditions. At the back of the store was an american alligator, 7 ft long in a tank that was 6 ft long, no dry land, only an empty milk crate to rest it's head on. After leaving, I made a lot of calls to try to help those poor animals, especially the alligator, the 3 ft red tailed catfish stuck in a 60 gallon tank, the 4 ft freshwater electric eel stuck in a 55 gallon bare tank, and a few other really bad situations. What I found was that the laws protected the store owner instead of the animals. Because the animals in the worst condition were listed as "not for sale" and below that were signs posted "5$ to watch me eat", there was nothing that could be done. The owner still now brings in "exotic" and large fish and reptiles to generate business and make money, never keeping them properly, which dooms them to an entire life of misery. Why does the owner continue? Simple... because customers pay to see him feed these animals, he is making a small fortune, however inhumanely, and there is nothing that says he must stop.
My point in these two stories is to show that the customers will contribute more to any fish business in the industry than will laws and regulations. People need to change their buying habits, voice their opinions, and file complaints.
I was featured on the local news a few yrs ago, in support of my fish, amphibian, and reptile rescue, and the research that the news team was able to add to my own was scary. In a 3 wk time period, between us, we were able to verify over 300 american alligators living in our CITY as "pets". What is the point in trying to keep an american alligator as a pet? Put simply, these are NOT pets. They were sold on the open market in LFS's because there was no law saying they couldn't, and people continued to buy them. If the customers would have been smart enough to walk away, understanding how dangerous and inappropriate this is, the stores would not have sold them, stocked them, or otherwise.
There is a lot more than money and big business involved in saving our animals, a large part of it is up to us, the buyers, hobbyists, and even the press.
When a wild animal is domesticated, there is a huge responsibility involved, and learning the difference between domesticated and wild animals is something many people just don't bother to do. If it's "cool" then someone must do it, have it, make money from it. Our wild populations suffer due to the pet trade, yet many would not if people were more responsible with their selections of "appropriate and practical pets". Our zoos are over run with fish that nobody wants or can afford to keep once they mature, and they also try to teach responsibility, that these simply are not pet material, but nothing changes. I wonder how many people who know about the conservation issues also realize how many of these animals end up dying in shipping, or go to neglectful or irresponsible homes, where they spend their lives suffering. I wonder how many people give thought when buying a fish... how many others died so that one single fish could be put into a store tank, and how many die in store tanks before ever finding a home?
The industry doesn't advertise this part of the job, but anyone who has worked in a fish store, or anywhere in the industry knows many horrors beyond basic conservation issues. Then there are the horrors in our food industry to think of. Those 2 areas are why we have such problems. Setting up hatcheries and working with captive breeding programs is only 1/2 the battle to beat. We STILL need to address the basics that happen every day under our noses, and many people are afraid to talk about it.
I had asked for this board because that is the main issue I wanted to approach here... a place were people can share the horrors going on in the "pet trade" where fish are concerned. If we enlighten each other, we can actually put a stop to some of it ourselves, without changing laws and spending millions in captive breeding programs. Everyone here can help in one way other another.
We need to stop buying some of these animals, overall and foremost. A store won't sell what it can't profit from, thus the demand for wild caught animals decreases greatly. Arrowana and red tail catfish are good examples. Many of these are still wild caught, and yet it is impractical to keep one. Both have life spans that range into the 70's and grow to over 5 ft long, and they are found all over the pet trade. When that fish gets beyond 1 or 2 feet in length, the expense of keeping it gets to be just too much. What happens to them? Many die, some are sent to the few zoos with room yet to take them (most don't have the space or the funding to meet the need), and others are released into the wild in a habitat that won't sustain them, or where they thrive and destroy the native species in that habitat because both of these fish are heavy predators.
If people quit buying them, the stores stop stocking them, the wild populations are allowed to thrive because the demand for them is gone.
If you wish to talk dollars and cents about the pet fish industry, let me say that the markup on most fish averages about 60%. Anyone who breeds at home and sells to a local LFS can attest to this. The store will give you $0.10 each for betta fry, but they sell them for $3.99 and $4.99 (and up) each. The profit margin is huge. Most stores pay less than that when buying from a "fish farm" where these fish are mass bred for profit, but the fish farms will only sell to a store. It's all chain reaction. Some of these fish farms are obtaining their stock from wild caught fishes, but it's difficult for the public to find out which ones, to help eliminate the destruction of our wild species populations. One thing to ask when shopping for fish is whether they are captive bred or wild caught. Some stores will tell you if you ask, some don't know for sure.
We, as customers, need to dig deeper and stand up to help stop some of the problems going on out there. We can all be active in conservation solutions when we go to our LFS and shop for these animals by being "smart shoppers" and avoiding impulse buying, asking questions, voicing complaints, etc.
So, with all of that said, (sorry the post is so long), let the conservation start here!!!!!

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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post #8 of 10 Old 11-19-2006, 01:54 PM Thread Starter
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I do have one thing I didn't mention and would like an opinion.

Salmon and steelhead hatcheries run all over the place here and their purpose is to provide a recreational fishery, a commercial fishery and to provide a breeding stock for the rivers to sustain themselves.

Do you think this is an acceptable practice in the wild for tropical fish to provide a "wild" stock that gets the truer colors but also provides a captive stock so that there is a t least an option to try and get the change started? At the very least it could support the native populations so they don't become extinct.
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post #9 of 10 Old 12-20-2006, 10:15 PM
Although I feel the pain all of you express, I must be the devil's advocate here. Where are we to get the "seed stock" to begin the breeding pools and how are we going to maintain the strains from constant inbreeding of the seed stock? I have seen instances were the integrity of a strain has been diminished by constant inbreeding. Colors fade, deficiencies manifest themselves, birth defects increase, need I go on? Wild stock is a necessary evil in the hobby. Personally I am all for F1 stock as well as wild stock. It maintains the integrity of each species.
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post #10 of 10 Old 12-22-2006, 12:05 AM Thread Starter
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I will admit I don't kow much about gene pools except this. The crossing of gene pools in a controlled system is very readily done in many species and has been done in salmonoid species for 50+ years. The idea is that more than one "hatchery" is setup in order to supply the needed gene pool.

I do agree and hate the fact that the money just isn't there yet by investors to set up such a facility. I can see it becoming a necessity in the near future as more and more species of fisah ht the protected species lists, both aquarium fish and ocean fish, both ornamental and food types.

Is like the hatchery system I designed in order to provide a more natural shrimp species that can be used both to feed people and to replenish deminished stocks in the wild. The problem is the facility is huge and would take well over $50o million just to build one of them. Really a drop on the bucket with the $ investments nowadays but a net pond in a lagoon is so much less expensive I couldn't even get someone to look at the idea. A better sytem with no effect on the water around it but just a major investment for a country that hasn't started to make the change and realize the need, yet.
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