View Full Version : the reefkeeping hobby and its impact

08/21/2015, 02:30 PM
I've been a long time SW tank hobbyist, that has been in/out of the hobby over several years.

With that said, I tore down my tank about a year about after hearing someone talk about clams as "great paperweights" (implying he bought/killed many of them and used them as something other than a pet). It left me a little disgusted in people's lack of respect for these beautiful animals.

Between those types of hobbyists and seeing / hearing hundreds of stories of fish / coral that were mistreated and died, it made me wonder the impact we have on the ocean.

I love the hobby and know there are just as many encouraging stories as bad ones, but are there any resources or opinions on how owning a tank can be ethical? How we can ensure these creatures come to us ethically and go into the right situations?

I'd love to get some more thoughts as I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks this.

08/21/2015, 07:35 PM
I certainly am disgusted by the indifferent or even sadistic attitude some aquarists have about inflictng harm and death on the animals we keep in our aquaria. But I worry about the movement to restrict and even outright stop the marine aquaria industry.

Paraphrasing a quote from Temple Grandin "If you're going to protect a species you need to make it economically valuable to protect for the people where the animal lives." A prime example of how trying to protect species by passing well meaning but shortsighted legislation that actually has just the opposite results can be seen to what happened to the wild large mammals in Kenya outside of its national parks. In 1977 they made it illegal to hunt animals. Because there was no longer any incentive for the large ranches preserve wild areas the large mammal population has plummeted to a fraction of what they were before the law was passed.

Many of the island countries have very little in the way of natural resources they can use to lift their people out of a subsistence life. Properly managed their reefs can provide a sustainable source of income instead of having to use their reefs for building materials. Passing laws that prevent them from having economic incentives for preserving their reefs is unwise.

08/22/2015, 05:45 AM

08/22/2015, 05:50 AM
It's truly a shame that a few bad apples, usually idiots and/or those who are financially secure and feel they're entitled as long as they can purchase the species/specimen, ruin it for those of us who are extremely knowledgable, passionate and responsible about the species/specimens/environments we keep ...

08/22/2015, 03:58 PM
Unfortunately, idiots are everywhere. It is hard to bubble wrap the world, and I'm certainly not in favor of a nanny-state. A responsible LFS though can make all the difference. There are several in my area that will ask a customer about their set up rather than just selling them a fish or coral. If the animal they were looking at won't work, they are happy to help suggest other animals. This at least helps to deter people who are well meaning, but uneducated. Higher price tags on particularly delicate animals can also help to steer the careless clear. For example, I have heard that ribbon eels are extremely difficult to keep, but would I want to make them unavailable because most people can not care for them? No. Some people can provide for them. It does not seem fair to punish others for the sins of morons. Putting a higher price tag on an animal and a responsible LFS will help to stop impulse buys in most people and encourage them to do some research to determine if they have the set up and experience for an animal.

08/22/2015, 08:37 PM
Be careful, and please use caution in your generalizations of those in the hobby. Many people are financially secure and have expensive elaborate systems and are very responsible for the aquatic animals in their possession. IMO this hobby has become very LIBERAL through out the years. Many people keep a reef aquarium to enjoy the beauty of their fish and colorful corals. Many people just simply try to enjoy the hobby and don't really think about how it impacts the EcoSystem or feeling bad because they removed an Emperor Angel from the reefs of Christmas Island, or took a Flame Angel away from its mom and dad, or it's mate that he was hoping to spawn with. Not trying to start a ecological debate, but it's just aquariums and fishes folks. The aquarium industry will never die, nor will the sale of box turtles, Iguanas, or pet pythons. Those who enjoy the hobby the most, are those who do it right and understand the care these animals need. Those who try to re-invent it...... I find are the ones who don't enjoy the hobby. Again just my opinion.

08/24/2015, 08:37 PM
Uhm...flame angels are broadcast spawners. As Bruce the shark so eloquently said, "I never knew my father." As of this date, I am not aware of any fish that loses it's mate that won't find a new one eventually. Nor am I aware of any saltwater fish that actively cares for it's young enough to form parental bonds. That being said, we do need to remember not to overly anthropomorphize our fish...CODE3EMT, I don't mean to be confrontational, just factual.

Maybe we should start with the beginning of the chain, where all the fish are collected. One of the problems hobbyists face, is fish caught with cyanide. If we educate the people collecting our fish to not use cyanide/dynamite/miniature harpoon guns, and pay them more to not do so, then that's already a more healthy fish. We should also encourage the locals to self-regulate and monitor, like the people from Project Piaba.

Or maybe we should start with the middlemen LFS. By patronizing and spreading the word about "good" LFS, we minimize the chances that people new to the hobby will go to LFS that are unscrupulous and want to make a quick buck. Even if the fish are more money, a 20$ clownfish that's alive is worth more than 3 10$ clowns that all die much earlier. Or we encourage the LFS to not order fish that will never thrive, or to check the person's credentials before ordering fish like Pseudanthias hawaiiensis (a notably hard to keep anthias), ribbon eels or mandarinfish. If you don't see the fish, then you might not want to buy it. And for the person who finds it on the web, then he/she will probably research the requirements of the fish instead of rushing off to buy it first.

And for us? We patronize the good LFS. Maybe if we go to Petsmart, or Petco, or bad LFS, and occasionally spot a newbie, we help them. Instead of just standing by as a person who obviously doesn't know what they're doing sells a yellow tang to an 8 year old with a 10 gallon tank, speak up. We're all educated to some degree, some more than others. But if we speak up, we spread the word. Maybe we get kicked out, but that's one more person who we've planted a seed of knowledge in. I'm quite guilty of doing this, sometimes I'll just plain interrupt somebody at Petsmart or Petco because what they're saying is completely ...yeah... for example, African cichlids beat up SA cichlids. Not vice versa. I'm going to speak up about that because no fish should be overly stressed like that. I'm also going to encourage people to join forums like this one, where people who are 3 times as old, and 5 bajillion times more experienced, can patiently guide a newbie. We encourage them to do their research instead of buying willy-nilly.

Ethically speaking, some fish just aren't

08/24/2015, 10:36 PM
Ahhh, thank you for making my point so eloquently ichthyogeek. My response was to point out the fact that many people get overzealous with the animals in their keep....as you mentioned "I never knew my father" hahaha good one btw. This hobby is meant to be enjoyed, and if done right, can be quite rewarding. Some people put to much "Tree Hugger" into this hobby and it spoils it for the rest of us who just want to simply have a beautiful reef tank in their living room without being reminded that we are rich/idiot criminals for removing these animals from their habitat or having a Yellow Tang in a 125 gallon tank because they will only survive in 250 gallons or more.... not going to get on a tangent as I'm sure you all get the point.

The original post stated that the hobbiest actually "tore down his or her tank" after hearing what someone was doing with clams. He or she also stated "is owning a tank ethical" Owning an aquarium now isn't ethical? Really..........

So riddle me this.... would it be fair to say that if John Dow gets into a tragic car accident.... perhaps I should sell my vehicle....... and my wife and myself can bike, walk, or take the bus to work? Those darn cars, always killing people.

Or perhaps if a family Forecloses on their home......maybe I should sell my house, after all, the banks are just rich/idiot crooks right?

I'm in no way trying to provoke a debate or argument with anyone on this thread..... as you yourself said, you will often interrupt employees at LFS for giving out wrong information..............well I do the same here, on this forum.:wavehand:

gone fishin
09/04/2015, 01:25 PM
I do believe keeping a tank is ethical, just as ethical as keeping a dog, cat or bird. What struck me with the OP is that, IMO, they have lumped ethical and responsible as one and the same. Using the OP's example is it ethical to keep clams yes it is. Is it responsible to keep buying them because the person has no clue on how to provide a thriving environment for the clam, no it is not. just my 2 cents worth.

09/04/2015, 04:47 PM
Why quit?

gone fishin
09/04/2015, 04:57 PM
Why quit?

I thought the same thing, I guess the OP developed some sort enlightenment.

Reef Frog
09/05/2015, 01:47 PM
SI've been a long time SW tank hobbyist, that has been in/out of the hobby over several years.

With that said, I tore down my tank about a year about after hearing someone talk about clams as "great paperweights" (implying he bought/killed many of them and used them as something other than a pet). It left me a little disgusted in people's lack of respect for these beautiful animals.........

........I'd love to get some more thoughts as I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks this.

Obviously I don't know this clam guy. But unless you know otherwise, he could have been using sarcastic humor as a way of saying "I failed". Lots of people do this in the face of adversity. Take the farmer whose crop failed. He might say "Well at least I don't have to worry about if I can take the kids on vacation this year." It's not that he's glad his crop failed and he really did want to take the kids skiing. Kind of like gallows humor. Just saying this guy might not be a sadistic sociopath.

But your over arching point is well taken. Of course a certain amount of people in any of life's pursuits just don't care. The range of humanity that is in the range of sociopathic at one end to just plan stupid/reckless/clueless on the other end is a minority's but still large in absolute numbers, and little can be done about that.

A much more pressing problem then collecting for the reef hobby, in my opinion, is the overall abuse of wider ecosystems of the world's oceans. A fleet of factory trawlers strip mining the sea floor for just a week will probably have more negative impact than all legal coral & fish collecting ever done. And there are thousands of ships doing this 24/7 365 days a year. Toss in the enormous & heart breaking by-catch (waste catch), & resorts next to unique reef ecosystems (ie Cozumel) with little regard for the reef....and a few bad apples begin to shrink in overall impact.

I hate to see any animal suffer needlessly. I even feel bad cutting down a healthy tree that endangers my house (I live in the woods). But at least there is a 99% chance that the clams that guy nuked were farm raised. Remember that many many more will be eaten by the locals and exported, creating a viable sustainable business. So I'm more concerned with the health of the species and the larger ecosystem than a few single individual animals.

One thing aquariasts can do to help a few animals from suffering a slow death:

Reiterate that a QT system for most (small or juvenile) fish can be had for under $25 new, less used. Maybe a progressive LFS can produce a short pamphlet on the topic and lend let the hardware or charge a small rental fee. Tell the clueless if you can't afford that or are unwilling to expend the effort, to save your money or get s new hobby. And JUST SAY NO TO THE IDEA OF DRIP ACCLIMATION. Spread the word to the newbs.

09/13/2015, 02:12 PM
The hobby doesn't have to be expensive, just like any other that men and women do. However, the hobbyist does have the onus for building and maintaining a system to keep it healthy. No more than a mother or father with their child or other pet owners such as dogs, cats, lizards, snakes, or what have you.

I say onus because that ties "duty" and "responsibility" together and pretty much sums up life.

09/13/2015, 03:04 PM
If average people don't see the reefs, they don't care about the reefs. Having a little slice of ocean to show visitors, where people who've never seen what's under the ocean surface can inform themselves and get to where they can envision what's being harmed, and get to a frame of mind where they DO care about damage to the reefs? That means they will support efforts at restoration, creation, and preservation---which is way ahead of not knowing and not caring.