Welcome back Cory Shank with an article on aquarium fish availability.
Throughout the year, the availability of certain aquarium fish and invertebrates can change for what seems to be no reason at all. It may be for a few days to a week or even a few weeks extending into months. There are many reasons for absence of your favorite aquarium resident, but the one most overlooked is the weather.
One must remember that almost every aquarium inhabitant has begun their journey from the rivers, lakes, and oceans from where they reside. Now if the fish or invertebrate is either tank raised or tank bred, then obviously they have not traveled that far, but for the most part everything is collected from the wild. The weather is quite variable, especially in the tropics, season to season. This is where most of the marine organisms are collected. The largest interruptions from the Caribbean to the Indo-Pacfic regions are during the hurricane season. The Caribbean tends to be more vulnerable to tropical systems than the Indo-Pacific regions, mainly because of the size difference.
Hurricanes, tropical storms, and even tropical depressions and waves cause an increase in wind, generating larger ocean swells, which can wreak havoc in shallow collection areas. Obviously during a hurricane divers can not enter the water and collect fish, but one storm can delay collection for up to a week or even longer. As seen with Hurricane Ike, 2 days prior to the storm, there were waves and tides above the norm, nearly a thousand miles from the storm, affecting the entire Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Caribbean. After the storm passes, collection depends on how fast the water clarity increases, this can take a few more days to happen. Looking at this situation, the collection for one area can be shut down for a full week. This increases the demand for certain organisms, making the availability for the following week extremely high, which leads to a less than healthy fill rate for orders for the orders following a storm. The Caribbean has been highly vulnerable this year, with a few storms passing through major collection areas of Scarlet Reef and Blue Leg Hermit Crabs, along with Royal Grammas, and Peppermint Shrimp.
Hurricanes are not the only culprit: excessively warm or cold water can affect availability. Organisms will move from shallow regions to deeper zones to escape a time of warmer water. This can also be a seasonal migration, affecting availability for a longer term. El Nino and La Nina can lead to big changes in global water temperatures. In such extreme events such as the 1997-98 El Nino event, populations can be severely impacted. Responsible marine fish and invertebrate collectors will either halt or decrease collection significantly in order to help the population rebound.
Weather can also play a role after the fish have been collected. After collection, the organisms will be sent to the wholesaler’s facility. In order for the organisms to arrive safe and in good health at your local pet store, the weather along the route must be taken into consideration. The time of transport relies heavily on how the fast the airlines can get the fish to their final destination. A heat wave can destroy an entire shipment if it were to be delayed by even a few hours. The same goes for extremely cold weather in parts of the country. The shipment, if delayed, could become frozen if the heat packs fail or run out.
So the next time you can’t find your favorite fish at the store, think about where it is coming from and what the weather is like in its hometown!
Until Next Time,