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Contains articles regarding fish and aquariums in the news.

Novelty vs. Cruelty: The Ethics of Dyed or Tattooed Aquarium Fish

A recent news article brought an old debate back to our attention here at That Fish Place – how far is too far to go to get a “unique” fish for your aquarium? The article discusses the recent trend in the Chinese aquarium market for tattooed fish believed to bring luck and prosperity to their owners. The fish in the article are Parrotfish, a fish that is already considered a hybrid of other South and Central American cichlids. These fish are being laser-tattooed with designs or Chinese characters like “luck”, “happiness”, or “May your business boom,” the article states. This tattooing is done much like that on a person and can severely damage the scales and body of the fish. I’ve seen and heard of other fish in the international aquarium trade that have been tattooed in a similar way, like Giant Gouramis and mollies.

Similarly, “Jelly Bean Parrots” have also been available in the trade. These fish are usually brightly colored in shades of green, blue, pink or purple – a process often done by first dipping the fish in an acidic solution for a short time to remove their protective slime coating, then dipping them in a dye solution. This process is not permanent and usually fades over a few months, and the mortality rates of these fish during the dying process is very high. Some other fish like tetras (some are often known as “Stained Glass Tetras” or “Painted Glass Tetras”) are also dyed in a similar way or injected with dyes to give them their bright, artificial colors.

Here at That Fish Place, we make every effort to avoid carrying fish that are the product of unethical practices like the dying or tattooing of fish but unfortunately where there is a demand, there will still be a supply in some areas. While some fish that seem unbelievably brightly colored are the product of selective breeding and are completely healthy, others have been through a lot to get that way. As a general rule: if you see a fish that doesn’t appear to be a “natural” color for that type of fish or the color seems to good to be true, ask if it is! Practices like this will only stop if we, as ethical aquarists, ban together to speak against them.


Rare Sea Turtle pays a Visit, and Leaves a Gift, at a Virgin Islands Resort

Hey everyone, Eileen again with a quick and interesting bit of news!

One of our former TFP colleagues recently shared with us an exciting experience, and I wanted to pass it along. Erica Palmer, an assistant curator at Coral World in St. Thomas and a former That Fish Place Fish Room Supervisor, knew that the story would peak our interests, and she is sooo lucky for being able to be a part of it.

Leatherback-turtle-on-St-Thomas-picture-6During my college days, I participated in loggerhead sea turtle nesting studies and research along the South Carolina coast. Our volunteers would walk the beach every morning looking for the telltale “crawl”, the tracks made by the female turtle as she crawled up the beach to lay her nest, but we very rarely ever caught a glimpse of the turtle in action.

Visitors to a beach resort in the Virgin Islands got to witness the proverbial “Holy Grail” of turtle nestings when a very rare Leatherback Turtle crawled right up to the line of beach chairs in front of guests and hotels workers alike to lay her eggs!  Erica  is quoted in an article as saying that the rare late season nest is likely the last one that this turtle had the urge to lay before heading back out to sea to the turtles’ feeding grounds. The nest is now under surveillance by the resort to help keep the eggs safe. The nest is due to hatch in mid to late September.  I hope she sends us an update!

Visit the article on National Geographic’s website for more information on this exciting event: http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/news/chiefeditor/2009/07/leatherback-turtle-virgin-islands.html

Rocky is Spared: The Plight of One Family to Save their Beloved Pet

There aren’t often stories in the news about fish that give you warm fuzzies, but this one came pretty close.  Fish people are passionate about their pets, and though you typically can’t cuddle them or play fetch with them, to many of us they are just as loved as the family dog or cat.  Rocky’s story is an example of the love one owner feels.  Rocky may not be the fish that many of us picture as a fun pet, being that he is a snakehead, and we know the trouble they cause, but I have to say that this particular fish I feel for.  His responsible keeper deserves a pat on the back for fighting for his pet’s life and for being said responsible keeper.  I guess we can’t let all fish fall victim to invasive species profiling.

Here are just a couple of links to articles on Rocky’s plight, there are tons more if you search:




Pea-Sized Seahorse Makes List of “Top Ten New Species of 2008”

Three fishes, including the minute Satomi’s pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus satomiae), were among the newly-described species voted to the “Top Ten” list, which is published annually by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University.  Another nominee, Materpiscis attenboroughi, an extinct fish fossilized in the act of giving birth 380 million years ago, provided the oldest record of live birth among vertebrates (please see photo).  The deep blue Chromis (Chromis abyssus), a gorgeous blue damselfish that thrives, in contrast to other family members, at depths of over 350 feet, is the third fish listed.

Tiny and Well-Camouflaged Seahorses (Seaponies?)

Measuring just 0.45 inches in height, Satomi’s pygmy seahorse (first collected, fittingly enough, by diver Satomi Onishi), lives off Derawan Island, Indonesia and northern Borneo, Malaysia.

Prior to its discovery, the title of smallest seahorse went to Bargibant’s seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti) which, at 0.8 inches, now seems a giant!  Bargibant’s seahorse bears an uncanny resemblance to the polyps of the gorgonian, or soft coral, upon which it lives (please see photo).  In fact, the first specimens described (1970) had lived in a small aquarium, attached to a gorgonian, for several days before being discovered by a startled researcher.

Further Reading

“Standing” an impressive 0.9 inches in height, Florida’s dwarf seahorse is our smallest native species.  Both it and the much larger Atlantic seahorse make fairly good choices for folks interested in keeping members of this fascinating but delicate family of fishes.  Please see my article The Natural History and Care of Native Seahorses for more information.

If you are interested keeping many varieties of seahorses in the aquarium and discovering how they live in the wild, please check out my book Seahorses, A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual.

Please write in with your questions and comments.  Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.

Hippocampus bargibanti image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Jnpet

Materpiscis attenboroughi image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Sularko

An Incredible Journey: Seahorse in the News

I’m a sucker for animal stories in the news.  This morning I came across this short article in a news feed.  I found it pretty amazing and worthy of sharing here on the blog. Most of the stories we see in the news are about dogs, cats, and other furry creatures, and while I love them all the same, it is nice to read a story about one of our tiny ocean friends that is just as amazing and inspiring.

The story is about a tough little seahorse that (it is assumed) was picked up by a seagull on the British coast and dropped three miles inland.  The incredible thing is the amazing little lady survived the ordeal!  The species, Hippocampus guttulatus, is native to the southern and western coastlines of the isles in eel grass beds.  These rare Seahorses are currently being tagged and researched in hopes of preserving their dwindling populations.  The destruction of their natural habitat by anchors and boats is currently the biggest threat they face.  This one is super lucky to be alive!

You can read the full story here:   http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1181596/The-incredible-journey-Seahorse-miles-inland-scooped-seagulls-beak.html

And for more on the current research and conservation of seahorse species:  http://www.theseahorsetrust.org/