RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube




Amateur Fishkeepers And Conservation

Home Forums The Lounge Amateur Fishkeepers And Conservation

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 35 total)
  • Author
  • #301385


    After a recent disaster with a power failure to my shed which left me with 9 virtually empty tanks I’ve been pondering how to refill them. These days I find myself totally disinterested in the limited range of “bread and butter” species available through the retail trade, already well established in the hobby and well known, often produced in ponds in Singapore and many selectively bred to produce unnatural “domesticated” ornamental forms.

    I don’t want to end up with tanks full of guppies and neon tetras just for the sake of filling them up. I’d rather leave them empty than have to do that (I’m thoroughly enjoying watching the Cyclops, worms and insect larvae that are thriving in the absence of fish at the moment, a consequence of using garden pond water!).

    I read constantly about species which don’t appear to be routinely if ever imported, and about frequent new discoveries. Many obscure little-known species that have fascinated me for ages but which I was unaware were even entering this country until I started reading the SeriouslyFish forum and discovered that many of you have been doing it for ages.

    How do you guys get your hands on all this stuff? Is there some sort of supply network working under the radar of the established retail trade? For example I was aware of Danionella dracula from various internet sources but never imagined that it could ever be available to aquarists until I saw on this forum that people are managing to get hold of it – so is there hope of ever being able to acquire species like Paedocypris progenetica for example (I’d love to try these in water collected from a Highland peat bog)?

    OK, I’ll get to the point. My interest in these more obscure species goes beyond simply wanting something different and unusual. I have been aware for a long time that there are very many species of fish out there which, even as they are being discovered, are red-listed but which may have the potential to be maintained in captivity. I have long wondered how we as aquarists might play a part in conservation of these by maintaining captive stocks even after the wild populations are gone, if only they could be made available to us in the first place.

    I gather that many individuals are already keeping rare fish and I applaud the excellent work being done by the SEI, but it occurs to me that there is a potential to create a massively powerful conservation machine by involving amateur fishkeepers around the country (or world) in coordinated conservation programmes. There must be a thousand sufficiently competent fishkeepers in the UK alone who would be eager to become involved in such a scheme (compare that number with the couple of dozen zoos in the entire world that are
    involved in similar programmes to conserve animals such as giant pandas.).

    If some form of centralised organisation could be established to harness the power of all the small guys at home I believe this could become an immense force in world conservation. Such an organisation could function by recruiting fishkeepers after assessing their competency/suitability and maintaining a database of member’s details (capacity, past record, local water conditions, what fish they are keeping and whether they have bred them and have fry to pass on), provide a focal point for members to share information such as how to keep and breed particular species, and to coordinate movement of stock between members with a view to ensuring that stocks are maintained at a good level and that genetic diversity is not compromised through inbreeding. And of course obtaining and distributing stock in the first place.

    Obviously how such an organisation could be established and funded is the big question but if there is a will I’m sure there must be a way!

    I would be very interested to hear other members views on this subject.



    Hmmm good post.




    thanks for the plug Matt!

    yes, come the start of July I will be full-time with a fish business that will be hoping to supply the more unusual species to aquarists from medium experience through to advanced with the harder to find/keep/breed species of fish.

    The D. dracula that are the subject of Stefan’s posts were brought in by muyself and I have also hadPaedocypris this year. I too stay north of the border and yes the soft water we have seemed to suit them very well! If you have a wish list of species, just let me know!

    I think that the idea you have about conserving species is great – i think the closest thing we have to this just now is based around this site!



    Thanks for the positive responses guys.

    Matt, I agree with your comments on the “majority of aquarists”, considering that the majority are the people who at worst just want moving wallpaper in their lounges to impress visitors (spot the cynical b*****d) and aren’t really interested in ichthyology, but we can’t really blame them for that. At least they are keeping the trade and therefore the hobby alive.

    However the minority who ARE genuinely interested is still a hell of a lot of people. I take onboard your comment about the apparent apathy shown towards your Aphanius articles, but it’s dangerous to assume that a lack of response necessarily indicates lack of interest. I myself devour any such material and rarely if ever feel moved to respond where a response isn’t specifically invited.

    The apparent public disinterest in fish conservation is a consequence of the individual feeling that he/she is powerless to help, but people do take a keen interest when their involvement is encouraged and they can see that they are making a difference. Consider the support enjoyed by organisations such as the RSPB for instance.

    In the fish world I would like to believe that a level of support comparable to that of the RSPB could be achieved if a comparable organisation existed. There’s a lot of passion out there but it’s wandering around in the dark looking for a light to follow. All that is required is a little faith in human nature and the skill to exploit it…

    (Incidentally, and a little off topic, would I be right in thinking that some of your Aphanius species may happily survive outdoors in the UK without having to be brought in over winter, in garden ponds for example? And if so would there be a problem with importing these species, although not currently listed as prohibited, as they could conceivably become established in the wild here?)

    Colin, it was Stefan’s thread I was referring to in my original post and I was just about to post there to ask the questions that you have just pre-emptively answered here. I’d be very interested to learn more about your business and wish you good luck, it sounds like you could be the answer to my (and hundreds of other people’s) dreams. Where are you based?

    I don’t have a wish list as such, if I started a list it would run into thousands, and I’m more than happy to take what I get, only criteria are nothing bigger than 2-3 inches and no hard water species, if you were to get your hands on more Danionella and especially Paedocypris that would be a great start.

    Your comment “i think the closest thing we have to this just now is based around this site!” is just what I was thinking myself.



    The two main issues I can see having thought about this a bit more are:

    1) administration, which would need to be considerable and I certainly don’t have time for personally.

    2) the failure of several other such schemes in recent years e.g. the BCA breeders programme, by which I mean maintenance of long-term interest might be an issue for many people?

    Still think this is a potentially good idea but perhaps one for the future in terms of this site, at least.



    I am involved in a similar scheme with endangered livebearers and we see many people interested and keen,but as soon as they have bred a certain fish they get bored with it and want to move on
    Finding fishkeepers willing to keep boring fish for conservation is rare,many want the new fish but overlook an equally endangered or rare fish because it has been around for years(which is the whole point of the scheme)
    Nice idea but i cannot see it happening on a large scale,it would be nice for aquarists to have a tank put aside for even a single endangered fish that they are willing to keep long term breeding just enough to maintain them without been over run.



    Matt, I hadn’t intended to suggest that any such project be centred around SeriouslyFish and administered by it’s management, and I apologise if I inadvertently gave that impression!

    I have been thinking about this on and off for a long time and when I discovered this site it seemed to be the ideal place to just knock ideas around, get a bit of debate going on the subject and try to guage the level of interest such ideas might attract.

    Thanks for your comments Ricefish, some good valid points raised there. People will inevitably get bored with a particular species and want to move on, and may therefore be a bit wary of taking something on in the fear that they will end up stuck with it. That’s human nature and we have to work with it and use it to our advantage rather than let it beat us.

    So to encourage and sustain interest it is important therefore to be able to offer people the reassurance that they will not only be able to pass “boring” fish on, but crucially that involvement would give them the opportunity to have many new species pass through their hands. That’s the carrot. This way the fish can remain in circulation and the goal is achieved and nobody gets bored in the process. Keeping things moving is the key. But if any individuals DO want to keep particular species long term, and some will, that’s great too and would contribute to the stability of the system.

    Perhaps some of the difficulties encountered by current or past efforts such as your livebearers scheme or the BCA breeders programme mentioned by Matt are due to the fact that these are narrow fields and so the number of people interested is limited and the profile generally is low. How many individuals know of these projects let alone participate in them, as a proportion of the (serious) fishkeeping world as a whole?

    I suspect I may be speaking for the majority here when I say that I wouldn’t want to be restricted to just one group of fish and am equally happy to keep livebearers, killies, cichlids, whatever and would relish being offered a wide choice of all of these. Again, the carrot.

    My feeling is that the larger the scale the better, the higher profile it would have and the more momentum it would be likely to gain. By covering all areas, not just livebearers or cichlids, the entire fishkeeping community could potentially be involved.

    Anybody else want to share any thoughts they might have about this?



    Probably just me mis-reading.



    Worthy idea, but a couple of issues to consider.

    Firstly, if the species is endangered then it would be beneficial to increase the numbers but that leads to the question of who would home so many fish. It could be done, if the breeder had an arrangement with a local shop which was willing to sell the fish and allow the breeder to concentrate on gentic diversity.

    Secondly, would the ultimate goal be reintroductions to boost dwindling or replace vanished populations? This would hit two major problems – transporting the fish to the natural habitat and protecting that habitat. Think of the damage being done by the Belo Monte dam for example.



    Yep Mark, one of the major problems with most of these kind of projects is that in the absence of properly-managed habitat protection there’ll be nowhere to reintroduce the fish to sooner or later.

    The peat swamps of Peninsular Malaysia spring to mind, but a good (and typical) example closer to home is the Albufera de Adra here in Spain. It comprises a series of coastal lagoons protected by national and international (it was designated a Ramsar site in 1994) law, and used to be home to a thriving population of Aphanius iberus as did the lower reaches of the nearby Río Adra.

    All fine, but not if local authorities allow the habitat to become completely surrounded by intensive agriculture.

    …and here’s the river (my pic):

    Attached files



    Hi Eyrie, thanks for your comments.

    To address your first point, the fish would be held by people themselves at home and distributed throughout a network of participating keepers coordinated by the hypothetical organisation I suggested in my first post. We might not be talking about huge numbers of fish, just enough to maintain a sustainable population would be the minimum goal although obviously the more people that could be involved the better to keep the numbers comfortably above that minimum.
    This isn’t fundamentally different from what happens already at club level or whatever where people sell their fish on through auctions or give them away to friends so that descendants continue to circulate, but rather than ad hoc distribution within a limited circle fishkeepers would effectively have access to a nationwide network within which to exchange fish, and the organisation would keep and make available records of who has what and where, and flag up any species that appear to be getting too low.

    It would be nice to think that they could be passed into the retail trade as you suggest but I’d expect the majority of species to be either too drab and unattractive to the majority of casual fishkeepers or too difficult in a lot of cases. Perhaps the organisation could strike up some kind of deal with commercial concerns to take the more marketable fish but this may encourage people to just stick to breeding valuable species at the expense of the drab ones which would go against the whole point of the project.

    Your second point is interesting. The immediate goal would be of course simply to conserve species and prevent extinctions, and to me that is reason enough although some may argue that this is a pointless exercise if there were no natural habitats left where particular species may survive. Matt’s last post illustrates this case very well. The question is, should we consider the species found in these habitats worth preserving even after the habitat is gone, bearing in mind that we are powerless to protect the habitat ourselves although maybe we can save the fish? Or do we just save fish if we think there’s going to be a habitat to reintroduce them to?



    CARES in the US has had pretty good success I think and is a similar kind of organisation to that being proposed here?



    Ferox, I’m just concerned about a small group of dedicated hobbyists being able to keep a sufficiently large population. Ideally you’d have a decent number of them relatively close together for a given species so that swapping fish to keep genetic diversity is a practical option. I do concede though that the trade would probably only be interested in the easier to shift colourful species.

    Matt, that’s an excellent example of the problem



    Interesting thread, have enjoyed reading through it so far /smile.gif” style=”vertical-align:middle” emoid=”:)” border=”0″ alt=”smile.gif” />

    So while the sort of organisation ferox is talking about may not currently exist in the UK there’s nothing to say that it couldn’t, or isn’t starting to exist unconciously. Maybe we’re used to the ‘instant gratification generation’ who wants it all to happen now, the RSPB didn’t happen quickly but it did happen /smile.gif” style=”vertical-align:middle” emoid=”:)” border=”0″ alt=”smile.gif” />



    Matt, I hadn’t come across CARES before, thanks for that, this is very similar in principle to what I have been thinking about, seems the Americans got there first and it seems to be working for them, so I’m even more optimistic now that it could work for us too.

    Eyrie, I don’t envisage this as being small isolated groups of people living within easy driving distance of each other, I’m thinking more of a much larger community who can exchange fish from Land’s End to John O’Groats by courier if needs be, nothing new about that, provided they can be put in touch with each other in the first place.

    Hi poshsouthernbird, and wow! what a wonderful post!

    I’m going to take a cue from yourself and reply “how interesting” because due to sudden increase in work commitments I’m sorry I simply haven’t time to compose anything like an adequate response to your post, next time I get the luxury of being able to sit at a computer I shall.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 35 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.