Why Keep Wild Caught Fish?

2 11 2009

Wild caught cichlids are very much sought after for hobbiest fish keepers and professional breeders alike. Their stricter water quality requirements represent a challenge for hobbyists and first generation offspring (F1) fetch a higher price for a breeder.

Its very hard to find good quality fish, especially for people who rely on their local pet shop for livestock. Many of the cichlids found in pet shops and even specialist aquatic pet shops are of poor quality – often inbred or hybrids. Fish are usually bought as juveniles and its not until the fish develop adult colouration that the unsuspecting buyer realises that its not the fish they were looking for. Its not entirely fair to blame the shops for this, rift lake cichlids are very specialised and most shops just don’t know what they are looking at. Purchasing wild fish gets round these issues and wild specimens often exhibit brighter colours, longer fins and more natural behaviours than tank bred stock.

So, as my tank has developed, and some of my shop bought fish aren’t of the quality I hoped for, I have been considering moving over to wild caught fish. My first thought was ‘Is taking fish out of Lake Malawi to put in my fish tank really ethical?’. This question has two dimensions, the welfare of the fish and the environmental impact.

Wild caught fish, if correctly handled, thrive in aquariums. This is just a plain fact, they have long lives and breed happily. The catching and transportation process is no doubt stressful, but this is no different for tank bred fish. I think its fair to say that it is not cruel on the fish.

This just leaves environmental concerns. There’s no doubt that removing large numbers of fish would be detrimental to the natural environment. Fortunately this doesn’t happen. One of the main reasons that it doesn’t is that its just not very practical. The fish are hand caught with nets, then they have to be slowly brought to the surface – a process which can take up to 4 days! The other reason is that fishing times and exports are strictly controlled as the lake is a protected national park. Fishing for food however, is a different matter altogether. Lots of species are having their numbers dramatically reduced by food fishing especially large open water cichlids. Employing food fishermen to catch specimen fish can actually be beneficial as it still provides them with an income whilst preventing large scale depopulation. They also deploy anti-netting devices which snag large nets, helping prevent illegal fishing along the way.

Satisfied that there are no ethical issues with keeping wild caught fish (often just referred to as WC), I will be sure to purchase some in the near future. I Just need to find out where to get them first….




3 responses

28 12 2009

You mention this indirectly, but another plus of WC is habitat protection. If the locals can make a living collecting and sustaining the local wildlife, it’s in their best interests to preserve the nature around them. More jobs collecting, fewer jobs logging or exploring for fuel and minerals. This is even more beneficial in more endangered habitats, like the Amazon.


28 12 2009

Good point well made Kevin, thanks for reading.

Interesting point about the Amazon – I thought livestock exports were banned?

30 12 2009

I wouldn’t pretend to be an expert on that. I have to believe that of all the South American tetras, plecos and cichlids, some are being exported from the Amazon and its tributaries…


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