Morality of the hobby

Bi-Weekly discussion topics.

Morality of the hobby

Postby Colby » Sat Apr 24, 2010 2:22 am

Well, here I am again wondering if what I am doing at the pet store is moral. What I mean is, how can we justify keeping so many of the species that we do? Sure, a yellow tang may live in a 55 or 75 gallon tank, but is this ethical? I am afraid that so many of the species we commonly keep just do not have any business being in the average aquarium. I suppose that a rather spacious tank (1000g +) may provide the animal with a more reasonable quality of life, however this is still a prison cell relative to their natural home ranges on the reef. Granted they do not need the foraging space as they theoretically are provided a balanced diet in the aquarium, but the question remains...

I personally feel that we should only keep small species with small naturally occurring home ranges. For example, clownfish, seahorses, gobies, dottybacks, cardinals, grammas, small centropyge etc, all are small and typically do not leave a very small range. Is it any surprise that these tend to be the species we can successfully produce under normal captive conditions?

I personally have had huge moral dilemmas arise ever since I began breeding marine fish. For example, I used to LOVE fishing. I was the guy out on the river before the sun came up with a big ol plug of tobacco in my mouth (gross I know, been trying to quit for over a year..argh), fly pole in hand and standing chest deep in freezing waters chasing steelies and salmon. There was nothing more peaceful to me than a morning on the river watching the birds and maybe lucking into a 15lb salmonid. Of course, I would be as gentle as possible and release the fish asap. However, I have taken a hiatus from fishing as I do not know if I can any longer justify catch and release fishing. Essentially, what I was doing was placing a large breeding age fish that had survived all odds to survive to adulthood, under extreme stress (possibly opening it up to subsequent fungal infections or outright death from stress) for some personal satisfaction. What does this say about me? I mean, I consider myself an"animal lover" and have extreme respect for all life forms. I still duck hunt, I love it, I do not like the killing, however I can justify it as I am killing an animal for food, not simply injuring it and releasing it. Unlike commercially raised animals that typically have a very low quality of life these birds had the life a duck should have, and when I shoot one I respect it, using every bit that I can. I still do not enjoy the killing, but there is something rewarding about harvesting your own food, more appreciation involved and I think it gives a greater respect for the animals. (Point of curiosity, "Ducks Unlimited" and "Delta Waterfowl" are the two largest conservation groups in the US) IF I could keep the fish I catch and eat them, well then I would still fish, but as of now the salmonid populations world wide are so low, I can't do it.

This brings me back to my original point, just like my experience with catch and release fishing, are we justifying inhumane treatment of certain fish due to our desire to maintain them at home? Of course, I also realize that the ability for people to witness "in person" the miracle of sea life is essential to education and therefore conservation, is it ethical?

Personally, I think that I would like to see the cessation of mass collection of large herbivorous fish, and for that matter almost any large fish. I have on numerous occasions set-up, and maintained reef tanks for customers and stocked them only with small CB fish that are suited to our little glass boxes. And you know what, they loved it! All the fish were happy and would breed, the aquacultured corals did exceptionally well and most importantly there were not overly large fish pacing the tank.

Of course, I am probably preaching to the choir here as everyone on this website is pretty keyed in on the ethical dilemmas we face, and indeed that was one of the original purposes of founding this community.

Should there be some sort of permit and inspection process required to maintain large fish? For example, should you be required to have a certain size tank to purchase a Vlamingi tang? This seems fairly impractical, indeed almost any solution I can fathom would be the death of the industry.

To be clear, I AM NOT intending to imply that anybody who keeps a yellow tang in a 75g tank is some twisted animal abuser, as I am well aware that the majority of fish keepers have a large amount of respect for animal life. Nor am I trying to imply that ALL marine fish should be banned, as I feel there is nothing wrong with many currently maricultured species, as is evident by their willingness to spawn for us. Nor am I limiting this discussion to SW fish, many FW fish do not belong in aquariums either.

I apologize for the long winded rant, and I apologize for being on the soap box. I would like to hear some thoughts/opinions from the MOFIB community as I feel this aspect of the aquarium trade is all to often swept under the rug as it is financially a difficult problem to address for the industry.

Look forward to hearing what y'all have to say.

Colby
Colby
 
Posts: 901
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2007 10:12 pm
Location: Humboldt State University

Re: Morality of the hobby

Postby Midnight Angel » Sat Apr 24, 2010 3:04 am

Colby,
I think the fact that you are questioning this hobby is a good thing. We should always question what we do to see if we could do it better. I think it is for you to decide what is right for you. I for one have pet ducks for example and I'm a vegetarian. So I think you killing those ducks is cruel. But I am not you. And I have no right to judge you doing something that has been natural for humans for many years (eating the flesh of animals). So I think what I'm trying to say is that it is ok to think it is cruel to keep large fish in small tanks. As for what tanks are "too small" that depends on who you talk to. I have tangs here but they will be leaving to go into a 1400 gallon tank next week. I have been very left of center for years on many issues. But I have found that the more I listen to others views the more I often see the other side of things. I no longer judge people who don't share my views and I could care less if the people I love eat meat for example.I still love them and they are just different. I think it is important to state your case with people but to respect them enough to not try and change them.

So yes I do believe that we do sometimes have fish that we shouldn't in this hobby. And yes sometimes they are treated badly. But I also know that some people hate every part of what we do and think all fish should be left in the ocean. So what one person thinks is cruel should not be the rule for everyone. Just my 2 cents. I hope this reads well cause I'm half asleep btw. :wink:


Amy
Midnight Angel
 
Posts: 1006
Joined: Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:19 pm

Re: Morality of the hobby

Postby Colby » Sat Apr 24, 2010 3:17 am

Thanks for the reply Amy. I used to be a vegetarian (I was again debating the morality of eating meat...) and I realized (again this is for myself, not passing judgment on anyone) that humans are heterotrophic animals, we have evolved to eat meat. I am currently a "starving college student" and cannot afford to buy the free range meat I would like to, so by and large unless I have harvested the animal myself, therefore knowing that it had the best life it could, I try to avoid meat. Funny about the ducks, see, I LOVE ducks, in fact there is a lonely little duckling sleeping on my chest at the moment. He is a mallard that was probably last to hatch and mommy abandoned him when she took off with the rest of the babies, luckily I have located a rehab center with a group of similar age ducklings that will take him. Because as cute as he is, he needs buddies and I need sleep! What I used to find difficult to understand about myself is that on Saturday I will be at the rehab center fixing broken wings on ducks and then on Sunday I will be the first guy out duck hunting. It is interesting to wear the two different faces, however I have come to terms with the fact that harvesting my own food gives me a greater appreciation for the life that was taken. Again though, this is a personal opinion (I must admit though I do not like PETA, due to the fact that through unguided misinformation and overzealous uneducated campaigns they have single-handedly hampered conservation movements more than almost any other entity).

Very good point regarding other peoples view of the hobby in general, I suppose my litmus test is this: If I can provide the conditions necessary for the fish to reproduce by their own means then they are probably as happy as fish can be.

Colby
Colby
 
Posts: 901
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2007 10:12 pm
Location: Humboldt State University

Re: Morality of the hobby

Postby Amie » Sat Apr 24, 2010 3:43 am

Thank you for your post Colby, and yes, you might be preaching to the choir here. I finally dropped out of the Reef Club 'scene' because I couldn't stand the mentality that a lot of people have, at least in my area, about the livestock in their tanks. And it's not just buying a fish that's too big for a tank, it's buying a fish that may be inappropriate for a reef tank setting at all. (Like our local reef club president that bought 4 Moorish Idols the week before a reef tour, or 10 tangs the previous year before the tour. The tour is tomorrow...I'll let you know what he did this year as soon as I find out.)

I feel a moral responsibility to care for them to the best of my ability, but I know a lot of people with reef tanks have them for show. I have found the people that have reached the point of being interesting in breeding, usually have gone beyond the superficial 'pretty reef tank syndrome'. I would guess that the majority of the people on this site are doing what they do for the love of the animals, not for the love of the tank. I'm not saying that we haven't all made stupid mistakes, I'm sure we all have, but hopefully we try and learn from them and don't continue to repeat them.

I feel that 'pang' of guilt sometimes, like you are talking about, when I look at my reef tank. But I also feel some sense of accomplishment when I get the opportunity to teach someone else how to take care of their tank so they can have success with keeping their corals and fish alive. It feels pretty great to be able to successfully step someone through how to raise larvae from the eggs that are hatching in their tank or how to raise live food so their mandarin doesn't starve to death. Things like that remind me why I stay in this hobby.
User avatar
Amie
Moderator
 
Posts: 2029
Joined: Sat May 12, 2007 7:57 pm
Location: US
State/Region: Utah
Country: USA

Re: Morality of the hobby

Postby Colby » Sat Apr 24, 2010 3:48 am

AHH yes, the showoff types, can't stand those sorts of people. I understand what your saying about your area, Utah is not the most environmentally progressive area...I know, I have lived there.

I also totally agree/understand what you are saying about the sense of accomplishment when viewing a well thought out and successful reef tank.

Colby
Colby
 
Posts: 901
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2007 10:12 pm
Location: Humboldt State University

Re: Morality of the hobby

Postby aomont » Sat Apr 24, 2010 9:51 am

I believe this happens in other places too but here (where I live) is far too common to see a person keeping tanks rather than keeping fishes.
Even with the smaller and "more suitable" species breeding is not that common as the variety of species wanted is too large and the space is restricted. So, many choose to have one of each species and there´s no way to see breeding activity or many normal behaviors this way.
Fairly enough, although we still have a long way to go, the hobby here have been improving for the last years as people gather information about the animals they want to keep.

Rather than imposing restrictions to the buyer, investing in education is the best way to go in my opinion in the long run. And yes, looooong run and not completely effective. Registering information on how to do things, how things happen and, probably more importantly, exposing the failed attempts too.

Some days it just looks like a David and Goliath battle (like today there are a couple sellers offering colorful sponge/tunicate eating sea slugs as herbivores in a forum) but we just have to keep spreading the word know there is always someone hearing.
Anderson

"Posso não saber de nada mas suspeito de muita coisa..."
aomont
 
Posts: 1933
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 11:20 pm
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Re: Morality of the hobby

Postby Midnight Angel » Sat Apr 24, 2010 8:01 pm

Colby,
I really like aomont's point. It does seem that there are fish keepers and tank keepers. And I think it is safe to say that we are all fish keepers here and I'm sure most of us are very kind caring people. I have to say though that I have seen fish spawn or try to in tanks that they were way too big for. We have equipment these days that can really make small spaces much better. But I for one do feel that some fish need at least 75 gallons to be happy and most of those same fish would be much happier in much larger tanks for sure. My 4 raccoon butterflies for example started out in a 46 gallon tank and 2 paired up and tried to spawn. And that tank was too small for sure for 4 raccoon butterflies (they are no longer in it fwiw). So just because they will spawn in a tank it still may not be large enough. But I do know what you were trying to say and it is a darn good point.

Now the one thing I have to disagree about is about eating meat. Yes we did evolve to eat meat BUT we also evolved with more kindness than any other creatures on earth. So it is very natural for people to eat meat and that is why I don't judge them. But it is also very natural to not eat it as well. Our abilities to look beyond our own needs is unique to us but we must have it for a reason. I think it is just as natural for me not to want to eat meat as it is for some people to desire others of the same gender. Sure it is not the norm but it IS natural. And that is why we are both right. :wink: And Colby there is nothing wrong with your views. You would get on great in a Native American family. Mine doesn't always like me very much. :lol:


Amy
Midnight Angel
 
Posts: 1006
Joined: Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:19 pm

Re: Morality of the hobby

Postby Colby » Sat Apr 24, 2010 11:01 pm

Amy, very well said! And I must say, it sounds like your passion for your fish and other animals is exemplary! Kudos!

Anderson, I whole-heartedly agree. Thank you so much for bringing that point of view to the discussion!

As far as the meat thing goes, I appreciate your passion for all life and it says a great deal about who you are! :) I suppose I am simply comfortable with my place in the food chain and know that one day, well you have all seen Lion King. As long as the animals are treated as humanely as possible, then for myself at least, I am ok eating meat. That being said, commercial meat production is in many ways very very inhumane and equally as important, very unsustainable. The more people who do not eat meat or at the very least eat it sparingly and raise their own or purchase free range/Organic, the better! As a general rule of thumb, Americans eat too much meat!

Thanks everyone for the opinions and stimulating thoughts! I greatly appreciate the discussion.

Colby
Colby
 
Posts: 901
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2007 10:12 pm
Location: Humboldt State University

Re: Morality of the hobby

Postby Amie » Mon Apr 26, 2010 12:59 pm

Colby wrote:I understand what your saying about your area, Utah is not the most environmentally progressive area.

That is definitely the truth, but a little understated. I feel like a fish out of water here.

Colby wrote:I also totally agree/understand what you are saying about the sense of accomplishment when viewing a well thought out and successful reef tank.


That really wasn't what I was trying to say, but I posted pretty late so I obvious did a bad job of getting my message across. Let me try and put this another way.

Going back to your original question...is it ethical to keep fish in a prison, compared to their natural home. My answer would have to be 'no'. A few year back, when I came to that conclusion, I was ready to tear down my tank and get out of the hobby completely. The only reason I didn't was because I decided that I wanted to try and make a difference in my area. I wanted to try to teach hobbyist things like: How to keep their fish alive longer; Why it's important to buy captive bred fish; Why we should share corals with each other and not buy tiny frags named Sugar Plum Fairy for $800; How to raise live food; How to raise fish and inverts; Why we should expect our fish to live longer than 2 weeks in our tanks(common Utah philosophy I've been fighting); etc.

I decided that even if I got out of the hobby, the hobby would still keep moving forward and people would continue to keep fish in glass boxes. So why not try and make a difference? That's what I meant by feeling a small sense of accomplishment. If I can teach a person how to keep their mandarin alive by growing their own live food, then I've helped 1 fish. They would have bought that mandarin anyway, but at least it has a chance to live. If I can encourage a bunch of people not to do a group order for Moorish Idols because they saw 4 of them in someone's tank during the Reef Tour, then staying in the hobby has been worth it.

Maybe you are at a point where you are going to have to make a choice to stay in this hobby not because you love it, but because you [b]LOVE[b] it and you want to make a difference. Then decide how far you want to go with it. You can start your own community organization, apart from the local reef club, that teaches breeding, raising live food, reef awareness issues, etc. You can pair up with your local aquarium, or even do a fund raiser for them and bring in speakers that will talk about reef awareness or how to pick the best fish for your tanks. There's all sorts of things you can do and trust me, it really helps to alleviate the guilt.
User avatar
Amie
Moderator
 
Posts: 2029
Joined: Sat May 12, 2007 7:57 pm
Location: US
State/Region: Utah
Country: USA

Re: Morality of the hobby

Postby laskopyre » Wed Apr 28, 2010 1:08 pm

I am in agreement. I've walked into store and seen a 14" Queen triggerfish in a 40 breeder. It's been there for over a year, but it still sits in that tiny tank waiting for someone to buy it. Should this fish even be sold? Shouldn't it be donated to a place that can house such a large animal? It naturally gets so big, that it would outgrow almost all tanks out there.
Things like that irritate me. No fish should be put through that.
I was the webmaster for a local saltwater club, and the greed made me step away from the club. They biggest issue with the reef keeping hobby today is the money. So many see the dollar signs that they are blinded to the actual education aspect of the hobby. Learning how to properly raise fish, and invertebrates is very rewarding. I've seen people that just started, already out buying a frag tank. They inturn buy these large colonies of coral and mutilate them by "fragging" new coral. I've seen those same frags die, since they did not have enough time to acclimate to the new surroundings before cutting. That isn't what this hobby was supposed to be about. They don't get the pride of getting a coral and having it grow in their system, or buying a fish and watching it grow and thrive. Actually learning about the nitrogen cycle, chemistry, and how to fix issues that happen to all of us. These are the hippo tang in a 29 gallon folks, that get upset when it gets ick and dies.
Sorry for my rant. I've seen the evil side of it all, being on the BOD of a club. It makes me appreciate like minded individuals, and how I can make a difference to the hobby.
Chuck
User avatar
laskopyre
 
Posts: 96
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2010 3:56 pm

Re: Morality of the hobby

Postby Midnight Angel » Thu Apr 29, 2010 12:04 pm

Thank you Colby that was a very sweet thing to say. :D I have lots of rescues here and some are fish as well. I really agree with what Amie said. We really can all make a difference in our local communities. If we all did that lots of things could change. I try when ever possible to talk about all the things we have going on here. I don't do it to brag or to show off but to show others just how much one person or two can do. I have to admit though that I do have a few wealthy friends that have made a huge difference around here. Nothing would be possible without vets and doctors who give up their time and money.

My advice to everyone is kinda similar to what Amie was saying. Get involved with your local stores and clubs. Let as many people as you can know about what you do. Not only will you teach others but you will gain lots. So many fish have been given to me because they were too aggressive for reefs. There are people who don't really want clownfish esp. large ones to spawn in their tanks. These people will let spawning pairs go for free or very cheap. It is a win for everyone and the fish. There are ways of putting yourself out there where you and the fish gain. And no matter what we all gain from helping the fish.

Amy
Midnight Angel
 
Posts: 1006
Joined: Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:19 pm

Re: Morality of the hobby

Postby BaboonScience » Fri Apr 30, 2010 5:49 pm

Colby
I have been following this thread for a while.
Your points are great. I like you thoughts about large herbivores and totally agree. I hate to see a 50 gallon tank with several tangs crammed in. I love tangs but will not even keep them in my 240 that I often refer to as green acres. They will outgrow even that tank and then what?

I really do believe that education is best as a well informed aquarist will often choose their tank inhabitants more wisely.
There should be some encouragement to populate aquariums with appropriately sized fish, IMO. In addition, people should be encouraged to purchase pairs for their tank, hopefully captive bred. Stores and suppliers should be likewise encouraged. Perhaps MOFIB could play a more active role as an outreach to local aquarium clubs and the industry.

Green acres (really not that bad now but Bryopsis is tough to keep a wrap on) is 100% populated with pairs, mostly captive bred. It is possible and that was a talking point at MACNA last year. I really do believe that there is nothing better than watching the interactions of fish with their mates, particularly at that late point in the day when they are making their respective spawning runs. If more people could witness this type of aquarium, more would be convinced.

Again, thanks for starting this thread.
John
"The exact contrary of what is generally believed is often the truth" Jean De La Bruyère (1645-1696)
User avatar
BaboonScience
 
Posts: 3629
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2007 8:47 pm
Location: High Shoals


Return to Discussion Topics



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron