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Unwanted Fish Hybrids

Addressing the tank(s) of fish that many local fish stores have marked “assorted African cichlids”



Red pearl cichlid flowerhorn

Please don’t get me wrong—I am very much in favor of selective breeding, creating hybrids on purpose and producing better and more interesting fish. After all, platies and swordtails are the result of hybridization, and where would the hobby/industry be without platies and swordtails? And the very popular flowerhorn cichlids are a hybrid, although I don’t know anyone who can reliably report what fish were hybridized to create the flowerhorn.

What I want to address when I say unwanted hybrids are the tank(s) of fish that many local fish stores have marked “assorted African cichlids.” This is false labeling, in my humble opinion. A tank of assorted African cichlids would consist of a number of fish of one genus and species from Africa, and some of another genus and species, etc., etc. The fish that usually reside in the tank marked assorted African cichlids should be properly labeled “random and various hybrids of different African cichlids.” That tank, however, would not sell as well as fish from the assorted African cichlids tank.

The real problem is that by passing on fish that are random hybrids, all we are doing is reversing what Mother Nature has done by creating the many various genus and species of cichlids that exist in the wild in the African lakes—and we know it’s not nice to mess around with Mother Nature. What we are ending up with, and what we are foisting on the unknowing hobbyists, are inferior fish. Yes, they are very hardy and will survive almost everything except being cooked, jumping out of the tank or being the victim of a murderous spree put on by two fish that pair off in the tank and want to claim the entire tank as their breeding territory.

The major reason for a tank of assorted African cichlids showing up in many local fish stores is the Internet. “Serious” fishkeepers are doing their buying, selling and trading of purebred fish over the web. With overnight delivery so easy, the “fishheads” are not looking for their rare African cichlid or rainbow fish or fancy guppy, etc. in the local fish stores. Most of the good stores that I know are not spending their time and effort bemoaning this fact. They cater to the local hobbyists, especially the beginners, and try to get as many new folks as possible into our hobby.

Many store owners have commented to me that kids are no longer involved in the hobby as much as they were in earlier days. Of course—there are many things, most of which have screens—that kids are spending their time with today. One good friend of mine, who owns a very good local fish store and has been in the business as long as I have, explained why.

“Kids can’t turn off a fish tank,” he said. Their attention span is very short, and they do not understand having to take care of a living thing. I know I sound like an old fogey, but I think this is a shame. I have faith, though, that some kids will still have the same fascination that I did, when I was 12 years old. An aquarium is another world. We can’t live where the fish live, and they can’t live where we live.

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