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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Contrary to Popular Belief

By Patrick Donston

Store Owner, Absolutely Fish

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I've always been one to view things in multiple directions—Look at it from another point of view; Ask "Why?" Question authority--you know what I'm trying to say. A sphere is only viewable from one side; to see the full picture you need to rotate it.

In this spirit, I would like to share with you one of my “Contradictory Bold Statements about the Marine Aquarium.” My intent is to make a statement that goes against the norm of what is known or commonly written about in this hobby. I make the “statements” in a light-hearted way--I’m not really claiming they are 100-percent correct--to perhaps alter your thought processes and open your minds to another point of view. There are usually factors to the contrary, and the average aquarist will not be aware of all the facts, thus leading them to believe the initial point and nothing more.

I've compiled a lot of these statements, so I thought I would try one on you and see what you think:

Statement most believe: Anemone fishes (clown fishes) are good reef fishes.

My response: Not true.

The anemone fishes (Amphiprion and Premnas) also known as clown fishes, live unharmed among the stinging tentacles of anemones. Most hobbyists believe they are ideal for the reef aquarium because of their symbiotic relationship with anthozoans. They are fairly hardy, feed on all prepared foods and are never known to eat living corals.

The problem is this symbiotic relationship. If sea anemones are not present in a reef tank, this fish may try to immerse itself in coral polyps, which are not adapted to housing fish. This irritation causes these corals to close up, not feed and eventually die. Remember, it is the fish’s instinct to behave this way--an adaptive trait for protect ion from predation. Without anemones, these fish would not exist in the wild. Clown fishes are classed as obligate symbionts, meaning they must have anemones to survive. With this in mind, it is easy to understand the consequences when reef keepers don't have anemones in their tanks. Countless times, we have had customers wanting to bring back clown fishes because they cause corals to close. Once the existing coral dies, the fish tend to move to a new one.

So why don't we put sea anemones in reef tanks?

Sea anemones are mobile invertebrates. They are surrounded by many tentacles containing stinging cells (nematocysts). They are active in capturing food and quite lethal to other fishes and surrounding corals. As the anemone moves about, there is an inherent risk that it may rub against stony or soft corals, burning the corals in the process. As we can see, average reef aquarists would not want them in their reef tanks, making clown fish a risk to add as well.

This is just one of the many controversial statements I like to make. So much about biology and scientific study is debatable. The same is true with animal husbandry. In this hobby, we must all remember there is an art form associated with the biology, chemistry and physics of marine life.

We must take the known facts and artistically use them to benefit our own systems. Unfortunately, art is different for every person, and thus can never have the same application in all cases. That's what makes our hobby so challenging and debatable.

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