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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

November 29, 2011

The Future of Sustainable Harvesting of Reef Fishes

By Patrick Donston

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Flame angel
As the fall trade show season comes to an end, it was a pleasure to see a lot of new companies, products and innovations. At the H.H. Backer Christmas trade show in Chicago this October, there were numerous companies showing new technologically, such as LED lighting systems. What excited me the most was a small signal for the future of sustainable harvesting of reef fishes in our industry.

As I finished my seminars at the “Ask the Expert” table, Julian Sprung asked me if I had seen what was in the aquarium a few booths down. I looked and saw what I thought was a group of aqua-cultured clownfish. I replied, “Yes, I’ve seen these many times.”

Julian said, “No Patrick, come on, take a closer look.” So we walked over and I couldn’t believe what I saw: approximately 30 to 40 baby aqua-cultured flame angels. They looked like small freshwater fire gouramis swimming around, poking and grazing on the rock. We both stood there in amazement, asked questions as other attendees meandered up to the booth with the same reaction. David Lass, Robyn Bright and many others talked about them throughout the weekend. Needless to say they were a hit.

These fish are significant because it shows a stronger industry moving toward rearing marine fishes for both aquarist success and reef ecosystem health. Years ago, we barely thought of the possibilities, due to the difficult nature of hatching, raising and feeding reef fishes from egg to metamorphosed juveniles in captivity.

The flame angelfish (Centropyge loriculus) is a popular ornamental marine fish, widely known for its brilliant orange-red body and four to five black bars laterally on the side. This fish is native to coral reefs from Queensland to Samoa and the Marshall and Hawaiian Islands. Flames typically grow to 10cm (approximately 4 inches) and are not the easiest of fish to keep, but their striking appearance accounts for their popularity in the trade.

Dr. Thresher notates in his book “Reproduction in Reef Fishes” that there is little data on spawning seasons of angelfish. What data there is suggests reproductive behavior is seasonal. Water temperature, lunar cycles and photo-periods probably induce spawning. Dr. Thresher goes on to state that most observations of Centropyge angels show a male-dominated harem. He describes the difficulty in inducing spawning in captivity, hatching and raising post larva. Documented egg diameters are 0.6 to 0.68mm in most Centropyge angels, much smaller than marine fishes being bred in captivity today.

Many types of reef fishes have been bred in captivity for decades. The problem is getting hatched larvae the proper nutrition for sustenance and growth. Food sources such as rotifers and rotifer food (Chlorella) have been researched and used effectively. Cost factors have also been a hindrance to productivity.

As you can deduce, it was truly exciting to see a tank full of captivity-bred flame angels. This makes me wonder what else will come.

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