SW Collection and Care Issues--Article

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Jan 26, 2004
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Salt water fish collection and care issues

Hello, I was asked to write up an article about collection and care issues with s.w. fish. This is a pretty big field so if anyone would like to add to or make comments please feel free to do so.

I. Collection.

If possible always buy aquacultured or from U.S., Australian, New Zealand or Japanese waters . In a lot of the rest of the world cyanide is used extensively in the capture of fish for both the table and the pet market. A number of these fish and untold corals and other inverts die upon exposure to these chemicals. The people that run these operations are usually indifferent to consequences that this causes to hobbiest and diners .
The only sure fire way to tell if a fish has been captured in this way is to test the water that the fish was imported in . That is usually not possible for us end users to do so what else can we look for? Before you buy any fish from anyone ask to see it eat first if it shows no interest pass on it . Also look for fish that are breathing very heavily and that are lethargic or indifferent to stimuli. Also fish that have been exposed to cyanide often times have much brighter colors than non exposed ones.
There are also a number of less lethal fish naps used in a number of countries . The problem with these substances are many fold such as some of them have been tested for long term effects. Also dosage regulation is practically impossible on the reef and a number of fish will die after importation.
Please pay special attention to where fish come from and if they are Filipino for example please leave them at the store. At one time over ½ of s.w. fish imported from the Philippines were captured with cyanide. Fish collected with any of these concoctions have a very poor long term survival rate.

If shopping at a lfs it’s always best to frequent ones that have been long established or that have a good reputation in the local community. Don’t always trust their advise or what you see on the net but , people get good reputations for a reason. Ask questions where did this fish come from? How long have you been dealing with the supplier? How long have you had it ? Can I watch it eat? Etc. Most reputable suppliers will be more than happy to answer any of these questions and requests . If they aren’t vote with your wallet and find another source. In general most good lfs will keep a s.w. fish in q.t or hospital for at least two weeks after arrival. If they won’t do that ask if they will take a deposit on a fish and for them to hold it for the next two weeks . At worst you’ll only be out a portion of the cost of the fish.

So, at this point you’ve purchased the fish and it’s time to put it in the tank right? Nope as you can probably tell from the article continuing after this that’s not the right answer ;). Please invest in a q.t. or hospital tank if you plan on having more than a fish or two ,in other words if aren’t planning on a nano spend a few more dollars on a simple set up that will save you endless time effort, money and heart ache .
Keep it simple, my hospital tank is just a bear bottom 20 gallon tall. I have a few pvc pipes and plastic containers so that my new friends can have a simple easy to clean hiddey hole. I have a dedicated heater ,strip light, and use a sponge filter for the tank. I keep a sponge ready to go in my main set up so all I have to do is fill with water and pop on a new sponge and voila cycled tank ready to go.
Place all new inhabitants in the hospital tank for four to six weeks . I’d strongly recommend waiting for six weeks because some marine parasites take that long to exhibit symptoms . It’s also much easier to treat in hospital vs. main tank you don’t have to worry about catching the patient or nuking your tank with treatments. I won’t go into to much detail here about infections on s.w.,” with two exceptions” fish there are a lot of them and you’d be better served by placing a post on the forums.
Marine Ich
With some fish like tangs you can assume that they have ich . Always put in observation for at least 6 weeks prior to introduction to main tank. The stress of the move between lfs and your home will often times be enough to cause and outbreak in an apparently healthy fish. First treat with low salinity and heat then try a copper based medication if that doesn’t work.
If you ever see a fish with open sores in the lfs don’t buy it or anything else out of it’s tank . S.W. fish sometimes have tuberculosis and yes you can catch it from them. Always use gloves when you touch your tank water even if it’s been quite some time since you’ve introduced a new tank member. There are also other diseases and infections that can pass from you to the tank and visa versa . If any fish in a system show signs of infection pass on all other fish in the tanks. Also find out if the lfs keeps all of it’s fish on the same system or not.. If it does pass if even one fish in any of the bank of tanks shows any signs of issues.
Also decline if there are dead fish or other signs of poor cleanliness .

IV tank busters
Following is a list of fish that will most likely out grow your tank or have some pretty picky eating habits.
Tangs -Ich magnets often times aggressive to other fish that look like them . They also need a rather large tank in excess of 75 gallons , some people will buy them for smaller tanks with the intent of moving to a larger tank. These guys grow pretty fast and can be really hard to catch
Boston baked beans - These are cute little yellow fish that grow up to be 1.5 to 2 ft long eating machines. They will eat just about every life form in your tank so pass unless you have about a 200 gallon tank that you want for 1 fish.
Sea horses - for the most part only eat live food and can’t compete with other fish in your tank . If you have to have these or any of their kin get a lot of experience with s.w. and set up a species tank.
Sea apples- this isn’t a fish but these cucumbers have killed off numerous tanks. The toxins they release into the tank when they are disturbed or reproducing is probably more poisonous than cyanide so be warned.
Triggers, files and Puffers- Lots of these fish are sold to people who plan on putting them in a reef of community tank . Most members of these species get pretty big and can be quite aggressive so know what you’re getting what you have and how big these fish will be at adult sizes. As with all s.w. fish they tend to get much more aggressive after they reach maturity so plan accordingly.
Hermits in reef tanks- Hermits can be great little scavengers but they can also be holly terrors. If you have a reef I’d strongly advise limiting your hermit selection to red reef or left handed hermits . The blue legs are often advertised as reef safe but, many reefers over the years have discovered this is often times not quite true. The blue legs are notorious snail killers and will bother sessile inverts a whole lot more than red reefs. Also please don’t stock more than about 1 crab per three gallons of water most of the stocking recommendations I see are way too heavy on the hermits.
V the inch of fish rule.
For s.w. this rule really won’t apply at all. S.W. fish have some serious territorial issues that have to be addressed to keep you tank happy and healthy . Some fish ,”clowns for example”, usually won’t share even the largest tank with other clowns or their cousins the Damsels.. When adding fish make sure you know what your other fish’s territorial requirements are and stock accordingly.
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