Walking around anywhere that has a saltwater aquarium you will hear excited little voices say “Look, I found Nemo” and “There is Dory”! The next fish they will recognize is Bubbles the yellow tang. He was the one in the the aquarium obsessed with the bubbling ornament.
The yellow tang is one of the most recognized saltwater fish by children and adults alike. That bright yellow color is what makes them a staple in most home aquariums. What most people dont realize is that there are very few captive bred saltwater fish, most of them come right from the ocean. Luckily there are aquariums and research facilities out there working very hard to change this. The most recent triumph was 10 years in the making, they have successfully bred yellow tangs in captivity. The Oceanic Institute in Hawaii won the prize.
After months of special care and love the captive bred babies were ready to go to their new homes. Most of them went to public aquariums and research centers. 3 swam their way to their new home at Colchester Pet. We are so honored and excited to have these special and historic fish at our store. They live in a 150 gallon reef tank with Jock (the shrimp) and Nemo.
If we keep taking these popular fish out of the ocean for our own aquariums then someday there wont be any left. There is still a long way to go until we have captive bred yellow tangs in every fish store, but at least its a start on the way to “Saving Bubbles”.
As we celebrate the one year anniversary of our Aqua cultured Yellow tangs I am taken back to a year ago. When i opened an email from Segrest farms that talked about the first aquacultured yellow tangs being available for sale. I remember telling my mom and dad about it and thinking that we had to get some. It was such an amazing piece of history.
I had no idea in that moment that our lives would shift to a different path. One with endless opportunities and one of giving back to this amazing industry that has been our life for years. In the past year we have brought in so many amazing aquacultured species and our goal is 100 % aquacultured fish.
I love how this industry is at a turning point and that there is so much support. Rising Tide Conservation is the driving force behind this turning point. They have been a part of these historic accomplishments and continue to lead the way in research and most of all education of the public. This is where we need to really step up. Aquacultured fish are an amazing accomplishment and have changed the industry forever, but all of that work will be nothing without the education of the public to buy these fish. We need to shout from the rooftops how amazing aquacultured fish are and how they are healthier and happier, how they will not only survive, but thrive! We need to tell the story of Tango our captive bred pacific blue tang. We need to make it known that the oceans are dying and if we want our kids and grand kids to know what its like to have saltwater fish, then captive bred fish have to be the answer.
Our Yellow tangs have been here a year and are thriving, not surviving. How could they not thrive? All they know is aquarium life. They eat frozen food, pellets, flakes, nori, and any other type of food we throw in there. They are not afraid of us. I imagine that they do not look out longingly and think of ocean life, they just keep swimming.
Maybe the 14 year old clown fish tells them stories from her ocean days but she likely has forgotten them too. I can imagine the tangs all sitting in their caves tucked in after the lights are out and listening to her stories, in awe. Maybe she had adventures like Marlin and Dory did. Maybe she tells of the day she was caught and thrown into a tank. Whatever the story is I hope its epic.
These are the days we will look back on in history and our story could go one of two ways.
The first could be:
Wow the beginning of the century sure was great for aquatic life and that’s when we started to get serious and save the oceans. Aquarium fish are now being mostly raised in captivity, and everyone can still enjoy them in their homes.
Here is the second way it could go.
Wow they made such advancements in aquacultured fish back then but not enough people cared and bought them. Now the only way to see these beautiful fish is in public aquariums, or in books and online. Home aquariums are a thing of the past.
These two scenarios are of course extremes, but they can turn into reality if we don’t change our ways.
We love the ocean and everything it has. We love it so much we want a piece of it in our own homes. We make movies about sea adventures of fish that are box office masterpieces. We write books about sea adventures in the deep with scary sea creatures. A vacation paradise usually starts with white sandy beaches and reading a good book while listening to the waves crash on the shore. We walk for miles on the beach collecting remnants of ocean life in the form of empty shells or starfish that have washed up on the sand.
The ocean is vast and undiscovered. There is more water on our planet then land. I think we need to keep her as healthy as we can, don’t you? There have been changes in the oceans lately, but they are not good. Coral reefs have been dying and that is pretty serious. Fish live on the coral reefs and they need each other to survive. We all know that this is a big problem but we are not sunk yet. Biologists are working hard to figure this out. They are also working hard to make coral farms in the ocean. A lot of the corals that are in fish tanks these days are aquacultured or (raised in captivity). This is great news for coral keepers and coral in general.
Many people will not care about fish in an aquarium and will think that they only belong in the ocean. That is a fine opinion, but not at all realistic. Human beings are so infatuated with the sea and sea creatures. It makes sense that you see aquariums in so many hospitals, doctor’s offices, and children’s hospitals. A fish tank is so relaxing. They can calm down a scared child, lower blood pressure, help with anxiety, and more. Public aquariums are always a busy place that captivate anyone. So let’s think about what would happen if we leave all the fish in the ocean. Everything I just said would be gone unless you raise these fish in captivity.
Aquacultured or captive bred means that these fish or corals are raised in closed systems where they can monitor water quality, food intake, temperature of water and more. These fish are acclimated to live in these conditions that vary from ocean life. They are given the perfect environment to spawn and everything is documented so this can happen again and again. The eggs are collected and put into a different tank. These researchers have to figure out what the newly hatched baby fish (called fry) will eat. Then they wait, and see who will survive. Many people don’t understand why fish are still taken from the ocean, but here is why. There is so much research that goes into successful captive breeding. Lots of trial and error also, because each type of species may need different food, water movement, temperature or whatever else.
These amazing people are really trying to get these fish bred in quantity but it takes money and time. Its not just researchers that are making a difference. There are many hobbyists that are trying their hand at captive breeding too and making huge leaps. The industry is also on the right track as a whole.
I think one of the biggest challenges is education of the public. Education that most saltwater fish are still wild caught. Education to choose the aquacultured fish over wild caught even though they cost more. Education to demand better from the average pet store or online retailer. Most stores don’t carry aquacultured fish because they don’t think they will sell. We need to convince them that yes they will sell. One organization is a shining star in this education. Rising Tide Conservation is amazing, they work so hard on educaton of the public. They are also the driving force behind all the tangs being aquacultured and so many other fish.
This is where Tango comes in. One of the 27 original aquacultured pacific blue tangs. So many people have been educated at our store and through our blogs about the importance of aquaculture. Most of our customers will choose them over wild caught when they have a chance because we educate them. Tango is our shining star and the face of aquaculture. Tango is the future and Aquaculture is the future!
How did a little store like Colchester Pet get their hands on such an amazing fish?
Here is something I wrote in September telling the story:
There have been such exciting breakthroughs in the marine aquaculture industry. As you know from our previous posts, we have 3 of the very first aqua cultured yellow tangs. They are so beautiful swimming around in their 150 gallon home. Another recent breakthrough was raising Dory in captivity which is a new development. Dory is a very beautiful fish called a pacific blue tang (also called Hippo Tang or Regal Tang). These fish are not on the easy side of saltwater fish but they are one of the more popular ones. Even way before Finding Nemo and Finding Dory were around these fish were popular. People just love their color and personality. I think they did a really good job capturing the personalities of these fish in the movies. If you look at a Hippo Tang in an aquarium they are very fast swimmers going in and out of all the caves and rock formations with such grace and beauty.
We were so excited when we heard the aquaculture news. I watch the Rising Tide Conservation Facebook page daily and when I saw what they had done in conjunction with the UF Tropical Aquaculture Lab with these fish I was beyond excited. This popular fish would do well with being raised in captivity. They can very easily come down with Ich. (a parasite that attaches to a stressed out fish and can kill them if left untreated, it can also spread to other fish). I can only assume that a fish that is aqua cultured will be healthier than one taken from the ocean.
If you want to see how really excited I was watch our short FLOG (fish video blog) here:
We really tried to get one of these aqua cultured Hippo tangs, we even talked to the director of the University of Florida Tropical Aquaculture Lab where they were bred and asked if they would sell us one. The answer of no was understandable and expected. But we had to try anyway right? There were only a handful of these fish available and they wanted to send them out to public aquariums to show everyone this truly amazing accomplishment. Two of the fish were auctioned off to the highest bidders through Dynasty Marine and the money went back to the research facility to help make this happen again.
The day that the auction started we watched the first bid come in. $200 won that days bid. This was a few week long auction and they posted the highest bid every night. In the beginning they were slow to bid. There were days where no one bid at all. We figured that this would be like an eBay auction where everyone waits until the last possible second, then bids like crazy.
It was a few days before the end of the auction and we threw out a bid for one of these historic fish. That night we were the high bidder and my initials and our bid sat there hoping that people didn’t want to go higher. The next day I checked the page periodically and was amazed to see our bid still there. That night our bid was still there as the high bid, OMG really? I was totally excited and getting a bit nervous. What if we won? What if we got this fish? This is a lot of pressure to make sure nothing happens to this little one. What tank would we put him in? He is much too small for the 150 with our yellow tangs. Then I checked the post on the day before the auction. We were still in it for the second place if no one else bid. They day of the auction I kept looking at the page and watching the bids go up and up.
I don’t know what the final highest bids were but I sure hope the people that won know and appreciate what they are getting. I hope they appreciate the piece of history and realize that this industry has changed for the better with the fish they won that will proudly swim in their aquarium. I hope they appreciate the hard work and countless hours of everyone that had a hand in making this possible. I hope they know that they hold a key to the future success of every aquarist who will ever want a saltwater fish in their aquarium. I hope they feel the same love that we do of our fish and that its not just a bragging right for them.
This is how I feel every time I walk to the back of our store and see our three captive bred yellow tangs. I feel so proud to be part of this industry that is working so hard to make a difference. I love all of our fish. I love helping people pick out the fish that will do the best in their aquarium and not just survive, but thrive. I love looking at all of our fish and coral every morning to make sure they are all happy and healthy.
When you have a passion and you can spend your days talking to people about it and giving them advice that is true happiness at work in my opinion. When you have the knowledge to solve their problem, not because you read it somewhere, but because you have owned the experience that is happiness. I am very proud and honored to be a part of this amazing industry that brings joy and happiness to all who are captivated by it. What I love most about this hobby and industry are the fish and corals. I accept the challenge and love every aspect of it. I hope the passion shines through with every blog post, or every conversation we have that we really love our fish.
I just want to say thank you to all of the research facilities and universities that put in countless hours to make a better future for our marine friends. You are truly amazing people.
Once in a lifetime a fish comes along that changes everything……
Some people wont see our passion about these fish and some people wont care about a fish raised in captivity. But those people don’t see the future in the eyes of this Pacific Blue Tang that is swimming around in my tank. I look at this fish and I see the future of our hobby. I see my daughter and her sons or daughters sitting in their living room staring at these fish that are all raised in captivity. They do not know the harsh journey that a wild caught fish goes through to get to their tank. I see people forgetting that we ever took fish from the ocean and the ocean flourishing again. I see the fish in the future happy and healthy because of this tang staring at me. The reason I am so passionate about aquaculture is all about the fish. They are the reason I come to work everyday. Now for a fish geek like me, it doesn’t get any better then the first aqua cultured tangs. Look what aquaculture did for the clown fish. They were almost an endangered species and now they flourish. Being aqua cultured took the pressure off of the wild clownfish and made a sustainable source for the hobby. This is why its so amazing and important. I love showing our customers all of our aqua cultured fish. The list is getting longer and now I can introduce them to aquaculture with Tango our Pacific Blue Tang.
Aqua cultured or captive bred means that they were bred, hatched, and raised up in aquariums. They were not taken from the ocean so they are usually stronger.
I have to say this is not the first tang breakthrough that we have displayed in our store. You cannot forget the amazing work they did with the aqua cultured yellow tang months before. The three aqua cultured yellow tangs in our 150 display tank are a thing of beauty and they helped to unlock the key to success for the aqua cultured Pacific Blue Tang.