tularosa revisited

Cynthia.Teague (20676CMT at MSU.EDU)
Friday, 29 March 1996 Noon ET

Peter Unmack asks, on what fish should aquarists concentrate? (among other
interesting questions)

This was a topic of discussion last weekend at the Northeast Council of
Aquarium Societies' annunal workshop. Derek Lambert suggested a couple of
prosaic but useful guidelines:

- pick fish you really like, since this whole thing is really only useful if
you can bear to stick with the species for years and years. His corollary
was, most everything stands a fair chance of being in trouble in the wild.


- don't overcommit. If you decide to maintain five or ten species, you can
perhaps give them enough space* and attention and still have some room left
for passing fancies. If you decide to maintain thirty species, a few years
down the road you may give the whole thing up.

(*of course, it's unlikely that one person could give even one species enough
space to maintain the genetic diversity of the species singlehandedly; by
"enough," I mean "enough to be useful in overall captive maintenance")

It seems to me that in addition to deciding which groups of fishes are in
trouble, which stand some hope of reclamation, etc., these two (and perhaps
other) practical considerations are also useful. This doesn't mean that only
brightly colored fishes would end up in amateur maintenance programs, either.
I myself favor drab fishes with a certain elegance of line.

I do have some doubts about the practicality of the whole captive maintenance
thing when done outside an organized framework. Some years ago, I spent time
figuring out the numbers of fishes involved in attempting to maintain a
certain level of genetic diversity over a long period of time; the results
were staggering. It seems to me that most people who were trying to maintain
a species would either end up doing too much inbreeding, or would swap with
only a couple of other aquarists, effectively creating one population pool
which would in itself be subject to too much inbreeding fairly soon as well.
In my reading, one of the most effective techniques in maintaining diversity
seemed to be in equalizing family size, and I have a hard time picturing that
in my own rather disorganized fishroom. Comments?

Cynthia Teague
20676cmt at msu.edu