On Wednesday, April 13, 2022, a worker exhibited newborn clownfish at a breeding facility in Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia. To find the unique and special combination of conditions that will encourage Aquarium Fish’s to spawn, experts from around the world are tampering with water temperature, fiddling with lights, and experimenting with different combinations of microscopic food particles. After nearly eight months of futility, Tom Bowling finally succeeded in reproducing the highly sought-after pink-yellow tropical fish known as blotched anthias. All it needed was a malfunctioning air conditioner.
Bowling, a Palau-based breeder of ornamental fish, had kept the fish in chilly water to mimic the conditions that deep-sea species often inhabit. However, when the air conditioner failed, the water’s temperature increased by a few degrees overnight, producing unexpected outcomes. They “started spawning,” says Bowling. “They went berserk, putting eggs everywhere.”
Experts worldwide experiment with water temperature, light settings, and combinations of microscopic food particles to find unique and peculiar conditions that will encourage ornamental fish to reproduce. The trade-in aquarium fish is being directed by experts away from wild fish, which are frequently collected using chemicals that harm coral ecosystems.
Aquarium Fish’s: An excellent ambiance is required.
Coral reefs in the Philippines, Indonesia, and other tropical nations are where most of the millions of sparkling fish dart about saltwater aquariums in the U.S., Europe, China, and other places come from.
Trappers frequently use chemicals like cyanide to shock them. Then they are given to intermediaries, who ship them worldwide to aquariums in homes, shopping centers, dining establishments, and medical facilities. According to experts, a “huge proportion” pass away en route.
Only 4% of saltwater aquarium fish can be produced in captivity, mainly because many have complex reproductive cycles and fragile early life stages that necessitate somewhat enigmatic conditions that scientists and breeders find difficult to replicate.
Researchers have been trying to discover the breeding techniques of marine fish for many years. According to Paul Andersen, director of the Coral Reef Aquarium Fisheries Campaign, which works to encourage sustainable coral reef aquarium fisheries, breakthroughs take time.
“Making incremental steps frequently needs years of investment, research, and development,” he claimed. He added that it would take longer to market newly developed species raised in captivity.
The Moorish idol, a fish with black-and-yellow stripes and a spine on its dorsal fin that resembles a mane, needs a lot of room. To procreate in captivity, squiggle-striped green mandarins need particular illumination cycles. They like to spawn soon before sunset. Blotched Anthias need precise temperatures, as Bowling discovered in Palau.
According to Andersen, all factors that will make a fish happy must be considered. Some species are highly gentle, delicate, and wise of this sort.
Conflictive early days
Breeders of fish frequently encounter the most challenging stage of the process following spawning: the larval stage, which is the period right after the fish hatches and before it develops into a juvenile. Due to their fragility, they must be protected from filters and even tank walls, and the water flow must be precisely correct.
According to Andrew Rhyne, a professor of marine biology at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, first feeding is also essential. Much larval fish don’t have eyes or mouths in the early stages and instead feed on their yolk.
“It’s crucial to have established an ecosystem that allows them to acquire the first bite of zooplankton so they can get a little stronger and continue to grow,” said Rhyne. “When they finally do form eyes or mouths.” That has essentially been the whole thing’s magic.
Often, that first bite is an essential component of the ocean’s food chain, which is full of secrets of its own. These tiny crustaceans, known as copepods, are crucial for fish breeders worldwide because they give larval fish essential nutrients.
Associate professor Matt DiMaggio and his students have been working to grow copepods at the University of Florida Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin, where the blue tang “Dory” fish made well-known by the film Finding Nemo was successfully bred for the first time. However, even raising copepods has proven to be challenging.
On the tropical northern coast of Bali, Indonesia, more than 10,000 miles from the Florida lab, renowned fish breeder Wen-Ping Su strolls between enormous cement fish tanks. At the same time, his zooplankton recipe stirs in a neighboring circular tank.
Su claimed to have ten keys to success that he has been honing for almost 20 years. Due to those keys, he has been able to breed species that no one else has, such as the frilly black-bodied, orange-rimmed pinnatus batfish and the striped regal angelfish.
Wen-Ping Su promptly responds when asked if he will divulge specifics, crossing his hands to make an X in front of his broad smile and saying, “No.”
The same sentiment is shared by Bowling, who pauses when pressed about divulging the techniques behind his most well-known triumphs. He chuckles, “That’s the bit I don’t want to tell you.”
Their source of income is those secrets. On his business website, the blotched anthias Bowling produced as a result of the faulty air conditioner are priced at $700. Su also sells fish that she has bred online for hundreds of dollars.
However, according to DiMaggio, some groups have tried to encourage information exchange during the past five years. One such group is Rising Tide Conservation, a non-governmental organization devoted to growing and promoting aquaculture.