Baby Hawaiian "Domino" Damselfish - Sheltering in a Sea Star
Sacrificing Animals to Start/Cycle a New Tank
It's no wonder the majority of saltwater
aquarium hobbyists quit within a year of starting, considering how it all begins.
New aquariums need to be cycled, an essential
process requiring organic materials and 2 - 6 weeks to develop the
chemistry and proper levels of beneficial bacteria for nutrient cycling.
Live rock, sand and fish are used to accomplish this. When fish are
used, the word "torture" frequently occurs in online marine aquarium sites describing the process, but that doesn't stop the so-called
experts and fish sellers from recommending the practice.
mention the harm of this highly controversial practice but
go on to describe the species and quantity of fish required to achieve
the goal. One site suggests hermit crabs as the "more expendable" option
for those concerned with torture.
Millions of Hawaii's hermit crabs
have been taken by the trade since 2000.
Some sites skip
the controversy and gets right to the $$. The endemic Hawaiian
Dascyllus (aka Domino Damsel) is one species recommended for cycling. Collectors in Hawaii capture
and sell them for $1.58 each. They retail on the mainland for $18.
Debbie Hauter were aquarium collectors on Molokai before moving back to
the mainland years ago. They now publish aquarium "how to" articles on
About.com. Here's a summary of their page on cycling:
let local fish stores talk you into buying expensive fish for cycling
your new tank. It's a waste of money, because those fish are going to
quickly die. Instead buy damsels or chromis which are cheap and may
survive exposure to toxic levels of ammonia and nitrite
long enough to complete the approximate 30 day cycling process. Yes,
it's true these species are rather boring to look at compared to the
pricier ones, but don't worry, you can take your survivors back to the
store (where they can be re-sold for another round) or give them to a
friend needing to cycle a tank.
the global cry for aquarium industry/hobby reform, educating the
consumer is always discussed as the preferred, and often only, solution,
as if consumer demand was the only viable control. This issue is a
perfect example of why education is a non-starter. Here we have the
Hauters, who, in their own words, "continually strive to make About
Saltwater Aquariums the top educational resource for aquarists of all
ages and experience levels", suggesting a second round of torture for
these animals who somehow managed to survive the first.
In the State of Hawaii, assisting others in acts of animal cruelty is a
misdemeanor. Just as this torturous practice is encouraged by the
Hauters, the State DLNR defended and condoned trade practices of fish
venting and starvation in their testimony against Maui County efforts to
protect reef wildlife from harmful trade practices. Whether educating,
defending and condoning qualify as "assisting" remains to be
determined, but in any case the practices they refer to underscore the
fact that this is truly a violent and dark hobby.