The Ugly Side of the Fish Keeping Industry - Fish That Shouldn't Be

Fish keeping is a great, rewarding hobby to take part in, and has grown into a huge industry over the years. Commercial fish farms breed fish to be shipped to retailers all over to provide us with a wide variety of fish species to stock our tanks with. But in the demand for more interesting fish and the next trend in fish keeping, some fish are being bred that just shouldn’t be.

Dyed fish - Few fishkeepers nowadays haven’t heard of the horrors of dyed fish, but they are still being produced and sold to unsuspecting newcomers to the hobby. The dye is harmful to the fish, results in many deaths to those fish that can’t handle the brutal application methods, and usually fades over time anyways as the fish surviving the horrible ordeal work the contaminant out of their system. Be wary of any fish whose colors look unnatural - but don’t confuse dyed fish with “Glofish”! Glofish are genetically modified fish created originally for a scientific study. They are not dyed and most for sale now are actually naturally bred from existing specimens.

Rosetail Bettas - Rosetails look absolutely stunning, so it’s no surprise they’ve become quite popular and are in high demand with breeders. But rosetail bettas’ beautiful fins come at their own detriment - they are huge, heavy, and make swimming incredibly difficult. This is so much so that mature rosetails pretty much never look like that beautiful flower petal - finned fish anymore. They usually are so inhibited in their swimming that they inevitably shred their own fins to make their lives a little easier, opening them up to infection and disease in the open wounds they create.

“Balloon” fish - I’ve seen this trait most often bred in livebearers, gouramis, and ram cichlids. It’s a trend that really needs to stop. Balloon fish have shortened, malformed spines that cause their bodies to be stunted and smushed. Because they don’t have the room in their shortened bodies for their organs, they bulge out to form a large “balloon” stomach area. These fish have notably shortened lifespans and are more prone to disease.

Hybrids - Hybrid species sound like a harmless introduction to the hobby, but things start getting complicated when we can’t tell which fish are hybrids and which are the species we’re looking for. Hybrid Synodontis catfish have become so prevalent in the trade that it is difficult to find fish that aren’t hybrids. Without being able to tell exactly which fish a hybrid was bred from, there’s no real way to tell how big it will get, what it’s housing needs are, or how best to care for it. In addition, there are some fish species that are endangered or extinct in the wild that have been preserved by commercial breeding for the fishkeeping hobby. If those fish species lose favor or genetic purity, we could lose them entirely.

Many “Monster” Fish - Now this one isn’t as much a problem with the fish themselves as how prevalent they are in the hobby. Commercial fish farms should not be breeding these fish as they don’t belong in any standard size tanks and certainly never in the hands of a novice fishkeeper. There are those out there capable of keeping them, but they are advanced fish keepers and certainly no where near a majority. Fish like common plecos, red tailed cats, bala sharks, arowannas, and knife fish (to name just a few) just don’t belong in your average pet store and certainly should not be mass bred for any unknowing new fishkeeper to horribly stunt in a grossly undersized tank.

Fish like these shouldn’t be mass bred by commercial fish farms and shouldn’t be cropping up in our fish stores, but they won’t be going anywhere any time soon if there’s still a demand for it. Make an effort not to buy these fish yourself and support their production, but also make sure to let your local stores know that you’re not happy to see them selling these kinds of fish. If retailers stop ordering them, the suppliers will stop breeding them, and we’ll have less fish in the world living horrible lives because of the things humans have done to them.