Don’t get a Dory (and why sweeping generalizations are bad)
So lately I’ve been seeing a post called “Don’t get a Dory” going around. I get it. The intentions of this post are good! But saying things like saltwater fish suffer in captivity, and that all saltwater fish are wild caught, is dangerous and incorrect. Skimming through the reblogs on that post, I have seen several people ask if they should start buying sw fish with the intent of either “donating” them to zoos/aquariums or releasing them into the wild. LET’S STOP RIGHT THERE. What makes you think that zoos/aquariums want those fish? You’d just be stuck with sw fish you are not prepared or knowledgeable enough to keep. Those fish die. Let’s say you release those fish into the wild. What makes you think that the ocean is one single habitat type? You release a Dory and that fish dies and potentially takes wild fish with it by introducing disease and parasites that native fish/inverts aren’t equipped to handle. If by some miracle you release a fish that can survive in the waterway you release it in, it has the potential to reproduce and drive out native species. Ever hear of the invasive lionfish epidemic in the Atlantic?
Let’s move on to another point I see brought up often: That “Finding Nemo” increased demand for clownfish. This is true! But it also increased motivations to breed clownfish in captivity. Most clownfish for sale are now aquacultured and have zero impact on reefs in the wild. We have now bred yellow tangs in captivity and I have no doubt that we will figure out how to breed blue hippo tangs as well in the near future. The biggest problems I have with these films are that Disney made aquarium products. These tank kits were inappropriate for even simple and easy fish like bettas, much less “nemos” and “dorys”.
I’ve also seen people say that saltwater fish do not belong in homes. WHY? Are you against people keeping freshwater fish? Without professional and hobbyist aquarists, we would not have captive populations of fish and corals. Owning fish is extremely important to conservation and continuing to be able to enjoy these animals in a climate that is changing.
As long as you do your research and keep them properly, saltwater fish are excellent pets. Blue hippo tangs (and tangs in general) are very long lived, intelligent, and personable fish. I’ve known blue tangs in hobbyist tanks that were in their twenties. IMO, chain pet stores should not carry saltwater fish because they often do not allow their employees to deny sales to people who will neglect or abuse those fish. And the employees are also often uneducated and not hobbyists themselves. That being said, condemning an entire industry and hobby just causes misguided instances where people will unknowingly introduce invasive species and harm wildlife with the best intentions. Not unlike the bison incident that has made headlines recently.
In short, if you find yourself wanting to rescue fish from the evils of the pet industry, EDUCATE yourself on the benefits of captivity and why hobbyist propagation of fish and coral species is so important.