I'll come right out and say it: I hate those animated "adult/kid" movies. You know, the kind that make heroes out of highly stylized baby animals...Like "Nemo" and such. I know that makes me cold and heartless, but I can't stand them...probably because I see them for what I think they are: A way to market toys to kids, and we all get so caught up in the "cuteness" of it all that we fail to see it. I'm even disgusted that I'm referring to the character in this blog...yuck!
However, I believe that I need to think more positive: It is possible, I suppose, to take something away from these animated subliminal toy-marketing features and find some sort of cultural commonality that we can apply to our fishy world. Yeah, I can make a stretch better than most people...
Have you noticed that, as a culture, we’re obsessed with baby animals? We love cute little baby Harp Seals, Koalas, Pandas…I’ve even seen baby Jackson’s Chameleons that look sort of “huggable.” But what about real baby fishes? Yeah, baby fish can actually be pretty darned adorable, without being "Nemo-ized!" Just think about these examples:
Baby Oscars are real cuties. I think it’s because their eyes are disproportionately larger than the rest of their bodies. And their mouths definitely look “baby-like”! I suppose the little guys would be really cuddly until they turn into an adults, and the big dummies realize that everything in the aquarium is their personal smorgasbord. And of course, with their huge appetites they become, quite literally, “gross polluters” at that point, huh?
How about juvenile Zebrasoma Tang species. Again, their eyes are just too big for their little heads. They look so sweet and innocent…You could just give them a big hug! Pixar’s animators could hardly do better! Think of the plush toy marketing opportunities here. How come we don’t see more baby fish? Why not a “Fish Babies” calendar? Awww...Vomit...
Okay, let's brush off the metaphorical cuteness for a minute and get down to brass tacks.
I guess the biggest reason why we don’t have more people showing off their cute little baby fish is that, well- we don’t see a ton of cute baby fish in the marine hobby. Yeah, right? Since we’re so into the adults of most species (exception: the larger Pleco species, huge child, barbs, etc.- which are awesome as juveniles), we probably rarely see little guys.
Is this a problem? Well, perhaps it is.
Let’s get one thing cleared up- I’m not advocating purchasing tiny little versions of Arowanna or Groupers.
If you don’t have a sufficiently large tank available at the outset, don’t purchase any fish under the “assumption” that you’ll “get that 750 gallon aquarium later”. It doesn’t always happen, and it’s not correct to assume that a large fish can “adapt” to a small tank or “grow to the size of the aquarium”. These are holdovers from a misinformed time in the hobby that we should just erase from our collective consciousness.
One other thing to clear up- juveniles of near-impossible-to-keep marine fishes (like C. orantissimus or C. myersi butterflies) will likely NOT fare any better than adults. If they have challenging dietary needs, they will in all likelihood not be any easier to meet as juveniles. I see this error in judgement made all the time. I suppose an advanced reefer could make an argument to the contrary, but “weaning” a fish off of its diet of eons seems like an awfully futile process, if you ask me. I’d say, “go experiment”, but this would lend tacit approval to importers bringing in fishes with little likelihood of survival based on a small number of people who want to roll the dice with innocent animals’ lives. Bad call, IMHO.
My case for purchasing juvenile fishes whenever you can is pretty simple: First, with proper care, they will often more readily adapt to captive life, eating prepared foods and accepting aquarium conditions (yes, there are exceptions, but my experience has been largely positive most commonly available species). Second, they are typically less aggressive and play nicer with conspecifics- the classic marine example being the Centropyge angelfish.
It's far easier to keep juveniles of fishes like Centropyge angelfish together when they are added to one aquarium as juveniles. Territories will be formed later- at the moment, it’s all about being a kid! Really! I have very fond memories of my juvenile Lemonpeel, Flame, and Bicolor angels all “playing” together in my old 225 gallon aquarium. They were a tight little gang, and when they were older, they established their territories. Yet, they all played nice, just like a couple of beer-swilling reefers at an ACA convention! In fact, you could make the argument that “familiarity breeds content” with fishes. There’s a lot to be said for growing up on the same block together!
My final case for obtaining juvenile fishes is perhaps the most compelling- and the most preachy: When we remove older, breeding-size adult fishes from the rivers, lakes, and reefs, we are potentially immediately affecting the breeding population of fishes in their natural habitats. If enough breeding-size individuals are removed from wild populations, who knows how profound the impact could be? Pressure on the natural lakes, rivers, and reefs caused by overfishing and other factors is not just for “tree huggers” and reactionary kooks…It’s a real concern, and we can help alleviate the problem and educate others in the process.
If you really want to see cute baby fishies, breed your own! Follow the sage advice of the hundreds of hobbyists who are part of the ranks of home breeders- and get in the game! If you have hundreds of larval fishes, you’ll get to see those cute little eyes looking out at you every day. And, you can feel great about doing something that will help the hobby-and the world’s lakes, rivers, and reefs-at the same time! Win-win, right? Yeah!
So, next time you see that cute little juvenile characin staring back at you from the LFS's aquarium like a puppy in the window, open your heart and reach for your wallet…
Urghh- I wanna barf again...
Ok. Seriously. Think about young fishes...
Until next time,