You are not a scientist!

Science word cloud. Image from https://www.researchgate.net/.

I’m going to guess if you are reading this, it’s because you either keep cichlids or you want to for the enjoyment. Neither of those makes you a hobbyist, necessarily. For a lot of us, however, cichlid keeping is a hobby. If your collection of tanks and cichlid species seems to grow, your thoughts are often consumed with cichlids and aquariums, and you spend a lot of your free time maintaining or watching your fish, you can consider yourself a hobbyist. As such, your fish keeping journey should be something to be enjoyed. But it is also a responsibility. 

It’s that latter part that I want to focus on with this post. I’ve covered this before in a previous post, titled A bigger responsibility. But here I want to focus on a different component of responsibility. I don’t do this very often but I am going to begin proselytizing here, so feel free to click away or leave the site.

If you want to be a hobbyist, then be a hobbyist. But don’t try to be a scientist. For you, the hobbyist, fish should not be an experiment. Yes, you can experiment with different aspects of fishkeeping (e.g., lights, heaters), but if you are not a researcher then your fish are not an experiment.

The majority of cichlids involved in research are sacrificed at the end of the research. Yes, that means they are killed. There is no easy way to say that unless you prefer me to use the word “euthanized.” This is done humanely and follows specific protocols often authored by various agencies. There is a method involved and it is strictly followed. However, quite often there is nothing physically wrong with the fish when it’s euthanized. I’m not criticizing science here.

The greater point is that the fish’s life is your responsibility…which means you are supposed to maintain that life. A scientist’s responsibility is to the research and to follow whatever protocols have been put in place to complete the research. Scientist don’t look at their fish as more than research subjects. They can’t because it could potentially cloud the science.

Fish used in science are part of a formalized, controlled effort to advance our understanding of living things. Thus, they are research subjects that become pieces of a much larger puzzle…nothing more. You have no protocols as a hobbyist…at least not formal ones other than the protocols required to be morally responsible (e.g., maintain appropriate water parameters, space). You have a responsibility to provide your fish a suitable environment and one that maximizes its health. Focus on that just a second. Your number one objective should be – do what’s best for the fish.

I’ve said it before in previous posts, but I see examples of too many hobbyists who don’t take what they are doing seriously enough. “Lighten up,” you say. “It’s just a fish.” It’s not just a fish. It’s a living organism you took on the responsibility to keep alive the second you acquired it. Yes, fish keeping is a hobby and, as such, should be enjoyed. However, your enjoyment should never come at the expense of your fish. Please leave the experimenting to the scientists.

Sam Garcia, Jr. interview, # 2

Sam Garcia, Jr. at Aquarium Fish Depot in San Diego.
 

Not long after I started this blog back in 2015, I reached out to a unique fellow cichlidophile, whom I’d never met, to see if he would be interested in an interview. Thankfully, he said he would be happy to do it. Fast forward nearly five years, and I thought I would reach out to him again. This long-time aquarist is different than most because he’s also an artist who focuses on fish illustrations and aquarium art.

Sam Garcia, Jr. is not only an awesome artist, but he’s a fantastic fish keeper and a super nice guy. Sam Scalz, as he’s known in the art community, is also quite busy these days. In addition to fish keeping and his art business, which includes t-shirts, he also helps out at his friend Ron Soucy’s shop, Aquarium Fish Depot, in San Diego, CA.

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Jeff Turner interview

Jeff Turner, President of Boyd Enterprises – maker of Chemi-pure filtration media. 
All cichlid keepers have favorite products or brands that they use. I am no different. Today’s interviewee owns the company that produces products used regularly by aquarists all around the world, me included. In fact, I’ve been using one of his products for almost as long as I’ve been keeping fish. You may not know the interviewee by name, but I can almost guarantee you’ve heard of his products. If you haven’t until now, today’s your lucky day.

Jeff Turner is President of Boyd Enterprises. As such he owns the Chemi-pure line of products. “Chemi-pure is the unrivaled filtration media for maintaining an aesthetically pleasing and healthy aquarium.” Jeff is also President of Reef Aquaria Design and Jellyfish Art, custom tank building companies.

An aquarist and businessman, Jeff has been in the hobby for over five decades. While his career was built around marine aquariums and systems, Jeff is a freshwater enthusiast and also a cichlidophile. In fact, the tank in his work office is a cichlid tank.

I had not met Jeff prior to this interview but I reached out to Chemi-pure in hopes of getting an interview with him. His folks got him in touch with me and, as they say, the rest is history.

Lots to cover so let’s get going!

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Mysis shrimp and Piscine Energetics, Inc.

Though I’d be willing to bet you’ve never heard of Piscine Energetics, Inc. (PE), I bet you’ve heard of mysis shrimp. A Canadian company, PE produces aquarium foods based on sustainably harvested mysis shrimp. Their freshwater line consists of flake, pellet, and frozen formulations of mysis as well as a cichlid version. They also produce a line of calanus products. I have fed PE mysis pellets and flakes to my fish and they loved them.

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Sightlines, chemicals, and aggression

Image from Burt’s Blog.

Because most cichlids exhibit aggression during breeding and territorial defense, a common solution to reduce such aggression in closed systems is the introduction of sightline barriers. This can come in the form of plants, rocks, wood, decorations, or even sand piles. The basic principle is that blocking the regular view of one cichlid from another will reduce aggression between the two. However, relying solely on sightline reduction to mitigate aggression in cichlids is often futile. Why?

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Cichlid naming conventions

 

Word cloud image from https://www.wordclouds.com/.

So what does the word mean that often follows a cichlid’s scientific name? For example, you see Julidochromis transcriptus Bemba. What is Bemba? That’s the location from which that particular strain of fish originates or was collected from. So in the Julidochromis example I gave above, Bemba would be a specific town, island, bay, or cape on Lake Tanganyika. Sometimes the word will be in quotation marks, like Julidochromis transcriptus “Bemba”.

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What’s your plan for cichlid babies (e.g., fry)?

Adult pair of Texas cichlids (Herichthys cyanoguttatus) with fry. Photo by Dick Au from https://www.sanfranciscoaquariumsociety.org/.”

Here’s the scenario: you’re new to cichlids but you’ve done a ton of research, you’ve talked to other cichlid keepers, you know what fish you want, and everything is all set. Fast forward several weeks or months after you’ve purchased your fish and one day you discover that some of them have spawned and you have babies (fry) in your tank. You’re very excited…and then it hits you. “What do I do with them?” you ask yourself.

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A disaster but not a tragedy

Water on carpet. This is NOT a photo of my carpet in the basement. Photo from https://www.smartkilim.com/.

If you keep fish long enough, you will eventually experience a tank or filter failure that will inevitably leave you with a floor full of water. It WILL happen.

After nearly 20 years of personally avoiding such a disaster, my luck ran out this past weekend. I woke up Sunday morning and, like every other morning, went down to the basement where all but one of my show tanks are located. The basement is partially finished and partially carpeted.

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