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?
If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you’re probably aware of my disdain for extraneous, anthropogenic (man made) noises in aquariums. Such noises occur in the natural environments (boat motors, industrial machinery) of many cichlids. Eliminating such noises is unrealistic. Reducing them is not. I used to have a sister blog called The Bio Stage (it’s coming back, btw). In that blog, I often wrote about the effects of anthropogenic noise on cetaceans (e.g., dolphins and whales).
I promised when I started the blog that I would bring you interviews with professionals from all aspects of fish keeping. Even though I am an amateur aquarist and this blog is for hobbyists, science regularly informs the hobby. Therefore, let me introduce Dr. Karen Maruska. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Louisiana State University (LSU). She received her B.S. from University of New Hampshire, M.S. from Florida Tech, Ph.D. from University of Hawaii, and postdoc at Stanford University. Her research uses fishes as vertebrate models to study how the brain controls social behaviors such as reproduction and aggression. All photos courtesy of Karen Maruska.
Let’s get started.
The Cichlid Stage: Your research revolves around fish, especially cichlids. How and/or why did you become interested in conducting research on fish?