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Articles on:  Avoiding Bad Choices: Saltwater Animals That Are Commonly Offered in the Trade That Shouldn't Be, and Suggested Alternatives, by Bob Fenner, Using Handouts, Using Releases

Handouts: Moving Aquariums, Fish Disease

Releases: Put An Aquarium In Your Office

/Go Rin No Sho of Business

Beginner Marine Livestock:

Some of the Best Available Right Now

By Bob Fenner

Social Damsel species; amongst the best

The "giving" and cooler weather season is among us, combining to provide pressure on livestock suppliers to make available new and established "standards" for marine hobbyists. Yes, there are seasonal variations in what's on offer, mainly due to what Mother Nature is pumping out, but also flavored by what the market is demanding.

Here is a quick review of some of the sure seawater winners for this year.

Fishes: For Fish Only Systems and Reefs

Damsels: Let's start with the most basic family of fishes, the Damselfishes. For FO systems, we've got the usual Dascyllus (e.g. the Three and Four-Stripes), and Chromis, but the Blues (C. cyanea) have really "come up" this year in quality and abundance. The ones from Fiji are especially exceptional. For Reefkeepers, the Spanish Belle, Chrysiptera taupou is a beautiful though feisty choice. One to a tank unless it's much more than one hundred gallons. I'd also like to mention the laterally compressed genus Amblyglyphidodon. The White Belly Damsel, A. leucogaster, usually imported out of the Indian Ocean and Red Sea is now coming out of the South Pacific along with two very nice congeners, the Golden Damsel, A. aurora and Gold Striped Damsel, A. curacao. These are larger (to four inch length) Damselfishes that do well on their own or in small groups (in large systems of course).

Dwarf Angelfishes: belong to the same family as their larger kin (Pomacanthidae), but only get to be a handful of inches long. In fact there are some dwarf Dwarf Angelfishes that have really been great this year. In the tropical west Atlantic, the Cherubs (Centropyge argi) and Flame Back (C. aurontonotus) are great choices for peaceful FO systems and reefs. In the Pacific the availability of Fisher's Dwarf Angelfish (C. fisheri) has jumped as well, and it's a hardy multi-purpose fish as well.

Blennies of many sorts continue to become more popular and for good reasons; their selection, numbers and quality have really improved. The Lawnmower Blenny species (principally Salarias) are a really bonus for their comical behavior and frenetic filamentous algae scraping. Rainford's Goby (Amblygobius rainfordi) is coming in much sturdier/fatter and being joined by the equally beautiful Hector's Goby (A. hector). Stay tuned for much more from this group.

Non-Fishes: Macro-Algae & Invertebrates

More and more species of wild-collected and cultured macro-algae are hitting the markets. Halimeda, various species of Caulerpa, Gracilaria and more are pretty much available continuously. These should be part of serious marine aquarists set-ups, either in their main/display systems, and/or in specialized sumps to aid in filtration.

Where to start with the new invertebrates? Gorgonian (aka Sea Fan) selection and health are way up. The species of the genus Pseudopterygorgia reign supreme, but there are more Caribbean species of much better condition all the time, and more reef hobbyists trying them'¦ successfully.

Ditto with Sponges. These just-barely tissue grade life animals have finally started to be appreciated for what they are: major components of the marine environment. And real progress made in their careful collection and transport (underwater) from the wild.

Soft and Stony Corals (Orders Alcyonacea and Scleractinia) both cultured and nature-extracted continue their expansion in new species, varieties and steady availability. I really like some of the warm-colored Lobophyllias out of the South Pacific, and there are going to be some heads turning with the opening up of a few new collecting stations from Java, Indonesia to Vanuatu and beyond. On the fragmentation front, there are many new facilities turning out quality live product. Most all Pulsing Corals (family Xeniidae) are raised, broken up intentionally or not, and sold to and through local markets. This is a very good thing, as their long-distance shipping survival history is dismal. Galaxeas (family Oculinidae) and Caulastrea furcata are also more cultured than wild-collected nowadays, and as such, are more hardy, being ready-adapted to captive conditions. The Staghorns (family Acroporidae) from Dave Palmer in the Solomon's continue to infiltrate western retailers' tanks and their customers'.

A Couple of Warnings:

Even in a brief article on what's new and available in marine livestock as this, I would be remiss not to caution possible well-meaning folks against the purchase of livestock as gifts for other aquarists. The implications of such presents are clear and problematical. Instead, a gift certificate, art-work or book on the subject will be much appreciated.

Secondly, do be aware of the paradox of this, the busiest season of the aquarium industry, suffers from a dearth of livestock. Yes, just when people have gotten their new system, new gear, and are spending more time in front of their tanks, there is decidedly not much livestock to be had. This is an artifact of two influences, the holiday that collectors, transshippers, and their intermediaries take during the holiday season, and the use of air freight services for other purposes. Be patient, in early to mid January livestock supplies return in strength.

Tis the season, for giving and buying'¦ including marine livestock. Keep your eyes open; there is much that is new, and more that is improved in old favorites.

To: BobFenner@aol.com<BR>


</FONT><FONT SIZE=3 PTSIZE=10>Hi, Bob: Tried to call you in Fiji this AM but you were out. Imagine:<BR>

there's actually a Fiji Standard Time. Who would have thought it??<BR>


Joe Groff has already done an article on giving fish as gifts. It focuses<BR>

on the responsibility involved, caring stewardship, kids who lose interest,<BR>

and so on. Can you do an article on saltwater livestock available this time<BR>

of year for beginners. <have flavored piece with same> Community tank species and maybe some single tank<BR>

species (if any are good for beginners). <there really are not any'¦ though people try seahorses, octopus'¦ and more disastrously> Perhaps you could add some<BR>

verbiage on availability of stock and the cold weather climates. Maybe you<BR>

could focus on the top 5 peaceful species for community tanks: I'm trying<BR>

hard to work in a holiday theme here!! And of course add in the usual<BR>

cautionary statement that saltwater fish are hard to keep, so know what<BR>

you're getting into first. The tone should always be warm and friendly,<BR>

caring and knowledgable. You're writing for the NOVICE.<BR>

<BR> <Okay!>

If you need more direction, let me know.<BR>


Your article should be 400-500 words, and I'll need to know how to reach<BR>

you in addition to email for the next week or so. I need the article no<BR>

later than Friday; sooner is always better. That's Friday PST.<BR>

<BR><which Friday?, i.e. what date?>

John Caskie may be doing an article on product picks again, but I need to<BR>

clarify that.<BR>


Oh, and we need to talk about your very interesting travels. Did you tell<BR>

me you're doing underwater photography on these jaunts or did I invent that?<BR>

If so, we'd like to have you write about it for us.<BR>


Thanks, Bob.<BR>


<Oh, do travel quite a bit'¦ mainly places where the water is warm and clear, but also out to help friends in the trade, give/take in presentations in the industry, science and hobby of the ornamental aquatics and dive interests. And almost always have a camera or two out'¦ the cover of the hobby magazine is by me this (Nov.) month. Will write about most any topic (as you will know) at any urging>

Patricia, here is a first draft. Please make it known ASAP if it needs modification.

Bob Fenner

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