Located outside of the Coral Reef Ecology Laboratory
Most ornamental coral reef fish and other organisms for tropical marine aquaria are collected directly from the reef, often as adults. This has resulted in damage to reefs, reduced populations, high by-catch mortality, the introduction of pathogens, and high post-capture mortality.
Fortunately, there are some species which can be bred in captivity, including some seahorses, damselfish, cardinalfish, pipefish, shrimp, zooanthiids, algae, corals and anemones.
Some organisms in our aquarium
Building a Marine Aquarium
Artificial reef rock
Established artificial rock
Live rock is calcareous and is covered with algae, bacteria, and marine invertebrates. It is used in marine aquaria to seed them with many helpful organisms which stabilise water chemistry and pH, act as a base for nitrification, and thus function as a biological filter. However, live rock is harvested from the reef, and so is not eco-friendly.
Artificial reef rock is a new, more sustainable, alternative made from a cement-like mixture of calcium carbonate material, shell grit, and sand. It is highly porous, providing a surface on which coralline (purple coloured) and other algae, bacteria, and invertebrates can grow. When used in unison with live rock, it provides a base for reef growth. Its use reduces the environmental and financial costs associated with using large amounts of live rock. Established artificial rock can then be used to establish new aquarium systems, eliminating the need for live rock
Did you know? We used 110 kg of artificial rock and only 10 kg of natural live rock to establish our aquarium.
Captive-bred Marine Fish
One of the highlights of most marine aquariums is the variety of colourful reef fish that are on display. However, unlike freshwater fish, most of these specimens are collected directly from the reef. Between 20 and 24 million individual fish are collected annually from coral reefs in Southeast Asia and the Indian and Pacific oceans, and sold to consumers all over the world. Unfortunately, damaging fishing practices as well as unregulated harvesting is causing damage to reefs as well as wild animal populations. Using fish bred in captivity or obtaining fish caught using sustainable practices can reduce the damage the aquarium trade has on coral reef communities.
All of our fish bought for our aquarium have been purchased by local fish breeders and have not been harvested from the wild.
Some of our captive-bred fish
Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) - Darwin morph
Banggai cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni)
Orchid dottyback (Pseudochromis fridmani)
Fish Reared from Wild Larvae
A new, and more sustainable, approach to supplying the marine aquarium trade being investigated is to capture coral reef fish at the larval stage using light traps or crest nets, and rear them in captivity. This circumvents the high rates of natural mortality associated with settlement of wild larvae from the plankton. It also allows passive harvesting which does not damage reefs, eliminates the acclimatisation problem associated with harvesting adult fish-a main cause of fish mortality in aquaria. Fish raised from larvae can be also grown more quickly and healthily in a controlled aquarium environment.
Fortunately, few species can be bred in captivity, including sea horses, clown fish, damselfish, cardinal fish, dottybacks, gobies, blennies and some shark species. Captive breeding programs and aquaculture are expanding, and offer the most sustainable solution to supplying the marine fish aquarium trade, and also the live fish food trade. We have two fish in our aquarium that were collected when they were larval fish from Lizard Island, Australia, and raised in captivity.
Brushtail tang (Zebrasoma scopas)
Finelined surgeonfish (Acanthurus grammoptilus)
Other species reared from wild larvae
Some of our corals
Corals in our tank are all aquacultured and sourced from aquariums or hobbyists.
Should we keep cleaner fish in aquaria? Probably not.
Labroides dimidiatus Bluestreak cleaner wrasse
Cleaner fish eat parasites that live on fish. They benefit from this food source while their fish clients benefit from a reduction in parasites, making this a mutualistic association. Each L. dimidiatus cleans ~2300 fish and eats ~1200 parasites. Their removal from reefs reduces fish abundance and diversity. Except for a few gobies & shrimp, no cleaners are bred in captivity.
Did you know? L. dimidiatus are one of the top 10 most exported fish to the US and UK. In Sri Lanka alone, 20,000 were traded one year. Since they are also one of species with the lowest survival in aquaria, because they usually starve, they should not be kept in home aquaria.