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FAQs on Dyed & Injected, Tattooed (yes, sigh) Freshwater Livestock

Related Articles: The Ethical Aquarist; Freshwater Fishes to Avoid by Judy Helfrich Freshwater Livestock, Fishes, Amphibians, Turtles

Related FAQs:  FW Livestock 1, FW Livestock 2, FW Livestock 3, Freshwater Livestock SelectionCommunity Tank Livestocking,


Fruit tetras? Glofish? Is this all natural?   1/18/10
Hello crew,
you guys have a website that can probably equal some books in amount of information!
<Actually, Bob Fenner has written multiple books, and I've written one on keeping fish too! So yes, there's a lot of stuff here.>
But here's mine: since I'm only 12 years old, I have had some interest in some weird fish. In my local PetSmart you see stuff labeled fruit tetra, colored tetra, Glofish, and colored glassfish. I know that some of them get the colors from dipping and injection, but are some of them okay and painless?
<The fish traded as Glo-Fish are genetically altered Danios, and yes, they're "harmless" in terms of physical pain. Whether or not they're harmless in the long term is a point for debate between scientists, but if you don't have any moral objections to genetically modified life forms, then they're fine in terms of ethics. Now, as for anything like Jellybean Tetras, Fruit Tetras, Coloured Glassfish and so on, these are 100% unnatural AND 100% cruel. Not only are they tattooed into the muscle -- not the skin -- without any kind of anaesthesia, the fish themselves are demonstrably weaker afterwards, and scientists have shown they suffer a higher rate of disease. Do not buy them please. Here in England, they are practically absent thanks to a campaign by Practical Fishkeeping Magazine.
Some other countries still sell them quite widely though. If your brother wants fish with insane colours, then take a look at things like Platies (Coral and Sunset Platies for example) and Swordtails (Pineapple and Tuxedo Swordtails for example). Both of these are hardy, easy to keep fish in medium sized tanks (20 gallons for Platies, 30 gallons for Swords) that are maintained a bit cool (22-24 C/72-75 F) and have hard (10+ degrees dH) and basic (pH 7.5) water. Neons, Glowlights, Cardinals and Rummynose Tetras prefer soft water, but in the right tank groups of them can be wonderfully colourful. The Emperor and the Blue Emperor tetras are another couple of nicely coloured fish, while the Peacock Gudgeon is in a class of its own.
On the big fish front, cichlids like Rotkeil Severums and Honduran Red Point Convicts have extraordinary colours. Lots of ethical options out there.>
Thank you very much, my brother wants to get some and I'm trying to stop him...
<Why not lunge at your brother with a big meat injector filled with luminous paint and see how he likes it! Just kidding. Obviously that would be cruel and dangerous. But that's what we're talking about here. It isn't anything any animal lover can support. So well done for trying to talk him out of it. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fruit tetras? Glofish? Is this all natural? (RMF, opinions?)  1/18/10
Thank you very much. So now I can consider WWM as a online book!
<Very good!>
Well... I told my brother that he could only get the Glofish. He wasn't thrilled about a green fish... think that our community tank is too bland.
<Oh? Maybe he should think about an aquarium based around a single oddball species (like a brackish water pufferfish) or a group of gregarious shell dwelling cichlids (small but feisty). Perhaps a pair of Apistogramma
cacatuoides? Lots of options for things once you decide a peaceful community isn't your thing. Feel free to write in, mentioning the size of the tank, water chemistry, your budget, and your interests, and perhaps we can come up with something.>
Only 4 Glowlight and a guppy... And 6 Otos that he says looks like slugs...
So he will probably back off for a while with the colored fish that is still sadly not banned in the US.
<They aren't banned in the UK; it's simply the shops have stopped selling them.>
I hope it will be banned soon.
<Indeed. Good luck with your fish hunting! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fruit tetras? Glofish? Is this all natural? (RMF, opinions?)

Oh? That's very interesting... All the shops in the UK simply selling colored or tattooed fish?
<Not quite all, but most, including the biggest aquarium store chain, Maidenhead Aquatics. PFK got the various stores to sign up to the promise, and made a whole big fuss about the cruelty involved.>
Seems like a big part of honesty. That'll never happen in the US.
<<Mmm, already does. RMF>>
<Perhaps it will, sooner or later. But the British are very sentimental about animals and whether or not they actually treat animals better than other nations is hard to say, but they like to think that they do.>
Well, thanks for your tips! Maybe my brother will learn to like normal colors, not man-Made ones.
<There's a middle ground. Those bright colours on Platies and Swordtails don't occur like that in nature, and it's taken breeding over generations to create them. So in that sense, they're artificial. But on the other hand, there's no cruelty involved.>
Thank you The pro fishkeeper Neale!
<Glad to help! Cheers, Neale.> <<Well done Neale. RMF>>

Does buying albino fish support dyeing fish?   12/3/09
Good evening, I have a "fish ethics" question please, and don't have much knowledge of the business and process of breeding and selling mass quantities of fish. When albino varieties of freshwater fish are bought does this indirectly encourage the practice of dyeing albino fish also?
Thank you!
<Hello Rose. This is a very good question. Albino fish are albinos because of genetics, and they do occur in nature as well as in captivity. In the wild albino fish are usually easy for predators to see, so they don't live for long. Consequently, albino fish are rare. Only in some cases are albino fish common, for example when fish live in caves and there's no light for predators to hunt by sight. Cave tetras (Astyanax mexicanus) are the classic example of a cave-dwelling albino fish. In captivity albino fish are not at risk of being eaten, so they can reach sexual maturity, produce offspring, and thereby create even more albino fish. Some aquarists find albino fish attractive, so it's quite common for albino forms of farmed fish to be sold. Albino Corydoras catfish, albino Black Widow tetras, and albino Kribensis cichlids are some examples. Now, at least some albino fish will be taken by people who dye (i.e., tattoo) fish and then sell them on. But whether or not you buy albino fish will not make much difference either way. Albino fish have been around for decades, and long before tattooing fish became a fad. On the other hand, albino fish do have some problems all their own. Albino fish with pink eyes tend to have poor eyesight; at the very least, they're more sensitive to bright light. They are also far more sensitive to UV light, but that shouldn't be an issue indoors. Albino fish generally tend to be more delicate (more prone to disease) than regular varieties because of the inbreeding required to "fix" the albino appearance within the stock of fish being farmed. Finally, there may be situations where albino fish are unable to communicate with their peers because they lack to colours required to advertise messages such as submission, willingness to breed, fear, etc. In short, buying an albino fish isn't "cruel" in the same way as a buying a tattooed fish, but there are some negative attributes to consider before handing over your money to the shopkeeper. Cheers, Neale.>

Need some help please; dyed fish, overstocking    2/3/08 Hey. I just bought a 4 gallon fish tank (baby BiOrb) as I wanted to get more fish. I already had a Fighter Fish so added him into there, but he's getting really stressed out. I have an air pump in there, some fake plants, some stones that came with the tank and a heater. There are also 3 other fish in there - 2 Diamond Tetras and 1 Coloured Cory (he seems to be fine with them). Will he just get used to it, or should I do something? If so what? Thanks Josie <Hello Josie. No you can't add more fish! You are already criminally overstocked. Diamond tetras (Moenkhausia pittieri) are medium-sized tetras that are very active schooling fish, and should be kept in groups of at least six specimens and in tanks 20 gallons upwards. So they're already very unhappy. The Corydoras needs to be in a much larger tank as well, and is also a schooling fish, so he's probably terrified and definitely unhappy. Keeping these fish in this way is cruel -- there's no other word for it. Another issue: how did you mature the filter? Just dumping a bunch of fish into a brand-new aquarium is a death sentence. Cycling a tank takes about 6 weeks the old fashioned way. In your case, adding a single Betta is really the only thing you can do for that time period, coupled with regular (likely 25% water changes every day or two). I assume you have a nitrite test kit, because if you just dumped these fish straight into a new aquarium the nitrite and ammonia will soon be at toxic levels, and then your fish will get sick or die. Please note that "letting the tank stand for 24 hours" doesn't do anything to cycle the aquarium; cycling requires a source of ammonia, either inorganic (from a bottle) or via suitable livestock (typically hardy fish of some sort). Regardless, a 4-gallon tank is a bucket in terms of volume, and while arguably adequate for a single fancy Betta, that is all. I personally wouldn't even keep a Betta in a 4-gallon tank. If you want something for a 4-gallon container of water buy some cut flowers and take up flower arranging. Seriously, these micro-tanks are incredibly difficult to run for inexperienced fishkeepers and almost always end up going bad. Your Betta is probably unhappy because the tank feels more like a cage filled with random animals, and he can't get any peace and quiet. So no, he's unlikely to settle down any time soon. I'm also concerned that you bought a "coloured" Corydoras. I hope you don't mean one that was painted or dyed; this is a very cruel process where dye is injected (without anaesthesia) into the muscle blocks under the skin. Some fish die in the process, and those that survive have increased mortality. No fishkeeping writer or vet supports this part of the trade, and it is one aspect that I think brings shame on the industry generally. It's been known for years that these fish are effectively tattooed, so if your retailer says they were just "painted harmlessly" he's probably lying and doesn't deserve your patronage. Please do not support this sadistic practise by buying any more coloured fish. Instead, go buy a book about tropical fish or borrow one from a library. Read up on what fish need, and how to care for them. There are plenty of articles here at WWM too. Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Need some help please; dyed fish, overstocking   2/3/08 We went on the advise of our local fish stockist - so I will not answer all your ranting about it being criminally overstocked. <Hello Josie. A 4 gallon tank with all those fish *is* overstocked and *is not* going to work in the long term. Whether you want to take my advice -- as a professional fishkeeping writer and trained marine biologist who writes for all the major magazines -- or not is up to you. What you've got from me is honesty and the facts; what you choose to do with them is your decision. But I will make the point that your fish depend upon you, and their lives are at risk if you do the wrong things. If the welfare and happiness of the animals you look after doesn't matter to you, so be it, but it isn't my job to candy-coat the facts to make them more acceptable to you. You already have problems now, and they're going to get worse. What else can I say?> All I will reply to is 'coloured' doras. Of course we did not tattoo or dye it. I bought it from a reputable dealer and it is a coloured albino Cory - just a coloured tail not coloured anywhere else and is natural. <By definition, albino fish don't have coloured tails. Think about this for just one second -- if you remember your biology from school, you will recall that albinos don't produce any colours in their bodies. If an albino fish has a brightly coloured tail, it's been dyed, or rather, tattooed. This is a cruel practise, no discussion. The British RSPCA considers it 'cruel and unnecessary' and various fish magazines around the world have lobbied hard against it. See here: http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/pfk/pages/show_article.php?article_id=72 But the only thing that will stop it, short of laws, is that people are educated about the process and choose not to buy the fish. If you've made the purchase out of ignorance, that's fine and you can learn the lesson. We all make mistakes. But I would encourage you not to buy any more. Hardly any shops in England still sell these fish, but a few do, unfortunately.> Thanks Josie <You're welcome, Neale.>

Re: Need some help please; dyed fish, overstocking   2/3/08 It does look like this fish has been dyed - so I will not be buying anymore and will ask the fish shop about it next time we go. <That's all you can do. Live and learn. If the store owner genuinely doesn't know about this issue, then perhaps you can educate them and they will stop buying the fish.> Do you think it is worth me reporting the fish shop to the RSPCA - if this will help stop this practice then I will of course do it. <The RSPCA are on the case already, but unfortunately importing dyed fish isn't (yet) illegal. The 2006 Animal Welfare Bill only prevents cruelty to fish that takes place within the UK, so while you could (potentially) prosecute someone who tattooed a fish in the UK, there's nothing in the Bill to prevent a wholesaler from imported fish that had been tattooed in Southeast Asia (which is where this practise is rife). If you're wondering why people like me get worked up about this issue, it's because the people who dye these fish are also doing things like cutting off the fins, even the tails, of fish (without anaesthesia) to make them more "interesting" to the market that buys them. Thankfully these fish don't seem to be sold in the UK, but they're certainly in the Asian trade. If you have a strong stomach, see here: http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/pfk/pages/item.php?news=957 Not pretty.> We did not know that this practice even existed - why would people do such a thing to any animal even a fish. To cause deliberate distress to anything is wrong. <Indeed. I think most aquarists would agree with you. I accept everyone makes mistakes, and I still do stupid things from time to time (I left the heater off in one of my tanks last night, for example). But the flip side is when we find out about something bad we're doing, or something bad in the trade, we act accordingly.> We will certainly be more careful in our choice of fish in the future. <Very good. A good aquarium book is helpful, and if all else fails, drop WWM a line and tell us about what fish you've seen and what sort of tank you have. Chances are you'll get a quick reply telling you whether or not such a fish would work well for you.> Thanks Barb <Cheers, Neale.>

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