Seems Fish To Me:
By Spencer Glass
For this, my
inaugural piece for the Conscientious Aquarist, I have to go back to
where it all started. I don’t mean Genesis. I don’t mean the Ice Age.
I don’t even mean the frameless aquarium. And what do I mean by "It?"
"It," is what I
believe is the causal effect that should have opened our eyes to the fact
that we need to start looking into the role within the hobby we have to take
as hobbyists. In this case, I believe, is the appearance/emergence of
“Painted” Glassfish. Now I hear you hollering out, “Oh, come on Glass,
(no pun intended, or maybe there is) there have been worse problems to deal
with before that. What about releasing Oscars and Piranha into
Floridian waters? What about cyaniding Philippine coral reefs?
What about this, what about that?” They are all legitimate concerns.
(Especially the “what about thats”)
talking about here is when the envelope was pushed way too far. Once
we started accepting dyed fish into our hobby, we’d done just went too
dang far. I can’t help but imagine some seedy fish exporter
looking over his bottom line, exclaiming, “We’re just not selling enough
glassfish...we must sell more Glassfish!” In an effort to make 3 more
cents a day, some cerebral little boy meekly shimmies over to the Fishlord
and mumbles, “We should paint them, sir.”
The boy, a
little stronger in voice articulates, “We should paint them
sir...bright colors, then people would buy them”.
twirls his feathery beard, and shouts, “Everyone, stop what you’re doing!”
The little boy smiles, sensing a full loaf of bread for dinner tonight.
kicks him in the rear, sends him away boisterously glowering, “Mind your
manners, you little impish slug. How dare you make my idea your own!
Now git. You’re fired”
As the boy
despondently slithers away the Fishlord avers, “I have the answer!”
Yes, I have a
way of letting my imagination run away with me, but you do get a glimpse of
the picture here, don’t you? So let’s talk about the “Glassfish”
before the world of fluorescence brandished it’s nasty brush on the scaly
There are two
fish commonly referred to in the trade as Glassfish; The
Chanda ranga, and the Chanda baculis. Of these two Southeast
Asian fish, the one most commonly used for painting would be the latter,
Chanda baculis. And true, in and of itself, this is no
spectacular fish. Obviously it’s got to be an easy catch for importers
in the confines of its natural range, India, Myanmar and Thailand. I
would speculate the initial fascination with this fish was its transparent
body. You could see right inside, organs, bones, and everything.
I must admit
when I re-entered the hobby, post-childhood around 1986, my eyes fell upon a
tank labeled “Painted Glassfish”. They were transparent with a spinal
stripe, colored either pink, or yellow, or orange, or blue, or purple, or
green. Wow! They were pretty neat. I wondered why I never
saw them as a kid. I woulda bought a bunch of them. I asked the
store employee if they were real. It was a dumb question and I got a
dumber answer. “Uh, yeah they’re real. All the fish here are
“I mean is the
color real...naturally that way?”
yet glib reply was, “Uh, yeah!”
Okay, I didn’t
believe him but I bought about five anyway. That was my first mistake.
I’ll tell you or yell at you later as to why. They’re not hard to
keep. As a matter of fact they’re pretty easy, and get along with most
tropicals their size. While they are not exactly considered a
schooling fish, they do enjoy being with their own kind. They are nice
mid-level aquarium swimmers and will remain healthy provided water
conditions are met. You need not be overly precise, as with discus,
but keeping the water on the warmer side of the tropical range, say 76 to 78
degrees F. suits them. pH in the neutral (7.0) to slightly acidic
range (6.8) pleases them as well.
There is some
degree of disagreement as to the positive or negative aspect of salt in the
aquarium these fish reside in. Here’s my experience. A dose of
one teaspoon of salt in just about any freshwater aquarium has an amazing
prophylactic effect. In general all of my aquariums are treated as
such, and it is a rarity that I have an outbreak of “ich” or fungus.
Some other species of Glassfish may be considered brackish and require a
higher salt concentration. Either way, I have not seen glassfish, or
any fish for that matter, suffer from the addition of NaCl.
hearty non-finicky eaters. As with most fish, keep them on a varied
diet of quality flake, as well as frozen, freeze-dried and live foods.
This diet and proper water conditions should allow your Glassfish to thrive.
The injected dye doesn’t seem to affect their health adversely. However,
that doesn’t make it good!
Here’s where I
went wrong when I bought my Painted Glassfish. I wasn’t educated.
I wasn’t thinking. I’m not a big proponent of governmental
legislation. I’m a Libertarian at heart...I think. I don’t want
our government to outlaw Painted Glassfish. The reason they have
become so prevalent is that stupid people like me buy first and think later.
I give kudos to those stores that refuse to sell them. This is despite
the fact that they are great sellers. Unknowing, rookie hobbyists buy
them. They ask the same questions I do, and often get the same
responses. Sometimes they get the truth and buy them anyway. And
what’s so wrong with that?
I’ll put it as
succinctly as possible. It’s not our job to screw with nature’s work.
How’d you like a needle shoved in your back to make you turn green?
Our hobby comes with a certain degree of responsibility. It involves
living things. If you like garish fancy colors, take up painting or
needlepoint, or jewelry making. What’s happened as a result of the
Painted Glassfish’s popularity is that we are seeing this done more and more
to other naturally beautiful tropical fish. Is it really okay to dye
an Oscar blue? We laugh at an old lady’s hair, but we’ll buy something
called a Blueberry Oscar, or Strawberry Tetra. Well, knock it off!
Buy a Pop Tart marketed like that, not fish.
When we buy these things, we promote and justify their sale. It’s still
a capitalistic world out there and the pet shop business is a very difficult
field to survive in. I try to educate people in stores, subtly without
making a spectacle, that these creature’s colors are created artificially.
Buy these. Then I show them the real thing. This way I don’t
really tick off any owners or employees with rabbit ears.
I would like to thank co-editor Scott Fellman for inviting me into this
quality internet magazine. Keep in mind when you read my stuff, it is
based on my opinions that generate from my experiences. Obviously
they’re not always going to be the same as yours. Oh how dull reading
would be if all authors believed all of the same things their readers
believed. I don’t mind at all if you disagree, just don’t tell me I
don’t have a right to my opinion! In my
FAMA column that has happened. Doesn’t the Food Network’s Emeril
Lagasse say, “Hey, if you don’t like it, get your own show!”