Talk­ing par­rots

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Tank Community -

I was quite stirred read­ing your de­bate about Par­rot ci­ch­lids in PFK’S Spring 2018 is­sue. Be­fore I start with my points, I wish to make it clear that I’m nei­ther for nor against Par­rots and hy­bridi­s­a­tion. I also cur­rently own sev­eral par­rots and as­so­ci­ated hy­brids.

I think that the point made about peo­ple vot­ing with their wal­lets rings true, but we also have to ap­pre­ci­ate that not ev­ery­one is go­ing to sud­denly de­cide not to pur­chase Par­rots and wipe out the mar­ket. So, as aquar­ists, we have to ac­cept, even if be­grudg­ingly, that these fish are here to stay.

Hy­bridi­s­a­tion and ge­netic mod­i­fi­ca­tion (GM) has been go­ing on for years out­side of the fish­keep­ing in­dus­try. Many peo­ple are drawn to Par­rot ci­ch­lids due to their ‘quirky char­ac­ter­is­tics’, such as their body shape and colour morph. While some will say this is un­nat­u­ral, how many of us are guilty of look­ing at pug dogs (with their sim­i­lar ‘squashed up faces’) and think­ing “those are cute?”

These dogs, just like Par­rots, have been bred to al­ter their ge­net­ics and give those short snouts and tiny skulls which cause health is­sues for the an­i­mal. But these an­i­mals have been ac­cepted and are fast be­com­ing one of the na­tion’s favourites. Why are Par­rot ci­ch­lids deemed re­pul­sive while their fluffy equiv­a­lent is revered and adored?

I know this sub­ject was briefly touched upon in the ar­ti­cle as line breed­ing – line breed­ing is es­sen­tially in­breed­ing. Surely in­breed­ing is worse than hy­bridi­s­a­tion? I know which of the two words per­son­ally draws the strong­est emo­tive re­ac­tion for me.

An­swer­ing the point around Par­rots di­lut­ing in­ter­est in ‘real fish’, do you gen­uinely think this is the case? I don’t.

Prior to keep­ing Blood par­rots and hy­bridised Par­rots I had a South Amer­i­can ci­ch­lid set-up. I even­tu­ally grew tired of the lip lock­ing and hav­ing to quar­an­tine fish over ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes. I only kept Blue acara at that time and they aren’t even deemed par­tic­u­larly ag­gres­sive. Al­though Par­rots are guilty of the oc­ca­sional squab­ble, these are min­i­mal and, due to their ‘de­for­mi­ties’, they cause lit­tle dam­age to one another and any ag­gres­sion is short­lived. The best way to de­scribe them would be like bois­ter­ous teens.

To con­text this, I cur­rently own Par­rot hy­brids that have been cross­bred with Texas ci­ch­lids, Flow­er­horn and Mi­das ci­ch­lids, and can see the typ­i­cal coloura­tions of these fish in my Par­rots. This is an aes­thetic that I wouldn’t be able to achieve in my tank with the ‘real fish’, they’d sim­ply not be com­pat­i­ble. Does this mean I no longer hold in­ter­est in ‘real fish’? No it doesn’t – it just means I haven’t got the means to house them all in sep­a­rate tanks be­cause I sim­ply don’t have the room.

I don’t be­lieve that the ‘cre­ation’ of the Blood par­rot rep­re­sents progress, but its hap­pened. We are now start­ing to see Par­rots emerge on the mar­ket that are ca­pa­ble of clos­ing their mouths so, in this sense, ‘tin­ker­ing’ must rep­re­sent progress. Al­though I will ad­mit, in my lim­ited ex­pe­ri­ence, that those ca­pa­ble of clos­ing their mouths dis­play more ag­gres­sion than those who can’t.

Can I just clar­ify at this point that while I’m not against hy­bridi­s­a­tion, I’m cat­e­gor­i­cally against the other means of mod­i­fi­ca­tion that fish are sub­ject to. Dye­ing and tat­too­ing can only be deemed as an­i­mal cru­elty, and the less said about the hor­rors that ‘Heart par­rots’ are sub­jected to, the bet­ter. This truly is prof­i­teer­ing over wel­fare and is some­thing that should be banned glob­ally.

When we strip it back, the most re­ward­ing thing about the fish­keep­ing hobby is look­ing af­ter the fish we keep, in­ter­act­ing with them, pro­vid­ing the best care we can and, all in all, sit­ting back and en­joy­ing our beau­ti­ful set-ups.

Given that the Par­rot fish is not go­ing any­where any­time soon, then surely we should ac­cept this and give these fish the best pos­si­ble lives rather than be­rat­ing them. They may be ‘man-made’, but this doesn’t mean they don’t de­serve the same care, – and I’m sure even the so-called ‘hard­core aquar­ists’ can’t dis­pute that. Jamie Thorpe, by email

Nathan replies: Huge thanks, Jamie, for your com­pre­hen­sive re­sponse to our dis­cus­sion piece. While I agree with most of the points you raised, I’d cer­tainly dis­pute the very last one. I know of some aquar­ists who take an ex­tremely hard­line ap­proach to hy­brids (or ‘abom­i­na­tions’ as they call them away from po­lite com­pany) and would be happy to see them all gone. While I don’t hold this view my­self, it is worth re­mem­ber­ing that these fish do draw a range of opin­ions, some­times reach­ing well in to the ex­tremes.

Jamie’s bright or­ange Par­rot hy­brid.

The Texas c in this p stand

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