Traditionally, this is the time to reflect, Janus-like, on the past 12 months and look ahead to the next. And it’s scary – have fishkeeping’s ethics gone one step forwards and 10 steps back?
Nathan looks back at 2018 and wonders if this was the year that ethics in fishkeeping flew out of the window?
Was this the year that ethics went out of the window? i hate to say it, but after a year of writing relatively upbeat op-eds, i’ve decided to reflect on the year, and i’m narked off about a lot of it.
Return of the giants
the big fish are back. Well, not quite. ‘the’ big fish that were a problem a few years ago have mainly gone away – i don’t see many Pangasius, Osphronemus or young Pacu anymore. in their place has arrived a convoy of new, somehow socially acceptable beasts. You only need to look at the comments under any social media post to see just how accepted they now are. Gone are the noble few who would decry such a sight. We do have more bigger tanks than ever, for sure. But do we have more Mother of snails catfish-sized tanks? i doubt it.
Call of the wild
‘that’ iceland advert has done the rounds. Everyone is outraged at palm oil production, between huge mouthfuls of palm-based snacks. We’re all about protecting the wild animals now, right?
Nada. Just five minutes back i was spluttering my disdain as a retailer proudly bragged about their latest import online. a whole box of endangered fish. Fish that i thought an indigenous government had banned from collection and export. Looks like someone found a loophole then. We have somehow made an idol out of the idea of a wild fish. ‘Wild’ is superior, and to hell with the ramifications. so what if there are only 12 left in the jungle – that makes them even cooler right? Well, no. it just means you’re paying through the nose for something that would be better off in a conservation programme. i wonder how this even differs from those guys who used to collect rare birds’ eggs. if you’re not buying to breed and conserve, why bother?
i see that live feeding has emerged from its seedy burrow once more. Not just emerged but become a ghoulish spectator sport online. Goldfish are fair game, it seems. Gulper cats, Piranhas and heavy-set, hulking cichlids the entertainers. and what’s worse is the whole scene is spurred on by folks with the damndest and most vacuous forms of reasoning. ‘it’s what would happen in the wild!’ they cry, as though the brutally amoral Darwinism of the wilderness should be the template for our ‘civilised’ activities.
tetanus is the kind of thing that happens in the wild, old chap. tetanus without treatment and an agonising death. But you don’t see me in the hospital, live-streaming your lockjaw and spasms for the entertainment of others and shouting ‘it’s what happens in the wild’ to anyone who turns up and tries to help you. ‘it happens in the wild’ is a non-argument and one we should have discarded decades ago.
Is it just a fish?
i never imagined – but internally feared – that the dismissive phrase ‘it’s only a fish’ would make such a return. i’ve heard it a few times this year. as someone who only sporadically visits aquarium retailers, that’s a terrifying number of times. i shouldn’t hear it at all, even if i worked in retail and spoke to every single customer.
it seems the hobby has hit a regressive phase. Our technology is better than ever, but our moral compass has misaligned as some perverse compensation for that.
i have a horrible suspicion that 2019 is going to be more of the same. i fear that too many good fishkeepers have gone silent on issues that really matter, while the bad ones are being all too vocal.
Because we all need a 90cm+ catfish...
Nathan Hill is Practical Fishkeeping magazine’s associate editor, biotope fancier, aquascape dabbler and part-time amateur skateboarder.