Dory Bred in Captivity for First Time

  • Dory Bred in Captivity for First Time

    We are excited as everyone about the news on breeding 'Dory' and applaud the researchers for their tireless work. However, to our knowledge it was not the first time[1] and impact on the trade and sourcing for this species has yet to be demonstrated.

    While we had similar exciting news about the Hawaiian Ocean Institute success in breeding Yellow Tangs, it remains a fact that hardly any hobbyist in the US got access to a bred Yellow Tang (only selected wholesalers received a limited number of the successful batch, with retail only to selected individuals (mainly those with a media or breeding affiliation)) and NO European hobbyist or seller received any bred YT specimen. With the available specimens showing signs of HLLE, it became quiet quickly and now follow up on this success is not as embraced as the original news.

    The CORAL Magazine’s Captive Bred Marine Fish Species List for 2015 (Sweet, 2015) indicates a total of 272 species being bred, with 110 reaching retail level (grouped into commonly available, moderate to low availability and scarce). Still only 26 species from this list are commonly available to hobbyists (1.4% of the 1800 fish species in the trade). Of these 26 commonly available bred species, nearly 40% are clownfish.

    This gap between a breeding record and successful commercial propagation is found in many species, even those, where the “code was cracked” years ago (Mandarin fish being a good example). While the Rising Tide Conservation concept is great for supporting such breakthroughs in ornamental aquaculture by scientific research, we have not seen publication and sharing of such detailed breeding protocols with commercial breeders necessarily. And often it proves difficult to impossible to translate breeding protocols developed in science labs into commercial reality.

    So for years to come yellow tangs and Dory will continue to be collected from the wild and also in volume outnumber their captive bred fellows at the retail level by far.


    © SAIA For the time being most Regal tangs will transit the Makassar airport hub on their way to home aquaria - collected in the reefs around Sulawesi.

    Celebrations of this breakthrough come at a bad timing and will be used for muddying the waters again. The most cited solution to sustainability issues offered by the trade and hobbyists is breeding and culture of marine ornamentals to become independent from wild resources. While this is truly an alternative drawn from knowledge that aquarium keeping can provide, it is not the only solution required. Independence from wild resources will remain a dream for a long time, and when it comes to broodstock for breeding and culture it is even further in the future.

    This is especially true where prolonged life cycles and larval stages and difficult to meet dietary requirements make breeding and culture a time and capital intensive effort. In such cases prices of bred specimens can hardly compete with those provided by low paid fishermen in developing nations.

    Examples like the Banggai cardinalfish cited by Talbot[2]: "Today aquacultured Banggai cardinalfish dominate the U.S. trade in large part because Petco and its supplier, Quality Marine, made a concerted effort to push aside short-term profits and promote change by pricing aquacultured Banggai competitively with wild-caught ones.” can not be applied to other species necessarily and ignore that there is an ongoing fishery in Banggai for that species, which will be proposed again for inclusion in Appendix II of CITES[3]. Not to forget: it was the aquarium hobby demand for this species creating such conservation concerns in the first place.

    Competitive pricing seems only available for species, which can be bred in large volumes at relative low costs, or show high prices as wild specimens as well (e.g. rarer Angelfish).

    Therefore it is worth noting that breeding and culture shouldn’t be seen in isolation or as the only answer to sustain the marine aquarium trade and hobby. With a solid interest in coral reefs and their inhabitants, industry and hobbyists are tasked to contribute by all possible means to their well-being and sustainable use. Sufficient management and regulation of artisanal fisheries like the aquarium fishery is often problematic, especially in developing nations. Indonesia and the Philippines however, contribute significantly to variety and volume (around 86%) of marine ornamental fish available to the hobby (Rhyne et al., 2012) and will do so in future as well.

    What hobbyists and media will pick up from these public celebrations of breeding success and oversimplify as usual is that Dory can be bred - problem solved! Ignorant of the reality that even those species, which can be captive bred are often not available from breeding in sufficient volume to satisfy global demand and/or come with a price that makes the mass of hobbyists still vote with their dollars for a wild captured specimen, often from an insufficient regulated, and data deficient, if not illegal fishery.

    Demanding sustainable wild capture aquarium fisheries remains ‘unsexy’, but a desperate need of the marine aquarium hobby and trade.

    [1] Chen, C.-H., P.-J. Meng, K.S. Tew & M-Y. Leu. 2013. Natural spawning and early life history of the palette surgeonfish, Paracanthurus hepatus (Linnaeus, 1766) in captivity. The 9th Indo-Pacific Fish Conference, 24–28 June 2013, at Okinawa, Japan. brought ONE P. hepatus larvae to juvenile stage and age of 51 days.

    [2] “Dory” Bred in Captivity for First Time. http://news.nationalgeographic…blue-tang-aquarium-trade/