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What Fish Should You Buy?

Coral reef fish are endangered, but a new protection group is trying to save them.

By Tiffany Chaparro | September 23 , 2005
The Bangaii Cardinal fish is in danger of becoming extinct. (Photo: Copyright Greg Rothchild)
The Bangaii Cardinal fish is in danger of becoming extinct. (Photo: Copyright Greg Rothchild)

Not every fish belongs in your fish tank. A new protection group called Reef Protection International (RPI) is making a small guide that helps people decide what fishes they should buy for their fish tanks.

RPI does not want to stop hobbyists from collecting fish. Instead, they want to guide people to buy the right kind of fish so that the endangered fish can stay in the ocean. RPI hopes if people start buying the right kind of fishes, then the other wild fishes won't go extinct.

"Unless there is action from hobbyists, the Bangaii Cardinal fish is likely to become the first fish to go extinct in the wild because of aquarium collection," said RPI founder, Drew Weiner.

Why Are Wild Fish Endangered?

Coral reef fish are popular for their beautiful colors and amazing details. Unfortunately, when these fish are taken from the wild, many of them don't survive. The collectors usually spray cyanide, a harmful chemical, to stun and capture reef fish. This method of collection often kills some of the target fish the collectors want. Only one in ten fish survive the collection!

As the number of aquarium hobbyists in the United States continues to grow, more fish are being taken from the ocean. Popular species, including the Banggai Cardinal fish, the Powder Blue Tang, and the Hawaiian Yellow Tang, are all near extinction because too many have been taken out of the ocean. Since certain fish have specific food and environment requirement in order to live well, it is very difficult for these fish to live outside of the ocean.

The Fish Guide

The RPI pocket guide divides the aquarium fish into two categories. The first category will be called "Take It Home." These are the fishes that are okay to buy because there are many in the wild and they are collected in a safe way. Some examples are the Percula Clownfish, the star of the movie Finding Nemo, and the Orchid Dottyback. These fish have been raised in fish farms and are widely available at local fish stores. The second category is "Keep it Wild." This includes fishes that should not be bought because too many have been taken out of the ocean or they have been taken out of the ocean in a way that is harmful to coral reefs.

The fish guide attempts to cover all sorts of fish, but does not include everything. Weiner wants everybody to know that the Reef Fish guide "is only a tool, only the beginning," and it is one of many first steps to helping save wild fish.

The pocket guide was published in October. RPI's web site will also have more information following the release of the guide. RPI will also give the free pocket-sized guide to public aquariums, schools, and pet stores throughout the fall.

About the Author

Tiffany Chaparro is a contributing writer for Scholastic News Online.

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