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The ethics of Otocinclus

Oldguy

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also a decent current in the tank
Well done for getting ottos to breed. Do you think that the water movement may have helped with the ottos spawning? I had a pair of Royal Farlowella (Sturisoma panamense) which spawned where the filter return hit the side of the tank.. Too many tetras for eggs to survive.
 

Corbie

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As a follow up to my original post, the first batch were very small fish, and thin. I suspect they were taken into the shop and then straight back out again. I bought them from a really well-respected, large supplier and I'm surprised about it. I ordered a second batch of 6 fish from a different shop, and I spoke to the owner first- he said that they had not had an import for a while and that the current Otocinclus they had had in the shop for about a month. I figured they were probably well aclimatised and healthy, and I was right- what a difference. Plump and active, twice the size of the others, feeding well, and now 10 days later all seem to be doing really well.
I think the reason so many of them seem to die soon after buying is that they are not treated well between catching and import. Once they arrive in shops they need to be looked after for a while before being sold on.
 

PARAGUAY

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@Corbie when l bought mine they were not on display but in a private shop area. They had been in shop awhile. The manager said they dont do too well in the open shop tanks and thats how they acclimatise them
 

Tim Harrison

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There are a few oto species commonly available in the aquarium trade, I'm guessing they all have their own idiosyncrasies. But my problem has always been getting them to feed on anything other than algae. That has implications on how many I can keep, overall health, and lifespan.

The quote below is from an article originally posted by Darrel @dw1305 in this thread the correct numbers for the tank

"For one thing, their diet is less typical than many common fish we keep. German fish keepers refer to Otos as ‘Aufwuchs’ eaters. This is a term they use that means a fish is more or less an obligate algae grazer...Some Otos don’t learn to eat anything other than fresh algae, so feeding them algae tabs/pellets or even fresh veggies, won’t be a guarantee they eat well."
 

Simmo

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I agree if you read a selection of posts on Ottos there seems to be fairly high mortality although some folks clearly have more success. I’d guess a lot more die in transit? It’s a difficult choice you describe, balancing animal welfare with wider sustainability and conservation as well as self interest, and there’s no right answer. My decision is to try to keep more common species that I have read tend to be bred in eastern europe and the far east with little wild collecting because they seem to have long healthy lives in my care and there’s no chance of depleting wild stocks (so Khuli loach is off the list..) That said, i’m under no illusions, and suspect there is high mortality of common, farmed species before they ever reach the shop. Without a labelling/traceability scheme we are shooting blind, I took a punt my Apisto borellii are captive bred but there’s no way to know for sure - I think we as aquarists deserve much better information on where livestock comes from.
 

mort

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Cory from aquarium coop did a video showing how they were held at the wholesaler, basically unfiltered trays without any feeding. They were stored this week apparently until they sold which could be a week or longer. So if this is a good representation of fact it's not surprising that a small fish which constantly needs to feed in order to maintain condition, suffers in the journey from river to our tanks. Lots are simply starving or weak by the time they are bought and often past the point of no return. If you are lucky they will have been captured and shipped quickly but I'd only buy ones with a nice fat belly.
 

DTM61

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zozo

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I suppose the follow on question is, are there any people out there selling ethically collected (or bred) Otocinclus?

There is/was a video on youtube showing how Oto's are collected... It is in tributaries and flood plains after the rain season. Which is also the season fish spawn. And after the flood recedes, there are numerous small puddles left all over the place teaming with small fish to scoop out by the thousands.
Thus all that is not caught and left behind will eventually die anyway because all these puddles are waiting to dry out in a few weeks anyway...

What is swept along with the receding flood back into the tributaries is enough to sustain the population to breed again in the next year's flood season.

It's always painful to have fish dying in your aquarium for whatever reason... And Oto's are sensitive and like to die rather quickly.

But this might be a small plaster on the wound that those that survive the journey from the puddle to the store and to the aquarium are the ones you saved from a horrible death from drought, living a happy life in your aquarium instead. :)
 

Corbie

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There is/was a video on youtube showing how Oto's are collected... It is in tributaries and flood plains after the rain season.

yes I saw that video. The series on collecting wild fish in the Rio Negro is excellent.
Which is also the season fish spawn. And after the flood recedes, there are numerous small puddles left all over the place teaming with small fish to scoop out by the thousands.
Thus all that is not caught and left behind will eventually die anyway because all these puddles are waiting to dry out in a few weeks anyway...

What is swept along with the receding flood back into the tributaries is enough to sustain the population to breed again in the next year's flood season.

It's always painful to have fish dying in your aquarium for whatever reason... And Oto's are sensitive and like to die rather quickly.

But this might be a small plaster on the wound that those that survive the journey from the puddle to the store and to the aquarium are the ones you saved from a horrible death from drought, living a happy life in your aquarium instead. :)
I guess I worded my question wrongly. It's not so much the collection I'd like to be more ethical, but what happens to the fish between collection and reaching my tank.
 

zozo

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yes I saw that video. The series on collecting wild fish in the Rio Negro is excellent.

I guess I worded my question wrongly. It's not so much the collection I'd like to be more ethical, but what happens to the fish between collection and reaching my tank.

I guess there is only one way, find hobby breeders... :)
 

PARAGUAY

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It seems a contradiction of sorts local people supporting their own economy collecting fish for export ..But these fish not in danger of extiction ( millions of Cardinal Tetras exported every year as example) by doing this protecting the environments from tree logging oil and mining exploration. Giving local people a income and saving natural areas from devastation. Of course the fish need to be well cared for from then on till arrival at retailers in other countries
 

ScareCrow

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there’s no chance of depleting wild stocks (so Khuli loach is off the list..
Is there an article/journal about kuhli loach populations being reduced due to over collecting? I only ask as I'm hoping to breed the kuhlis I have and this would give me even more reason to do so (I can sense another tank being setup :lol:)
I took a punt my Apisto borellii are captive bred but there’s no way to know for sure
I think you'll be fine with most 'common' apistos as they're cheaper and easier to breed than collect. As apistos tend to be for the more 'discerning' aquarist wild caught fish tend to demand a higher price and are labelled as such.
yes I saw that video. The series on collecting wild fish in the Rio Negro is excellent.
I think @zozo is refering to this video.

My problem with that documentary is that it's very fish collector/keeper biased. In the video they say:
1. There are many undescribed species there that could be brought into the hobby and that it's sustainable to collect them. How do you know if they're undescribed.
2. Logging cannot go ahead in the area because it is too wet/floods but they then say that fish collection provides an income that provides an alternative to logging, saving the forest.
3. If wild caught fish are younger when caught but then held for 6 months (as one of the exporters say they do). The fish are older than captive bred fish. It's only a minor discrepancy but it erodes the sustainability benefits of collecting compared to farming.
 

zozo

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I think @zozo is refering to this video.

Yup, it's this video... :) It is already discussed many times before and as you can see it's over 13 years ago it was filmed and posted.

As said it is a puddle left over from the receding flood. And it's our hobby and demand that makes those people notice these puddles in the first place and take the opportunity... If we would all quit this rather morbid hobby of ours, those people would not even take notice of these puddles and it will eventually dry out and all that lives in there will die and won't participate in any sustainability. I don't really see anything biased in that.
 

Corbie

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I think @zozo is refering to this video.

My problem with that documentary is that it's very fish collector/keeper biased.
Yes, I saw that video as well. I agree, very fish collector biased, as are other documentaries. I was referring to these videos- WILD CAUGHT: AQUARIUM FISH TRADE OF THE AMAZON which I think gives a relatively balanced view.
In the video they say:
1. There are many undescribed species there that could be brought into the hobby and that it's sustainable to collect them. How do you know if they're undescribed.
Any species for export has to be on Brazil's list of accepted species for export, which are deemed "sustainable". Any new species proposed for the list has to go through a system of checks (so they say). Of course in the case of Otocinclus we know that fish are sometimes labelled "Otocinclus affinis" when in reality several different species are frequently found in shops (and usually none of them are actually O. affinis). The intention is there to stop export of fish where this is unsustainable, it just needs more rigorous controls, but by and large we are not seeing a continuous stream of new species of fish appearing in shops; it tends to be the same candidates. By all accounts this is a small part of the actual number of species that could be exported.
Re the sustainability issue- from what I understand the Rio Negro populations are adapted to a boom and bust population cycle, in time with the regular (irregular?) flooding and drying. Each time the waters recede millions of fish die, in proportion of which the number of fish collected for the trade is insignificantly tiny. I don't know to what extent this has been exaggerated in the documentaries but I'm sure there are peer-reviewed papers on the subject. I'll see what I can find.
2. Logging cannot go ahead in the area because it is too wet/floods but they then say that fish collection provides an income that provides an alternative to logging, saving the forest.
I think these days that logging can go ahead anywhere, given enough financial incentive; there are harvesters on boats, and harvesters on floats, but there are easier and more lucrative areas to pillage first. The argument is that without the fish collecting income, the people would go and work for the loggers elsewhere in the forest, rather than the trees being logged in the fish collecting areas.
3. If wild caught fish are younger when caught but then held for 6 months (as one of the exporters say they do). The fish are older than captive bred fish. It's only a minor discrepancy but it erodes the sustainability benefits of collecting compared to farming.
I've not heard of any exporter holding fish for 6 months- this would be a massive outlay and they would surely lose some of their stock, not to mention the cost of feeding, medication, etc. Do you know which company this is? I'd have thought that most businesses would want to only keep the fish long enough to ensure they are paid for and going to last the journey for wherever they are going. Of course there are other impacts on sustainability of collecting and exporting, such as the environmental costs of transportation; but then many of the captive bred fish we see in shops have also travelled a very long way across the world. For fish which are bred more local to us in the UK, there are additional environmental costs of heating, lighting, feeding, getting conditions right for the adults, etc., and the timescales.
The ethics of the sustainability or otherwise of fish import and export and breeding is a subject for another thread though. Going back to my original subject, I'd like to see a mandatory month's (or longer?) quarantine for imported fish (at the LFS), which would avoid the amateur fishkeeper getting fish which are highly stressed, underfed, possibly ill and prone to dying within the first 2 days of putting in a tank. I think the current regulation is for a minimum of just 7 days at the point of import (please correct me if I'm wrong) and it must be tempting to sell on nice looking fish not long after they've come in, if someone is there to pay for them. Regulation effectively passes the problem from the fishkeeper to the LFS, and therefore brings it into the realms of finance. There would then hopefully be pressure put to bear on suppliers to improve the proportion of good, healthy stock which are going to survive a month. Naturally there are costs involved, and less fish would be sold to replace dead ones.

What it boils down to is the historical attitude that aquarium fish are disposable commodities. Ensuring that further up the supply chain they are treated in a similar way that larger animals are treated would probably help.
 

ScareCrow

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I agree, very fish collector biased, as are other documentaries. I was referring to these videos- WILD CAUGHT: AQUARIUM FISH TRADE OF THE AMAZON which I think gives a relatively balanced view.
Sorry it was the WILD CAUGHT: AQUARIUM FISH TRADE OF THE AMAZON that I thought was quite fish collector biased.
Any species for export has to be on Brazil's list of accepted species for export, which are deemed "sustainable". Any new species proposed for the list has to go through a system of checks (so they say).
Hopefully this happens but the WILD CAUGHT: AQUARIUM FISH TRADE OF THE AMAZON video suggests that because cardinals go through seasonal boom bust cycles and it's sustainable to collect them, it's ok to collect all species in the area, in this way.
I think these days that logging can go ahead anywhere, given enough financial incentive; there are harvesters on boats, and harvesters on floats, but there are easier and more lucrative areas to pillage first.
Totally agree, I was going to add in my last post that if fish collecting and logging continues. I imagine a road will eventually make it's way to the fish collection sites as the main area of inefficiency comes from transportation by boat.
I've not heard of any exporter holding fish for 6 months- this would be a massive outlay and they would surely lose some of their stock, not to mention the cost of feeding, medication, etc. Do you know which company this is?
It's in the second part of WILD CAUGHT: AQUARIUM FISH TRADE OF THE AMAZON. They mention between minute 17 and 22.
Of course there are other impacts on sustainability of collecting and exporting, such as the environmental costs of transportation; but then many of the captive bred fish we see in shops have also travelled a very long way across the world. For fish which are bred more local to us in the UK, there are additional environmental costs of heating, lighting, feeding, getting conditions right for the adults, etc., and the timescales.
Yeah totally agree. It's an unfortunate part of the hobby. It's a shame that breeding fish in the UK is mainly a hobby unless you're very good or are breeding high value species.
Going back to my original subject, I'd like to see a mandatory month's (or longer?) quarantine for imported fish (at the LFS), which would avoid the amateur fishkeeper getting fish which are highly stressed, underfed, possibly ill and prone to dying within the first 2 days of putting in a tank. I think the current regulation is for a minimum of just 7 days at the point of import (please correct me if I'm wrong)
I'm not sure what the timescales OATA impose or if there are any other regulations that are imposed. I think LFS, especially some of the small independents, would struggle to hold large quantities (when they have minimum orders from some exporters) of fish for extended periods. I think it's certainly the correct way to go but maybe better handled at wholesale level, which is how a certain wholesaler (don't know if I can mention names) deals with marines.
As said it is a puddle left over from the receding flood. And it's our hobby and demand that makes those people notice these puddles in the first place and take the opportunity
Totally agree, good to make use of something that would otherwise go to waste, I didn't mean to suggest that video was biased. I think it offers a realistic view into fish collection.
 

zozo

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2. Logging cannot go ahead in the area because it is too wet/floods but they then say that fish collection provides an income that provides an alternative to logging, saving the forest.

Some forgotten historical facts in today's generation particularly in our regions are, the European continent once was 80% covered with primal forests... :) What was living here lived in a massive jungle as far as the eyes could see. And this is not that long ago...

So far responsible sustainability vs. expansion drift.

I'm from the Netherlands and we played a major role in it... We are best known over the world as "Holland" which actually only is the coastal seafarer's province. Very few people know where the name Holland came from. Probably because it's not that obvious any longer. It is derived from Holtland and an old Germanic word Holz (Say Holts) meaning Wood.

Yes! it once was a forest called Woodland. And the world knows this name because they cut it all down to build ships and come and say hello.

Now look at the satellite images, it's the most densely populated paved urban area in the country and the few patches of woodland left can hardly be called a forest. This actually goes for the entire country called the Netherlands. Also, the far southern area I live in still was mainly forest by the turn of the 20th century. It was stripped down in less than 50 years with little left. Only to strip it from its resources (coal), today this area is considered about economically bankrupt, no longer need for its resources and forests are gone and that's it.

We actually have forfeited our right to point fingers.
 
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ScareCrow

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to build ships and come and say hello
:lol:
Strangely my post grad dissertation was on paleoenvironmental reconstruction and cited the work that Peter C. Vos and Hein De Wolf did in the Netherlands.
It was stripped down in less than 50 years with little left. Only to strip it from its resources (coal), today this area is considered about economically bankrupt, no longer need for its resources and forests are gone and that's it.
I don't think it's right to point the finger as you say but it's for the reason above that unsustainable harvesting of "resources" needs to be highlighted. How that's done in a fair way without someone working the system to their own benefit is another thing.

@Corbie sorry for derailing your thread. It's nice to be able to have an environmental/ethical debate but I don't want to take things off track as your thread topic is a really important and interesting one.
 

Simmo

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Is there an article/journal about kuhli loach populations being reduced due to over collecting? I only ask as I'm hoping to breed the kuhlis I have and this would give me even more reason to do so (I can sense another tank being setup :lol:)
I don’t remember where I read it and can’t find the source now but think it referred to locally low numbers from over collecting. The IUCN red list database show the Indian species Pangio goaensis (they call this the Indian Coolie Loach) status to be ‘Least Concern’. No mention of collecting for the aquarium trade

Pangio kuhli is the species from Indonesia and has the same status, for both species population trend is unknown.

My guess is both will be declining from habitat loss and let’s not even get into subspecies and other taxonomic minefields that are lurking out there and could influence stock aseesment!
 
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