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Breeding Aquarium Fish In Captivity May Help Save World's Reefs

First Posted: 09/23/2011 3:34 pm Updated: 11/23/2011 4:12 am

In an effort to help preserve the world's coral reef ecosystem, marine researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are developing ways to breed saltwater aquarium fish and other sea creatures in captivity.

The University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute's Dr. Joan Holt and her colleagues have "successfully bred in captivity seven species of fish, seahorses and shrimp they've caught from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, including species that other biologists had tried but failed to rear before," reports Science Daily.

According to Holt and her colleagues, breeding saltwater aquarium species in captivity could have a big impact on the health of the world's coral reefs. She told Science Daily that 99.9 percent of saltwater ornamental fish are caught in the wild.

Holt said that a common method for catching these fish is an anesthetizing cyanide solution, which bleaches coral and "kills or harms other species that make the coral their home, particularly those that can't swim away from the cyanide."

While most freshwater aquarium fish are already bred in captivity, breeding saltwater species has been more difficult. According to a press release on Holt's work, saltwater species "tend to spawn smaller, less robust larvae, which are harder to rear to maturity, and to rely on various foods, such as plankton, that are not readily available in mass quantities for breeders."

Holt added, "We want enthusiasts to be able to stock their saltwater tanks with sustainably raised, coral-safe species."

Holt is a co-author of a study published in April in the Journal of the World Aquaculture Society, entitled "Advances in Breeding and Rearing Marine Ornamentals."

Holt's push for captive breeding may not settle the problem. Farm raising fish is not without controversy and a new study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science found that all aquarium fish are "at risk of becoming aggressive due to cramped, barren housing," reports Discovery News.

In another move to boost conservation efforts, HuffPost blogger Kirsten Dirksen explains how aquaponic gardeners are "growing fish in a symbiotic environment with their vegetables" and using 80 to 90 percent less water than traditional agriculture.

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Filed by James Gerken  |