Green Tip: Sustainable Fish Tanks
Green Tips | February 25, 2018
In our last article on pets, we discussed the carbon paw-print of cats and dogs. For this week’s green tip, we delve into the aquariums — and the depths of the oceans — to investigate the environmental impact of our everyday pet fish. The 25,000 fish we know of on earth and the 15,000 we may not have yet discovered have lived on the planet for 450 million years. These same animals that preceded the dinosaurs will likely outlast us, too. But, fear not! Here are four tips to help you be an environmentally responsible aquarium pet owner:
- Learn where your fish comes from, and how it got to your tank, bowl, or pond. Between 90-95% of marine fish from pet stores is wild-caught. Most fish come from the Coral Triangle, a six million square kilometer region that covers Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Island, and Malaysia. Cyanide fishing knocks out the fish, causing them to float to the surface where they are captured by local fishermen. Many fish die from the initial shock, and many more perish in transit and upon arrival into a strange human container. The cyanide further contributes to bleaching of coral: for every pet fish caught in the wild, there is approximately 1 square foot of reef damage associated with its nametag. When you ask your pet store where your fish came from, you can hold them to account for these harvesting practices.
- If you don’t want your fish anymore for whatever reason, find a fish store that will take it back. Don’t release your pet fish into the wild! Following the release of Finding Nemo, several pet owners released their pet goldfish into the wild. Unshackled, invasive goldfish can grow to the size of dinner plates in the wild, where predators are absent. Even the lovable, harmful goldfish, can cause a negative chain reaction like lionfish have in the caribbean. Even if you flush the goldfish down the toilet, your pet might still survive and visit an uncharted marine location. They can spread disease, muck up the water in search for food, and deprive aquatic plants of sunlight, and eat native fish eggs. Sometimes electro-shocking water is the only solution to rid environments of goldfish. The best way to avoid destroying ecosystems is to return your pet, or not buy one at all after seeing a film with animals in it.
- Support organizations that demand transparency and accountability in the marine pet industry such as For the Fishes. With your help, we can combat industry factors that contribute to coral bleaching worldwide. Coral bleaching could result in villages falling into the sea from a lack of buffer and land support, oceans blasting the seaboards in storms of escalating power.
- Invest in a fish tank that fits with your pet’s aquatic needs and is electrically efficient. Tanks, especially when keeping warm-water-requiring tropical fish, can rival refrigerators in their kilowatt hour usage per year. Freshwater tanks are easier to clean and maintain, consuming less resources. For Nemo the clownfish, the saltwater tanks are resource-intensive and around-the-clock consumers of electricity due to the sheer number of filters necessary to maintain the water — which can’t be changed — to maintain your pet.
The way we source, treat, and dispose of our pet fish has an environmental ripple effect that is greater than the price tag at a pet store suggests. These tips should provide a navigation< Back to Citizen’s Toolkit
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