Re: NANFA-- why not N.A. fish/ was-- wintering fish

Christopher Scharpf (
Fri, 02 Jan 2004 12:07:48 -0400

> My own opinion is that if the local, state and federal authorities can't
> a buck from it, then it is deemed illegal for an individual to pursue
> propagating any native species on your own.

What native species are illegal for an individual to propagate (other than
protected species, which are illegal to possess)?

In what states is it illegal to propagate native fishes?

If it's illegal, why does Jonah's Aquarium sell them?

I disagree with the notion that state & fed regs are the reason why native
fishes aren't more popular with fishkeepers. In my opinion, these are the

1) Tropicals are easier to keep and breed. Why? Because it's easier to keep
water at a constant 74-84F for tropical fishes than it is to keep the water
cool for some temperates, and to simulate the change of seasons required to
get most temperate water fishes into spawning condition. This is true
whether you live in northern Michigan or southern Florida. Also, as Bob
Muller pointed out, larval minnows and darters are more difficult to raise
and more expensive to feed:

"Well, in three months I can raise a tropical fish to a saleable size. These
guys [flagfin shiners] take a year to get to saleable size. Darters take two
years to get fully grown. And I'm feeding a lot of frozen brine shrimp to
these guys, not flake food. So I'd have to be selling them for $25 a pair to
break even on what I feed them. . . . They don9t grow fast enough to be
marketable. If I went to the local pet shop they9d give me 35 cents a piece
for them, but I put 10 times as much food into each fish."

2) Native fishes aren't always the most beautiful and colorful. True, many
species are dazzling, but many of them have that color only during a short
breeding window. A cardinal tetra is a stunner all year long. A cardinal
shiner is a stunner for just a few days/weeks. (And that's assuming you can
get the shiner into breeding condition.) My local stream is chock full of
blacknose dace with a lovely rust color. Stick them in an aquarium and they
lose that color and never get it back.

3) I think we can all agree on this one -- plants and animals from other
countries are axiomatically more "interesting" and "desirable" than anything
we have here. And among fish, it's easy to see why. North America's fish
diversity -- as nice as it is -- cannot compare to the diversity of shapes,
sizes, colors, and feeding adaptations presented by fishes from tropical
freshwater ecosystems. And that's to say nothing of the countless cultured
varieties of platy, discus, angelfish, etc. (Remember, natives were the
staple of the aquarium hobby until air transportation made it possible to
import tropicals from around the globe.)

4) Most fishkeepers are interested in fish as collectibles or colorful
baubles, not as units of functioning ecosystems. It's therefore easier to
buy an exotic from a petshop than to go out and catch a native on your own.

This is not to say that some states don't have overly restrictive collecting
regulations. And this is not to say that market forces (i.e., power and
money) don't give the edge to tropicals. But let's face it: Natives are
generally less colorful (hence less popular), more difficult to keep and
breed (hence little or no commercialization and aquaculture), and much more
difficult to acquire (the ease of which can be affected by state regs).

Personally, I like it that natives aren't too popular. It keeps people out
of the streams who have no business being there. It helps keep fishes IN the
streams where they belong. And if the hobby did get overly commercial, then
the states and the feds WOULD have step in and provide some level of
regulatory oversight.

Chris Scharpf
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