Is it really fair to have fish labelled as certain care levels?

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LiamPM

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I get it’s for the sake of beginners however, a lot of the expert/difficult level fish are from WAY back when there was only one or two successes per year. We could bump the difficulty of a lot of the fish we own now such as the CBB to moderate. Also a lot of fish are called expert due to how little we know about them, this is one of the reasons fish in the genus Hoplolatilus are labelled expert only. Yes shipping is also an issue for fish in that genus however, once you get passed that they’re easy as ever.

But again, “Expert” leads you to believe that only the best of us should be keeping this fish, yes with some fish I know that is true but with a lot of the expert fish, it just isn’t true. I’ve had experience with a lot of the “Expert level” and “Difficult level” fish, after they were settled they were easy as ever. A few of the ones I worked with :
Lythrypnus dilla - Difficult
Acanthurus achilles - Expert
Hoplolatilus chlupatyi - Expert
Hoplolatilus starcki - Expert
Hoplolatilus purpureus - Expert
Chelmon rostratus - Difficult
Chelmon marginalis - Difficult

You say the Twin Spot Goby is expert but the mandarin is easy… They have the same diet so how is one easy and the other expert?

But what MAKES a reefer a “Novice” or “Begginer” or “Expert” because I can tell you now, I have seen novice reefers with TONS of information on certain fish. I’m certainly not an expert and have kept many of these fish alive and thriving in a tank under 6 months old. My CBB went in when my tank was 4 months old, My radiant went in when the tank was 5 months old, My leopard went into my nano when that was at 7 months. 2 years later in went the tilefish and 2 months and 1 day later, he is thriving. My tank is only 2 years old and my nano isn’t even 1 year old.

You assume many people don’t do research? Why is that? I didn’t do a ton of research on my “expert” level radiant however, I still got it and took that risk and 2 years later it thrives. I think the reason why people don’t research is because there is NEVER a straight answer. Maybe if we gave out more straight answers to questions asked then more people would understand it. Or if we got more information of the care of certain difficult/expert fish more people would see how other hobbyists care for it and probably try to do the same or similar.


This is how I feel about them but also I think that some of the fish should really be dragged down in the “levels” of hardiness, I have had to tackle some “Easy” fish that are almost impossible to keep alive and alot of “Hard” fish that thrive from day one.

Here’s just two of the “Hard” fish that thrived from day one:
Hoplolatilus chlupatyi
image.jpg

Halichoeres iridis
F0777704-3DCF-4392-B7EF-36B06FBF44F6.jpeg
It still all boils down to the way we all personally percieve things either way you look at it.

Like your copperband experience - As someone that works within the hobby too i would say its still a fish that dies more often than it survives, even now when it has a much better survival rate in captivity. Thats my experience of it in the hobby. Yours may well be very different but in my eyes if its still dieing more than its surviving then that EXPERT tag needs to stay if it has the chance of "scaring" off a few newcomers to the hobby in buying. If it was labelled MODERATE theres a good chance many more would buy it and realistically, thats many more dieing.

I do still get your point - And ive kept plenty of EXPERT level fish that i wouldnt necessarilly call expert but when you see the number of fish that meet their demise in this hobby, having a few extra EXPERT tags to make people think twice before buying is a benefit in my eyes. That tag may well stop a few impulse buys and in turn some bad decisions.

I do have a bit of firsthand experience in this - I own/created a fairly popular mobile application for logging that includes an encyclopedia of a large number of fish in this hobby. I classify these species by care level too and this was actually done via first hand experiences of a large group of people in the hobby, rather than just old reports from a long time ago. I took the approach that calling a species more difficult than it might necessarily be now days is a safer bet than telling people its easier than it might be....We could have 10 Mandarins for example, but only 3 proved very difficult to get to feed and ended up dieing. Does that mean its an easy to keep fish because 7 of them fed right away or does it mean its a difficult to keep fish because 3 refused to eat completely? We sided with calling it difficult in the hope it made people research more and think twice about if they can give it what it needs before buying it and finding out the hard way.

With such a huge amount of easy to keep fish that rarely give anyone any drama when housed correctly i think its the right thing to have a small number labelled for EXPERTS even if it isnt necessarily the case, all the time.
 

Paul B

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To a degree- no
There are fish that will be the easiest of care while there are some that will challenge the most experienced hobbyist.
An example is Moorish Idol. There are hobbyists that have no problem caring for them while there are others for the life of them cant even get one to eat, To label it as difficult raises question about difficulty
I feel Moorish Idols are in a different category. So far as far as I know, no one has kept one in a home aquarium for it's presumed lifespan. I spent quite a lot of time underwater with them to learn their secrets and my last one only lived for 5 years which is a dismal failure. (that was probably 20 years ago) I feel that fish should live at least 15 years and anything less is a failure.

So that being said, I would call them "Impossible" not difficult or expert only because even experts can't keep them successfully for their supposed life span.

They do live a lot longer in public aquariums but that doesn't count here. I think I could keep one much longer now, but I am not sure if I will get another one.

 
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It still all boils down to the way we all personally percieve things either way you look at it.

Like your copperband experience - As someone that works within the hobby too i would say its still a fish that dies more often than it survives, even now when it has a much better survival rate in captivity. Thats my experience of it in the hobby. Yours may well be very different but in my eyes if its still dieing more than its surviving then that EXPERT tag needs to stay if it has the chance of "scaring" off a few newcomers to the hobby in buying. If it was labelled MODERATE theres a good chance many more would buy it and realistically, thats many more dieing.

I do still get your point - And ive kept plenty of EXPERT level fish that i wouldnt necessarilly call expert but when you see the number of fish that meet their demise in this hobby, having a few extra EXPERT tags to make people think twice before buying is a benefit in my eyes. That tag may well stop a few impulse buys and in turn some bad decisions.

I do have a bit of firsthand experience in this - I own/created a fairly popular mobile application for logging that includes an encyclopedia of a large number of fish in this hobby. I classify these species by care level too and this was actually done via first hand experiences of a large group of people in the hobby, rather than just old reports from a long time ago. I took the approach that calling a species more difficult than it might necessarily be now days is a safer bet than telling people its easier than it might be....We could have 10 Mandarins for example, but only 3 proved very difficult to get to feed and ended up dieing. Does that mean its an easy to keep fish because 7 of them fed right away or does it mean its a difficult to keep fish because 3 refused to eat completely? We sided with calling it difficult in the hope it made people research more and think twice about if they can give it what it needs before buying it and finding out the hard way.

With such a huge amount of easy to keep fish that rarely give anyone any drama when housed correctly i think its the right thing to have a small number labelled for EXPERTS even if it isnt necessarily the case, all the time.
When you search up expert-difficult fish, you never really find the right information and it stays the same with death stories and no success stories. This was my issue when picking up a Hoplolatilus chlupatyi, I found nothing about successes and all about deaths and how they flash. If more people tried them then we may get some more success rates and information out there, and yes I know the death rate has a chance of going up but if more people and not just Experts attempted these fish we could get more ideas on how these fish actually fare in captivity.

Again, what is it that defines an Expert reefer from a Novice reefer and a Novice reefer from a Beginner?
 
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LiamPM

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But still, if we keep scaring off new people then surely we won’t learn anything new about the care of these fish? When you search up expert-difficult fish, you never really find the right information and it stays the same with death stories and no success stories. This was my issue when picking up a Hoplolatilus chlupatyi, I found nothing about successes and all about deaths and how they flash. If more people tried them then we may get some more success rates and information out there.
I think thats where the catch 22 comes in though.....If we dont try more then we cant learn more but at the same point we are likely to kill more doing so.

I think its more of a context thing though in all honesty - I dont think its scaring people off that have been in the hobby for a few years or more but i do think it scares people off that are brand new and i do agree with that myself.

If youve just set your first marine tank up and are browsing for your first species to add in the shop and theres a "dartfish" labelled beginner next to a "copperband" labelled expert - Id like to think that newcomers are picking the "dartfish"..... This is a good example of why that tag is very useful.

If your someone thats been in the hobby a good year and you see the same tags id imagine you either know a little about the EXPERT labelled fish or know enough to know its time to research.

Its less of an EXPERT tag and more of a EXPERT = Please google a little before buying to be aware of some things.

The Tilefish in your example is probably a pretty unique example to be honest - Is it that its difficult to keep and that we dont know much about it or is it that they arent collected as often as others. For me, its a fish that isnt seen in the trade too often so informaiton about them in captivity just doesnt exist too much.
 

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I think there is certainly merit to advising people to fish that are more prone to issues? That's all that they're doing, but painting in broad strokes with the description. In reality, the more detailed reasoning why a fish is "difficult" or "expert only" would be more helpful.

That being said, should we label fish as "beginner friendly" instead? That's a list a mile long. It's easier to label finicky fish as difficult than vice-versa.

I will say for certain that in most cases, "Expert Only" is perhaps a bit overdramatic as most of the time, like you said, they merely need further acclimation time, special quarantine, or tend to be bad shipper/eaters.

There are however fish that should have labels to keep beginners away. Moorish idols as mentioned before, obligate corallivores (orange spot files, etc...), sensitive fish like certain species of anthias, and cooler water species all warrant this label and I will stand by that.

TLDR:

So if the question is whether the label expert only should not apply, then I disagree. I think it is well warranted in some cases.

Do I think it is too broadly applied? Yes, I do think it is.

The best solution is slightly more info, like difficult feeder, poor feeder, requires frequent feeding, etc... rather than just boogeyman-ing folks away from stuff with a scary label.
 
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I think thats where the catch 22 comes in though.....If we dont try more then we cant learn more but at the same point we are likely to kill more doing so.

I think its more of a context thing though in all honesty - I dont think its scaring people off that have been in the hobby for a few years or more but i do think it scares people off that are brand new and i do agree with that myself.

If youve just set your first marine tank up and are browsing for your first species to add in the shop and theres a "dartfish" labelled beginner next to a "copperband" labelled expert - Id like to think that newcomers are picking the "dartfish"..... This is a good example of why that tag is very useful.

If your someone thats been in the hobby a good year and you see the same tags id imagine you either know a little about the EXPERT labelled fish or know enough to know its time to research.

Its less of an EXPERT tag and more of a EXPERT = Please google a little before buying to be aware of some things.

The Tilefish in your example is probably a pretty unique example to be honest - Is it that its difficult to keep and that we dont know much about it or is it that they arent collected as often as others. For me, its a fish that isnt seen in the trade too often so informaiton about them in captivity just doesnt exist too much.
Yeah, I have been told I’m one of the VERY few people owning this fish, and I think it’s both they can sometimes be difficult to keep in terms of deformeties they have a chance of getting if not acclimated to lower water pressure the right way (As with any deep water fish - Although H. chlupatyi is a Deep but warmer water fish). I have an entire thread about this fish that says what I do to help it thrive in captivity and how I came across it (I should probably update it to add some information of what I have found about them being in the wild). I do agree with you in that it should be made to look like more of a “Research this” first instead of a “Do not attempt ever” tag.


I think there is certainly merit to advising people to fish that are more prone to issues? That's all that they're doing, but painting in broad strokes with the description. In reality, the more detailed reasoning why a fish is "difficult" or "expert only" would be more helpful.

That being said, should we label fish as "beginner friendly" instead? That's a list a mile long. It's easier to label finicky fish as difficult than vice-versa.

I will say for certain that in most cases, "Expert Only" is perhaps a bit overdramatic as most of the time, like you said, they merely need further acclimation time, special quarantine, or tend to be bad shipper/eaters.

There are however fish that should have labels to keep beginners away. Moorish idols as mentioned before, obligate corallivores (orange spot files, etc...), sensitive fish like certain species of anthias, and cooler water species all warrant this label and I will stand by that.

TLDR:

So if the question is whether the label expert only should not apply, then I disagree. I think it is well warranted in some cases.

Do I think it is too broadly applied? Yes, I do think it is.

The best solution is slightly more info, like difficult feeder, poor feeder, requires frequent feeding, etc... rather than just boogeyman-ing folks away from stuff with a scary label.
I agree with you for sure in that there are some fish that should have this tag but it is definitely too broadly used. I did mean if these tags are too broadly applied but didn’t make it seem that way and it instead seems like I’m trying to see if you guys think it should be removed from any fish altogether.
 

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I think its more of an antiquated way of classifying fish that's just never changed. To me, EXPERT ONLY fish mostly means its delicate and has a good chance dying in transport...

Feeding should be its own category IMO - like on a scale of 'easy to feed/eats anything' > 'highly specified dietary needs'
Perhaps the problem is that the terms are not well defined, and generally not defined at all in the in the respective descriptions of the fish. Also, the terms imply that the survival and success of keeping the fish is completely based on the knowledge, experience, and skill of the keeper. However, at least anecdotally, this conversation indicates that it is not necessarily the knowledge, experience, and skill of the keeper that makes a certain species of fish "expert only," but the fish itself.

Some people have said that by labeling a fish "expert only" it might get someone to research the fish more before buying it. In some cases yes, in some no. But on the other hand, using terms like "easy" or "beginner" might also lead people to think that no more research is required. I think most of us would hope that anyone, of any experience level would do some research before buying any kind of fish.

So, yes, the terms are probably antiquated and descriptions of fish should maybe focus more on the difficulties and special requirements that a certain fish species may have, instead of some undefined term like "expert" for the people who keep them. Like Aquaman11 said, maybe a term like "Special Care Required" would be more accurate and helpful.
 

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The label of novice, intermediate or advance reefer do not have absolute dependent on the time one keep aquarium, but the ability of the reefer to keep a stable tank, that has the condition needed for the animals to thrive.
Correspondingly, the label "expert only" just mean the fish has hard time in transport, has more special care, or has specific needed to thrive.
Like I said before, all the animals are easy to keep if they arrive to us healthy, and we know what they need, and willing and able to provide these need for them.
Many novice forever stay as a novice because they are unable, or unwilling to learn, or don't care enough to take the time and expense to provide for their animals, while some new reefer bypass the novice stage all together by doing research and learning ahead of setting up a tank.

To me, "expert only" just mean one of three things: that the animal has difficulty in shipping, have some special needs, or the fish seller just does not want to guarantee for the animal.
 
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Tamberav

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The copperbands that arrive at the LFS are in poor shape compared to clowns. They are expert only because you have to nurse most of them back to health.

I have always been under the impression the UK has better source of fish as well.
 
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The copperbands that arrive at the LFS are in poor shape compared to clowns. They are expert only because you have to nurse most of them back to health.

I have always been under the impression the UK has better source of fish as well.
I’ve found over here it’s easier to keep a lot of these fish, wonder if that’s due to how they don’t have to travel quite so far.
 

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I’ve found over here it’s easier to keep a lot of these fish, wonder if that’s due to how they don’t have to travel quite so far.

Yes probably. They are not fed or fed well in transport so the picky eaters suffer greatly.
 

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It is unfair because it confuses different things. A large moray might only eat live fish, at least at first, but be very hardy. A flagfin angelfish likely eats everything but won't live long in captivity. A firefish goby will live and eat easily but do poorly with aggressive tankmates. An emperor angelfish needs a big tank but is otherwise a great fish. A blue devil damsel will do well in any tank but kill tankmates.

Which of these are beginner fish and which are 'expert only'? I'd argue that the only fish recommended to beginners, the damsel fish, is the only one that should be recommended against. The others will do just as well in the tank of a beginner who understands their issues as an expert.
 

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It is also unfair as it assumes beginners have the following traits:
1) Impulse buying - likely to buy a pretty fish they know nothing about.
2) Limited budget - hurt financially if fish die.
3) Emotional attachment - hurt emotionally if fish die.

Now this may describe some beginners, but not others, and beginners can be extreme in one aspect and not another.
 

LiamPM

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Yeah, I have been told I’m one of the VERY few people owning this fish, and I think it’s both they can sometimes be difficult to keep in terms of deformeties they have a chance of getting if not acclimated to lower water pressure the right way (As with any deep water fish - Although H. chlupatyi is a Deep but warmer water fish). I have an entire thread about this fish that says what I do to help it thrive in captivity and how I came across it (I should probably update it to add some information of what I have found about them being in the wild). I do agree with you in that it should be made to look like more of a “Research this” first instead of a “Do not attempt ever” tag.



I agree with you for sure in that there are some fish that should have this tag but it is definitely too broadly used. I did mean if these tags are too broadly applied but didn’t make it seem that way and it instead seems like I’m trying to see if you guys think it should be removed from any fish altogether.
I agree with you in the too broadly used context - But how else do you "warn" people to take a little more care with this species.

I dont think its ever meant to be used as a "This is for experts and nobody else" - And its probably a bad choice of words in that aspect. I think every where youd see that sort of reference is on the same page that its labelled that way to prevent beginners buying and hope to make those that arent beginners question if they should.

Like the example below - I can understand the Mandarins arent necessarily an expert fish to keep, anymore anyway - But what else would you put in a brief box to state this fish isnt always an easy to keep fish even if you have experience in the hobby. Its definitely not a fish anybody without experience should keep still - And its probably not fair to call it a fish that only experts should keep to - But then giving it the expert tag should surely make people wonder why and get researching....
 

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dennis romano

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I look at "expert" or "difficult" labels as "Caution" signs. I can't tell you how many times that I have seen a beginner in a store look up a fish and see that it is marked as difficult. If a label prevents a beginner from using a mandarin as a first fish in a ten gallon tank, then the label has served its purpose.
 

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Most beginner have no idea that fish cannot adapt well. If they evolved to eat certain food and grew up in the wild eating that food, they will not be able to change their diet very much. If a fish evolved to live in certain condition, they will not do well if these condition is meet in captivity.
An expert reefer able to keep the tank stable, and know how to observe the animals, know what it need and provide it for the animal. That is why they are experts.
Any animal is easy to keep if we get it healthy and they are going in to an aquarium that meet their needs. A novice reefer cannot keep the tank stable, don't know how to observe and cannot provide for the needs of all the animals. The “easy animals" able to adapt and live while the "experts-only-animals" will often died because the care from the novice reef keeper is wrong for the species.
I agree. I keep what are considered "expert" level fish but I've been doing this for several years. Had I bought my Copperband in the first 6 months of reef keeping it probably wouldn't have survived. Knowing what acclimation, dietary needs and observation are required come with experience. Having said that when I did get a copperband and having done the research to get it feeding and acclimated to my tank seemed like no big deal. Once the fish was established in my tank it really required no more care than any of my other fish, so it is easy. So to an experienced reefer "expert" level fish might seem easy but to a novice they're survival chances might not be so good.
 
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just because "expert" fish do well in your tank doesn't mean it will do well in other people's tank. Care level are there for a good reason.
Yes but if you go into most of the expert level fish, their survival rates have shot up MUCH more, I was just using my guys as examples of some of those fish that survive just fine when settled.
 
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