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

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Paul B

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Again, what is it that defines an Expert reefer from a Novice reefer and a Novice reefer from a Beginner?
I think "expert" means expert with that particular fish but maybe not all fish. For example if you have kept copperbands (more than one) for their presumed lifespan of 10 or 15 years, I would call you an expert for that fish.

If you kept a couple of copperbands for a couple of years, you are not an expert but you would be a novice.

That is the same with all fish. A mandarin should live about 10 years and if you have kept a "few" of them for that period of time, you could be considered an expert. I believe you should be able to keep the fish for at least it's presumed lifespan. If it dies of anything else, it is a failure., maybe not a complete failure, but still a failure.

If your fish are not dying of old age, you could not be called an expert
 
REEFTIDE

Zionas

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I think fish can be difficult for different reasons. It could be feeding, it could be compatibility, it could be special requirements with regards to the environment, or it could simply be the fact that many aren’t caught using proper methods. In short, I think to a degree, it’s generalization but there are other factors that can affect our perception. Captive breeding is something many don’t take into consideration.

The reason why Clownfish are such widely regarded as a “first” saltwater fish is largely because these days they’re captive bred in mass quantities (as for my feelings on all the “designer” variants, let’s just say I’d rather be caught dead than have one). If nowadays all we got were still wild caught Clownfish, I am sure the perception of Clowns as a good beginner fish would be very different. Wild caught Clowns are known for having multiple feeding and disease issues as well as often being caught by cyanide in Indonesia and the Philippines (they’re such weak swimmers that cyanide can easily stun them before they can get away).

Who knows? With more captive breeding efforts in the future, perhaps our perception of the difficulty of certain species will indeed change for the better. Bali Aquarich is already raising Regal Angels using captive bred broodstock.

This doesn’t mean that ingrained genetics will necessarily be factored out altogether, as I’ve heard cases of captive bred Mandarins reverting back to eating pods once there was enough supply of them, and of certain Goby and Blenny species where the captive bred versions are still kind of hard to get to eat. However, it’s my hope that with the wild versions of fish that can be trained to take prepared foods and don’t do well for other reasons / or are just picky at first, that these problems will pretty much be eliminated.
One thing I would like to know more about is regarding temperament between wild caught vs captive bred versions of different species. Some have said that captive bred specimens of known aggressive / territorial fish like Dottybacks tend to be noticeably more mellow, just giving an example here.

And finally, at least for the wild caught versions, there’s fish that have dietary or other needs beyond reach of the average aquarist or we simply don’t know if there’s a missing component in their diet or lifestyle.

Some common “beginner” fish are harder to keep over a period of time than advertised. For example, I wouldn’t put something like a Firefish in most tanks (from what I’ve seen) because they’re just too darn timid. I’d rather have a somewhat assertive fish over an extremely timid one.

Now if say we could breed less disease prone versions of some Tangs, or corallivore butterflies that eat prepared food with gusto from the get go, it would be quite an accomplishment.
 

rhostam

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You assume many people don’t do research? Why is that?
I have been a member of this forum for a year and read virtually every post. I also am a member of several local reef hobbyists Facebook groups. It is not rocket science to make such a leap.

Many posts include disclaimers starting with stuff like:
  1. “This was given to me; what is it?”
    1. Could they not have refused until they learn what they need to know and make preparations?
  2. “Against my better judgement, I did it! <question>”
    1. Great, now the live animal has to survive your care while you figure something out.
  3. ”Went to LFS and my ‘wife’ feel in love with <something>. <question>”
    1. Its incumbent on caretakers to get the info they need in the moment or before making a purchase. Impulse buys are bad. Look at the number of pristine dry rock aquariums are out there with owners asking why the anemone, torch, or <anything> is dying.
  4. ”My LFS said <this> so I brought <it> home. <question>”
    1. Could they not have verified? The implication is that they may not trust the LFS, or worse didnt actually get advice.
  5. ”I just dived in and bought an aquarium. I have <hardware list> and 10 clowns, a RTBA, and three SPS drags, and a starfish. I’m dosing alk, ca, and mg. What next? Where can I go to learn more?”
    1. ?!??!?
Let me be abundantly clear: I am not judging. People should do what they please. But it definitely seems to me like just a little bit of prep could go along way into helping these folk success long term.

I, myself, can be a hugely impulsive person. Just not when it comes to live creatures. It took me 6 months to research and find the right schmoopies (dog) to bring into my life which at the time was in an apartment, in downtown, and in a state where I was already allergic to everything.

This conversation doesn’t apply to experts or persons looking to justify the risks they take with live stock or best practices (which admittedly are ever evolving).
 

Karen00

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There is also a difference between surviving and thriving and that might come down to the conditions for the fish, coral, invert, etc. needs. Some, especially wild caught, have specific needs that some people don't want to cater to due time, effort, etc. It can be expert level but if you put the work into caring for it you might find it easy but think of the work you put into it on a day to day basis. For some the level of work is what makes them "expert level". And care goes beyond feeding. It's the environment as a whole. I absolutely agree with labeling fish, coral, etc. because hopefully it gets people doing the research into them before making the purchase. We all want our inhabitants to thrive, not just survive.
 

Doctorgori

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some of it is the average tolerance of the species to adjust to shipping or captivity…
For instance Idols and copperband s can be difficult to get eating but once they do, can be quite piggish and hardy …. some care level description are out right wrong, some of its statistical,
 

damsels are not mean

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I think the labels we use for "difficulty level" as well as "reef safe"/"with caution" suck and don't give you much information. A lot of the "expert only" livestock aren't expert only, they just need you to do something special.

For example I've seen tubastrea labeled as difficult when it really isn't. All you have to do is feed it and it will literally be a WEED in your tank. It is one of the easiest corals to keep if fed because it doesn't need much flow and couldn't care less about light. No amount of experience is needed to put mysis in its mouth with tweezers or a turkey battery. I could teach some random person outside my house to do it in a few minutes. On the other hand there are fishes like chromis that are considered easy yet almost nobody can keep more than one or two alive. In fact I'd bet chromis have one of the lowest success rates of all popular SW fishes.


There are many fishes labeled "with caution" but what does that mean? Centropyge Angels for example are generally no more dangerous to SPS than tangs. It's LPS and sponges you need to worry about.

Sometimes it feels as though the definition of reef safe is random every time I see the word used. What's part of the reef? Shrimp? Sponges? Feather dusters?

Many sharks and rays are not reef safe despite the fact they won't eat coral but might eat small fish and inverts while hawkfish are considered reef safe despite the fact that they will absolutely hunt down every invert in your tank.

What's "semi-aggressive"? Do you mean territorial? Conspecific aggression? Is it hit or miss? Does it only attack other pelagic swimmers? None of this information fits inside that label.

All these things are not 3-level scales. They're sliding scales of many different factors that affect the way we choose to stock or treat our tanks.
 
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i cant think

i cant think

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I think the labels we use for "difficulty level" as well as "reef safe"/"with caution" suck and don't give you much information. A lot of the "expert only" livestock aren't expert only, they just need you to do something special.

For example I've seen tubastrea labeled as difficult when it really isn't. All you have to do is feed it and it will literally be a WEED in your tank. It is one of the easiest corals to keep if fed because it doesn't need much flow and couldn't care less about light. No amount of experience is needed to put mysis in its mouth with tweezers or a turkey battery. I could teach some random person outside my house to do it in a few minutes. On the other hand there are fishes like chromis that are considered easy yet almost nobody can keep more than one or two alive. In fact I'd bet chromis have one of the lowest success rates of all popular SW fishes.


There are many fishes labeled "with caution" but what does that mean? Centropyge Angels for example are generally no more dangerous to SPS than tangs. It's LPS and sponges you need to worry about.

Sometimes it feels as though the definition of reef safe is random every time I see the word used. What's part of the reef? Shrimp? Sponges? Feather dusters?

Many sharks and rays are not reef safe despite the fact they won't eat coral but might eat small fish and inverts while hawkfish are considered reef safe despite the fact that they will absolutely hunt down every invert in your tank.

What's "semi-aggressive"? Do you mean territorial? Conspecific aggression? Is it hit or miss? Does it only attack other pelagic swimmers? None of this information fits inside that label.

All these things are not 3-level scales. They're sliding scales of many different factors that affect the way we choose to stock or treat our tanks.
For sure!! I think if they had a bit of description with why these animals are labelled certain things it would make it much easier to figure out what’s better to keep in reefs vs fowlrs.
 

Zionas

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The whole “reef safe” label really has to go. Tangs, Rabbitfish, and sometimes other kinds of fish do damage to corals / outright eat them but their reputation for being “reef safe” is still far better than angels and butterflies. We don’t hear them being talked about in the same way as angels and butterflies when it comes to compatibility with corals. Sometimes it’s collateral damage as a result of the fish going after the coral cells and micro-organisms found in the corals rather than eating the flesh and skeletons themselves. Most labels when it comes to reef compatibility don’t take this into consideration and apply a blanket label.

Some fish, as mentioned above, aren’t “reef safe” because they target corals in some manner, but because they’re predatory and are likely to after whatever fits in their mouths. A Volitan Lionfish sure isn’t a coral eater or picker, but I dare someone put it in an average community tank with lots of smaller fish swimming around.

What we apply blanket labels to are more of a spectrum with variations, and I feel it would be a lot more helpful if we refined these descriptions in terms of probability / statistical likelihood rather than hard and fast labels.
 

damsels are not mean

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Another crazy example would be obligate corallivores like harlequin filefish. They're not "reef safe" but what does that mean? Well actually these filefish don't eat corals. They eat the mucus of A. millepora specifically. So in a tank with healthy colonies of that species they are reef safe but in a frag tang the mucus sucking is too stressful. In a coral with only other species of corals they are no less reef safe than a damsel.

Are acro eating flatworms reef safe? Reef safe with caution? If you have no acros they are reef safe, and some species of acro seem to be immune too.
 
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BradB

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I think "expert" means expert with that particular fish but maybe not all fish. For example if you have kept copperbands (more than one) for their presumed lifespan of 10 or 15 years, I would call you an expert for that fish.

If you kept a couple of copperbands for a couple of years, you are not an expert but you would be a novice.

That is the same with all fish. A mandarin should live about 10 years and if you have kept a "few" of them for that period of time, you could be considered an expert. I believe you should be able to keep the fish for at least it's presumed lifespan. If it dies of anything else, it is a failure., maybe not a complete failure, but still a failure.

If your fish are not dying of old age, you could not be called an expert

So the only people who should keep copperbands are people who've kept them for a decade? Sort of a catch-22?
 

Paul B

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So the only people who should keep copperbands are people who've kept them for a decade? Sort of a catch-22?
No, I don't think I said that. I think I said something like "to be called an expert you should have kept a few of them for 10 years." :p

Anyone can keep a copperband but we are not all "experts". :rolleyes:
 

BradB

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No, I don't think I said that. I think I said something like "to be called an expert you should have kept a few of them for 10 years." :p

Anyone can keep a copperband but we are not all "experts". :rolleyes:
I don't care what people call themselves. Saying a fish should not be kept by less experienced people is generally not helpful.
 
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Paul B

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I don't care what people call themselves. Saying a fish should not be kept by less experienced people is generally not helpful.

That is true which is why I never said anyone should not keep a particular fish.

Again, what is it that defines an Expert reefer from a Novice reefer and a Novice reefer from a Beginner?
I was referring to this quote by "I can't think" where he (or she) asked how to define an "expert reefer."

It is also generally not helpful to quote people and change the words around to have a completely different meaning from their quote.
 
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