Learning about as many sides of an issue is key to a community of responsible hobbyists, fanciers, and breeders.
To this end, Animal Scene posed this question to our experts:
“Can you comment on the criticism by cichlid enthusiasts and environmentalists that the flowerhorn hobby has resulted in the dumping of culled, surplus, and deformed fish into the wild in Malaysia and Singapore, where they became an invasive species?”
OLIVER: It depends on the culture of the country. In our case here in the Philippines, culls, rejects, and unwanted fish of local breeders are sold for a few bucks in small pet shops all around the metro and most especially in Cartimar Pasay—and surprisingly, these sell well. Some of us use them as feeders for other, bigger fish. Wala naman po masama gawin (there’s nothing wrong with making them) feeders, like goldfish, whose cull are sold as feeders for about PhP 1 each, depending on size. What I’m trying to say is, there’s still profit in culls and rejects. I feed my culls to my big arowana and barracudas, so I save on costs as well. So it never entered our minds to throw the culls and rejects away in rivers because the truth is, with all the dirty rivers we have, they won’t survive there.
TIGER: While it is true that the flower-horn is aggressive, easy to breed, and adaptable—and that sadly, they have become an invasive species in the local rivers of Malaysia and Singapore—it is not the only fish that is causing this problem. The Oscar and Snake-head have been causing the same invasive problems in Florida rivers and swamps, and even here in the Philippines, the pleco or janitor fish and the knife-fish have become a persistent threat to the natural habitats where they have been accidentally introduced. I believe that misguided breeders/hobbyists were at fault on this issue. Misguided, because they are not aware of the large size the flower-horn can reach and surprised and overwhelmed at the number of offspring each batch of breeding pairs produce. As responsible fish-keepers, our answer or solution to this problem is the wide information campaign we are conducting in our shows and competitions and other forums detailing the proper way of disposing of cull fish and advising the misguided fish owners to please not dispose of their large flower-horns in our rivers and lakes as they will cause environmental damage. Rather, have them adopted by or donated to people who have larger facilities and can care for them properly.
DR. MAU: Due to the fact that flowerhorns can breed easily, a lot of hobbyists and breeders always attempt to crossbreed them. From what I have observed, even those who are just new to the hobby try to breed flowerhorns. They have different reasons for why they do it. This resulted in the overproduction of unwanted and deformed fish. Some of these are being fed to larger fish; others are being dumped in rivers.
Not all hobbyists are to be blamed for what is happening, I think what we need now is to educate all those who are just starting to keep flowerhorns. This will surely benefit all.
This story appeared in Animal Scene’s April 2016 issue.