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April 2012 Aquarium Fish International Editor's Note

Ecotours for Aquarists

By Clay Jackson |

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Ecotourism is low-impact tourism (no 4WDs, dune buggies, etc.) to unique and often protected ecosystems. Many ecotourists are avowed nature-lovers, and their travels are an extension of their hobbies. This is especially true of birders, who travel from one bird-rich locale to another to compile “life lists.”

We thought it would be fun to offer aquarists some ecotours of their own: ecotours that would not only inspire aquarists to venture out but to try something new — a nature-inspired wrinkle — in their own aquariums. This “Aquarists’ Ecotour Issue” offers three features on three places that couldn’t be more different. Each provides a travel planner to help facilitate a visit.

The Pantanal (see “Exploring Brazil’s Pantanal”) is considered one of the world’s largest wetlands (about the size of Kansas) and has at least 400 species of freshwater fish. For aquatic plant enthusiasts, the Pantanal is the botanical equivalent of a candy store. At every turn there’s a vista able to serve as a blueprint for a planted aquarium layout.

Reef fish photographer extraordinaire Scott Michael shares his five favorite scuba and snorkeling sites in Bonaire. Michael presents four Bonaire-inspired biotope aquarium stocking lists for hobbyists to consider. Rather than haphazardly putting together divergent species (Red Sea and Atlantic fish, for example), why not try and re-create a bit of Caribbean reef by staying true to Bonaire’s piscine fauna instead? You might even observe some interesting behaviors that you might not have otherwise enjoyed with a more pell-mell approach to stocking.

Utah’s Bonneville Seabase is not your traditional ecotourism destination: It is an artificial environment, but it still mimics the natural experience of communing with more than 20 species of reef fish, many of which have formed self-replicating populations right smack-dab in the middle of the desert. One of the Seabase owners describes divers being greeted by “a wall of yellow” made up of thousands of porkfish. The implications for mariculture are legion.

If that wasn’t enough, AFI Associate Editor Cassandra Radcliff in this month’s “Aquarist’s Notebook” writes about snorkeling with Hawaiian reef fishes on her recent trip there. I’ve written several ecotour-type exclusives myself. Here are some of my own aquarist ecotours: "Cavorting with Sea Creatures" and "I Like My Fish Extra Dry." Now get out there and get inspired!

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