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March 2011 AFI Editor's Note

Compatible Fish Communities

By Clay Jackson |

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Imagine ending up in a neighborhood not of your own choosing — a neighborhood filled with felonious parolees, leather-clad outlaw bikers, assorted degenerates and 12-steppers always “working on” but never attaining the brass pull tab. Think about the daily beatings junior will likely endure on his way to and from school. And while this may be reality for some, most have a choice of where they choose to live and who their neighbors will be. One reason we earn a living is so that we can reside in neighborhoods with like-minded, respectful, law-abiding neighbors.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go.... — Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Our freshwater and marine fish don’t have this luxury when they’re plucked from the wild; they are at the mercy of their keepers, especially when it comes to whether they are kept with neighborly tankmates, or with rogues and bullies that will make their lives miserable.

There are two articles in this issue of Aquarium Fish International that aquarists can read to determine if the fish community they are intent on setting up, or the existing one they wish to add to, is optimal or dysfunctional.

Gary Elson’s article “Finding Their Level,” sheds light on where in the water column our fish take up residence. There are surface-dwellers, midwater fish and bottom-feeders that adapt their feeding strategies to where they find themselves in the water column. One catfish in a tank full of surface and midwater fish is going to go hungry, unless allowances for feeding strategies and food types are made. Thus, it is a matter of husbandry conforming to the feeding realities of fish.

Then there is Miller Morgan’s fine article “Community Means Compatibility," which discusses six factors all fishkeepers should take into consideration before ever purchasing a fish, introducing a fish into an established tank or setting up a tank from scratch. Morgan’s compatibility factors apply whether keeping freshwater or marine fish, or a reef with a mix of fish and invertebrates. By putting piscine quality of life issues ahead of tank aesthetics, aquarists can use Morgan’s guidelines as a jumping-off point to plan out the most stress-free communities for their fish.

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