THE WORLD OF WET PETS
With 72 aquariums and more than 1000 fish in a studio apartment, Eric Rasmussen was, in his own words, “an intense hobbyist.”
He was in college then. But you might say it was a sign of things to come.
Today Rasmussen owns and operates The World of Wet Pets in Portland, Oregon, where he now houses 222 aquariums and more than 10,000 fish.
More businessman than hobbyist these days, Rasmussen and his staff – Jerry Craig, Tereasa McKay, Paul Dubay, Mike Pool, Tyler Watkins, Tasha Ochoa — together offer customers more than 100 years of multi-faceted experience in the “world of wet pets.”
In fact, that experience is what sets his store apart. Even competing stores know to send customers to Rasmussen when they need help with fish health issues and problem-solving.
- You may now access all of the abstracts for the papers and posters presented at the Sixth International Symposium on Aquatic Animal Health held in Tampa, Florida, September 5-9th 2010. This international meeting occurs every 4 years. Scientists, aquatic health professionals, industry professionals from all over the world gather for this meeting every 4 years. It’s the Olympics of aquatic animal health.
- Just published in Reviews of Fisheries Science, Development of Captive Breeding Techniques for Marine Ornamental Fish: A Review.
- FAO Proposes new Guidelines for Aquaculture Certification. Many of the issues with small-scale producers would certainly apply to the ornamental fish sector. While such certification could be valuable to the ornamental fish industry it seems to me that implementation could be much more difficult given the huge diversity of species. (What do you think? Could this be done with the global ornamental fish industry? How would you approach this problem? IS the Marine Aquarium Council Certification program for marine ornamentals a good model? TMM)
From Ornamental Fish International (my comments in bold, italics):
- EU CONSULTATION ON BIODIVERSITY
The European Union is currently undertaking a public consultation on the EU Biodiversity strategy. This topic is important for our industry as well, as it touches issues like trade legislation (including our trade). EU biodiversity strategy is available from the website: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/consultations/biodecline.htm <http://ec.europa.eu/environment/consultations/biodecline.htm> The objective of this consultation is to gather input from a wide range of stakeholders on possible policy options for the European Union’s post-2010 EU biodiversity strategy, which will be assessed by the Commission as part of the process of its development.
- VACCINE FOR WHITE SPOT DISEASE (ICH)
Scientists have shown that fish can be immunized against Ich, the ‘white-spot’ disease, but growing the parasite in large quantities for immunization use is problematic.
Fish can be immunized against Ich, the dreaded “white-spot” disease, that is the bane of home aquarists and commercial fish farmers, government scientists have shown. Although the team still has many obstacles to overcome, the study presented at a Boston meeting of the American Chemical Society indicates for the first time that a protective vaccine is within reach.
Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, commonly known as Ich, is the most common protozoan parasite of fish. It is characterized by the appearance of white spots, about the size of salt or sugar granules, on the fishes’ skin, and is especially common when fish are grown in crowded conditions. Symptoms include loss of appetite, rapid breathing, hiding or resting on the bottom of tanks or ponds, and rubbing or scratching against objects. The disease kills 50% to 100% of those infected. (Here’s a link to a bit more information from Science Daily.TMM)
- OFI POLL
In the previous months we had an interesting Poll in the OFI website. The question was: Most important tradeshow for my business is? 43% of the respondents mentioned Interzoo, which in itself considering the size of this show is of course not so surprising. We were pleased to see that the specialized aquatic show Aquarama was second in this list with 41%. This despite the fact that the Poll was on-line before and during Interzoo. The general pet trade show in Las Vegas came out third with 7% and Aquafair Malaysia fourth with 3%. Other shows listed 5%.
- AUSTRALIA TO RESTRICT IMPORTS?
To reduce the risk on imports of certain iridovirusses, the Australian government is in the process for developing legislation to address these risks. In July a report was published which can be downloaded here <http://www.ofish.org/files/files/iridovirusses-australia.pdf> . (An interesting read and a chance to see how countries carry out import risk assessments. TMM)
Main recommendation: restrict imports from disease free countries only, or start batch testing of all poecilids, gouramis and cichlids, which enter Australia. This is about 67% of all Australian imports! The first option seems to be a theoretical option only as exporting countries to Australia will have very serious problems to introduce the required procedures and controls to declare these countries or farms free of the Iridovirusses. Batch testing demands a high number from fish of every batch (all specimens of the same species and origin in the shipment).
This recommendation will lead to the killing of very, very many healthy fish every year. It will also lead to a huge increase of cost, as importers will have to pay for these fish, for their transport and for the testing. Altogether it is a huge incentive to breeding of fish within Australia. (Also raises the question – could the screening be pushed to producers? THe costs might be lower? But is the disease screening infrastructure available in the countries of origin? Koi imported into the USA must now come from sources certified free of Spring Viremia of Carp Virus. There is a mechanism for this type of screening outlined in the OIE Code and Manual. However, adequate, validated diagnostic tests must be available for screening these fish. TMM)
Lets hope the Australian authorities will also consider the cost of these recommendations for both importers and government, and the ethical aspects of the ideas of some veterinarians. (THis is a tough balancing act. The Australian authorities must balance the needs of this industry with the need to protect their food fish aquaculture industry and protect their wild fish resources. This is an issue every country must face at some point. How would you address these issues? Remember, even inaction is a decision that may have long-lasting ramifications. TMM)
Coral Magazine recently posted an online survey intended to address survival of ornamental marine fish in their readers tanks. Coral Magazine put this survey out in response to an editorial and book promotion written by Robert Winter and posted on the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society website.
The current survey results are based upon approximately 250-300 responses according to James Lawrence the editor and publisher of Coral magazine. He cautions that Coral readers tend to be high achievers in the marine aquarium keeping world but there also were a few responders that are new to the hobby.
Both items have stimulated a number of interesting responses. I found Dr. Neil Monks response particularly thought provoking.
I encourage you to review the survey results and read the various responses. What’s clear is that the answers are not simple and people are passionate about these issues but that there is much room for improvement when it comes to overall health management of these species from reef to the home tank. I appreciate Coral Magazine’s willingness to delve into this issue and I’ve found the forum discussions to be very interesting.
As with any industry and hobby there are conscientious and unscrupulous players. It is always easy to point fingers but I’m most interested in how we can constantly move to improve the quality of marine ornamental fish health. Parts of the survey begin to get at this but I’d like to hear some suggestions addressing how the industry and the hobby can begin to be more proactive when addressing these issues.
Some questions for discussion:
- Can there be sustainable harvest?
- Is aquaculture the answer?
- If so, what about the many communities that depend upon wild harvest for their livelihoods?
- Do you think certification is or can be effective?
- How can we incentivize improved health management throughout the supply chain?
- How can we better reach hobbyists and instill the importance of quality husbandry?
- Is it possible to economically insert quarantine and disease screening into the industry?
- If not, how can we convince hobbyists to set up their own quarantine systems?
- How would you go about convincing a new hobbyist to institute quarantine?
- Can veterinarians play a role here? If so, how? If not, why?
- If the global veterinary profession could assist the industry and hobby what would be the most appropriate role we should play?
- Obviously, my focus is on fish health. Feel free to insert other issues into the discussion.
In past posts I’ve been accused of preaching to the choir. That’s fine because I’m interested in your thoughts as active/passionate members of this hobby and industry . Be creative. Think outside the box.
So, Let’s hear your your thoughts, comments and ideas!! Just be civil!!
I’m in Japan again to continue learning about the Japanese Koi industry. I’m currently in Niigata, generally considered to be the birthplace of Nishikigoi (koi) keeping and production. What began as rice framers rearing carp as an additional food source in small rural villages has evolved into a major industry that rivals rice production and brings hobbyists and dealers from all over the world to this mountainous area of Japan. This is now an industry that really caters to the international markets. I’ve read that 80% of the koi produced in this area are exported out of Japan. Further a thriving sub-industry has developed catering to the international koi dealers and their customers, the koi Kichi (Koi crazy), that travel to this area every year to view and purchase nishikigoi, a unique example of agritourism. Below are a few images that illustrate the extent to which nishikigoi have become part of the landscape here in Ojiya city and the surrounding countryside especially as the local breeders and the small communities have developed an infrastructure to cater to the visiting koi kichi.
See the recent post by Nina Shen Rastogi at http://www.slate.com/id/2221024/.
Some other important points that I would also emphasize:
- Learn as much as you can about the particular fish species and their needs in captivity before they are purchased. This research might lead one to decide that a particular fish is not the right species for them to maintain in an aquarium.
- Focus on purchasing healthy fish in the first place. Learn the general signs that indicate a healthy fish as well as a sick fish ( I’ll discuss these in future posts).
- Find a trusted fish supplier that is genuinely concerned about selling healthy fish and educating his or her customers about maintaining healthy fish.
- Seriously consider utilizing a quarantine for all new arrivals before they are added to holding or display tanks (more about this later).
We can all do our part by keeping our fish as healthy as possible. We do this by understanding the needs of the animals in our care, demanding healthy well handled fish from our supplier and by practicing excellent health management while these animals are in our care. These are a few of the small, but important, ways we can work to preserve the wild resources by striving to keep the animals in our care healthy and long-lived.
Can this be a truly green/sustainable industry/hobby? If so, what do you think that would look like in 20 years?
Comments and criticisms?
We’ve been able to visit about 10 breeders in Japan, 8 breeders in Niigata and one in Hiroshima. Here are a few of my quick impressions/observations so far based upon the visits to these few facilities:
- Most all of the fish I’ve seen are very healthy and vigorous. I was particularly impressed with the 1 year-olds (tosai). WOW!!, No I don’t have a good eye but from a health standpoint they looked great.
- Those that appeared “off” were not for sale.
- Most common diseases appear to be Anchor worm and Columnaris. The columaris is generally a problem when the fish come out of the ponds and move into the greenhouses.
- Sleeping disease is also a problem. This disease, which is not well characterized, causes problems primarily with 1-2 year old koi in the Winter months. The fish tend to lie unmoving on the bottom of the pond. They will swim when stimulated.
- Costia can also be a problem at times.
- The government requires testing for Spring Viremia of Carp and Koi Herpes Virus four times a year.
- Biosecurity concepts are understood and practiced to varying degrees as we see in the US. Most breeders have moved to locked facilities, appear to have separate sets of equipment for each facility and all we visited have foot baths at the entrances (however, actual use seems to vary). few places also have hand wash stations.
- A couple facilities have quarantine greenhouses into which recently harvested fish are moved for observation and to await testing.
- All breeders seem to be very concerned and try to be conscientious about biosecurity. The level of practice is often related to the actual amount of fish trade (economics). More trade in koi results in more funds that can be invested in biosecurity. Fish or ponds that are ill or appear off are generally isolated, pulled from sale, or moved from the holding areas until resolved.
- As we see in the US biosecurity requires constant diligence by everyone in each facility and throughout. Everyone must: Think Biosecurity, Plan Biosecurity and Act Biosecurely,
- I’ll post some photos of a selection of facilities and some more information/thoughts in the near future. This was just a few quick notes. All-in-all this has been a great learning opportunity for me and I really appreciate all the patience from the breeders with all of my questions. I have seen some beautiful fish!!!
Let’s start with something I hope you will find fun.
About 15 years ago I attended a program called AQUAVET at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. This was an intensive program in Aquatic Animal Medicine. Dr. Bob Bullis, one of the instructors and the MBL veterinarian at the time, gave a lecture entitled Principles of Health Management For Marine Laboratory Animals. From his lecture and notes came some some important considerations for keeping healthy fish an invertebrates. This gave me the idea to develop some “rules of thumb” for the aquarist or budding aquatic veterinarian. Often it is these little tips and pearls of wisdom that aren’t covered in the books or formal classes. Over the years through my own and others experiences (good and bad) I have modified these into some general rules of thumb for the freshwater and marine aquarium keeping. This is certainly not the final word on this matter, I’m constantly tinkering with the list and, as always, open to suggestions. Without further ado here in slightly modified and expanded form are the sage words of Dr. Bob Bullis, MS, DVM.
Now comes the interactive portion. I imagine you have also have developed your own rules of thumb for keeping your animals healthy. Send them to me or post them in the comments section and include your name and state or country. If I add them to the list you will get full credit. TMM
THE MOST IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS
- Water quality is almost always the central or contributing factor in disease outbreaks.
- Bacterial and parasitic diseases account for the vast majority of ornamental fish disease problems.
- Prevention is ALWAYS cheaper than treatment.
WARNING SIGNS OF IMPENDING DOOM
- Excessive accumulation of debris, uneaten food, feces, and other muck in the aquarium or pond.
- Sudden changes in water quality parameters (ammonia, nitrite, pH, turbidity, alkalinity, dissolved oxygen, cloudy water, unusual amount of foam in system, etc.)
- A dead animal or an unusual amount of deaths among animals that traditionally do very well in aquariums or pond environments.
- Distressed animals in the system. This is usually indicated by unusual amounts of activity, inactivity, or unusual behavior. More on specific signs in fish and invertebrates in the next issue.
- It’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon and you are planning on going away for the weekend.
COMMON ERRORS, MISTAKES AND MISCONCEPTIONS
- Failure to know your animal (its biology and husbandry requirements).
- Failure to quarantine new animals.
- Failure to allow your aquarium or pond to cycle before adding all your fish an/or invertebrates.
- Overcrowding the system. This will tax the oxygen supply and the filtration systems, increase traumatic injury, territorialism, and cannibalism.
- Failure to adequately rinse recently cleaned and disinfected tanks, totes and equipment.
- Failure to quarantine newly arrived animals or to isolate those undergoing treatment.
- Initiating a disease treatment without a proper diagnosis.
- Failure to rinse the dust from activated carbon, dolomite or crushed shell before adding it to filters.
- Failure to provide large aquariums with well supported stands.
- Failure to build in bypass and overflow pipes and screened drains.
- Use of copper, brass, or bronze valves and/or pipes. These can corrode, slough or leach toxic copper salts. Copper is especially toxic to invertebrates. Zinc is also quite toxic.
- Failure to provide proper substrates, shelter, or life support for commensal invertebrates.
- Failure to provide proper water flow and current for sessile invertebrates.
- Using plastics or sealers impregnated with insecticides or fungicides. Always read the label and when in doubt use food grade containers.
- Using toxins or solvents in or around aquariums and ponds (insecticides, herbicides, floor strippers, cleaners, even smoke)
- Failure to keep certain species separate (predators with prey species, aggressive species with timid species, introducing parasites with host species).
- Failure to identify the individuals responsible for care and maintenance of the animals and systems. Miscommunication can leave important husbandry tasks undone.
- Failure to check the water quality parameters regularly.
- Failure to observe and respond to declining water quality conditions.
- Inadequate nutrition do to underfeeding or an unbalanced or inappropriate diet. varied diet is always best. Monodiets are never balanced.
- Failure to keep adequate husbandry records (water quality, feeding, mortalities, disease, and other significant events) and failure to review those records on a regular basis.
- Failure to recognize or anticipate the onset or duration of reproductive activity. Misinterpreting reproductive activity as abnormal behavior.
- Improperly installed/maintained electrical equipment and outlets not protected by ground fault interruption.
- Failure to check pipes, fittings and equipment on the suction side of pumps for air leaks. Air supersaturated water can kill animals quickly.
- Believing that antibiotics will solve all your problems.