From the Editor
An Economic Solution to an Ecological Problem
Robert C. Boruchowitz
This month we have a particularly timely and significant article: Rick
Oellers’s report on alien populations of Pterois lionfish established
in the Atlantic (p. 98). I first heard rumors of the presence of Indo-Pacific lionfish in local waters more than 10 years ago, and speculation
was rampant, but the only convincing explanation—with actual data to back it
up—is the one provided by Rick, who has traced a documented accidental release
in 1992 of six adults into Florida waters. Their planktonic larvae floated along
the Gulf Stream, explaining their observed presence all along the East Coast,
including Long Island, with the Carolina population probably representing the
northernmost year-round survivable habitat along the way.
However they arrived, they are here to stay, and as voracious predators, they
are already disrupting the local ecosystem, gorging themselves on juveniles of
several commercially important species. While uninformed alarmists may call
for legislation against ownership of lionfish, and politicians undoubtedly will try
to grandstand by closing the barn door after the wild horses
are already all inside, there is an excellent opportunity here
for a very simple program that will benefit aquarium retailers,
hobbyists, and the Atlantic Ocean’s ecosystem—all without the
need for legislation, tax dollars, or government oversight. What
is this miraculous program?
LET’S PERMIT AND ENCOURAGE THE HARVEST OF ATLANTIC
LIONFISH FOR THE AQUARIUM TRADE.
There are two important points that
should always be considered when
discussing Pterois. First, these are
venomous fish that need to be handled
and maintained with extreme care.
Second, these large carnivores require
really big tanks and extra filtration and
water changes. We certainly do not want
to encourage people with inadequate
facilities to acquire these animals,
regardless of where they are captured.
Lionfish are popular but rather costly aquarium fish, and
specimens caught right off our coast will be healthier and less
expensive than their Indo-Pacific cousins. And we don’t have
to worry about overfishing since, in the unlikely event that the
hobby is insatiable enough to decimate the Atlantic lionfish
population, it will probably be the first time an invasive species was successfully controlled.
We’re timely in other ways this month, too. This issue celebrates the American Livebearer Association (ALA)
Convention in Indianapolis, April 23–26. Whether you are a livebearer fanatic or have just a passing interest in
these fascinating fishes, we’ve got something for you! We’re the official magazine of the ALA 2009 Convention,
and we’ve got articles by a variety of experts and ALA notables: Bill Allen, who discusses fancy xiphs, their history,
and their genetics (p. 68); Mike Hellweg, who covers one of the “other” livebearers, the wrestling halfbeak (p. 74);
Robert Ellermann, who reports on wild sailfin molly species, including the rarely seen swordtail molly (p. 80);
and Rit Forcier, who tells of his long experience with Skiffia livebearers and explains why we need to preserve this
imperiled group (p. 88).
In addition to this livebearer focus, we present this month’s chapter in Mr. Amano’s ongoing coverage of the
Nature Aquarium—the use of cosmetic sand to simplify and enhance planted aquarium foregrounds (p. 62). We’re
also kicking off the garden pond season with the first part of Stan Sung’s examination of native centrarchids as
pond inhabitants—beyond goldfish and koi (p. 92). Mike Maddox looks at another popular group of large marine
predators, the puffers, this time safely within the confines of our aquaria and not invading anywhere (p. 104).
Wrapping things up is our own Shari Horowitz’s report on James Prappas’s enviable job of planning and maintaining
the various aquarium systems in the Landry’s Restaurants chain (p. 110). Imagine your boss telling you things like
you have to set up another 10,000-gallon aquarium!
Our regular columns and departments complete our diverse coverage of all aspects of the aquarium hobby this
month, and while you’re enjoying this cornucopia, we’re already working on the next jam-packed issue! Enjoy!
In last month’s “Import Report,” an acknowledgement was inadvertently left off the
section on Betta channoides. It should have ended with the following:
I wish to thank my friend Dan Hodnett, who generously provided me with
information regarding this rare anabantoid. Dan has even raised fry outdoors in
Southern California, where the water temperature fluctuates between 60° and 78°F.
Tropical Fish Hobbyist