Keeping fish contributes to the development of scientific research into aquatic environments, and is relevant to the study of animal and plant biology, ecology, reproduction, feeding, and behavior. Researchers use some species to test the toxicity of pollutants or suspected pollutants. Aquaculture or fish farming - the production of living creatures with the principal aim of selling them as food - has features in common with fishkeeping. In both cases, it is a matter of maintaining fish in captivity and encouraging them to reproduce, always under the best possible conditions. The use of aquariums has allowed us to improve our knowledge of, for
example, the breeding of marine larvae destined eventually for human consumption. It can also aid the preservation of species threatened with extinction for various reasons; we can study their behavior and reproductive methods with the aim of rearing young which can be released into their natural habitats. On the other hand, aquarists are regularly accused of being party to the destruction of certain environments. The fact is that though the vast majority of freshwater fish kept in aquariums are the result of captive breeding, the same is not true of marine fish, which are caught mainly in their natural habitats. The numbers taken are out of all proportion to the needs of aquarists owing to unsatisfactory conditions of capture and transport. For every marine fish which arrives alive in an aquarium, how many have died as they were being caught - often in a highly questionable manner - or during shipment or in the course of acclimatization? In this sense, the accusation is justified. The only solution is to impose stricter controls and improve techniques so that the number of fish caught to supply aquarists remains within a safe limit.
The days of goldfish swimming in endless circles in a glass bowl are long past. Today, an aquarium is something much more sophisticated: we are able to recon struct Nature in microcosm, which requires the maintenance of a constant equilibrium. Nature, if not disturbed by some cataclysmic imbalance, obeys a finite set of laws. As aquarists, we need to understand these laws and reproduce them on a smaller scale, where the density of animals and plants is considerably higher. Everything that takes place within this mini-universe is under our control -up to a point. The final, inviolable law is that conditions in the aquarium must always approach those found in Nature. If not, the ecosystem will break down, spelling disaster.
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