Species That Can Make, Break — or Terrorize — a Captive Reef
ithout herbivorous fishes, there might inputs of food to the system, and this ultimately means a not be any coral reefs. Algae can easily outcom- higher level of pollutants. Fish also compete with all the pete the reef-building corals for light and growing other living organisms in the aquarium for available oxy~
space. This has been demonstrated by fencing off gen. Perhaps most importantly, fish exhibit behaviors that sections of reef and observing how the balance can be troublesome, and they can develop personalities that shifts when herbivorous fishes are excluded. These days, one seriously threaten the peace and security of an aquarium usually finds a healthy complement of fishes sharing reef microenvironment. Territoriality, aggression, and the need aquariums with invertebrates. The old school mostly kept for a special social milieu may all be important factors in fishes out or to a minimum to prevent nitrate build-up; the determining the degree to which a particular fish species new view is that corals need some nitrate and tiny bits of adapts to captive life. I urge all marine aquarists to research food missed by the fish population, that herbivorous fishes the special needs of any fish species of interest before ob-
are very useful in combating algae, and that almost every taining specimens that may disrupt or even destroy a deli-
tank looks much more "alive" and natural with at least a cately balanced reef biotope.
small population of active fish. Although some aquarists
Another reason for placing primary emphasis upon in-
may have eyes only for the corals, to most observers the vertebrates rather than fishes is that on the coral reef, in-
fishes make the aquarium complete.
vertebrates often fulfill the same ecological roles as do plants
It might seem odd to devote a relatively limited por- in a terrestrial habitat. It is the invertebrates, not the fishes, tion of a book about coral reef aquariums to the most con- that determine the specific characteristics of a particular reef spicuous of the reef's residents. Fishes, the traditional microhabitat, and invertebrate distribution is largely deter-
emphasis of marine aquarium keeping, present special chal- mined by water depth and topography. Given a particular lenges to the aquarist. Their high levels of activity require kind of reefscape, one can expect to find certain fishes there.
This, for example, is why juvenile fishes might be found in
Blackcap Basslet (.Gramma melacara): a Caribbean species especially suited to wall or deep-water aquascapes.
Turtle Grass beds while their adult counterparts are on the fore reef.
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