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Not with us at the moment, yet always on our minds?

Tannin Aquatics

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As a lifelong hobbyist, I've spent a lot of time reading about, researching, observing, and collecting tropical fishes- just like most of you. And, in all of those years of researching, I couldn't help but wonder about some of "those" fishes- you know, the ones that are found in scientific studies and papers- fishes that seem to be ridiculously abundant in their natural habitats, yet never even show up as a blip on the radar for the hobby.


Now, there are plenty of reasons why some seemingly abundant fishes never show up in the trade, the primary one being that the collectors are not aware of any commercial value for them, and are far better off, from an economic standpoint, when they bring in 5,000 Cardinal Tetras instead of the abundant, but commercially "uninteresting" Hemmigramus elegans, for example. The basically grey, nearly monochromatic characin has little in the way of value to the exporters, who need to satisfy the demands of hobbyists worldwide. Now, if suddenly there was a huge demand for this fish from the hobby world, or if it was determined that they contained a protein in their tissues that is effective at treating cancer, we'd see 'em coming in by the ton! Duh. Easy. Obvious.

So it's really about demand.


And that makes sense. And, when you think about it, a fish being relatively drab and unremarkable in appearance has at least one benefit- it takes external pressures off of the wild populations of many species!


Yet, of course, as a hobbyist, I find myself wanting some of these less "interesting", yet decidedly common fishes to work with! I know from the marine livestock industry that some of the more rare, less in-demand fishes will come in with more common species as "incidental by catch", and the sharp-eyed hobbyist/collector can score a somewhat rare, albeit nondescript Tang, for example that just shows up in a shipment of 400 more commercially viable Ctenochaetus tominiensis, or whatever.


And it's the same in the freshwater market, of course. Sometimes a few of these (hobby) oddities will trickle through in a group of more widely known, more commercially viable species. And occasionally, they find themselves in the hands of some really sharp retailers who understand the (hobby) scarcity of the fish and their value to a hobbyist.


And that's what's fun, to me. You never know what might make it through!

It's no secret that I've been obsessing for sometime about the small, relatively nondescript characin, Elachocharax pulcher. Part of one of my fave families, Crenuchidae, these are little, darter-like fishes that are common and abundant in the litter banks of Amazonia in South America, yet virtually unknown to the hobby. They obviously would work really well in the leaf-litter beds that we're somewhat fond of replicating in our own aquariums, and would no doubt be popular within our tiny community of enthusiasts. They're cool enough that even hobbyists who have never heard of or seen them could be enticed to keep some if they were actually available!


Of course, I have no illusion that us 1% of the 5% of tropical fish enthusiasts who make up the segment of biotope-oriented characin lovers who keep leaf litter aquariums would even show up as an economically viable segment worth catering to by collectors. However, what if a few of these cool fish got through...and what IF some capable hobbyists were able to breed them? Not only would success with obscure species like this release us from our reliance on chance collection/importation of them, it could permanently satisfy a demand- regardless of how tiny- for this cool little fish in the hobby! And, most important, it could conceivably prevent any sort of demand to continue to remove them from the wild. It's that "what if?" that keeps a lot of us dreaming!


A very selfish and kind of a fantasy-like, almost blissfully ignorant point of view, I suppose, but fun to think about, right? I can imagine if I polled a group of you, there would be many fishes (from different families of course) just like my little friend, Elachocharax pulcher, which would be treasured by a tiny group, and preserved for future generations to enjoy. 


So, we keep an eye out on wholesale stock lists and in vendor's and dealer's tanks, hoping, waiting, and watching. They may not be with us in the hobby right now- for any number of reasons, but these "aspirational fishes" are what keep a lot of us going...They're always on our minds.

What's your dream fish, and when will it show up?

Keep looking. Stay alert. Stay enthused.

And Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


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