marine fish

Chapter 13 Tropical marine fish


Over 90% of tropical marine fish are wild-caught. This means that, although they are robust as individuals (they are the Darwinian survivors of the rigours of planktonic survival), the stress of capture, transportation plus the mingling of species from different continents and biotopes at the wholesaler and retailer, mean that disease outbreaks are not uncommon. Some captive breeding does occur, principally with those species with either short or no planktonic larval stage, e.g. clownfish (Amphiprion spp), seahorses (Hippocampus spp) and Banggai cardinals (Pterapogon kauderni).


Most marine fish are net-caught, but in some countries there is still an unacceptable willingness to use cyanide to catch fish hidden in coral crevices; an action that causes both immediate and later mortalities when the fish have entered the ornamental fish trade.


Recommended water-quality parameters are listed in Table 13.1.


Table 13.1 Recommended water quality parameters: Fish-only community aquarium; reef aquarium























































Parameter Fish-only community aquarium Reef aquarium (with photosynthetic invertebrates)
Temperature (°C) 22–26 24–28
pH 8.0–8.3 8.0–8.4
Salinity (measured as specific gravity) 1.020–1.027 1.022–1.027
Carbonate hardness (KH) (mg CaCO3) 116 116–267
Ammonia (total) (mg/L) <0.02 <0.02 mg/L but the high pH requires ammonia should be 0.0 mg/L
Nitrite (mg/L) <0.02 <0.02
Nitrate (mg/L) <40 mg above ambient tapwater levels <5–10
Calcium (mg/L) 300–500 300–500
Oxygen (mg/L) 5.0–8.0 5.0–8.0
Phosphate (mg/L) <0.2 <0.036
Water volume turnover Dependant upon fish housed in aquarium 15–20 times per hour
Lighting Dependant upon fish housed in aquarium 10–14 h daylight; 0.6–5.5 Watts/L



Nursing care


The same principles apply as for goldfish and koi but differ significantly in some areas. Salt water holds less oxygen than fresh water at an equivalent temperature, so stocking densities are more critical. The high pH of marine aquaria means that excreted ammonia is more toxic. Lowering the salinity to a specific gravity of 1.020 is often beneficial – it reduces osmotic stress on the fish and is less well tolerated by many ectoparasites. Protein skimming is an important method of removing proteinaceous and other dissolved and suspended materials from salt water. However, zeolite is ineffective in salt water.


Proprietary products containing copper are commonly available medications for marine fish. Copper is toxic to certain groups of fish including the elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) and many invertebrate species. It may also interfere with the normal gut flora of herbivorous fish such as tangs and surgeonfish. Signs of toxicity include stress colouration, loss of appetite, excessive mucous production and respiratory distress. Copper levels, therefore, require daily monitoring with a copper test kit (Table 13.2). Never use copper-based treatments in aquaria containing invertebrates, and ideally always use a separate dedicated treatment aquarium.


Table 13.2 Therapeutic use of copper















Free copper ion concentration Result
0.2 p.p.m. Therapeutic
<0.15 p.p.m. Non-therapeutic
>0.25 p.p.m. Toxic



Skin disorders


Structure and function of skin (see Ch.11, Goldfish and Koi).











Treatment/specific therapy
























Respiratory tract disorders





Aug 21, 2016 | Posted by in EXOTIC, WILD, ZOO | Comments Off on marine fish
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