Today I learned things in my wildlife class that have such strong implications for aquarium fish husbandry. (I’m so glad I am in the program I’m in as opposed to something like general biology or aquaculture, it’s giving me a different perspective that I don’t think I would have gotten elsewhere.)
Most notably, that animals show an instinctual preference for the natural habitats they are adapted to. Which means, as I’ve been pushing for awhile now, that we should be striving to keep our fish in aquariums as close to their natural habitat as possible.
This preference is seen in animals that have never experienced the habitat their species derives from and in animals several generations removed from the wild. A lot of the fish we keep are very little removed from the wild, but even domesticated species aren’t quite domestic in the same sense as livestock and other pets. When I get a chance I’m going to look for fish specific research on the subject, but I would expect this to be true for all fish we keep, “domestic” or not.
I talked to my professor about it a little after class. She’s a bird and mammal kind of person, so she couldn’t really give definitive fish specific insight, but she came to the same conclusions I had when I brought it up. If given the option (where possible – given the nature of water, optional water parameters are not really something we can test), fish would be extremely likely to show a strong instinctual preference for the conditions their species is adapted to. A fish born from parents kept in inappropriate water conditions doesn’t become magically adapted to them, if it were possible to later give the young the choice they would still show that instinctual preference for what they are naturally adapted to.
So basically – if your fish could pick, they’d want to live in conditions as close to their wild relatives’ as possible – in all respects. Water parameters, presence or lack of tannins, plant presence/density, light level, everything.
So that’s what we should aim to provide, as best we can.