What does a professional aquarist do for fun? He breeds aquarium fish of course. I am currently working with the Banggai Cardinal fish, pterapogon kauderni, my first attempt at raising marine fish.
The Banggai Cardinal comes from remote islands in Indonesia and is only found in a couple of isolated locations. Massive demand for the aquarium trade and unscrupulous dealers means that overfishing is already putting wild stocks at risk. Unfortunately the Indonesian trade in marine ornamental fish doesn’t have a great reputation and experiences heavy losses through the supply chain before the fish are even exported. There have been calls to give the species CITES protection to safeguard the wild population, but so far these have been ignored.
Australia doesn’t allow the importation of captive bred marine fish due to potential disease risk, and there is no commercial breeding being done here. This means virtually every Banggai Cardinal you see in Australia was caught in the wild.
I started the breeding project in part as a conservation effort and to ensure that these magnificent fish are available to the hobby if (hopefully when) the trade in wild caught fish is shut down. I acquired my first broodstock in mid 2016 and keep them in permanent quarantine. This means they are kept separate from all other fish and every effort is made to ensure that no disease can be transferred into the breeders, so the fish I breed are free of disease that wild caught fish often harbour. My double garage is wall to wall aquariums holding around 4000 litres of seawater.
The Banggai Cardinal is unique among marine fish. The male takes the eggs into his mouth and incubates them for around one month, eventually releasing a few dozen tiny fish that look just like the adults. Most marine fish have a planktonic larval stage, which the Banggai completely skips. In the wild they are usually found living in large shoals on the coral reef or hiding among the spines of sea urchins. A couple of Banggais make a peaceful addition to most marine aquariums.