The breeding of aquatic animals is an incredibly complex science and determining the correct diet and environment to enable larval fish to develop into adults is particularly challenging. The larvae of many tropical fish species are so small, that they are invisible to the naked eye, and their food source is even more microscopic. As the world’s aquatic species face increasing threats due to climate change, overfishing, pollution and the illegal wildlife trade, research is vital to increase knowledge and breeding capabilities – and as this research is difficult in the wild, aquariums provide an invaluable research platform.
Due to their expertise and resources, aquarists from the UK’s leading aquarium teams are leading the way in the improvement of breeding techniques to increase global understanding of marine animals and their breeding cycles, and ultimately support global conservation efforts to crack down on the illegal trade of fish and other aquatic life. ZSL, The Deep, SEA LIFE, and Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences are working on a landmark new research programme to improve aquarium breeding success - the SustaiNable Aquarium project (SNAP), which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government’s SMARTExpertise programme.
An initial 20 species - key to the health of coral reefs but which have not yet been successfully bred in aquariums - are the initial focus of the project. Corals are part of a delicate tropical ecosystem and require specific tropical fish in order to thrive, including species of butterflyfish, rabbitfish, wrasse and tangs. Projects like SNAP will advance aquaculture techniques and help boost marine species which are near threatened or endangered, while highlighting the collective awareness that aquariums have an important role to play in the future of our conserving our oceans.