Fish From the Wild to the Aquarium – A Short History Lesson

I’ve been studying fish lately, both domesticated species and wild species. Why have you been doing that, you may ask? Keep watching Zazzle and Redbubble, I reply. Okapi paintings are going up on Redbubble right now, but keep an eye out for some fish.

Getting back on topic, though, I began to think about humanity’s relationship with fish. I Fish Found in Streamsfirst started thinking about how there seem to be two different categories of fish: wild and domesticated. The former are like salmon, trout, etc. and the latter are like goldfish. Aquarium fish, essentially. But when I thought about it a little bit more, this method of classification is much too simple and forgets about a lot of fish. Originally I tried to divide the wild and domesticated fish by which ones we eat. For example, we eat trout and I generally think of them living in forest rivers and streams. In fish hatcheries, though, farmers raise trout in tanks, and so these “wild” fish are actually domesticated, as aquacultural animals. Also, tropical fish, which live in nature in tropical waters and around coral reefs, are also kept by humans in aquariums for the home or office. I haven’t been able to think of any domesticated fish similar to goldfish or beta fish which have been able to live in the wild. I’m guessing there aren’t any because their natural instincts have been bred out, and they are small and frail, with large decorational fins.

Medieval Europeans developed aquaculture because of restriction on other sources of meat. They largely kept carp in small ponds or lakes. Fisheries didn’t become a facet of North American farming until the beginning of the twentieth century. This is largely due to changing and emerging technologies. They’re still becoming more Earth-friendly and humane.

Small Aquarium Goldfish
Today’s goldfish can’t survive in the wild.

On the other side of the domesticated fish spectrum, the origin of the goldfish may surprise you. All modern goldfish are actually descendant of Chinese Crucial Carp. The initial mutations which made visible changes began during the Sung Dynasty, and the lack of practical changes which were encouraged by humans shows that, right from the start, goldfish were intended as decorative and leisure animals. That is, fancy pets. Humans have selected traits which they find desirable, such as long tail fins or bright colors, and directed the evolution of the species to promote the widespread presence of such traits. It’s the same type of thing as breeding small dogs or show horses.

I haven’t touched upon any of the ethical issues associated with domesticated fish, or fishing in general, mainly because I don’t know exactly how I feel about all of that. When humans interfere with nature, there are always repercussions for everyone involved, and agriculture is no exception. However, with the breeding of animals for decoration or showiness also comes a responsibility to care for them, because we have taken away their natural instincts and adaptations used for defense. And when we begin to raise fish as livestock, we create an artificial population which wasn’t developed through natural means and time. Even aside from the ethical problems of farming in general, that is.

That being said, remember to check out Light Future Art’s homepage and our stores for the fish designs which will be up soon. Thank you for taking the time to read and, until the next one, goodbye!


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