By Jen Mitchell and Laura Ducharme
Looking for a mate in this big pond of Toronto? It’s not easy. Women out number men and competition is fierce. Meanwhile, plenty of fish have got it all figured out. Take the fresh water swordtails for example. If there is a group of all females in an isolated area with no males around, the hormone level in the water will cause some of the females to change into males to keep the species existing. As soon as they make fish babies — they change back into females!
Pet ownership remains on the rise in North America — and this recent wave of general interest includes the aquarium segment of the industry. Interest has been influenced by popular cultural icons like Nemo and advances in technology. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA), there are an estimated 150 million pet fish in the US (compared to 74.8 million pet dogs). During the past decade, fish were one of the fastest growing categories of pets (growing more than 20 percent over the previous decade).
Lately, Laura’s been trying to breed fish in her tank, so the topic has been on our minds. According to her friend Nick who prolifically breeds Guppies, she’s been “doing it” all wrong — she has too many different kinds of fish in the tank. The problem is that they require different water temperatures and ph levels to get them in the mood, so to speak. And all this time, she just thought the female parrot fish was playing hard to get! Nick recommends that she practice with the frisky guppy. The stunning fan tailed males will produce some handsome offspring with little effort.
Believe it or not, Plenty of Fish like goldfish have a rather exciting and potentially dangerous mating life. The male chases the female for hours, bumping into her abdomen in an effort to get the female to eject her eggs so that he can fertilize them. This is called the “spawning chase”. Often times, there are several males “courting” one female. At times it’s chaotic and the female, desperate to get away from all her aggressive suitors, may jump and injure herself against rocks or end up on dry land.
So ladies, we’ve come to the conclusion that the best fish to be just might be a sea horse. Male sea horses are strong sensitive types. There’s a beautiful courtship that takes place before the deed is done. Daily pre-dawn dances include the intertwining of tails and swimming together. After a good amount of bonding time, they engage in a true courtship dance. And, get this, the female deposits her eggs into the male’s pouch! The caring dads incubate the eggs, preparing them for a life at sea, until they are finally ready to expel the “fry” from the pouch.
If you’re thinking about getting fish as pets, we love Carl Hayden, an amazing “fish guy” with his own aquarium servicing business. He once told us that he “knows more than the internet” when it comes to fish — and we simply have to agree. He takes time to answer everyone’s questions and loves to talk fish. Find him at www.carlsaquarium.com.