What are your favourite species to keep, and why?
Apistogramma are “my” fish. That is, they were the genus of cichlids that dragged me into the hobby at the deep end. I’ve poured so much effort into them to be rewarded with failure and success in equal proportions, yet I always go back for more. New species are being discovered and described regularly too, so that keeps them exciting. I do however have a massive soft spot for characins and betta spp., especially if they are rare or endangered.
Do you feel aquarists have a duty towards the animals and habitats that interest them?
That’s an excellent question. Everyone has a duty towards nature. It should be considered the rent we pay for our space on Earth. I don’t even think that should be aimed specifically at the animals they are interested, but if they are happy to go the extra mile for them, it should not be ignored.
It’s hard to say exactly what duty aquarists play. Ex situ breeding of threatened/endangered species and research on the captive care of such species would be very useful, especially for zoos etc. who only have a finite amount of tanks for such purposes.
Purchasing responsibly sourced livestock is a duty too. Any keeper with a moral compass should know this, as should the retailers and wholesalers importing the fish. Unfortunately, it is difficult to police in foreign counties, so emphasis must be placed on ceasing the demand.
What role do you think the average hobbyist plays in conservation?
Alas, I imagine the average hobbyist plays a very small role in conservation. It isn’t currently easy for the average hobbyist to get involved in such programmes. Not only that, many hobbyists don’t care for the animals in the wild. Unfortunately, charisma of an organism plays a huge role in how well it is conserved but given that most of the fish which need our help are small and brown, they are serially overlooked. If Cardinal tetras were at risk, that would be a different story.