The domestication of our reefs

Joe Pusdesris

New member
I just wanted to start this conversation. I don't have much to say about it really, but here are some things to get started.

In what ways are our livestock diverting from their natural counterparts? A few obvious examples are the mutations observed in caulerpa taxifolia and the designer clownfish. Captive bred fish are much more reliant to disease. I have read speculation of unusual zooxanthellae adoption/mutation to favor artificial light. There probably is not much genetic variation in the coral themselves since they reproduce in primarily an asexual way, but there are a few that have reported successful sexual reproduction in blue cloves, sun polyps, and xenia. I wonder how our artificial environments will affect the genetic selection.

On the flip side, there also seems to be evidence of chemiclean resistant cyanobacteria and dewormer resistant flatworms.

There is quite a bit of wisdom about bio-diversity and its positive affect on the health our reefs, but is anyone else interested in the reverse, tailoring our livestock to the artificial environment? That seems quite interesting to me. More and more, as the diversity of my reef is shrinking with age and lack of refuel, I find myself saying "so be it" as certain inhabitants don't thrive in favor of those that do.


New member
Research was done in Hawaii and other Polynesian islands regarding the history of genetic material in the same Reef Fish species at reefs separated by short and long distances alike. Initially they thought they would share the same genetic makeup...

They found that each reef, though supporting almost the exact same species, was an "evolutionary island" in itself. Of the same species of fish that populated many reefs, every group surrounding each reef had "diverged" from the lineage up to hundreds of years ago...

Point being that evolutionary forces are always in action, and now we know reefs separated by distances the fish could traverse are still isolated from one another in practice.

Reefs work on a solo level independent of one another.

That given, our Tanks are their own unique evolutionary stage.

As time goes on with our aquaculture, each species we undertake is inevitably (whether we desired or not) bred for life in our tanks. This could undertake specialized coloration that we purposefully bred, or a decreased resistance to diseases due to inbreeding. It goes both ways.

In corals, we often expose them to longer photo-synthetic periods, and with lights that offer more of the spectrum needed for particular photosynthetic cells and coloration in some case...

Our tank species that survive and flourish do so in our "clean little boxes" and although they may appear healthier than their wild counterparts, it is more due to a stable environment introducing less disease than a wild reef...

However this leads to a degradation in the [tank bred] population's ability to fight disease. If they are never exposed to it, they never have to 'survive' it and change their genetic structure to accommodate and eliminate the virus/bacteria.

Our healthier livestock and more colorful corals would not survive/flourish the same way if they were put back into the variables of their home reefs... Which might be a good thing (tank raised more colorful varieties) or a bad thing (decreased resistance to 'natural' disease).

Evolutionary Biology is a fun thing :)
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New member
As our natural reefs are being hit by more environmental pressures and 'reef poachers' I think a great idea is to replant reefs and take extra growth for sale in our industry to ease pressures on natural reefs, and even help replenish them and propagate the species!

Many people are doing this for different reasons, check out this group related to Eco Tech (vortech people) doing it more for restoration than sustainable sales opportunities.

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New member
I also tend to go for the 'so be it' attitude with my tank's inhabitants. over the years I have found that my "Medicative efforts" have led to more detrimental conditions in the tank overall than merely letting the one sick organism die.

I would rather rely on preventative methods (clean water, good parameters, good water flow and aeration) and letting nature "run its course" than reactive measures (medicating heavily the entire tank).

But then again, I don't buy livestock that is sick... and I have an in because my GF works at the LFS and can tell me which specimens have been there for 2 weeks or longer (the typical period fish show their illness in).

Paul B

Premium Member
I have found that my "Medicative efforts" have led to more detrimental conditions in the tank overall than merely letting the one sick organism die.
I would agree with this.