Re:Save the bees and kill a seahorse?

Pete Giwojna

Dear Ricky:

No, sir, that’s not a frivolous or obvious question at all. It’s very important to dispose of dead fish properly, particularly if they have succumbed to an infectious disease or outbreak of parasites. Of course, most home hobbyists will simply be flush a dead fish and be done with it, but that is actually the worst thing you can do. Some of the disease organisms such as Vibrio are virulent and highly contagious, and some such as Mycobacteria (piscine tuberculosis) can even be transmitted to man, so when you flush a dead fish it can be harmful to the environment and possibly contribute to the spread of these pathogens.

Wholesale operations that deal with vast numbers of tropical fish on a daily basis customarily dispose of their dead specimens by cremation in order to avoid such problems. Of course, that’s not an alternative for the home aquarist, and the best thing the hobbyist can do is to relegate dead fish to the trash, so they will ultimately end up either incinerated or buried at a landfill. The other acceptable alternative is to bury the dead fish in your garden (they make excellent plant fertilizer).

And, of course, there are other options when it comes to armor-plated seahorses. I have no problem at all with a hobbyist preserving a deceased seahorse as a memento, and I have done just that myself on a number of occasions. If your seahorse has passed on, hopefully due to natural causes after a long and prolific life in your aquarium, you certainly can preserve it for posterity if you wish. All you need to do is to arrange the body of the seahorse in a lifelike posture, with its tail curled naturally, and allow it to dry in the sun. Once it has dried, it will retain its shape and position indefinitely and you can give it a couple coats of lacquer or clear coat for additional protection. Or it can be embedded in acrylic as a permanent keepsake.

I have no objections whatsoever if the aquarist wants to preserve a prized seahorse after it’s demise and create a sort of memorial or shrine to a beloved pet. But that is a far different matter than harvesting wild seahorses so they can be dried for use in Asian folk medicine or put to use in the curio market. I find the latter, in particular, to be an abhorrent practice.

Best wishes with all your fishes, Ricky! Here is hoping the occasions when you need to dispose of a deceased specimens are very few and far between.

Pete Giwojna

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