Provides information on dyed aquarium fish. With all of the beautifully colored fish in the world, it is amazing that people feel the need to improve upon natural beauty. And yet, fish stores around the world stock fish that have been dipped, tattooed, or injected with dyes. These dyed fish suffer a very high immediate mortality rate, and those that survive often have a greatly increased chance of future illness.
The results of the coloring process varies depending on the type of fish and the method used.
Some fish are tattooed with very intricate patterns that would look gorgeous on a human. Unlike human recipients of tattoos, these fish have not given their permission to painfully modify their body. Further, it is harder for a fish to protect against follow-up infection than it is for a human to protect against the same.
Other fish are injected with dye. In some cases, this creates an all-over color change. In others, it creates little pockets of dye. One of the most considerable changes comes from the injection of fluorescent dye into the Glassfish. This creates little fluorescent pockets in the fish. While neat-looking, the process involves a needle bore that would be the equivalent of using a #2 pencil as a needle for a human.
Another process involves dipping fish in a chemical that burns away the slime-coat followed by a dip in high-concentration dye. Though not as invasive as tattooing or injection, it removes the fishes' first line of protection and then coats the gills and probably stomach of the fish affected This affects respiration and likely other body functions, as well.
There are some claims that fish are colored by feeding them heavily colored food, but there is little to substantiate this claim. Even if it were true, it is unlikely that such a high concentration of dye would be good for a fish.
It doesn't take a lot of imagination to realize that any of these processes would be painful. Science has shown, repeatedly, that fish are capable of feeling pain, and that they have a long-term memory. It is unconscionable to put a creature through this kind of torture merely for the sake of aesthetics, especially when every fish has a beauty of its own.
What Can You Do?
First of all, don't buy any painted fish. For the most part, it's fairly easy to tell if a fish has been dyed. Most such fish just don't look natural. It's never a good idea to buy a fish on a whim. If you see an unrecognized fish at the pet store, go home with its name (and a picture if you can get one) and identify it and its requirements before you buy it. This is a good way to weed out dyed fish.
In addition, ask your local fish store to not carry any dyed fish. In some cases, these fish are automatically sent to them, and in others, they have been misinformed as to the fish's origins, so be kind when talking to the employees.
There is some good news on this front. In many Western countries, dyeing falls under animal cruelty laws, making it illegal to perform the processes in the country. However, most countries do not ban sale of such modified creatures when imported.
Practical Fishkeeping has been running a campaign to stamp out fishkeeping in the UK. They are beginning to expand their campaign to the entire world. To keep this going, please visit their site, download the .pdf of the seller's pledge, and get your local fish stores to sign up. Also, contact the folks at Practical Fishkeeping and ask them to start keeping global numbers, so we can get a better idea of the effect that is being had in countries other than the UK.
In addition, Death by Dyeing has more information on the dyeing process, a large list of dyed fish (they usually have pics of some of the more common ones), and a similar pledge area. They also have banners that can be attached to web-pages and forum signatures, allowing you to spread the message even more easily.
Hopefully, by supporting either or both of these programs, and by talking to your local fish stores and other aquarists, the process of dyeing will be stamped out. The pain and death caused by this process is not worth the garish fish that are produced by it.
(photo credits: Quatermass and Melanochromis from Wikipedia.org from the Painted Fish article.)