National Geographic : 1934 Jan
TROPICAL FISH IMMIGRANTS REVEAL NEW NATURE WONDERS BY WALTER H. CHUTE DIRECTOR, JOHN G. SHEDD AQUARIUM, CHICAGO O NE of the most interesting phe nomena in that realm of diversion commonly labeled as hobbies is the tremendous increase in the interest in trop ical fishes. In 1930 there were 25 aquarium societies in this country.* These societies have not only continued to function during hard times, but have increased in number until to-day there are 42 aquarium societies in the United States and Canada. Plans are now under way to form a National Aqua rium Society to coordinate the activities of the local organizations and to present the experience gained by them in available form for general use. Five of the large public aquariums now maintain permanent exhibits of these little fishes. They are the Lincoln Park Aqua rium, Chicago; the Steinhart Aquarium, San Francisco; the New York Aquarium; the Philadelphia Aquarium, and the John G. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago. The last mentioned was the first public aquarium in which provision was made in the original plan of the building for a special room properly equipped to maintain a permanent exhibition of tropical fishes (see illustra tion, page 95). MANY SPECIMENS NEW TO THE UNITED STATES This room is equipped with skylights glazed with "violet-ray" glass. It is steam heated and thermostatically controlled. There are 65 exhibition tanks containing an average collection of 125 to 140 distinct species of tropical fishes. A number of these specimens are new to this country. The color plates of tropical fishes ac companying this article are natural-color photographs of live fishes in the Balanced Aquarium Room at the Shedd Aquarium. Because of the effect of the water and glass of the aquarium on the color values of the subject, special compensating filters had to be used. These pictures are the first ex tensive series of fish photographs in natural * See "Tropical Toy Fishes," by Ida Mellen, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for March, 1931. color by this process to be published. They are remarkable for their clarity and their faithful rendition of color values. A large number of commercial outlets are required to care for the needs of the fish fanciers. It would be virtually impossible to estimate the number of importers, job bers, aquarium manufacturers, breeders, and dealers who find it profitable to supply this demand. Originally, a few fishes were sent from Germany to individual fanciers. As the demand increased, larger shipments were made, but always to the order of American dealers. During the last few years the complexion of this import business has changed. Agents were established in vari ous parts of this country, special rooms on ocean liners were fitted with airators, pumps, and shelves for the cans, and prep arations were made to import fishes on a large scale. One agent contracted to dispose of 2,000 young scalare every week, and has done so all the past summer. SOME FISH ARRIVE IN AIRPLANES Not content with the variety offered in the European shipments, American dealers have in the last year or two started in dependent direct shipments, mostly from Central and South America. Regular shipments are now made by airplane express between Central America and points as far north as New York. To be sure, this does not entitle the aquarists to call their pets "flying fishes," but at least they can claim that they do drop into the aquariums from the sky. Several expeditions made by ichthyolo gists have resulted in the introduction of a number of new species. Taking a leaf from the book of the amateur aquarist, these scientists have added traveling cans and fish food to the alcohol jars of their regular equipment. In this way they have learned something of the life histories of their catch, so that the facts gleaned and the methods evolved by the aquarist in the pursuit of his hobby have aided science in its eternal search for knowledge.