How paradoxical that many who love coral reef life unwittingly contribute to reef destruction. Millions of fish are snatched from their cozy reefs annually, but that’s not the worst of it – methods of capture are often harmful, notably the use of cyanide to stun the fish. This chemical kills corals, over half of its captives die in transit, and unwanted species back at home are injured or left dead. Some of the fish traded and sold are endangered, and less than 10% of the species available for purchase are captive-bred.

A better alternative to saltwater tanks are freshwater aquariums; they are far easier to manage, and most freshwater aquarium fish are captive-bred. But for hobbyists who can’t part with a glimpse of the ocean in their home, please visit Reef Protection International and download or order their free Reef Fish Guide. This colorful pocket guide shows which fish are best to bring home and which are best left at sea, with icons that indicate if the fish is available captive-bred, unsuitable for aquariums, declining in population, or has harmful capture methods.

I think I’d rather just snorkel in La Jolla Cove.

Reefs are fragile. Let’s be careful.