Re: NANFA-- A Parable

Christopher Scharpf (
Mon, 08 Nov 1999 23:45:37 -0400

>I joined this list a couple of weeks or so ago hoping to find and share
>information about keeping native fishes. (Madtoms are my favorites!) But it
>seems this list is strongly oriented otherwise. I was wondering if somebody
>could reccommend some place/list more appropriate for the fish keeper? Or
>is this the best there is?


The NANFA list is not confined to keeping natives in aquariums. Our group is
dedicated to all aspects of native fishes -- their biology, conservation,
taxonomy, etc. Sometimes our discussions get a little "egghead," as you put it
in your other post. But we're all fish heads at heart.

For me, what's neat about natives is that you don't have to keep them in an
aquarium to appreciate them. Unike, say, South American or African fishes, you
(assuming you live in NA) don't have to travel across the world and spend
thousands of dollars to see these fishes in their native habitats. Just go
snorkeling in a local steam -- in ankle deep water! -- and you will see a word
as amazing as anything you've seen on a nature program or IMAX film. Natives
have the seemingly contradictory distinction of being right here in our
proverbial backyards, yet largely unknown and underappreciated -- by aquarists,
nature lovers, and the general public.

Furthermore, since all of our lives impact watersheds in one way or another, we
have direct bearings on the habitats in which these fishes live. That's why many
discussions on this list are about conservation and the role of aquarists in
preserving these fishes for future generations. They get deep and "hot & heavy"
every now and then, but then wer'e all pretty passionate.

Sometimes our discussion are about salmon, sturgeon, paddlefish, and other
fishes not normally kept in aquaria. They are part of our continent's fish fauna
too, and fall under the watch of NANFA -- The North American Native Fishes

Of course, natives are just plain fun. Ever since I was a little kid I've loved
turning over rocks in streams and seeing (and catching!) what lives underneath.
And ever since I turned over that first rock I've been interested in keeping
aquatic critters in aquaria. It's a wondrous loop, actually: The more I keep
fishes in aquaria, the more I want to encounter them in the wild, learn more
about them, and help conserve them. And the more I encounter fishes in the wild,
the more I want to bring a few home (the ones I can legally bring home, that is)
to study their behavior and admire their beauty.

Having native fishes in my aquariums deepens my connection to aquatic ecoystems
--to all ecosystems, actually. Through these glass portals I see each species
for what they are -- "a masterpiece, assembled with great care by genius" (E.O.
Wilson). Some people admire artwork, go to museums, and adorn their homes with
paintings. I admire fishes, go to streams, and adorn my home (ok, my basement)
with living masterpieces of the natural world.

Chris, If you have a question or a comment or an observation to make about your
experience with keeping natives, we'd love to hear it! Like you, I love madtoms
too. I currently maintain three species: tadpole, brindled, and stonecat. My one
stonecat is nearly a foot long (they're the largest madtom, you know) and is
fairly tame (for a madtom). He's kept by himself in a 10-gallon tank. When I get
near it he comes out from under his slate and starts swimming around excitedly.
When I drop freeze dried krill ino the water, he comes to the surface
IMMEDIATELY and consumes them. The "popping" sound he makes, sucking in water,
air and krill, can be heard from the other side of the basement!

A couple of years ago I was snorkeling in a Maryland stream and watched a large
stonecat in the habit of being itself. I noticed how the stonecat seemed to take
comfort in having a complex system of overlapping flat rocks to swim underneath
and amidst (of course, their flattened body and their name should be clue enough
as to how they live!). I made a mental note of this rockwork and made sure my
stonecat had similar rockwork when I acquired it 3 or so years ago.

I have 2 other baby stonecats I brought back from the NANFA Convention
collecting trip in Illinois. I hope they grow up to be as big, beautiful and
entertaining as the one I have now. I anticipate putting them all into one big
aquarium lined with big pieces of slate and hoping know.

Chris Scharpf

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