lina smith

Reef conservationists and photographers have joined animal protection groups for the launch of a new, first of its kind, mobile app, Tank Watch, with the goal of saving fragile reefs and marine wildlife captured for household and small display aquariums worldwide.

Tank Watch – The Good Fish/Bad Fish Tool for Saltwater Aquariums is an educational app that allows consumers, advocates and conservationists to easily identify the most common sea creatures seen in aquariums and quickly determine those animals who are able to be bred in captivity, from those who are taken from the wild. 

On many tropical reefs, methods of wild capture include the illegal use of cyanide as a stunning agent, puncturing of organs, spine cutting and starvation prior to transport.

“By using this app, people who have saltwater aquariums can lessen their impact by making informed purchasing decisions,” said Rene Umberger, creator of Tank Watch. “Committing not to purchase wild-caught animals will protect millions of reef fish from the cruel and wasteful wildlife trade and allow the animals to continue to play important roles in their native reef and ocean ecosystems.”

Dozens of commonly held reef fish species are now available from captive breeding facilities in the U.S. More than 1,800 species of coral reef fish are imported by the U.S. aquarium trade, more than 98 percent of whom are wild-caught. Before Tank Watch, it was nearly impossible to tell captive-bred from wild caught.

“We’ve long urged people to ‘Don’t Buy Wild’ because it supports the cruel and wasteful trade in wildlife. This new app allows consumers to make the most informed decisions about the aquarium fish they may consider purchasing,” said Teresa Telecky, director of wildlife at Humane Society International, a Tank Watch sponsor.

A 2012 Ward Research poll, commissioned by The Humane Society of the United States, showed an overwhelming majority of Hawaii residents (66 percent) want to see an end to the capture of wild animals for the aquarium trade, and 72 percent of Hawaii Island residents, where the majority of collection occurs, believe only captive-bred fish are suitable for aquariums.

“Unbeknownst to the millions of visitors to Hawaii each year, hundreds of thousands of the very marine animals they’ve come to Hawaii to view in the wild, are en route to aquariums around the world, crammed into bags in the cargo hold of the same airplanes that are taking these visitors back home,” said HSUS Hawaii state director, Inga Gibson. She added, “We encourage everyone to download this app to learn about the fragile marine creatures that deserve to remain on Hawaii’s and other reefs worldwide.”

Tank Watch for iPhones and iPads can be downloaded for free from the Apple iTunes store and features a number of useful tools and information for reef and wildlife enthusiasts. Features include:

  • Up-to-date information with beautiful images to aid in fish ID
  • Easy fish ID by color
  • Sort by family, common name(s) or scientific name
  • Quick access lists for Good Fish, Bad Fish, Fish for Novices and Most Common Bad Fish
  • Reef and wildlife-friendly alternatives for conscientious fishkeeping

Tank Watch asks consumers to become coral reef champions by pledging to protect wildlife and reefs:

  • Use Tank Watch to identify reef-friendly from wild-caught fish in aquariums
  • Discourage wildlife keeping in saltwater tanks, and sign the Don’t Buy Wild Pledge here
  • Better yet: encourage a switch to a virtual reef display with an UNtanked system, available at