sparkling gourami Trichopsis pumilaAbove: Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila)


It’s been a long year, huh?

Well, really, it’s been a long few years. I started Fishwise three years ago, the day after my 18th birthday in 2014. That’s not how most eighteen-year-olds celebrate their birthdays, but I was full of ideas and ambition and a desire to change the world – along with the over-eagerness typical of young people. That’s not to say my ambition has diminished – I’d say it’s simply shifted – and I’ve been given a good dose of the ‘Real World’ knowledge that can be hard for the naïve young person to accept.

This is going to be a long post. At the end, however, I hope to discuss why this will hopefully become a rarer occurrence, with the plan to make articles a little bit more digestible in the future. More on that soon.


The Start of Fishwise

I started out with some goals: To provide an educational source of knowledge about ethical, sustainable and evidence based fishkeeping. Along with that, I wanted to distribute high quality products that were not yet available in New Zealand, along with 3D-printed items not yet available in the world.
Some things have proven trickier than expected. Over the years and many hours of reading long articles of legislation, I’ve learned that importing things that I felt would benefit the hobby was not as easy in New Zealand as it was in other countries. I’ve also found out that there is a common attitude overseas about the New Zealand market – that we’re too small to bother with. When comparing our profits to those overseas, particularly with import regulations, they might be right – but I personally am not interested in letting the NZ hobby suffer because we are small.

I’ve also learned the reasons around our import laws, and although I started out highly averse and frustrated with them, I’ve come to accept the laws and even support many of them. This, however, could be the Ecology side of me kicking in.


What’s been going on?

Speaking of that Ecology side, things have been busy. It turns out, running a business and attending University are not easy to do side-by-side. I’ve been able to keep up with the maintenance – selling products in the background, making small changes to the site – but I haven’t achieved a lot of the goals that I had set for the year. This probably has something to do with the whole “getting an education” thing that has transformed both my schedule and the way I view the world.

I am almost through my first year of University, studying a double major in Ecology and Microbiology. As with many Ecologists, it’s been a bit of an eye-opener when it comes to how the pet trade isn’t always great for our environment, particularly when it comes to invasive species, medication overuse, and pollutants. And sure, there’s a lot of issues out there – but that’s no reason to turn our backs on the very hobby that inspires so many to become our future ecologists, biologists, engineers, chemists and generally creates people who love to learn and take care of the life around us.


claudelands event centreAbove: The International River Sciences / New Zealand Freshwater Sciences conference 2017, hosted at the Claudelands Event Centre


Sticky Science

From a young age, natural sciences have been a big part of my life - but it’s taken me some time to realize that not everyone actually enjoys learning long words and reciting binomial names. For many, they just want to have fun watching these wonderful creatures move and interact and grow – and that is pretty cool, too.

Over the years, I’ve looked at my work and have thought about how much I’ve improved as a writer. Look at all the new language I’ve learned! All the chemistry! The technicalities! The spreadsheets! Right?


Not quite. I’ve just finished my trip to the New Zealand Freshwater Sciences’ conference, which I’ll make an (also long) post about later, but there was a fantastic lecture from the Science Media Centre NZ about how poor us scientists are at our communication. We have books full of complex vocabulary to communicate with other scientists, but that doesn’t mean we know how to communicate to the public.

In essence, I’ve forgotten how to talk. I’ve not been effectively communicating with you, my reader, because I’ve fallen into the trap of “facts are good; opinions are bad; explain everything thoroughly with the correct terminology”. That’s perhaps a good approach when I’m writing for a lecturer, but not so much for everyone else.


The Plan

With this new knowledge, I hope to implement some changes to Fishwise. Some future goals are:

- Doing exactly this; blogging and communicating. I hope to keep up with regular content to, at the very least, provide some indication that we haven’t disappeared off the face of the earth.
- Adding headings to articles. For Science!, Blog Post and Back to Basics all being potential headers – this will help to give you a better idea on whether posts are of interest to you. Wanting to learn something out of the ordinary? For Science! has you covered. Wanting a refresher on some aquarium how-tos? Back to Basics is what you’re looking for.
- Update some previous posts – the kind of boring maintenance that just makes sure I’m not feeding you out-of-date information.
- Reviews and updates on the latest technology, discoveries and views on the fishkeeping hobby both in and out of New Zealand. One of the first I want to review is NIWA’s SHMAK app, an awesome invertebrate identification tool that should be coming out soon!
- Citizen Science! How we as communities can go out and make positive changes to our freshwater ecosystems.
I would also love to, at some point, provide articles from guest writers. Freshwater is one of my favourite things in the world, but it turns out there’s the salty kind as well! (If you’re keen to volunteer to write for us, feel free to contact me here.)


Honey gourami trichogaster chunaAbove: Female Honey Gourami (Trichogaster chuna)


Anything Else?

Hopefully this covers a decent portion of the many thoughts running around in my head – for now, that is. It’s a bit scary putting views out there, but I hope to do some more of this writing in the future, and am always looking for feedback on what you want to read more of. More posters? More photos? Let me know!


For now; thanks for reading, and I wish everyone a great summer break!

We will be the first to admit that 2016 has been a bit of a crazy year (and that’s not counting America’s strange political decisions)! As some of you may know, Fishwise started out as a small blog run by myself (Alex Fleming) with two main goals: To provide accurate, ethics-based information for keeping fish, and to provide high quality products not yet available in New Zealand.


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Above: Apistogramma macmasteri


Our start to the year was rough – we had two of our close friends and family members pass away in a short time span, and we went through some significant technical difficulties with our website which lead to months of downtime. Unfortunately, Fishwise had to take a back seat for some time while these difficulties were worked through, and I must personally apologise for allowing personal life to interfere with our ability to provide adequate service, updates, and new content.


One main issue has been our website downtime. These technical difficulties have meant that we literally had to rebuild our website from scratch – one that we had already spent months building. However, this has allowed for some major positive changes – we are now mobile responsive, have significantly more up-time, the site is easier to read and navigate, and we have fewer bugs with better technical support. We’re extremely grateful to those who have helped us better understand and fix technical aspects of our website which were lacking, and for providing fantastic consistent support.


Despite the rough year, we have achieved some major goals at Fishwise. This year, we have provided and worked on:

  • A range of articles and educational material for Fishkeeping in New Zealand, along with making these available to purchase online as prints.
  • Neared testing and completion of the designs for some of our 3D Printed Products, with the aim to provide niche items not currently available.
  • Become New Zealand’s distributors of the quality New Life Spectrum foods to several stores around the country.
  • Participated in the Auckland Fishkeeper’s stand at the Auckland Pet Expo in October 2015, and participated in the Waikato Aquarium Society’s Aquatic Expo in April 2016 (and met some awesome people at both!)
  • Photographed a range of species of fish and invertebrates for our future database and educational materials for pet stores and individuals.


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Above: Bumblebee Goby (Brachygobius sp.)


Nearing the end of the year, we’ll be setting some new goals for 2017. We hope to be able to expand Fishwise and help further better the Fishkeeping hobby in New Zealand. Some of our goals include:

  • Provide a larger range of high quality products and equipment for Fishkeepers in NZ at competitive and affordable prices.
  • Provide more easy-to-read and readily available educational material, along with more options for printing these materials for both pet shops and individuals.
  • Create a thorough database for fishes available in New Zealand (available Online), along with making mini “care-sheet” cards available in stores throughout the country to provide accurate purchasing advice for new fish.
  • Expand our range of 3D Printed Products and speed up the efficiency of production, provide more reliability and produce products suitable for all kinds of different tanks and setups.
  • Improve our communication with the Fishkeeping community, government organizations, and pet shops around the country.
  • Host articles and educational materials from different experts in both New Zealand and around the world to create a range of topics and advice available on our website.
  • Generally continuing to help our wonderful supporters and customers!



We’re expecting a big year ahead of us, and we thank all those who have supported us over the past years. We couldn’t have done this without the support of our New Zealand Fishkeeping hobbyists, and we hope to continue to support all of you in the future.


Thanks again,
Alex Fleming

That title probably sounds like gibberish to many, but don't worry! The draft of the Import Health Standard (IHS) for Ornamental Fishes is a document about the rules and restrictions around importing fish in New Zealand. This document covers the range of fish allowed in, how long they require Quarantine for, where they require Quarantine, and what's involved in Quarantine. The document itself can get pretty confusing (even to those in the industry), so we're hoping to clear up some of the concerns around the new draft (found here). 


To give some context, the original document can be found here. The proposed changes can be considered pretty significant - ranging from officially allowing certain hybridized fishes, allowing off-shore Quarantine, potentially increasing the chances of new Goldfish (Carassius auratus) and even adding two new fish to the Marine Fishes list (Bristle-tail file-fish / Acreichthys tomentosus and Spotted Cardinalfish / Ostorhinchus maculiferus). With these changes, the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) are asking the public to provide submissions of your views around what is being proposed. We feel it's important to submit your views, whether they be positive or negative, to give MPI a good idea of how New Zealanders truly feel about these changes.


We asked MPI for some clarifications on some common concerns around the proposed changes, and were given some helpful answers which we hope can clear things up. (Emphasis ours)


1. Does this now require all imports of Ornamental Fish/Invertebrates to go through Pre-Export Isolation? No, only fish undergoing off-shore quarantine require pre-export isolation. These fish will be cleared on arrival.

"Fish undergoing on-shore quarantine (i.e. in NZ) will be directed into an MPI approved transitional facility as per usual."


2. Once quarantined under Pre-Export Isolation, are the newly imported fish required to be moved to a New Zealand Transitional Facility?

"No, as stated above there are two scenarios:
- Off-shore quarantine (these will need to have been in pre-export isolation in the approved exporting country and require a health certificate) – will be cleared on arrival in NZ
- On-shore quarantine (no pre-export isolation or health certificate required) - will be directed to a transitional facility on arrival."


3. If so, is the quarantine period still to be the same (4 weeks for Freshwater fish, 3 weeks for Marine fish) in the New Zealand facility?

"The time spent in PEI and in a NZ transitional facility will be the same."


4. Will the new Pre-Export Isolation requirements realistically favour particular countries, such as Australia, and prevent export from areas such as Southeast Asia, South America and Europe (the most common suppliers?)

"The transitional facility where pre-export isolation will take place will need to be a licensed transitional facility and must be approved by the competent authority of the exporting country which will be audited by MPI to meet requirements equivalent to those in New Zealand. A health certificate will be negotiated between the competent authority of the exporting country and MPI. We are currently only dealing with Australia."


5. If export only becomes available from Australia, will this prevent commonly-imported fish from entering the country based on Australia’s own biosecurity laws. For example, some common fish in New Zealand such as Spiny Eels and some Plecostomus species are very rare/illegal in Australia.

"Imports will be available both, via Australia (offshore quarantine) or has per usual (on-shore quarantine in NZ)."


We hope that this may help in your understanding of the changes!



Please note (in regards to a previous concern): The link to medications available for prophylactic measures has also been corrected to http://www.mpi.govt.nz/document-vault/2040


For some extra reading, we have put together our own (slightly messy) document highlighting some of the changes proposed in the draft. We would like to note that we are not legal professionals and that we strongly recommend reading both documents yourself to prevent errors on our behalf. You can find our comparisons here.


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