Husbandry vs Enrichment

Discussion in 'Behavior and Intelligence' started by gjbarord, Aug 28, 2008.

  1. gjbarord

    gjbarord Sepia elegans Staff Member Moderator

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    Not sure where to post this.

    I am compiling information for a paper detailing enrichment in aquatic animals and cephalopods are one of the groups I am focusing on. I was hoping to get some feedback as to what the tonmo community believes excellent husbandry is? What do you consider enrichment? Do you enrich your cephalopods? Why or why not? What signs do you look for in your cephalopods to tell if the enrichment is good or not?

    Additionally, if you also have fishes either in a separate tank or with the cephalopods, do you offer them enrichment? Why or why not?

    Tony, is there a dedicated forum on cephalopod enrichment? With the increasing trend by both professional aquariums and hobbyists it might be beneficial to have a place where the information may be centrally located.

    Thanks for your input,

    Greg
     
  2. Nancy

    Nancy Titanites Staff Member Moderator

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    Yes, we have a lot of interest in enrichment and most octo keepers do try to provide it. I don't have time for a long post now, but will reply in more detail later.

    Nancy
     
  3. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    Funny you should be researching this :shock:.

    Since a pet (or its offspring) will never be released to the wild, finding appropriate stimulation in the captive environment may be critical to the lifespan of aquarium cephs. I can't offer much with my limited experience but I attempted floating "toys" with the mercs and they ignored them. The one that was interactive would come to my bare hand and climb around for awhile. It did not do this at feeding time (take the food and run was more the approach for food). "Play time" was very short with the merc but regular from roughly 6 months until he was about 8 months. As he got older, he was less interested (but could be coaxed) in interacting.

    I tried a few floating toys with the hummelincki but the interest was short lived and I only saw him playing with one item once when I was not directly involved. He would flash for me to come pet him at dinner and come immediately to the front and up to my hand daily. My thinking today is that he was getting bored as he approached sesenence and I plan an experiment with my computer with the next one based on several reports of the non-mercs "watching" TV and computer screens but I have only just come up with the thought so I have no experience to report (no current TV or computer in the fish rooms).

    As far as hunting live food being enrichment enough, I don't think this applies well to a home aquarium,IMB(iased)O. In the ocean they hunt and watch for preditors - no resemblance to the domestic domain. Eventually the hummelincki had no fear and was very lazy about eating but was very interactive with humans (even some strangers - not all). His willingness to come to my hand at almost anytime suggests he had traded natural activity for human interaction and needed/desired the new form of stimulation.
     
  4. Colin

    Colin Colossal Squid Supporter

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    Hi

    Good husbandry is good enrichment and vice versa.

    sorry that this is a ramble Greg but please pick on any points for clarification :)

    Enrichment doesn't need to be about toys and games. Certainly it works and in many cases, like octopuses, necessary to stimulate their brain and simply give them something to do but with all the species I keep just now (over 100 species and thousands of individuals) I try and give them fish some enrichment just by simply giving them conditions like they would have in the wild.

    As an example, I am always dismayed when I see fish like discus kept in bare tanks. I am not much of a discus fan personally but many keepers keep them this way because it is easier, more convenient. If I was to keep them I would set them up in a tank that mimicked their natural environment as much as possible.

    Okay, this is a difficult one to explain but the reason I know that the fish I keep are content with the conditions I provide is because they will breed. And they live a long time. I have some fish that are pretty old for their species. I have neon tetras at more than 5 years, 2 snakeskin gouramies pushing ten years, a pair of silver sharks at ten, A couple of Synodontis angelicus as 12 plus...


    There is a conflict between aquarists and enrichment and it revolves around the fact that if people have a pet fish they want to be able to see it and enjoy having it by watching activity. The conflict is that in many cases this is anathema to the fish and that it would much rather be hiding, lurking in the shadows keeping well away from us.

    Your average fish tank is sparkling clear, brightly lit and bustling with activity. The majority of fish exported for the pet trade come from water so stained with tannins it looks like tea (think discus, angels, tetras) and a bright tank is so alien.

    Here is a perfect example. Betta persephone... cool name and rare in the wild. Lives in peat swamps and can actually survive by crawling about in damp leaf litter when the water dries up. The water in its natural habitat is dark, cool and has a pH of 3 - 4. It might live in a typical community aquarium with other fish like I just mentioned but it would not be "happy" and it certainly would not breed. I keep mine in tanks measuring 12x8x8 inches, with about 4" of water, heavily stained with peat, high in humic acids and a layer of about 2" of dead oak and indian almond leaves on the bottom...

    Do i ever see the fish? Once in a blue moon!!! LOL
    Do they appear to act naturally? yes, they hide and skulk about in the leaf litter.

    Will that ever make a good display animal for a zoo, aquarium or home aquarium? absolutely not! And that is a big problem when it comes to discussing enrichment because the necessity to have enrichment in captivity results from the fact that most animals are kept in conditions unsuitable for the animal.

    Would you pay money to go to a public aquarium and not see any animals? Thats what would happen in many cases if the animal's captive environment were a replica of its wild habitat. If you really gave a large O vulgaris or GPO the space it really needs to be "happy" in its tank you would probably never see it. That's not good for business and that is the conflict of interest.

    What I am saying is that the best form of enrichment, as far as i am concerned, is relative to providing the animal with as near to natural surroundings as possible. This is obviously a lot easier with a 4cm Betta persephone than a GPO. Personally, if i only see the fish once a month I dont mind, I have so many others to look at that its not a problem. But i see why that would be a problem with someone with one or two tanks where they might never see their pets.





    What I am getting at is that there is a conflict between what is right for the fish and what we want the fish to do i.e. we want to see the fish we spen the money on.

    Enrichment should not be about toys and games it should be about providing the animal with what it needs to act naturally and if that means hiding all day - so be it.

    I used to really enjoy watching people in my old fish shed. If they knew nothing about fish they would look at the giant gouramies (16" plus) and love them! They would just quickly glance at the tanks "with nothing in them"... BUT fishkeepers of a similar interest to myself would give the big fish a quick glance and then spend ages scouring the tanks full of leaves and getting a thrill when they see what lives in there.

    It is also necessary to mimic water quality... e.g many of my fish are in a pH of 3-4. Many of which are often kept in tanks by hobbyists with a pH up to 7.5 or even 8. Look at clown loaches, mine are at pH 3.5 Most books will say 6.5. yet, mine have produced eggs! My silver sharks, another commonly kept fish, pH 5... they look fantastic.

    Anyway, ramble ramble ramble

    its all about the conditions

    cheers
    C

    :)
     
  5. sorseress

    sorseress Colossal Squid Supporter

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    Colin, thanks for your "ramble". It was very educational. Maybe it will serve to inspire people to learn more about the natural habitat of the fish they are interested in keeping before they take the plunge.
     
  6. Perky

    Perky Cuttlefish Registered

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    Colin has made a great point about enrichment. I've worked with quite a few octopus in aquaria and research and in general each case is different. I mean the home aquarist or the aquarium that doesn't release their octopus (i.e they will die in their tank) has a completely different outlook to enrichment than say a person who may re-release research or aquaria animals.

    I previously worked with Jean at an aquarium and our enrichment was one of natural and predation (i.e live food being introduced). In my research animals it was again a more natural approach. However in my current job and in another aquarium I worked at it is a more human enrichment program. These animals will not be introduced back into the wild. The one benefit i have at the moment with my octopus (i say mine but it's actually the aquariums) is that she is behind one way glass so that although she can feel a presence she doesn't get spooked.

    I personally like the fact that she is allowed to display her natural behaviour and I think there are things that public aquariums can do to satisfy the public that does not involve getting the octopus to act outside it's natural parameters. However as she does not seem to be interested in live food this is where human interaction and natural behaviour gets a bit blurry. In this case I'm trying to get enough enrichment for her without making it to artificial (i.e possing problems for her that she may encounter in the wild).

    Colin put it so well in saying it's all about the conditions
     
  7. gjbarord

    gjbarord Sepia elegans Staff Member Moderator

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    Just one more question. I am very pleased with the responses as they have been very informative to me.

    Why must we call things enrichment? Providing the natural surroundings, etc. seems to be excellent husbandry to me. I would call giving a polar bear a ball enrichment, not saying it is good or bad, because it is not a natural part of its environment. Comments?

    Greg
     
  8. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    Greg,
    Your point emphasizes the need to define the full context of a topic before really being able to discuss it. I can see enrichment being used in both contexts. If you start with the premise that a wild captive animial is living in an unnatural environment with limited space/investment parameters, then the choice of what should be added to make the animal less stressed could be considered enrichment vs husbandry. If resources and space are large and the intended environment incorporates a good replica of the natrual environment then enrichment would seem to be your beachball. Both are intended to help the animal accept captivity but the starting point gives a wide margin for definition and, quite likely, success of the additive being considered.

    The word display also falls somewhere in the mix as the majority of captive animals that come under consideration for enrichment are captive to be seen (vs scientific experimentation or breeding). It would seem that if an animal willingly interacts in the open with the beachball (rather than hiding in its den) then the display goal is achieved potentially without forcing a naked and stressful environment.
     

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