Should Aquarium Ownership Require a License?

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I was watching a television show the other day while I had some down time and noticed a Red Macaw that was being housed in extremely poor conditions by an owner who had no clue on how to properly care for the animal. Then my mind began to wander and I started thinking about endangered animals and animals that required some sort of license in order to own them. Delving further into imagination and thought, I then wondered if aquarium owners should be required to possess a license in order to purchase fish and corals. I know this idea would not be a very popular one, and I’m not advocating it in any sense. However, I do feel that there is an extremely large number of irresponsible pet owners in this world, and I would do whatever I could to prevent these people from owning animals that they can mistreat. Additionally, with all the talk about banning various coral species, applying certain other regulations to the aquarium trade might prevent legislation that could kill our hobby altogether.


There are many animals that are illegal in a lot of different states. Certain reptiles, arthropods, and other exotic animals are outright banned, while many others require special permits and other special documentation. The animals requiring these regulations are usually dangerous or somewhat endangered. Some of the regulations on exotic pets are federal, while several are based on local laws. Now, my question for dedicated saltwater and reef aquarium enthusiasts…would you support local or federal laws restricting our wonderful hobby? I know this is like asking if you would like to shoot yourself in the foot, but what if restrictions on the hobby greatly promoted conservation? What if requiring potential aquarium owners to purchase a license, or at least take come form of animal husbandry education, greatly prevented the pointless death of a countless number of aquarium fish, invertebrates, and corals?

I know walking down this path could lead to a slippery slope of regulations and frustrations, but what if it saved our reefs? I’m not advocating anything at this point, but just getting a conversation going. What do you think? What would better serve conservation efforts? What would prevent unfit people from getting into this hobby only to kill everything and get out in less than a year? What would keep other government regulations that could ruin this hobby from barging in?

Your thoughts, objections, comments?

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  • I think a better question is should pet stores be required to have a license. There are very few licensing requirements for pet stores to operate, and many store owners don't keep tabs on livestock regulations, or they simply ignore them. Additionally, it's a tough business, and unfortunately pets are sold because someone has to pay the bills… I've routinely seen banned fish in pet stores in Texas. Haven't seen any FW stingrays, but have seen Arapima's and some others blatantly illegal fish.

    My answer to this, and to the question in the original post, is no! The last thing I think the fish industry needs is some governing regulatory body. These tend to complicate things a lot, and I can't see any overall benefit. It's extremely expensive to maintain dog and cat registrations, to think of requiring licensing for fish and small animal owners, it's just insane, especially when there's no licensing requirements for selling fish.

    I think we as consumers need to push pet stores to be responsible in teaching people what works, what they cannot have, and how to properly care for the fish and animals they sell. People that have an active role in the fish-keeping hobby should be at the forefront of pushing stores to have integrity. The worst offenders are the Pets Marts and Petco's, and other super-garbage pet retailers. How many times have you seen the aquatics department bag up 5 goldfish for some 8 year old with a 10 gallon aquarium, never mind the fact that each fish needs about 50 gallons a piece once fully grown. The store knows damn well that even 1 of these fish can't thrive in a tank this size…

    It has to start and end with the people selling and distributing the fish. The best pet stores are the ones that ask you 50 questions about your tank before even breaking out a net. I'll admit that I've been mildly annoyed as a 20 year fish keeper being interrogated about my tank while buying discus, but I do believe it's for the greater good and it tells me that the store cares about the livelihood of their fish, and the hobby in general.

  • You might want to check out our forum addressing this. I live in Florida and ran into this problem any additional point of vies are needed.

  • headlesswriter

    I think there should be a License required for BLOGS…….or why not require a license for being a parent…….or a license to breath, after all many people blow bad breath into the air and that pollutes our environment with excessive fouled carbons…….PLEASE, get the picture…….regulation DOES NOT save anything………if it did why do we have overcrowed prisions……….I suppose you also think we should have a license to plant vegtables…..or to eat them properly……..Your appreciation for protectionism is misguided at best. We are OVER TAXED, and OVER REGULATED enough alright already!……..have you EVER added up ALL the taxes you pay, accumulative on a day to day basis – year to year……..I WOULDN"T MIND paying those taxes if it went to feeding the hungry and sick, but all we do is tax US citizens more every year to pay for MORE Lazy legislators who play card games in between – on – the- floor – votes or are too busy playing golf to attend their meetings – EVER WATCHED a legislative meeting? YOU SHOULD…….So GET A LIFE and try to FIX something REAL that will make a REAL difference instead of advocating for crap like buying a licesne to have a stinkin aquarium in your home.. GEEZOLLA!

    • AquaNerd

      in my original post i explicitly said that i was not advocating the idea of requiring a license for aquarium ownership. it was just something that i thought up when watching animals constantly being abused and neglected. i don't want to pay extra taxes and i never said we should implement this type of regulation. however, i would support certain regulations that would prevent idiots and irresponsible individuals from owning an aquarium. my goal was prevention. i don't want to pay for the mistakes of others, which will happen if the aquarium industry causes a significant negative impact on wild reefs.

      but with all of the captive-bred fish emerging on the market, the aquarium industry is really beginning to lessen its impact on nature…which is a good thing. and i see your point. we are overtaxed and over-regulated as it is. we have to have a license for everything nowadays.