The Effects of Domestication on the Goldfish

-The Effects of Domestication

Strict artificial selection to meet the changing desires of humans has led to and is still leading to many varieties of goldfish, making modern goldfish very plastic.  The domestication of goldfish is a very dominant; this along with the ease of causing variability in goldfish produces monumental effects on this domesticate.  No aspect of the goldfish is safe from alteration, humans have successfully changed and affected the size, color, fins, eyes and shape of goldfish.  There are more than 27 breeds of this fish, which was one of the first fish to be domesticated [1].  The domestication of goldfish occurred relatively recently when compared to other domesticates, yet a case could be made that goldfish are more diverse than any other species.  The ancestor of the goldfish, the original crucian carp was a darker gray in color, had a thinner body, rounded fins and had a dorsal fin (Komiyama et al., 2009, pp 5-11).  The first effect of domestication on this species was the mutation of color which was desirable to humans who then selected for it.

Common Goldfish

Chinese Crucial Carp

This began the process of domestication around 700 CE in China and the presence of color became really evident in the seventeenth century when goldfish could be bred in an assortment of colors (Tuan, 1984, pp 95-100).  Other noticeable deviations from the original fish include telescope eye which appeared in the mid eighteenth century and lack of a dorsal fin, double tails and a short body which occurred in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) (Tuan, 1984, pp 95-100).  The dates for these modification in goldfish are known because they are just that, modifications that were documented in creating and maintaining breeds of goldfish.  The reduction of size in goldfish compared to their ancestor is a consequence of domestication as well according to Juliet Clutton-Brock (Clutton-Brock, 2012, pp 8-9).  The presence of so many breeds of fish and the variety among these breeds comes from the method of domestication to which they experience.  Goldfish are subject to little if any natural selection which leads to problems and unnecessary difficulties for them.  This is the case from some dogs as well, like the bull dog breed which is prone to breathing difficulties due to their flattened snout, highlighting the similarities between these two animals.  Plastic animals are subject to human whims which may not always be  in the best favor of the animal.  Such is the case for the Telescope Goldfish.

Telescope Goldfish

This breed of goldfish has not adapted to its large eyes and as a consequence its swimming is poor and it is prone to losing its eyes all together, either to another fish or an obstacle it could not avoid  (Tuan, 1984, pp 95-100).  The lion head goldfish also demonstrates the dramatic effects that complete domestication has had upon this domesticate.  The lion head breed is found desirable because of its colorful head growth.  This head growth has no advantages for the fish however and can block its vision and even prevent eating.  If left to natural selection this breed would likely not even exist [2].

Lionhead Goldfish

In more recent times, from 1900 to present, new breeds of goldfish are being produced as a result of domestication, mainly in Japan like the Shukin, Wakin and Ranchu (Mastubara, 1910, pp 383-396).  Interestingly enough, goldfish are so embedded in our culture that changes in culture can cause changes in the fish.  The shift of goldfish from ponds to glass containers in the mid eighteenth century  is credited as the reason goldfish developed telescoping eyes, in order to see out in front instead of above  (Komiyama et al., 2009, pp 5-11).  Due to their role as a visual object in our society, goldfish have been subject to more than just genetic changes.  ‘Artificial coloring’ techniques which involve applying hydrochloric acid to scales has occurred since ancient times.Fortunately the effects aren’t as favorable as some hope so the practice has not become main stream (Tuan, 1984, pp 95-100).  The effects of domestication on the goldfish are extensive to say the least.  They are bent into a shape and color favorable to human want at that time no matter the consequences to the animal.  They are exposed to trends and suffer the consequences. 

Goldfish are much more than our ‘play things’ and just because we are able to play the role of mother nature does not mean we have the right to.  It is unfortunate that the goldfish has been manipulated to a degree that has caused harm.  We are responsible for this fish now and need to make steps that are in the best interest of the fish and not some trend or fad of the human race.

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