Bullying does not exist in fishtanks

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GaryE

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There, that title should get some opinions.
The basic definition of a bully is a person who gets pleasure from dominating, coercing or harming someone whom they identify as vulnerable. It's a power dynamic, and it gets people what they want, the enjoyment that seems to come from being mean. It's a choice. For years I worked with anti-bullying programs in schools, and every bully I ever sat down with explained their behaviour as something they enjoyed. They knew what they were doing, although they couldn't always figure out why they did it.

Fish operate differently. I don't think they get any kick from being obnoxious. When one fish takes over your tank and starts pushing other fish around, it is always something you as an aquarist has created as a situation. It is always the result of some level of mistake.

A predatory fish eats its victim. It may enjoy a good meal, but it isn't bullying. It's in the wrong tank, or its victiims are.

A territorial fish attacks at certain levels, with the goal of holding the turf instinct has wired it to need. If you stick a red tailed shark in a tank and it terrorizes its tankmates with sneak attacks at night - well, that's what they do. If you had done some research prior to buying, you would have known that side of them. In nature, other fish stay away. In a tank, the glass walls force them to suffer the aggression. The fish didn't make the walls.

If you put two males of an intolerant species together, again, your mistake. Your solution to find.

It sounds harsh because we don't all have the resources to fix our mistakes easily. But we are the only ones who can do it.

When you see what people here like to call bullying, immediately:
read about the needs of the fish attacking;
look at the size of your tank. Bioload is a tiny bit of what we work with, and test kits analyze water. Look at the behaviour of the living things;
look at male female ratios. Some of the most surprising aggression, from normally calm species comes from lone fish left over, or fish in tiny tanks. Your definition of tiny and what the fish thinks can be very different. Did you know the breeding territory of P. pulcher, the common krib, can be 3 square metres or larger in nature?
look at the flow in the tank. Some species swim against current all the time in nature, and in slow tanks, energy has to go somewhere;
Look at your decor. Is it right for the fish?
Look at diet. There are fish species that eat scales and tails as a hardwired preference. In lake Malawi, there are fish that harass mouthbrooding females til they are forced to spit out their fry, which are then lunch for the fry predator. Mom can get away in nature. She can't in a tank;
Never keep 3 of a species, especially of a Cichlid. The 3rd wheel has an awful life. That can extend beyond Cichlids.
Always try to have a Plan B.

A friend has offered me juveniles from a species I would like to breed. They are unsexable, so the usual plan is to take 6, and as they grow, you have a good chance of both males and females. But once a pair forms, what do I do with the other 4? The breeders will see them as a threat to their babies, and will kill them if they don't go away. What sensible fish would hang around? They have to be psychos to stay and try to kill the babies of an amped up breeding pair. The idea they are trapped by a glass wall and would love to run away will not occur to a fish.

Before I get them, I need to have a plan in place, and homes lined up if I have 3rd wheels. If I create the problem, I have to solve it.

I have only learned this by screwing up a million or so times, but I'll throw it out there as a thought of the day.
 
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Ichthys

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People say a lot of cichlids are aggressive, but they’re not. Give them a tank bigger than their territory and they’re peaceful, as long as other fish (cichlids especially) keep their distance. Aggression comes from that need for a territory, and the fact that the other fish are confined within that territory, unable to leave.
 

DoubleDutch

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Allmost in all cases in which fish show differently behaviour than expected / agression we humans made the mistake. Or our expectance was the wrong one or we didn't provide the right conditions.
 
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FishLady18

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I agree with you 100%! I have always disliked the use of the term bullying as relates to this hobby. Well said, all of it, Gary E. Thanks for a terrific & insightful post.
 

plebian

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A lot of erudite nonsense. The term "bully" as applied to human psychology may not have a place in the fish kingdom, but it's a perfectly useful descriptor for some types of fish behavior. I suggest you view the video in the link below. What you will see in that video is an event that occurred every hour of every day over a period of 3 months. I finally had to remove the offending fish, at which point community peace ensued.

 

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