talking points for nature guides
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For nature guides: introducing fishes
updated Oct 08

What are fishes?
Fishes are like us! We both belong to the same group of animals with backbones!

Fishy shape stories
The shapes of fishes tell us how they live and find their food.

  • Can you guess from the shape of this fish where it lives?
    • Is it streamlined or chunky? Or long and slinky?
    • Is it flattened sideways? Or flattened like a pancake?
    • What kind of fins does it have?

  • Can you guess from the shape of this fish what it eats?
    • Where are its eyes? Are its eyes big compared to its body?
    • Where is its mouth?

  • The next time you eat a fish for dinner, have a closer look at it. Try to find out more about how it lives and what it eats.

  • I see three fishes in this pool. Can you see them?
    Don't move too much or they will hide!
    Let's wait a while and it might come out again.
    To encourage patient observation.

Dead Fish Treasure
A dead fish on the shore is a great way to introduce many different ideas!

  • How/Why do you think it died?
  • A dead fish can be cut up to show internal structures.
  • Scavengers are attracted to dead fish: crabs, worms, flies
  • Why do dead fish smell so bad? Why do dead fish smell fishy? on the wild shores of singapore blog

Fishes are important to the ecosystem

  • Fishes keep the ecosystem in balance by eating
    • Grazing fishes trim seaweeds so that they don't overgrow corals.
    • Fishes that eat other animals make sure there isn't too many of these animals.

  • Fishes are part of the food chain. Can we think of some animals that might eat a fish? Some charismatic animals to highlight: otters, birds, people.

  • Fishes NEED a good ecosystem in order to thrive: Small and baby fishes need hiding places like mangroves, seagrass meadows, coral reefs. Here, they can also find food, to grow bigger. When they become adults, many fishes move to deeper waters or the open sea. They are then caught and become our seafood.
Fish and you
"Can eat or Not?" We all love to eat fish!
  • What is your favourite sea fish?
    • Do you know where it comes from? How was it caught? Was it farmed?
    • Do you know what it eats?

Fish myths to dispel

  • Fishes are NOT forever. If we do not properly manage the way we harvest fishes from the sea, our favourite fishes may disappear forever.

Handling tips

Avoid catching fishes: Most explanations and observations can be made without having to catch a fish.

Don't touch fishes:
Many fishes can bite, even small ones!

Don't tease or annoy fishes: They will get stressed and may die.

Don't remove fishes from water! They will die.

Do NOT r
emove clown anemonefishes from their anemones.

If you have to catch a fish, be gentle: Be gentle when using a net. Fish fins can get entangled in the net. It is better to 'herd' the fish into the container than to use the net to catch the fish.

Fishes can jump: When placing a fish in a small container for everyone to look at, be careful as the fish may jump out and may die if panicked visitors stomp on it.

Don't bag fishes: If you are bringing a fish from a distance to show to visitors, do NOT place the fish in a closed container or plastic bag for a long time. It needs oxygen to breathe.

Natural pool is best: To show visitors fishes that were caught a distance away, it is better to place them in a relatively deep natural pool along the visitor trail. Than to put them in a container.

Containers can kill: If a fish is to be kept in a container for some time to show visitors later on, make sure the container is deep enough so that the fish can't jump out. Place the container in a shaded place. And change the water in the container every 15 mins to half an hour, especially for small containers.

Don't mix fishes: Do not put different kinds of fishes in the same container. They might eat or poison one another.

Do not put fishes with other animals in the same container. Many marine animals secrete poisons that can kill fishes especially in a confined space.
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