Fish Taxonomy

Why care about fish taxonomy? Well, by understanding the basic fish taxonomy you will get a lot of information for free. Let’s say that you see an interesting fish in the fish store and notice that it belongs to the same genus as a fish that you have successfully kept earlier. You try in vain to find any information regarding this new species and its requirements when it comes to water temperatures, water chemistry, feeding etcetera. It turns out that this fish it not commonly kept and there is hardly any information to be found. The store keeper is also quite oblivious and can’t really offer you any advice. The fish looks a little stressed out, but you do not know if it is because the store keeper is keeping it in unsuitable water conditions or if it just a little upset from the transportation. You do however have one big clue. Since you know which genera this fish belong to, chances are high that it will appreciate the same water conditions as the fish that you have already successfully kept in your aquarium. You can never be 100% sure, but it is at least much better than trying different water conditions at random.

The etymologic background of the term taxonomy is two Greek words. The verb tassein means ‘to classify’ and the substantive nomos means law or science. Taxonomy can therefore be translated “scientific classification”. Today, the term taxonomy is used more broadly and taxonomic schemes are used to organize a vide range of different information. In the beginning, the word taxonomy did however only refer to the scientific classification of living organisms. The Swedish scientist Carl von Linné was one of the pioneers in this field. His classifications have late been revised as we have learned more and more about the development of different species and how they are related to each other. The new DNA technology has also provided the scientists with a very powerful tool that helps them to determine the relationship between species.

Living organisms are divided into Domains, Kingdoms, Phylums or Divisions, Classes, Orders, Families, Genera and Species.Sometimes Subphylums/Subdivisions, Subclasses, Suborders and Subfamilies are used in addition to the main categories. The scientific name of a species will tell you the name and genus of that species. Take for instance the well-known Platy. The fish that is commonly sold as Platy is the Southern Platy – Xiphophorus maculatus. The Latin name tells you that your Platy belong to the genus Xiphophorus. If we look at this genus, we will find another familiar fish, the Xiphophorus hellerii, more commonly known as Green Swordfish. The name Xiphophorus actually means sword bearer in Greek, it is derived from the Greek word for sword and the Greek word for bearer. Since you know that these two species belong to the same genus, you can suspect that they are closely related. Knowing such things are important, because if you place your Platy in an aquarium where you already keep Green Swordfish they may actually interbreed, even though they are not the same species.

Fish Taxonomy Article

Fish taxonomy and Scientific Classification – A short introduction to taxonomy: its importance and its development.
What’s in a name – An article about the information the scienitifc name of a fish can give us.