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Biota Neotropica

Print version ISSN 1806-129XOn-line version ISSN 1676-0611

Biota Neotrop. vol.18 no.3 Campinas  2018  Epub July 19, 2018 


Native species exploited by marine aquarium trade in Brazil

Espécies nativas explotadas pela aquariofilia marinha no Brasil

Lívio Moreira de Gurjão1  2  *

Tito Monteiro da Cruz Lotufo2  3

1Superintendência do Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis, Fortaleza, CE, Brasil

2Universidade Federal do Ceará, Instituto de Ciências do Mar, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ciências Marinhas Tropicais, Fortaleza, CE, Brasil

3Universidade de São Paulo, Instituto Oceanográfico, Departamento de Oceanografia Biológica, São Paulo, SP, Brasil


Brazil has an important role in marine ornamental trade, exploiting native species for both international and domestic market. A few works have previously assessed wild species exploited by the Brazilian marine aquarium industry and most of them focused solely on fish. Hence, the present paper intends to address an information gap regarding the species currently traded in the country, as well as concerning their conservation statuses. Thus, different sources of information were investigated and each species was categorized in accordance with existing lists of threatened species. A wide variety of native species was identified in Brazilian marine aquarium trade, including not only fish but also invertebrates, seaweeds and macrophytes. Some of these species were legally protected, but are still commerced anyway. Such illegal exploitation of native species causes increasing concerns about the sustainability of the activity. Therefore, in order to reduce environmental impacts caused by marine ornamental trade, Brazilian authorities should encourage the implementation of eco-fees, the purchase of eco-labeled aquarium products, the development of sustainable ornamental aquaculture and ecosystem-based management initiatives.

Keywords: Marine aquarium fish; marine invertebrates; seaweeds; marine macrophytes; illegal trade; threatened species


O Brasil possui um papel importante no comércio de ornamentais marinhos, utilizando espécies tanto para exportação como para o mercado interno. Poucos trabalhos anteriores descreveram as espécies nativas utilizadas pela indústria brasileira de aquarismo marinho, e a maioria deles era focada exclusivamente no uso de peixes. Assim, o presente trabalho almeja preencher a falta de informação em relação às espécies atualmente exploradas no país, bem como relativas às suas categorias de conservação. Dessa forma, diferentes fontes de informação foram investigadas e cada espécie foi categorizada de acordo com as listas de espécies ameaçadas existentes. Uma grande variedade de espécies foi identificada no comércio do aquarismo marinho brasileiro, o que inclui não somente peixes, mas também invertebrados, macroalgas e macrófitas. Algumas dessas espécies não poderiam ser exploradas, mas mesmo assim seguem sendo comercializadas. Essa utilização ilegal de espécies nativas provoca preocupações frequentes acerca da sustentabilidade dessa atividade. Desse modo, para reduzir os impactos ambientais causados pelo aquarismo marinho, as autoridades brasileiras deveriam incentivar a implementação de taxas-ecológicas, a aquisição de produtos de aquário com selos ecológicos, o desenvolvimento sustentável da aquacultura ornamental e iniciativas de manejo baseadas no ecossistema.

Palavras-chave: Peixes de aquário marinho; invertebrados marinhos; macroalgas marinhas; macrófitas marinhas; comércio ilegal; espécies ameaçadas


Marine ornamental trade is a global multi-million dollar industry (~ US$200-300 million annually), involving the collection of more than 50 million coral reef animals (e.g. fish, corals and a wide variety of invertebrate species) to supply aquaria kept by 2 million hobbyists worldwide (Wabnitz et al. 2003, Rhyne et al. 2012a). It is estimated that the activity targets over 1,800 reef fish species from 125 families, over 150 species of stony corals and hundreds of species of non-coral invertebrates (Rhyne et al. 2012b, Rhyne et al. 2014, Leal et al. 2015).

Since both fish and invertebrates began to be exploited together in the mid 1980s, consumers gradually shifted their preference from fish-only tanks to miniature reef ecosystems (Bruckner 2005, Rhyne et al. 2009, Rhyne et al. 2012a, Murray & Watson 2014) and collectors for the aquarium trade started to act as a peculiar and unprecedented type of generalist predators, targeting both abundant and rare species, including those with critical ecological roles on the reefs (Rhyne et al. 2012b). Unlike freshwater ornamental commerce, where about 90% of fish species are produced in captivity, the great majority of marine tank species is wild-caught and, thus, elicited controversies regarding the sustainability of the activity (Wabnitz et al. 2003, Olivotto et al. 2011, Rhyne et al. 2014), as over-harvesting is among the most serious causes of coral reef degradation worldwide (Bellwood et al. 2004, Rhyne et al. 2014).

Brazil supplies significant quantities of the global marine ornamental market (Wood 2001, Bruckner 2005, Rhyne et al. 2012b) and, as in the other exporting countries, most of the exported organisms are wild-harvested, which also raised concerns about the development of this activity (Gasparini et al. 2005, Nottingham et al. 2005a).

Despite the importance of a wide variety of native organisms for both international and domestic aquarium trade, the great majority of studies available in Brazil focused on the exploitation of marine fish only (Nottingham et al. 2000, Monteiro-Neto et al. 2003, Nottingham et al. 2005a, Nottingham et al. 2005b, Ibama 2008a, Sampaio & Nottingham 2008, Sampaio & Ostrensky, 2013), and very few included the ornamental use of other marine organisms (Gasparini et al. 2005, Ibama 2008b). Thus, the goal of the present study was to list the Brazilian native species used in marine aquarium trade, providing information about their usage and conservation statuses.

Material and Methods

First, three different lists of species were compiled: (1) fish, (2) invertebrates and (3) seaweeds and aquatic macrophytes.

These inventories were based on the following sources of information: (1) scientific literature, (2) governmental lists, (3) demands of exportation sent to the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama, Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis), (4) author's personal observation, (5) visits to online marine aquarium discussion forums (e.g.,, and, (6) Brazilian pet shops websites, and (7) auction websites (, and Searches on the literature and forums were not structured with specific keywords in order to keep it flexible enough to maximize the detection of relevant information. For instance, for pet-shops websites were used the combinations: "lojas de aquário marinho Brasil", "aquario marinho loja", "peixes ornamentais marinhos Brasil", "venda de peixes ornamentais marinhos" and "lojas de peixes marinhos Brasil".

The natural distribution for each species in Brazil was obtained using information from the following databases:,,, as well as specific literature cited in the results section. Official data from Brazilian authorities (IN IBAMA 202/2008 and decree MMA 445/2014) and demands from export companies was also analyzed. Additionally, personal observations while visiting aquarium shops in Fortaleza (Ceará state - CE), supervision of ornamental fish unloading in Fortim (CE), visits to ornamental organisms exporting companies in Fortaleza and an aquaculture farm in Aquiraz (CE) were also used to complement the species lists.

Only species with explicit usage in aquaria were included in the inventories. Therefore, organisms exploited exclusively as handcrafts, souvenirs, curio, or for either medical or magic-religious purposes were not analyzed. The exploitation of species was analyzed concerning specific norms and the threatening statuses of each species were determined based on the Brazilian lists of threatened species and the International Union for Conservation of Nature - IUCN red list of threatened species.


Exploitation allowance for all species inventoried was analyzed regarding the norms that regulate their usage in Brazil: IN Ibama 202/08 for marine fish and IN MMA 89/06 for seaweeds. As there is a paucity of specific norms for the exploitation of marine invertebrates and marine macrophytes, the only applicable rule is federal law 9,605/98.

Concerning the species' conservation statuses, fish and invertebrate were evaluated according to their classification in the Brazilian list of threatened fish and aquatic invertebrate species (decree MMA 445/14) and the IUCN red list (version 2016-3), both using the same threatening categories: (NE) Not Evaluated, (DD) Data Deficient, (LC) Least Concern, (NT) Near Threatened, (VU) Vulnerable, (EN) Endangered, (CR) Critically Endangered, (EW) Extinct in the Wild or (EX) Extinct. For the analysis of the conservation statuses of seaweeds and aquatic macrophytes, it was used the Brazilian list of threatened flora species (decree MMA 443/14) and again the IUCN red list criteria (version 2016-3).

More than 200 bone and cartilaginous fish species were identified based on 24 different sources of information (Table 1). From this total, only 136 species can be legally exploited according to IN Ibama 202/08. However, according to decree MMA 445/14, some species whose collection is not allowed by IN Ibama 202/08 may be exploited by means of specific authorizations (species categorized as VU) and others can be harvested for scientific research or conservation purposes only (species classified as EN or CR). In addition, Table 1 reports the occurrence of five fish species endemic to Brazilian oceanic islands, two new species from different genera and four updated scientific names for species reported under other synonyms in previous works.

Table 1 Marine fish species traded in Brazil for aquarium purposes and their conservation status 

Species Harvesting in accordance with IN 202/08 Brazilian list of threatened fish species (Decree MMA 445/14) IUCN red list of threatened species Observation
Abudefduf saxatilis1;4;9;11;18;19;22;21;23;24 Allowed NE LC -
Acanthostracion polygonius4;9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Acanthostracion quadricornis1;4;7;9;11;18;19;24 Allowed NE LC -
Acanthurus bahianus1;2;6;9;11;18;19;22;23;24 Allowed NE LC -
Acanthurus chirurgus1;2;7;9;11;18;19;22;24 Allowed NE LC -
Acanthurus coeruleus1;2;4;6;9;11;18;19;22;23;24 Allowed NE LC -
Achirus lineatus11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Alphestes afer9;11;18;19 Allowed DD LC -
Aluterus schoepfii11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Aluterus scriptus1;9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Amblycirrhitus pinos1;4;9;11;18;19;22;23;24 Allowed DD LC -
Anisotremus moricandi4;9;21 Prohibited NE LC -
Anisotremus surinamensis9;11;18;19 Allowed DD NE -
Anisotremus virginicus1;4;6;8;9;11;18;19;22;23 Allowed NE LC -
Antennarius multiocellatus1;6;18;21 Prohibited DD LC -
Antennarius striatus4;11;18;19;21 Allowed DD LC -
Apogon americanus11;18;19;21;22;24 Allowed NE NE -
Apogon maculatus1 Prohibited NE LC -
Apogon planifrons4;11;21 Prohibited NE LC -
Apogon pseudomaculatus1;11;18;19;21 Allowed NE LC -
Archosargus rhomboidalis11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Astrapogon puncticulatus18 Prohibited NE LC -
Aulostomus strigosus9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Balistes vetula1;2;4;6;9;18;21;23;24 Prohibited NT NT -
Bathygobius soporator1;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Batrachoides surinamensis11;18;19;23 Allowed NE LC -
Bodianus insularis12;18;20 Prohibited NE LC EI
Bodianus pulchellus1;6;9;11;18;19;21;22;23;24 Allowed NE LC -
Bodianus rufus1;2;4;6;9;11;18;19;21;22;23;24 Allowed NE LC -
Bothus lunatus4;9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Bothus ocellatus7;9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Calamus spp.9 - - - -
Calamus pennatula11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Cantherhines macrocerus1;4;11;18;19;21;23;24 Allowed NE LC -
Cantherhines pullus1;4;9;11;18;19;21 Allowed NE LC -
Canthigaster figueiredoi1;4;9;11;18;19;21;24 Allowed NE LC -
Carangoides crysos9 Prohibited NE LC -
Caranx latus9 Prohibited NE LC -
Caranx lugubris9 Prohibited NE LC -
Centropyge aurantonotus1;2;4;6;7;9;11;18;19;21;22;23;24 Allowed DD LC -
Cephalopholis fulva1;9;18;19 Prohibited NE LC -
Chaetodipterus faber1;6;11;18;19;23 Allowed NE LC -
Chaetodon ocellatus1;2;4;6;7;11;18;19;21;22;23;24 Allowed DD LC -
Chaetodon sedentarius1;2;4;6;9;11;18;19;21;22 Allowed NE LC -
Chaetodon striatus1;2;4;6;7;9;11;18;19;21;22;23;24 Allowed NE LC -
Chilomycterus antennatus11;18;19;23 Allowed NE LC -
Chilomycterus antillarum1;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Chilomycterus schoepfii6 Prohibited NE LC -
Choranthias salmopunctatus13;18;20 Prohibited VU LC EI, DN*
Chromis flavicauda1;4;9;21 Prohibited NE DD -
Chromis jubauna4;9;21 Prohibited NE NE -
Chromis multilineata1;4;9;11;18;19;21 Allowed NE LC -
Clepticus brasiliensis9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Conodon nobilis11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Coryphopterus spp.9 - - - -
Coryphopterus glaucofraenum11;18;19;23 Allowed NE LC -
Cosmocampus albirostris10;11;18;19;23 Allowed NE LC -
Cryptotomus roseus9 Prohibited NE LC -
Cychlichthys spinosus4;11;18;19;21 Allowed NE NE -
Dactylopterus volitans1;2;6;9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Dermatolepis inermis9 Prohibited NE NT -
Diodon holacanthus4;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Diodon hystrix1;6;9;11;18;19;24 Allowed NE LC -
Diplectrum formosum11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Diplectrum radiale9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Diplodus argenteus9 Prohibited NE LC -
Doratonotus megalepis9;11;18;19;23 Allowed NE LC -
Dules auriga11;18;19 Allowed NE NE -
Echeneis naucrates1;11;18;19;23 Allowed NE LC -
Elacatinus figaro2;4;7;8;9;14;18;20;21;22;23 Prohibited VU NE -
Emblemariopsis signifer9 Prohibited NE LC -
Epinephelus adscensionis18 Prohibited DD LC -
Epinephelus itajara4;20;21 Prohibited CR CR -
Epinephelus marginatus9 Prohibited VU EN -
Epinephelus morio9 Prohibited VU NT -
Equetus lanceolatus1;4;21 Prohibited NE LC -
Fistularia tabacaria9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Gnatholepis thompsoni9 Prohibited NE LC -
Gobiesox strumosus11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Gramma brasiliensis2;3;4;7;8;9;15;18;20;21;23 Prohibited NT NE -
Gymnachirus nudus11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Gymnothorax funebris1;6;11;18;19;22 Allowed DD LC -
Gymnothorax miliaris1;4;8;11;18;19;22;24 Allowed NE LC -
Gymnothorax moringa9;11;18;19;24 Allowed DD LC -
Gymnothorax ocellatus11;18;19 Allowed DD LC -
Gymnothorax vicinus1;9;11;18;19 Allowed DD LC -
Haemulon aurolineatum9 Prohibited NE LC -
Haemulon plumieri1;9;22 Prohibited DD NE -
Haemulon steindachneri9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Halichoeres bivittatus1;4;11;18;19;21 Allowed NE LC -
Halichoeres brasiliensis1;4;6;9;11;18;19;21;23 Allowed NE DD -
Halichoeres dimidiatus1;2;4;6;8;9;11;18;19;21;22;23;24 Allowed NE LC DN**
Halichoeres penrosei1;4;6;9;11;18;19;21 Allowed NE LC DN***
Halichoeres poeyi1;4;9;11;18;19;21 Allowed NE LC -
Heteropriacanthus cruentatus11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Hippocampus erectus1;2;4;6;7;10;11;18;19;21 Allowed VU VU -
Hippocampus reidi2;4;5;7;10;11;18;19;20;21;22 Allowed VU DD -
Holacanthus ciliaris1;2;4;6;7;8;9;11;18;19;21;22;23;24 Allowed DD LC -
Holacanthus tricolor2;4;6;7;8;9;11;18;19;21;22;23;24 Allowed DD LC -
Holocentrus adscensionis7;9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Hypleurochilus fissicornis9 Prohibited NE LC -
Kyphosus spp.9 - - - -
Kyphosus incisor11;18;19 Allowed NE NE -
Kyphosus sectatrix11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Labrisomus cricota4;21 Prohibited NE LC -
Labrisomus kalisherae9 Prohibited NE NE -
Labrisomus nuchipinnis9;11;18;19;21 Allowed NE LC -
Lactophrys spp.1 - - - -
Lactophrys polygonia6 Prohibited NE NE -
Lactophrys trigonus11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Lagocephalus laevigatus7;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Liopropoma carmabi4;21;23 Prohibited NE LC -
Lutjanus analis1 Prohibited NT VU -
Lutjanus jocu9 Prohibited NT NE -
Lutjanus synagris9 Prohibited NT NE -
Malacanthus plumieri1 Prohibited NE LC -
Malacoctenus sp. n.9;18;21;22;23;24 Prohibited - - NS
Malacoctenus delalandei9 Prohibited NE LC -
Melichthys niger11;18 Allowed NE LC -
Menticirrhus americanus11;18 Allowed DD LC -
Micrognathus sp.10 Prohibited - - -
Microphis lineatus4;21 Prohibited NE NE DN****
Micropogonias furnieri19 Prohibited NE LC -
Microspathodon chrysurus1;2;3;9;18;21 Prohibited VU LC -
Mugil curema9 Prohibited DD LC -
Mulloidichthys martinicus9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Mullus argentinae11;18;19 Allowed NE NE -
Muraena pavonina11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Mycteroperca bonaci9 Prohibited VU NT -
Mycteroperca interstitialis9 Prohibited VU VU -
Myrichthys breviceps4;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Myrichthys ocellatus1;9;11;18;19;22 Allowed NE LC -
Myripristis jacobus1;4;9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Ocyurus chrysurus6;9 Prohibited NT NE -
Odontoscion dentex9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Ogcocephalus spp.1;6 - - - -
Ogcocephalus nasutus1 Prohibited NE LC -
Ogcocephalus notatus19 Prohibited NE LC -
Ogcocephalus vespertilio1;4;9;11;18;19 Allowed NE NE -
Oligoplites saliens11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Ophioblennius trinitatis4;11;18;19;21;23;24 Allowed NE LC -
Opistognathus sp. n.1;4;18;21;23 Prohibited - - NS
Opistognathus lonchurus4;21 Prohibited NE LC -
Orthopristis ruber9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Parablennius marmoreus4;9;11;18;19;21 Allowed NE LC -
Parablennius pilicornius11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Paraclinus rubicundus11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Paralonchurus brasiliensis11;18 Allowed NE LC -
Paranthias furcifer9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Pareques acuminatus1;3;4;6;9;11;18;19;22;23;24 Allowed DD LC -
Pempheris schomburgkii11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Phaeoptyx pigmentaria4;11;18;19;21 Allowed NE LC -
Plectrypops retrospinis11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Pomacanthus arcuatus1;2;4;6;7;9;11;18;19;21;22;23 Allowed DD LC -
Pomacanthus paru1;2;4;6;7;9;11;18;19;21;22;23;24 Allowed DD LC -
Pomadasys corvinaeformis11;18;19 Allowed NE NE -
Porichthys porosissimus11;18;19 Allowed NE NE -
Priacanthus arenatus9 Prohibited NE LC -
Prionotus nudigula11;18;19 Allowed NE NE -
Prionotus punctatus1;19 Prohibited NE LC -
Prognathodes brasiliensis4;9;11;21 Prohibited NE LC -
Prognathodes guyanensis4;11;21 Prohibited NE LC -
Prognathodes obliquus4;11;16;18;20;21 Prohibited VU DD EI
Pseudocaranxs dentex9 Prohibited NE LC -
Pseudupeneus maculatus1;9 Prohibited NE LC -
Ptereleotris randalli11;21 Prohibited NE LC -
Rypticus bitrispinus9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Rypticus saponaceus9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Scartella cristata4;8;11;18;21;22;23;24 Allowed NE LC -
Scarus spp.1 - - - -
Scarus trispinosus9;20 Prohibited EN EN -
Scarus zelindae4;9;11;18;19;21 Allowed VU DD -
Scorpaena brasiliensis1;9;11;18;19| Allowed NE LC -
Scorpaena isthmensis11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Scorpaena plumieri1;9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Selar crumenophthalmus9 Prohibited NE LC -
Selene vomer1;2;11;18;19;22 Allowed NE LC -
Seriola spp.9 Prohibited - - -
Serranus baldwini1;9;11;18;19;23 Allowed NE LC -
Serranus flaviventris1;9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Serranus phoebe9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Sparisoma spp.7;9 - - - -
Sparisoma amplum9;11;18;19 Allowed NT LC -
Sparisoma axillare9;11;18;19 Allowed VU DD -
Sparisoma frondosum9;11;18;19 Allowed VU DD -
Sparisoma radians9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Sparisoma tuiupiranga4;9;21 Prohibited NE NE -
Sphoeroides greeleyi9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Sphoeroides spengleri1;9;11;18;19;24 Allowed NE LC -
Sphoeroides testudineus11;18;19 Allowed DD LC -
Stegastes spp.1 - - - -
Stegastes fuscus3;4;9;11;18;19;21;23 Allowed NE LC -
Stegastes pictus1;4;9;11;18;19;21 Allowed NE NE -
Stegastes rocasensis20 Prohibited VU NE EI
Stegastes sanctipauli18;20 Prohibited VU LC EI
Stegastes uenfi11;18;19 Allowed NE NE -
Stegastes variabilis1;4;9;11;18;19;21;23;24 Allowed NE NE -
Stephanolepis spp.7 - - - -
Stephanolepis hispidus1;9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Stephanolepis setifer11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Stygnobrotula latebricola4;11;18;19;21 Allowed NE LC -
Syngnathus sp.10 Prohibited - - -
Synodus foetens11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Synodus intermedius7;9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Synodus synodus9;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Thalassoma spp.1 - - - -
Thalassoma noronhanum4;6;9;11;18;19;21 Allowed NE LC -
Thalassophryne montevidensis11;18;19 Allowed NE NE -
Thalassophryne nattereri11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Trachinocephalus myops11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Upeneus parvus11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Xyrichthys novacula1;4;11;18;19;21 Allowed NE LC -
Xyrichthys splendens1;11;18;19 Allowed NE LC -
Aetobatus narinari8 Prohibited DD NT -
Dasyatis spp.8 Prohibited - - -
Dasyatis guttata1 Prohibited NE DD -
Dasyatis marianae8 Prohibited DD DD -
Ginglymostoma cirratum1;4;20;21 Prohibited VU DD -
Narcine brasiliensis1;4;21 Prohibited DD DD -
Pristis perotteti17 Prohibited NE NE -
Rhinobatos spp.1;4;21;23 Prohibited - - -
Rhinobatos percellens1 Prohibited DD NT -
Rhinoptera bonasus8 Prohibited DD NT -
Zapteryx brevirostris4;21 Prohibited VU VU -

Sources of information:

1Monteiro-Neto et al. (2003),

2Araújo & Albuquerque-Filho (2005),

3Ferreira et al. (2005),

4Gasparini et al. (2005),

5Rosa et al. (2005),

6Nottingham et al. (2005b),

7Nottingham et al. (2005a),

8Sampaio & Rosa (2005),

9Floeter et al. (2006),

10Rosa et al. (2006),

11IN Ibama 202/08,

12Moura (2008a),

13Moura (2008b),

14Moura et al. (2008);

15Moura & Sazima (2008);

16Moura (2008c);

17Charvet-Almeida & Faria (2008);

18Sampaio & Nottingham (2008),

19Ibama (2008a),

20Mohr et al. (2009),

21Sampaio & Ostrensky (2013),

22Autor's personal observation,

23Marine aquarium discussion forums,

24Brazilian pet shop's websites/auction webpages.

25Threatening categories according to the Brazilian list of threatened fish and aquatic invertebrate species (decree MMA 445/14) and the IUCN red list of threatened species (version 2016-3): (NE) Not Evaluated, (DD) Data Deficient, (LC) Least Concern, (NT) Near Threatened, (VU) Vulnerable, (EN) Endangered, (CR) Critically Endangered – for DD and NT species recorded in Brazil see >> biodiversidade >> fauna brasileira >> lista de espécies quase ameaçadas e com dados insuficientes. Observation: (EI) Endemic to Brazilian oceanic islands; (NS) New Species; (DN) Different Name used in references – originally mentioned as

*Anthias salmopunctatus,

**Halichoeres cyanocephalus,

***Halichoeres maculipinna and

****Microphis eigenmanni.

Invertebrates were classified into seven groups: mollusks, cnidarians, crustaceans, echinoderms, polychaetes, ascidians and sponges. The first four were the most representative regarding the number of species, and some of them are included in both the Brazilian list of threatened fish and aquatic invertebrate species and the IUCN red list (Table 2).

Table 2 Marine aquarium invertebrates traded in Brazil and their conservation status. 

Species Harvesting in accordance with the Brazilian Environmental Crime Law (9,605/98) Brazilian list of threatened aquatic invertebrate species (Decree MMA 445/14) IUCN red list of threatened species Observation
Anadara brasiliana17 Allowed NE NE -
Aplysia dactylomella17 Allowed NE NE -
Aplysia parvula17 Allowed NE NE -
Astraea phoebia17;20;21 Allowed NE NE -
Astraea tecta17;20;21 Allowed NE NE -
Atrina seminuda17 Allowed NE NE -
Berghia sp.20 Allowed - - -
Bornella calcarata18 Allowed NE NE -
Cassis tuberosa17 Allowed NT NE -
Cerithium atratum19;20;21 Allowed NE NE -
Charonia variegata17 Allowed NE NE -
Chlamys ornata18 Allowed NE NE -
Caribachlamys sentis18 Allowed NE NE -
Conus spp.2;18 Allowed - - -
Cyphoma gibbosum18 Allowed NE NE -
Cyphoma macumba18 Allowed NE NE -
Cypraea brasiliensis17 Allowed NE NE -
Cypraea spurca17 Allowed NE NE -
Elysia subornata20 Allowed NE NE -
Euvola ziczac17 Prohibited EN NE BL
Lima lima18 Allowed NE NE -
Lima pellucida18 Allowed NE NE -
Loligo plei17 Allowed NE NE -
Lyropecten nodosus18;19 Allowed NE NE -
Macrocypraea zebra20 Allowed NE NE -
Micromelo undatus18;20 Allowed NE NE -
Neritina virginea19;20;21 Allowed NE LC -
Octopus vulgaris2 Allowed NE NE -
Phidiana lynceus18 Allowed NE NE -
Pinna carnea17 Allowed NE NE -
Pleurobranchus sp.18 Allowed - - -
Pteria colymbus17 Allowed NE NE -
Rostanga byga18 Allowed NE NE -
Spondylus americanus18 Allowed NE NE -
Strombus pugilis20 Allowed NE NE -
Stramonita brasiliensis19 Allowed NE NE -
Tegula viridula19;20;21 Allowed NE NE -
Trachycardium muricatum17 Allowed NE NE -
Turbo canaliculatus18 Allowed NE NE -
Acanthonix sp.20;21 Allowed NE NE OM
Alphaeus sp.20 Allowed NE NE -
Brachycarpus cf. biunguinculatus2 Allowed NE NE -
Calcinus tibicen2;17;19;20;21 Allowed NE NE -
Cinetorhynchus rigens2;20;21 Allowed NE NE -
Clibanarius spp.19;20;21 Allowed - - -
Dardanus venosus2;20 Allowed NE NE -
Enoplometopus antillensis2;18;20 Allowed DD LC -
Gnathophyllum americanum18 Allowed NE NE -
Lepas anatifera18 Allowed NE NE -
Lepas anserifera18 Allowed NE NE -
Lysmata grabhami2;17;19;20;21 Allowed NE NE -
Lysmata rathbunae17;20 Allowed NE NE -
Lysmata wurdemanni2;17;19;20;21 Allowed NE NE -
Mithrax spp.20;21 Allowed - - -
Mithraculus forceps20 Allowed NE NE -
Parribacus antarcticus18 Allowed NE LC -
Periclimenes aff. pedersoni2;20 Allowed NE NE -
Periclimenes aff. yucatanicus2 Allowed NE NE -
Petrochirus diogenes2;17 Allowed NE NE -
Phimochirus holthuisi18 Allowed NE NE -
Platypodiella spectabilis2;19;20;21 Allowed NE NE -
Scyllarides aequinoctialis18 Allowed NE LC -
Stenopus hispidus2;17;19;20;21 Allowed NE NE -
Stenopus scutellatus2 Allowed NE NE -
Stenorhynchus seticornis2;17;19;20;21 Allowed NE NE -
Thor aff. amboinensis2;18 Allowed NE NE -
Actinoporus sp.2 Prohibited - - -
Alicia mirabilis2 Prohibited NE NE -
Bellactis ilkalysae2 Prohibited NE NE -
Carijoa riisei2 Prohibited NE NE -
Cerianthomorphe brasiliensis3 Prohibited DD NE -
Cerianthus brasiliensis4 Prohibited NE NE -
Condylactis gigantea2;5 Prohibited EN NE -
Discosoma spp.2 Prohibited - - -
Favia gravida2 Prohibited NE NE -
Heterogorgia uatumani2 Prohibited NE NE -
Lophogorgia punicea2 Prohibited NE NE -
Lophogorgia violacea2 Prohibited NE NE -
Madracis decactis2 Prohibited NE LC -
Meandrina braziliensis2 Prohibited DD DD -
Millepora alcicornis2;6 Prohibited NE LC -
Millepora braziliensis2 Prohibited DD DD -
Montastrea cavernosa2 Prohibited NE NE -
Muricea flamma2 Prohibited NE NE -
Muriceopsis sulphurea2 Prohibited NE NE -
Mussismilia braziliensis2 Prohibited VU DD -
Mussismilia harttii2 Prohibited EN DD -
Mussismilia hispida2 Prohibited NE DD -
Palythoa caribaeorum2 Prohibited NE NE -
Phyllogorgia dilatata2;7 Prohibited DD NE -
Plexaurella grandiflora2 Prohibited NE NE -
Plexaurella regia2 Prohibited NE NE -
Porites branneri2 Prohibited NE NT -
Scolymia wellsi2 Prohibited NE DD -
Siderastrea stellata2 Prohibited NE DD -
Zoanthus spp.2 Prohibited - - -
Asterina stellifera8;16 Prohibited NE NE -
Astropecten brasiliensis16 Prohibited VU NE -
Astropecten marginatus16 Prohibited NE NE -
Astrophyton sp.2 Prohibited - - -
Echinaster spp.2 Prohibited - - -
Echinaster (Othilia) brasiliensis2;9 Prohibited NE NE -
Echinaster (Othilia) echinophorus2;10 Prohibited NE NE -
Echinaster (Othilia) guyanensis2 Prohibited NE NE -
Echinometra lucunter20 Prohibited NE NE -
Eucidaris tribuloides2;11;20 Prohibited NE NE -
Linckia guildingii2;12;19 Prohibited VU NE -
Lytechinus variegatus20 Prohibited VU NE -
Luidia clathrata16 Prohibited NE NE -
Luidia senegalensis16 Prohibited VU NE -
Narcissia trigonaria2;44 Prohibited NE NE -
Ophioderma spp.2 Prohibited - - -
Oreaster reticulatus14 Prohibited VU NE -
Tropiometra carinata20 Prohibited NE NE -
Eurythoe complanata15 Prohibited NE NE -
Spirobranchus spp.2 Prohibited NE NE -
Botrylloides nigrum20 Prohibited NE NE IE
Polycarpa insulsa20 Prohibited NE NE IE
Styela plicata20 Prohibited NE NE -
Aplysina fulva1 Prohibited NE NE -
Axinyssa sp.1 Prohibited - - -
Dragmacidon reticulatum1;22 Prohibited NE NE -
Tethya sp.1 Prohibited - - -

Source or information:

1Sampaio et al., (2004);

2Gasparini et al. (2005);

3Pires & Castro (2008a);

4Pires & Castro (2008b);

5Pires & Castro (2008c);

6Pires & Castro (2008d);

7Castro & Pires (2008);

8Brites et al. (2008a);

9Ventura et al. (2008a);

10Ventura et al. (2008b);

11Ventura et al. (2008c);

12Brites et al. (2008b);

13Brites et al. (2008c);

14Brites et al. (2008d);

15Amaral et al. (2008);

16Amaral et al (2010);

17Authorization of exportation issued by Ibama;

18Authorization of exportation requested but not issued by Ibama;

19Author's personal observation;

20Marine aquarium discussion forums;

21Brazilian pet shop's websites/auction webpages;

22Hajdu et al (2011).

Threatening categories according to the Brazilian list of threatened fish and aquatic invertebrate species (decree MMA 445/14) and the IUCN red list of threatened species (version 2016-3): (NE) Not Evaluated, (DD) Data Deficient, (LC) Least Concern, (NT) Near Threatened, (VU) Vulnerable, (EN) Endangered. Observations: (BL) Although law 9,605/98 allows collection of mollusks, the species cannot be harvested since it is classified as EN in the Brazilian List of threatened fish and aquatic invertebrate species, (OM) Originally Misidentified as Xenocarcinus sp. or Macropodia longirostris, (IE) Incidental Exploitation attached to “liverocks”.

Even though law 9,605/98 allows exploitation of mollusks and crustaceans (because they are defined as fishing resources), it prohibits the usage of species that figure in the Brazilian List of threatened fish and aquatic invertebrate species, as well as of those other invertebrates not defined as fishing resources (cnidarians, echinoderms, polychaetes, ascidians and sponges). Hence, exploitation of the bivalve Euvola ziczac (Linnaeus, 1758) is forbidden because it is classified as EN, according to decree MMA 445/14.

Table 2 also presents species that were misidentified in marine aquarium discussion forums and Brazilian pet shop's websites or auction webpages, besides organisms that were incidentally exploited attached to liverocks.

It was also recorded the use of seaweeds and saltwater macrophytes in marine tanks throughout the country (Table 3) and the great majority of species is neither cited in the Brazilian list of threatened flora species (decree MMA 443/14) nor in the IUCN red list of threatened species. The only exception is Halophila decipiens Ostenfeld, which is categorized as Least Concern (LC) solely in the IUCN red list.

Table 3 Seaweeds and aquatic macrophytes used in marine aquarium trade in Brazil 

Species Harvesting in accordance with IN 89/06 Brazilian list of threatened flora species (Decree MMA 443/14) IUCN red list of threatened species
Green seaweeds (Chlorophyta)
Acetabularia calyculus2 Allowed NE NE
Bryopsis sp.2 Allowed - -
Caulerpa prolifera2 Allowed NE NE
Caulerpa racemosa2 Allowed NE NE
Caulerpa sertularioides2 Allowed NE NE
Caulerpa taxifolia2 Allowed NE NE
Chaetomorpha linum2;4 Allowed NE NE
Chaetomorpha sp.2;3 Allowed - -
Codium sp.2 Allowed - -
Halimeda sp2 Allowed - -
Udotea sp.2 Allowed - -
Red seaweeds (Rodophyta)
Acanthophora sp.2 Allowed - -
Ceramium sp.2 Allowed - -
Chondria sp.2 Allowed - -
Gracilaria sp.2 Allowed - -
Jania sp.2 Allowed - -
Lithothamnium spp.1 Allowed - -
Brown seaweeds (Phaeophyta)
Dictyota cervicomis2 Allowed NE NE
Lobophora sp.2 Allowed - -
Padina sp.2 Allowed - -
Macrophytes (Sea grasses)
Halophila decipiens2 Not applicable NE LC
Halodule sp.2 Not applicable - -

Source of information:

1Ibama (2008a);

2Marine aquarium discussion forums;

3Author's personal observation;

4Brazilian pet shop's websites/auction webpages.

Threatening categories according to the Brazilian list of threatened flora species (decree MMA 443/15) and the IUCN red list of threatened species (version 2016-3): (NE) Not Evaluated, (LC) Least Concern.


Web surveys have been successfully used to investigate aquarium trade worldwide (Kay & Hoyle 2001; Walters et al. 2006; Keller & Lodge 2007) and specifically in Brazil, this tool has been used to access the commerce of freshwater species (Magalhães & Jacobi 2010; Magalhães et al 2017).

Many native species traded by the marine aquarium industry in Brazil figure in Brazilian lists of threatened species and, currently, it is much easier to compare these species with those categorized in the IUCN red list. Preceding Brazilian lists of threatened species (IN MMA 05/04 and IN MMA 52/05) had their own categories and classification criteria, but most recent Brazilian lists (decree MMA 443/14 and decree MMA 445/14) followed the IUCN red list patterns, which allow more reliable comparisons and avoid mismatches already detected - agreements regarding categories increase credibility of red lists, while desagreemends can either do the opposite or demonstrate that in particular cases a species may locally present a distinctive threatening degree compared to the general reality along its whole distribution (Bender et al. 2012). Bony fishes represent the great majority of the exploited species. Despite only 136 species can be legally commercialized according to IN Ibama 202/08, about 70 others are illegally traded in Brazil. This situation not only demonstrates a lack of more effective control and inspection by the Brazilian authorities (e.g. Ibama) but also indicates that many dealers and tank owners (i.e., aquarium hobbyists) simply either ignore or unknow the norms that regulate the exploitation of marine aquarium organisms. Such illegal trade is specially worrying because some organisms are included in the Brazilian list of threatened species under really threatening conservation statuses (e.g. EN or CR categories) or maybe worse, whose statuses are simply unknown (e.g. NE or DD categories).

Among many fish species, the barber goby Elacatinus figaro Sazima, Moura & Rosa, 1997 (VU, in accordance with decree MMA 445/14) and the Brazilian basslet Gramma brasiliensis Sazima, Gasparini & Moura, 1998 (whose harvesting was prohibited until December 2014, for being categorized as threatened with extinction by an older norm - IN MMA 05/04) were frequently cited by different sources of information investigated, indicating that, despite the prohibition of exploitation imposed by IN Ibama 202/08, both species are commonly found in ornamental trade.

This statement is corroborated through the seizure by Ibama of 18 E. figaro specimens, that were being illegally traded by means of the Brazilian postal service in 2010 (Gurjão et al. 2017), and another confiscation of E. figaro and G. brasiliensis specimens, at Guarulhos international airport, during the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil. ( Another aspect that deserves special attention regarding the exploitation of the E. figaro is the potential negative ecological effect in reef areas, since it is a recognized cleaner species that plays an important role at cleaning stations and thus, in maintaining the functioning of the marine ecosystem (Sazima et al. 2000, Campos & Sá-Oliveira 2011). Considering the Brazilian list of threatened species and the distribution of the fish traded, it must be highlighted that Choranthias salmopunctatus (Lubbock & Edwards, 1981), Prognathodes obliquus (Lubbock & Edwards, 1980), Stegastes rocasensis (Emery, 1972) and S. sanctipauli Lubbock & Edwards, 1981 are endemic to Brazilian oceanic islands (e.g. Rocas Atoll and St Peter and St Paul's Archipelago - SPSPA) and, hence, their populations are more vulnerable to exploitation due to isolation (Mohr et al. 2009). Even considering the fragile aspects of these isolated populations and the prohibition of harvesting individuals at Brazilian oceanic islands by IN Ibama 202/08, almost all of them were already recorded as being captured for the aquarium industry - the only exception is C. salmopunctatus, which, despite never observed in the Brazilian ornamental market, is a desired species, specially by the millionaire Asian commerce, due to its unique characteristics (e.g. attractive color, rarity: low density/absolute number, and is the only species of the genus in Brazil) and extremely restricted geographic distribution (endemic to SPSPA: very limited horizontal and depth ranges) (Luiz-Júnior et al. 2007, Sampaio & Nottingham 2008).

Some authors mention the aquarium trade of certain fish that could not be identified further than the genus level, but that comprise species listed in decree MMA 445/14: Micrognathus (M. erugatus - CR), Scarus (S. trispinosus - EN and S. zelindae - VU), Sparisoma (S. axillare - VU, S. frodosum - VU and S. rocha - VU), Stegastes (S. rocasensis - VU, S. sanctipauli - VU and S. trindadensis - VU), Dasyatis (D. centroura - CR and D. colarensis - VU) and Rhinobatos (R. horkelli - CR and R. lentiginosus - VU) (Monteiro et al. 2003, Gasparini et al. 2005, Nottingham et al. 2005a, Sampaio & Rosa 2005, Rosa et al. 2006), thus, it is possible that other threatened species have been exploited by the Brazilian marine aquarium industry.

Other important threatened species are the longsnout (Hippocampus reidi Ginsburg, 1933) and lined (Hippocampus erectus Perry, 1810) seahorses. These species have received particular attention from the scientific community and Brazilian governmental authorities, who decided to keep them with the lowest exportation quota (250 specimens of each species/exporter/year). This is because populations pressed by aquarium harvesting activities had shown lower densities and smaller individuals (Ibama 2007, 2008a). However, the effectiveness of such measure is questionable since untrained and ill-intentioned dealers used to mislabel specimens of either H. erectus or H. reidi as they were Hippocampus kuda Bleeker, 1852 (Monteiro-Neto et al. 2003), while field surveys demonstrated that only H. reidi was actually exported, and the given quota could be doubled if 250 H. reidi were traded under the name of H. erectus (Rosa et al. 2011). Furthermore, there is still controversy about the distribution and taxonomy of Brazilian seahorses. Despite most authors state that H. reidi has a wider distribution along the Brazilian coast, while H. erectus is more restricted to southeastern and southern regions. However, evidences suggest that both species may have a continuous distribution along the Brazilian coast (Silveira 2011). Moreover, while H. reidi and H. erectus are the only valid names for the Brazilian seahorses (Fishbase 2017), a revision of the genus Hippocampus not only revealed that individuals identified in Brazil as H. erectus are morphologically and genetically similar to Hippocampus patagonicus Piacentino & Luzzatto, 2004 (Silveira et al. 2014), but also indicated the existence of a highly population limited to northeastern Brazil, distinguishable from these two previously mentioned species (Ibama 2009, Rosa et al. 2011).

Taxonomic problems are also on traded labrid, opistognatid and labrosomid fish. After revalidation of some Brazilian wrasse species and reevaluation of their distribution (Rocha & Rosa 2001, Rocha 2004), it is likely that specimens referred as Halichoeres radiatus (Linnaeus, 1758), Halichoeres cyanocephalus (Bloch, 1791) and Halichoeres maculipinna (Müller & Troschel, 1848) in previous works were actually misidentified, and should be, in fact, the labrids Halichoeres brasiliensis (Bloch, 1791), Halichoeres dimidiatus (Agassiz, 1831) and Halichoeres penrosei Starks, 1913, respectively. Another possible mistake occurred for Opistognathus aurifrons (Jordan & Thompson, 1905), which shall be in fact a new species of the same genus - Opistognathus sp. n. - (Sampaio & Nottingham 2008) and a third taxonomic incongruity is related to the forbidden exploitation of a new labrosomid species - Malacoctenus sp. n. (Floeter et al. 2003) -, which have been erroneously commercialized as a blenid, called 'red blenny'. Additionally, preceding articles also recorded the presence of Microphis eigenmanni in the Brazilian ornamental trade, which is a not valid synonym of Microphis lineatus (Kaup, 1856) (Fishbase 2017). Similarly, Canthigaster figueiredoi Moura & Castro, 2002, used to be referred as Cantigaster rostrata (Bloch, 1786) in previous works (Sampaio & Nottingham 2008). Therefore, some fish scientific names recorded here may be different from those reported on original papers, but are in accordance with the most recent synonyms used (Fishbase, 2017).

With regards to unthreatened species, angelfish have been systematically recorded among the most exploited species by the Brazilian marine aquarium industry (Nottingham et al. 2000, Monteiro-Neto et al. 2003, Gasparini et al. 2005, Nottingham et al. 2005A, Feitosa et al. 2015) and despite the paucity of updated information about the exploitation of marine fish, the most recent official data available indicate that (Linnaeus, 1758), Holacanthus tricolor (Bloch, 1795), Pomacanthus paru (Bloch, 1787), Pomacanthus arcuatus (Linnaeus, 1758) and Centropyge aurantonotus Burgess, 1974, are still the most targeted species (Ibama 2008a). Another fact that corroborates this statement is the growing demand for pomacanthids in the international market throughout the years, which lead the Brazilian authorities to attribute differentiated exportation quotas to them - substantially higher than the ones given to the other species by means of the IN Ibama 202/08. Additionally, the illegal exploitation of rare specimens from isolated populations of H. ciliaris (e.g. wholly yellow, blue or white morphs and other unique color variants, endemic to SPSPA) (Feitoza et al. 2003, Luiz-Júnior 2003,), whose individual prices in the Japanese market can achieve up to US$8.900,00, can decrease the genetic diversity (Gasparini et al. 2005) or even put these oddities in risk of extinction by means of an Anthropogenic Allee Effect (Courchamp et al. 2006).

None of the cartilaginous fish identified could be exploited according to IN Ibama 202/08, but such restriction is not entirely complied by the Brazilian aquarium industry. The clandestine harvest of these species is especially serious due to the fact that some sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum (Bonnaterre, 1788), Zapteryx brevirostris (Müller & Henle, 1841) and rays (Rhinobatus horkelii Müller & Henle, 1841, Rhinobatus lentiginosus Garman, 1880, Dasyatis centroura (Mitchill, 1815) and Dasyatis colarensis Santos, Gomes & Charvet-Almeida, 2004) are listed in decree MMA 445/14. Illegal collections of G. cirratum and rhinobatids for the ornamental trade are not uncommon (Monteiro-Neto et al. 2003, Gasparini et al. 2005, Mohr et al. 2009). On the other hand, the harvest of sawfish for the same purpose seems to be rarer, despite newborn individuals be ordered by the aquarium industry (Charvet-Almeida & Faria, 2008). Regarding the trade of unthreatened sharks and rays, most species are sporadically harvested, with exception of Narcine brasiliensis (Olfers, 1831) and Rhinobatos percellens (Walbaum, 1792), whose captures involve a great number of newborn individuals and possibly are concentrated at a nursery site in Todos os Santos Bay, Bahia state, Northeastern Brazil (Sampaio & Rosa 2005).

Concerning invertebrates, the exploitation of bivalves for marine aquarium purposes seems to be negligible in Brazil, when compared to other organisms. However, in 2005, one of the Brazilian most famous aquarium company requested Ibama's authorization to export these organisms. The company granted the demand for six species (Anadara brasiliana (Lamarck, 1819), Atrina seminuda (Lamarck, 1819), Euvola ziczac (Linnaeus, 1758), Pinna carnea Gmelin, 1791, Pteria colymbus (Roding, 1798) and Trachycardium muricatum (Linnaeus, 1758)) - noting that exports of E. ziczac occurred prior to its inclusion as EN in the Brazilian list of threatened fish and aquatic invertebrate species in 2014-, but despite export of other species were not authorized for different reasons, they are still legally exploitable for the domestic market accorting to Federal Law 9,605/98.

Distinct groups of gastropods are explored by the Brazilian aquarium industry. The prosobranchs Cerithium atratum Born, 1778, Neritina virginea Linnaeus, 1758 and Tegula viridula (Gmelin, 1791) are widely commercialized as aquarium 'clean-up crew' or 'algae cleaners', due to their feeding habit of grazing on unwanted algae. Other prosobranchs are not frequently traded, but Brazilian aquarium dealers requested Ibama to give them authorization to export Cassis tuberosa (Linnaeus, 1758), Charonia variegata (Lamarck, 1816), Conus spp., Cyphoma gibbosum (Linnaeus, 1758), Cyphoma macumba Petuch, 1979, Cypraea brasiliensis Lorenz & Hubert, 1993, Cypraea spurca Linnaeus, 1758 and Turbo canaliculatus Hermann, 1781. The harvest of Macrocypraea zebra (Linnaeus, 1758) and Strombus pugilis Linnaeus, 1758 for marine tanks was mentioned at discussion forums and one of the authors observed a Stramonita brasiliensis Claremont & Reid, 2011 specimen being sold at an aquarium pet shop, in Ceará state, Northeastern Brazil. However, since S. brasiliensis is a predatory sea snail and may feed on other mollusks inside marine tanks, it is possible that the species was mistakenly harvested and unintentionally being sold as a hermit crab carrying a mollusk empty shell.

Concerning opistobranchs, it shall be highlighted not only the maintenance of Elysia subornata (Verrill, 1901) individuals by aquarium hobbyists but also spawnings of the species inside tanks, discribed in discussion forums. In addintion, nudibranchs of the genus Berghia are wanted in marine aquariums to eradicate the undesirable sea anemone Aiptasia sp.

In spite of only two cephalopod species were recorded in the present inventory, it must be considered the possibility of exploitation of a third species, Octopus insularisLeite, Haimovici, Molina & Warnke, 2008 - a recently described species from the O. vulgaris complex that might have been misidentified as the latter, due to their pattern of distribution along the Brazilian coast and other similarities (Leite et al. 2008).

At discussion forums, unidentified chitons (Polyplacophora) were also mentioned as being kept in marine aquariums either for controlling excessive growth of algae or for revolving sediments. In many cases, these organisms were reported to be collected incidentally, attached to fouled rocks placed into tanks.

None of the crustaceans recorded here figure in decree MMA 445/14. The hermit crabs Calcinus tibicen (Herbst, 1791) and Clibanarius spp. are widely commercialized as members of the aforementioned 'clean up crew', while Dardanus venosus (H. Milne Edwards, 1848) is wanted for aesthetic reasons, since the species often has a sea anemone attached to its shell. Other uncommon hermit crabs are wanted by marine tank owners because of their unique size and beauty, e.g. the giant hermit crab Petrochirus diogenes (Linnaeus, 1758) and the red-strip hermit crab Phimochirus holthuisi (Provenzano, 1961), respectively.

Concerning other crabs, while Platypodiella spectabilis (Herbst, 1794) and Stenorhynchus seticornis (Herbst, 1788) are traded mainly for their color pattern and unique features, respectively - in spite of the latter also act as a cleaner of reef fish (Medeiros et al. 2011), the algae-eating crabs Mithrax spp. and Mithraculus forceps (Milne-Edwards, 1875) (Olivotto et al. 2011), are desired to control the growth of unwanted bubble algae Valonia spp. inside tanks. It was recorded a probable taxonomic mistake in the identification of the decorator crab mentioned at discussion forums and sold online through pet shop websites. The species is mentioned as 'gorgonian spider-crab' or simply as 'gorgonian spider', under the scientific names Xenocarcinus sp. or Macropodia longirostris (Fabricius, 1775). However, as both genuses are not reported for Brazil (L. E. A. Bezerra pers. comm.) and the crab advertised is very cheap and, so, presumably not imported, it is more likely to be another majiid crustacean, the Brazilian decorator crab Acanthonyx sp.

Besides their beauty, shrimps Stenopus hispidus (Olivier, 1811) and Lysmata grabhami (Gordon, 1935) are known for removing ectoparasites from reef fish, while Lysmata wurdemanni (Gibbes, 1850) and Lysmata rathbunae Chace, 1970 are wanted to control population of Aiptasia sp. inside tanks. Gasparini et al (2005) also reported the trade of the gold coral banded shrimp, Stenopus scutellatus Rankin, 1898, but the occurrence of the species was not mentioned at any other source of information investigated here. The other shrimps Cinetorhynchus rigens (Gordon, 1936), Thor aff. amboinensis, Periclimenes aff. yucatanicus and Periclimenes aff. pedersoni are unusually sold in Brazilian market, despite their conspicuous body shape, color pattern, and behavioral characteristics, including the known cleaning activities of the latter (Floeter et al. 2007). The snapping shrimp Alphaeus sp., also infrequently traded, is kept specially to control flatworm populations inside marine tanks. Since there are 29 species of the genus Alphaeus in Brazil, including A. rudolphi spec. nov. - a new snapping shrimp of the Alpheus armatus species complex (Almeida & Anker 2011), - it was not possible to determine whether one or more species of the genus is traded.

Despite unattractive featured for ornamental purposes, the potential exploitation of the barnacles Lepas anatifera Linnaeus, 1758 and Lepas anserifera Linnaeus, 1767, and the lobsters Gnathophyllum americanum Guérin-Méneville, 1855, Parribacus antarcticus (Lund, 1793) and Scyllarides aequinoctialis (Lund, 1793) was also recorded, since authorization from Ibama to export these organisms alive was also requested. The dwarf reef lobster, Enoplometopus antillensis Lütken, 1865, also had its request of authorization for exportation denied by Ibama, but, differently from the other lobsters, this species is attractive to aquarium hobbyists at discussion forums due to its bright color and small size and, so, is still traded inside the country.

The recorded cnidarians belonged to distinct subgroups (sea anemones, octocorals, fire corals, besides other hard and soft corals) and among this wide variety of organisms, only three species are considered threatened in Brazil: Condylactis gigantea Weinland, 1860 (EN), Mussismilia braziliensis (Verrill 1868) (VU) and Mussismilia harttii (Verrill, 1868) (EN). Special attention shall be given to the illegal exploitation of C. gigantea, due to its intensive harvest by the ornamental industry in southeastern Brazil and its local extinction at Arraial do Cabo region, Rio de Janeiro state (Gasparini et al. 2005). Through discussion forums it was observed the illegal trade of sea whips, usually called 'monkey-tail gorgonian' and 'fox-tail gorgonian'. Despite forum members refer to them as members of the family Plexauridae, not only the precise identification of these two gorgonians is impossible based exclusively on common names, but also it is unknown whether or not they are recorded here, since this inventory mentions the plexaurid species Plexaurella grandiflora Verrill, 1912 and Plexaurella regia Barreira & Castro, 1986.

The echinoderms listed were clearly dominated by sea stars, demonstrating the importance of a wide variety of species to the Brazilian aquarium trade. It is worth notice that some echinoderm species are threatened with extinction in Brazilian waters and authorities should give special attention to ban the harvest of two species: Linckia guildingii Gray, 1840, which have been traded illicitly through the Brazilian postal service (Gurjão et al. 2017) and Eucidaris tribuloides (Lamarck, 1816), which is constantly mentioned at discussion forums as being used in marine aquariums. Although sea cucumbers are not listed in the tables presented here, because it was not possible to identify the species traded, it was recorded the illegal selling of holothurians at discussion forums, under the common names 'giant sea cucumber', 'detritivorous sea cucumber' and 'burrowing sea cucumber'.

Differently from the other polychaetes identified here (Spirobranchus spp. and Eurythoe complanata (Pallas, 1766)), desired because of their beauty, Diopatra cuprea (Bosc, 1802) (categorized as VU in the Brazilian official list of threatened species) is indirectly used for ornamental purposes, as a source of food for some marine fish species (Steiner & Amaral, 2008). In addition, exploitation of other unreported native polychaetes is likely to happen in Brazil, since the country supplies the UK ornamental market with such worms (Murray et al. 2012).

Tunicates were also recorded among organisms used in marine aquariums in Brazil. While Botrylloides nigrum Herdman, 1886, Styela plicata Lesuer, 1823 and possibly one unidentified didemnid seems to be unintentionally harvested adhered to live rocks taken from the wild and set into marine tanks, other species sold as 'black ascidian' and 'red ascidian' are deliberately traded by discussion forum members. As there was no photo of the black ascidian advertised, species could not be surely identified. However, due to its wide distribution throughout tropical waters, including Brazilian coast (Lotufo 2002), the possibility of the latter be the solitary Phallusia nigra Savigny, 1816 cannot be disregarded. Concerning the red ascidian, photos resembled Polycarpa insulsa (Sluiter, 1898). Although uncommon, previous studies had already recorded the presence of tunicates, as well as sponges, on other marine ornamental foreign markets (Wabnitz et al. 2003, Murray & Watson 2014).

The four sponge species identified here, Aplysina fulva (Pallas, 1766), Axinyssa sp., Dragmacidon reticulatum (Ridley & Dendy, 1886) and Tethya sp. are usually called 'yellow sponge', 'finger', 'red ball' and 'yellow ball', respectively (Sampaio et al. 2004). Discussion forums showed that sponges known as 'red ball' and 'yellow ball' are traded through the internet, however it was not possible to assure the species' identity based exclusively on common names. Additionally, the exploitation of a subespheric morphotype of D. reticulatum, called 'sponge-ball' and previously cited as Pseudaxinella reticulata (Ridley & Dendy, 1886), by the Brazilian aquarium industry have already been reported (Hajdu et al. 2011).

In Brazil, aquarium trade of seaweeds is extremely rare, since traditionally the co-habitation of corals and macroalgae is not wanted because seaweeds are avid competitors inside tanks, limiting coral growth. In most cases, macroalgae, e.g. Chaetomorpha spp., are kept solely in the aquarium's sump, aiming nitrogen and phosphorus removal. However, a few tank owners share their experience at discussion forums, keeping 'marine planted aquariums' rather than coral reef systems and, thus, seaweeds had been used associated to the sea grasses, e.g. Halophila decipiens Ostenfeld and Halodule sp. Due to the low relevance of 'marine planted aquariums' compared to 'mini reef systems' little attention has been paid to the exploitation of those resources, with exception of Ibama (2008a), which briefly mentioned the usage of macrophytes and Lithothamnium spp. in Brazilian aquarium trade.

The wide variety of native species inventoried in the present work demonstrates that Brazil is following the global trend of keeping diversified marine life in aquaria, which have caused increasing concern about the sustainability of reef ecosystems' exploitation (Wabnitz et al. 2003, LeGore et al. 2005, Calado 2006, LeGore et al 2008, Smith et al. 2010, Murray et al. 2012, Reynoso et al. 2012, Rhyne et al. 2012b).

The indiscriminate removal of pomacanthids (a true 'keystone guild') from reef ecosystems, for instance, might have serious negative reflexes (e.g. excessive sponge growth and less juveniles serving as 'cleaners') on community structure and these impacts caused to the reef might be greater than their abundance suggest (Gasparini et al. 2005). Similarly to other fish kept in aquaria, such as surgeonfish (mainly living plant consumers) and parrotfish (primarily detrital aggregates feeders), angelfish perform vital ecological roles in coral reef trophodynamics (e.g. controlling sponge and tunicate densities) (Hourigan et al. 1989, Hill 1998, Sazima et al. 1999, Andréa et al. 2007, Konow & Bellwood 2011, Batista et al. 2012, Reis et al. 2012) and, thus, their overexploitation and inter-specific relationships had also being object of concern (Hill 1998, Comeros-Raynal et al. 2012). Nevertherless, the potential impact of fisheries targeting aquarium reef fish in Brazil is difficult to be evaluated, because little is known about the distribution of this type of fishing effort throughout the country and the actual level of threat to reef fish is hard to be assessed (Floeter et al. 2006).

Invertebrate grazers are also being collected at an increasingly rapid pace, mostly to control algal growth in home aquaria, but, as they play a corresponding role in the wild, their removal may strongly impact their native reefs (Rhyne et al. 2009). On healthy reefs, for instance, both the establishment and the survival of corals depend on high rates of herbivory to suppress macroalgae and reduce competition with cnidarians (Bonaldo & Hay, 2014).

Another interspecific association, the cleaning activity, may be negatively affected by continuous harvesting of fish and shrimps, intensified by the high turnover in ornamental trade, since specialized cleaners generally have a short life in aquariums due to their distinctive feeding habits (Gasparini et al. 2005). Hence, since the influence of the species abundance on cleaning interactions is modulated by the trophic habits and social behavior of the interacting species, the removal of a single cleaner species from a reef will deeply affect the ecosystem functioning, as there seems to be little redundancy on this role when pairs of species are concerned (Floeter et al. 2007).

Not only Brazilian coral reefs but also estuaries (Nottingham et al., 2005b) and sponge reefs (Rocha et al., 2000; Andréa et al., 2007) may be affected by uncontrolled ornamental fisheries. Additionally, large endangered vertebrates can also be harmed by indiscriminate collection of invertebrates and depletion of banks of either macroalgae or macrophytes, e.g. marine turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata (Linnaeus, 1766) and Chelonia mydas (Linnaeus, 1758)), that feed on a wide variety of invertebrates or graze the substratum (Stampar et al., 2007; Goatley et al., 2012), and the Brazilian marine manatee, Trichechus manatus Linnaeus, 1758, whose diet is composed of seaweed and sea grass species identified here (Borges et al., 2008).

Hence, in the face of such concerning scenario, marine aquarium consumers have an important role requiring species from regulated fisheries and shipped in accordance with well-established guidelines (eco-labeled products) and Brazilian authorities must seek environment friendly measures (e.g. implementation of eco-fees to support research on marine ornamental fisheries and mariculture (Leal et al. 2015)).

Aquaculture initiatives must be incentivated, since they might considerably reduce collecting pressure over populations of targeted species (Calado et al. 2003, Pomeroy et al. 2006, Olivotto et al. 2011, Murray & Watson 2014), specially because almost the totality of the native marine aquarium organisms exploited in Brazil are wild-caught and captive breeding of native marine ornamentals is restricted to a few species (e.g. Elacatinus figaro and Hippocampus reidi) (Meirelles 2008, Hora & Joyeux 2009, Ibama 2009, Côrtes & Tsuzuki 2010). However, captive breeding shall not entirely substitute wild-caught species, because many people depend on the harvesting of aquarium species to survive (Rhyne et al. 2014).

Another way of preventing or reducing overexploitation, would be through ecosystem-based management initiatives (Tissot et al. 2010, Rhyne et al. 2014), as the creation of new marine reserves and the adequate management of the existing ones, in order to promote recovery of stocks of heavily exploited species by the aquarium trade (Friedlander 2001, Tissot et al. 2004, Tissot et al. 2009, Stevenson & Tissot 2013). Such initiatives, instead of preserving a particular species, aim not only the protection of the whole ecosystem but also assure the continuity of inter and intra-specific associations, including the safety of important spawning aggregation sites that are crucial for the survival of some aquarium traded species (Friedlander 2001, Gerhardinger et al. 2009, Comeros-Raynal et al. 2012, Feitosa et al. 2015).

In addition, IBAMA must intensity inspections driven to aquarium trade; IN Ibama 202/08 and decree MMA 445/14 must be reviewed by specialists to identify prohibited species; and educational campaigns explaining the dangers of overexploitation of marine life, involving aquarium stores, importers, wholesalers, retailers and aquarium hobbyists should be carried out.


The authors thank L. E. A. Bezerra (Labomar/UFC) for information regarding hermit and majiid crabs, two anonimous referees for valuable criticisms and the financial support received from PROAP/CAPES-PPGCMT/LABOMAR-UFC to cover publishing costs.


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Received: May 25, 2017; Revised: April 20, 2018; Accepted: May 03, 2018

*Corresponding author: Lívio Moreira de Gurjão, e-mail:

Autor Contributions

Lívio Moreira de Gurjão: conceived the work, obtained and analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript;

Tito Monteiro da Cruz Lotufo: contributed to analysis and interpretation and also wrote the manuscript.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest related to the publication of this manuscript.

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