Aquarium fish breeding worth $41.3 million

The University of Florida has revealed the annual value of tropical fish aquaculture in the US was over $40 million in 2018.  They are well placed for the study as Florida is both the biggest fish breeder and the biggest seller of ornamental fish in America, with sales of those farmed fish generating $28.7 million alone. 

Marine fish sales totaled $8.9 million but only 10% of all the fish bred in captivity are saltwater, despite demand for them growing and an expanding marine hobby. So the UF/IFAS Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory (TAL), wants to change that.  

“TAL is changing industry trends through applied research and extension activities dedicated to identifying desirable species and creating production protocols for them,” said Eric Cassiano, a UF/IFAS assistant Extension scientist at TAL, in Ruskin, Florida.

“It seems to be a matter of preference. I think an increased appreciation of the ocean, particularly in the past two decades, has led to an increase in demand for saltwater fish.”

“More people are becoming aware of the wonderful array of fish available and that has piqued interest. Traditionally, the entry-level aquarist would begin with a freshwater tank, but that is changing as the hobby equipment becomes more efficient and, again, desire on the part of the consumer to have saltwater critters.”

Matt DiMaggio is a UF/IFAS assistant professor of fisheries and aquatic sciences at TAL. “Scientists are spending more time researching saltwater fish. That might be one reason their availability has risen recently.”

DiMaggio, Cassiano, and Liz Groover — who graduated in 2018 with a master’s degree in fisheries and aquatics sciences published the UF/IFAS Extension paper. It focuses on the most-commonly cultured marine ornamental fish including Dottybacks, Gobies, Blennies, Seahorses and tangs. It was researchers at TAL who worked with other scientists to breed the first Pacific Blue Tang.

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“We want to inform people about the benefits of aquariums as a hobby and as a teaching tool for children,” DiMaggio said. “We also want people to purchase more fish grown in Florida. That way, they would be supporting local agriculture.”

To read the full overview the UK/IFAS extension document is available here.