Tropical and Temperate Ornamental Fish and InvertebratesAlligators | Aquatic Plants | Crustaceans | Food Fish | Miscellaneous Species
Molluscs | Marine Ornamental | Ornamental Fish and Invertebrates
Ornamental fish production started in Miami in the late 1920s. Tropical fish farming rapidly expanded following the return of World War II veterans. They brought home an appreciation for colorful Asian and South American tropical fish and aquatic plants and began experimenting with outdoor ponds in the warm climate of South Florida . These pioneers demonstrated the feasibility of air transport by shipping Florida raised ornamental fish via a war surplus DC-3 on a round-the-world tour during the early 1960s. Today, tropical fish production is concentrated in Hillsborough and Polk Counties with some farms located near Miami to take advantage of the Tampa , Orlando or Miami international airports. Other farms can be found throughout the state, but primarily in the southern half where winter temperatures are favorable.
Ornamental fish for the home aquarium and water garden are Florida 's most valuable aquaculture products accounting for 52% of total aquaculture sales. The 2007 Census of Agriculture reported 203 producers with farm gate sales of $32.1 million. An estimated 600 to 800 species and varieties are produced. Well known aquarium fish include guppies, mollies, swordtails, tetras, gouramies, koi, goldfish, angels, barbs and African cichlids.
While the freshwater ornamental fish industry has grown since the first aquaculture survey in 1987, the current national economic conditions combined with the explosive growth in pet superstores and changing patterns in the spending of disposable income have impacted product distribution and sales. Tropical fish farmers are surviving by modifying production to avoid certain low-valued species, adopting production strategies to reduce cost and intensify production, supporting the national FisHedz.com consumer directed promotional campaign to expand the aquarium hobby, and differentiating their business on a service basis. Standard pond production technologies are being gradually improved and intensified to increase production system control and reduce costs. Farmers are adding greenhouse pond covers for freeze protection during the winter and building recirculation systems to increase stocking rates and avoid predation and weather related losses. Farmers have also tested consumer direct marketing via the Internet and tailored production to fit in with "big box" retail store demand and pricing.
The future for ornamental species production, which requires a warm climate and higher levels of technology than many other forms of aquaculture, is bright in Florida . The University of Florida has strengthened its role through sustained expansion and technological improvements at the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin ( http://tal.ifas.ufl.edu/ ). The Laboratory has demonstrated the culture of higher valued species, spawning technology for new species, on-farm management and aquatic animal health practices. They are also continually testing a variety of production systems to conserve water, increase yields, and reduce on-farm mortality. The Laboratory offers diagnostic and production related services. The level of available expertise at the Laboratory includes a U.S. Department of Agriculture Veterinarian Medical Officer and a non-native fish ecologist.
The freshwater ornamental fish sector is a mature agri-business with a 90-year history of growing fish in Florida . Farmers are focused on maintaining market share and developing new techniques to improve production as well as adding species that are currently imported or entirely new to the hobby. Public assistance is needed to improve profitability and environmental sustainability through activities that include approval of therapeutants to maintain fish health, refinements in water quality management and conservation, new breeding and production methods to create brighter colors and eye-catching finnage, and national promotion to expand the aquarium-keeping hobby.