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The Florida Tropical Ornamental Aquaculture Industry

Aponogeton ulvaceousFlorida is home to an estimated 95% of U.S. production of aquarium fish due to its climate, geology, and presence of international shipping hubs.  Production is spread throughout the state, with 38 of Florida's 67 counties having ornamental fish farms.  The heaviest concentration of farms is in the southern half, particularly near the Tampa Bay region.  Hillsborough County is home to 89 certified ornamental fish farms while neighboring Polk County is home to 28.  Miami-Dade County also has significant production on 13 farms. 

Nimbochromis fuscotaeniatusCurrently over 800 varieties of freshwater fish, 200 varieties of freshwater plants, and a growing number of marine fish, invertebrates, and live rock are cultured on over 200 certified farms.  While some farms specialize in one or a few fish groups, many produce a large variety of aquatic livestock.  At the 2003 farm-gate value of $47.2 million for tropical fish and $20.4 million for aquatic plants (FASS 2004), ornamentals represent one of the largest segments of U.S. aquaculture.  Support industries, wholesalers, retail pet stores, and aquarium product manufacturing further increase the economic impact of this industry.

Albino African Clawed FrogIn much of Florida, ornamental fish are commonly cultured in earthen ponds.  However, in Miami-Dade County, farmers typically use above-ground tanks and small ponds dug into the coral rock bed.  Increasingly, farmers throughout the state are turning toward more intensive recirculating culture system technology to maximize production and reduce losses and water usage. 

Corydoras adolfoiSome of the more common families of freshwater tropical ornamental fishes cultured in Florida include the minnows (barbs, freshwater sharks, danios, rasboras, and others), tetras and other characins, corydoras (armored) catfish, plecostomus (suckermouth armored catfish), rainbowfishes, livebearers (swordtails, mollies, platies, guppies), cichlids (angelfish, discus, oscars, haps, jewel cichlids, mbuna, Tanganyikans, and others), and labyrinth fish (gouramis, paradisefish).

Variation is great within and among the groups of fish produced with regard to acceptable water quality parameters, feeding and nutrition, and mode of reproduction.  Due to this variation, culture practices for groups are different, requiring specialized knowledge and equipment to succeed.

For more information on Florida ornamental fish aquaculture and the species cultured, see Freshwater Ornamental Fish Commonly Cultured in Florida (UF Circular FA-54).


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Last updated October 02, 2012.
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