Aquaculture is the practice of farming freshwater and marine animals and plants in a contained body of water, like ponds, cages, tanks, and other water environments, under controlled conditions. It is in contrast to commercial fishing, the practice of catching and selling aquatic organisms from the wild.
Fish farming has been around for thousands of years. In Egypt, pictorial engravings on an ancient Egyptian tomb show tilapia being fished out from an artificial pond, proof that fish farming had begun as early as 2500 BC. In China, carp culture in ponds was widespread in 2000 BC. The Chinese introduced their knowledge to Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia and other countries they immigrated to.
Aquaculture serves many purposes, including but not limited to the following:
Aquaculture for saltwater aquariums
With a rise in demand for tropical fish, more marine fish are exported to the United States and around the world for aquarists every year. While this supports a fun and relaxing hobby, capturing fish in their natural habitat can cause adverse effects on marine ecosystems.
Buying wild fish may encourage overfishing, use of destructive fishing practices, and loss of biodiversity.
Given these serious issues, here are the top four reasons why buying captive-bred marine fish is a win-win situation for everyone and everything involved in the trade:
- Sustainability – Captive breeding helps eliminate the stress on wild fish populations and natural reefs. While some fish are caught from the wild using sustainable methods, cyanide fishing is still common in certain parts of the world. The chemicals used in this practice are highly destructive to fish and reefs alike.
- Fish health – Cultured fish are less likely to be exposed to parasites that infect wild specimens. Aquaculture technicians take all necessary means to keep them free from diseases. This increases the likelihood they’ll arrive in an aquarium in a healthy condition.
- Accustomed to captivity – Captive-bred fish do not need to adapt to life in an aquarium; they grew up in one! This makes them easier to feed and friendlier to other tank mates. You’ll observe less aggressive behavior as they don’t have to fight for survival, deal with predators, or compete with other species for territories.
- Hardiness – Wild-caught fish have to endure an awful lot of stress from the moment they are seized from a reef to the time they reach the pet shop. This may contribute to a lower survival rate in the tank. Captive-bred fish don’t experience this trauma, and therefore will possibly live longer in an aquarium.
Biota Aquariums is proud to say all our fish have been raised according to sustainable practices. Our Biota Marine Life Nursery in Palau supplies the Rainford’s Goby which comes as part of the Biota Aquarium package.
Biota’s founder, Tom Bowling, witnessed unnecessary deaths of fish while he worked in the marine aquarium trade in his teens. This motivated him to pursue his interest in culturing fish after studying marine biology. Biota Palau’s marine nursery has supplied cultured fish to many different home and public aquariums, including Georgia Aquarium, in Atlanta, Georgia.
The breeding process
Reproduction process varies according to the type of fish being reared. It usually starts with selecting healthy and compatible fish and placing them together into a spawning tank. Courting happens, and, eventually, the female lays hundreds or thousands of eggs in varying ways.
Some fish are broadcast spawners, which means they lay high numbers and release them into the water column where they rely on chance to survive the plankton drift. Others lay eggs in crevices and take care of them. They focus energy on parental care rather than high numbers. Some fish, like seahorses and pipefish, actually carry their eggs with them until hatching.
Newly-hatched fish are called larvae and grow into juveniles. Once they’ve reached the juvenile stage, they are moved to another tank where they are kept and prepared for transport to retail stores.
Biota Aquariums is privileged to be able to collect eggs from natural mass spawning events in Palau, thanks to special research-based permission from Palau’s national government. During new and full moon, thousands of fish of certain fish species gather and release eggs and sperms into the water.
During these periods, Biota aquaculturists catch fertilized eggs from the water with a fine mesh net and transfer them to a hatchery for rearing. This is a sustainable way of getting eggs because 99 percent of spawned fish eggs end up as food. Divers from Biota Palau regularly dive on different spawning aggregations depending on the lunar cycle. Species include parrotfish, wrasses and snappers.
Considering the facility and highly technical skills required to raise fish, it is easy to understand why cultured specimen can be slightly more expensive than the adults that are simply caught from a reef.
The additional cost you pay, however, supports reef protection and sustainability of the aquarium hobby.
Biota Aquariums recommends purchasing only captive-bred fish from local stores unless you can be assured that the fish has been sustainably harvested from the wild. There may be limited number of species available, but upholding this practice makes you a conscientious aquarist and helps ensure the future health of our oceans.