Aquaria Information from



   With the advent of reef systems and wet/dry filtration systems, many articles focused on the increasing popularity of marine aquariums for hobbyists. Yet the impact of this surge, especially concerning supply, demand, and pricing of the fish and invertebrates, has not been addressed. 

   Marine fish and invertebrate availability is unique in the pet trade in that we are dealing almost exclusively with items taken from their natural environment. For example, at least 75% of fresh water fish are currently bred and farm-raised for the trade. Although some attempts have been made at breeding salt water fish, disappointing results have given the trade less than 1% supplied from this source. This leaves us all at the mercy of what is caught by divers, and what is "running" at different times of the year. Seasonality is also a prime consideration. Baby fish, such as the little Clown Triggers, are only available for a 4 to 6 week period each year. 

   So where do these salt water fish and invertebrates come from? Fish Mart's thirty years as a wholesaler importer has given us the background to approximate the breakdown as follows: 

     Philippines 56%      Indo-Pacific 15% 

     Hawaii 15%            Africa 2% 

     Caribbean 12% T

   The majority is still coming from the Philippines. Why is this unfortunate? Fish from this area share the highest loss rate. There are a number of reasons; the most widely publicized is the cyanide problem. Although some progress has been made, there is no way anyone except the diver knows for sure which fish are immobilized and caught with the aid of cyanide. 

   Equally problematic is the decimation of the coral reefs. Years ago, dynamite was used to drive the fish out of the coral, stunning them for easy capture. Today, the reefs are being destroyed worldwide, primarily by the human population explosion. This causes deforestation, and the resulting silt runoff is literally smothering the reefs along the shore. In turn, this forces fisherman to go out farther, sometimes remaining out for days. The fish they do obtain are kept for longer periods of time on board in containers without filtration or any temperature or water quality controls, not to mention lack of food. The divers return to a market area where they sell their catch to exporters. 

   Although many exporters have modern facilities, much of the damage has already been done, and the fish are not kept long enough nor fed enough here to recover before being prepared for shipping. 

   By the time any international marine fish reach a wholesaler, the PH is lowered, and there is usually toxic ammonia. Naturally, the longer the transit time, the more conditions in the container have deteriorated, including the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide. Therefore, salt water items from the Philippines, the Indo-Pacific region and Africa suffer the most stress and have the highest mortality rates. At Fish Mart, our sophisticated computerized inventory tracking has proven this conclusively. 

   The reason the majority of fish come from the Philippines is twofold. First, the types indigenous to the area are the most popular; nearly all Damsels and Clownfish, Centropyge Angels, Lionfish, Cleaner Wrasses, and lots of Gobies, for example, are from the Philippines. Second, while most of these fish are also available from the Indo-Pacific region as well, fish and freight prices are higher, accounting for the lack of demand. Unfortunately, quality has taken a back seat to price - an issue perpetuated by all who deal with marine livestock. 

   Environmental concerns worldwide will continue to impact availability. Corals are now obtainable only from the Indo-Pacific area, and are getting more difficult to import due to justifiably stricter licensing and regulation. The Hawaiian government has adopted the healthiest and most responsible attitude to date, looking upon its tropical fish industry as a natural, renewable resource. This area also seems to be the most sensitive to supply and demand affecting price. The Caribbean trade from Florida has undergone changes bringing them pretty much in line with Hawaii. 

   With demand being higher and availability tighter, with information systems being upgraded for accurate inventory control, and with raised of consciousness regarding the environment and life in general, look for a gradual raising of prices in the saltwater business. On the one hand, it's surprising it hasn't happened sooner... look at the oil industry! On the other hand, look at fresh water prices... most have changed only five to ten percent in fifteen years. But that's another story.


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