BY DAVID A. LASS
Having kept fish since the 1960s and having made my living with them for the past
20 years or so, I’ve seen trends in
aquatic livestock come and go.
Here are five current hobby trends.
1Nano fish. The introduction and popularity of nano tanks has been a game changer for the tropical fish hobby and
industry. The varied designs
available and the fact that they
usually are sold as a packaged
unit with a filter and lighting (but
no heater) have opened up the
wonderful world of fishkeeping
to anyone with a small space for
a little tank.
Along with the variety of nano
tanks have come new small fish
and shrimp to keep in them. All
of those mentioned below reach
1 to 1.5 inches at maturity.
My favorite “nano fish” is
Danio margaritatus, which has had
many common names since its
introduction more than 10 years
ago. This celestial pearl danio
was key to the profusion of nano
Another excellent small fish
is the Badis badis, which really
has no common name. Until the
emergence of nano tanks, B.badis
was an unsuccessful fish. Now
they are quite popular and available in many different morphs. I
have seen tiny dwarf puffers; better to call them “micro” puffers,
as they are less than a half-inch
The threadfin rainbow, Iria-
therina werneri, is another great
fish for nano tanks. Sometimes
difficult to find, they are not very
colorful until they mature. How-
ever, an adult male threadfin
rainbow is a sight to behold as he
spreads his fins to entice a female
to slip away into the Cabomba
Another group of excellent
small fish for nano tanks is the genus Boraras. The best-known fish
from this group is B.brigittae, often called the chili rasbora or the
mosquito rasbora. Because these
gorgeous little fish are not cheap,
and importers and wholesalers
must buy fish in box lots, a box of
chili rasboras might be at least 300
fish, which is a lot more than most
importers want to invest in such
a small fish that probably will not
be a big seller.
2Nano shrimp. Most “ornamen- tal shrimp” come from the genus Caridina or Neo- caridina, although all of
the varieties in the hobby come
from commercial breeding and
bear little semblance to the wild
shrimp. The most popular and
affordable ornamental shrimp
are cherry shrimps. They come in
different “grades” depending on
the quality of the red, and the in-
expensive ones are beautiful and
fine for most hobbyists.
3Livebearers. The most popu- lar livebearers are guppies, platies, s wordtails and mollies. Guppies and mollies can be problematic, because
many have been raised in water
conditions of high pH, high hardness and lots of salt. Platies and
swordtails seem to adjust better
to the average aquarium conditions of neutral pH and hardness.
They come in every color and
pattern imaginable: In addition
to solid colors, there are speckled, wagtail and barred patterns
on most livebearers.
Most swordtails and platies
offer different finnage ranging
from small extensions on the dorsal and ventral fins and the tail to
fins that are so heavy that the fish
has a difficult time swimming.
Fish with a moderate amount of
extension/veiling on the dorsal
fin, ventral fin and tail are quite
attractive; this is especially the
case when a male high fin/veiltail
swordtail is courting a female. A
male fish with moderate veiling is
a truly spectacular sight when he
postures in front of a female and
extends his fins fully. At times,
however, the fin extensions can
make it difficult for a male to successfully mate.
4Quality Marine, a provider of fish, invertebrates and aquarium products in Los Angeles, re- ported seeing exponential
growth of its freshwater brand,
“There is also a rising amount
of interest in plants on the fresh-
water side of aquatics,” said Mi-
chael Crespo, director of sales,
marketing and operations for
Quality Marine. “We stock and
sell Tropica brand plants for our
partner stores, and these plants
have been amazing. Planted
tanks are the new reef tanks.”
5On the marine side of the aquat- ic hobby, a significant trend is increasing the variety of fish and inverts being
aquacultured commercially so
they no longer must be taken
from the wild.
“We have been experiencing
dramatic growth in our aqua-
cultured livestock on the ma-
rine side, which is a trend that
seems to be more of a move-
ment at this point,” Crespo said.
“This upward trend is years old
at this point, but it continues to
Clownfish and blennies come
in all varieties, and it’s no lon-
ger necessary to bring any into
the hobby from the wild. In fact,
“designer clownfish” (those selec-
tively produced) run the gamut
from almost pure white to sport-
ing extra bands and spots.
Banggai and other varieties of
cardinalfish are available in good
supply, as are a wide variety of
gobies, dottybacks and seahorses.
The Holy Grail of commercially producing tangs, angelfish and triggers still eludes us,
as aquacultured yellow tangs
appear to have been a one-off
“The increased demand for
aquacultured aquatic livestock at
wholesale level is a direct consequence of increased demand for
it at the retail level,” Crespo said.
There’s no question that attractive displays with quality
livestock boost sales in aquatics.
“Nothing can put off a poten-
tial customer faster than a sick or
skinny specimen,” Crespo said.
“That being said, the next most
important aspects of a successful
shop are clean holding tanks and
It might sound simple, but ex-
perience shows this can be chal-
lenging to maintain.
“Tanks take constant water
drips and fingerprints, and much
of that water ends up on the
floor,” Crespo said. “Not only
does this look bad, but it could
actually be dangerous. Small
things make a large difference
to the aquatics customer, and
for the shop that goes the extra
mile, they generally win the extra
From nanos to cardinalfish, sales of marine
and freshwater fish keep riding the current.
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