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Where Do Freshwater Aquarium Fish Come From?

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Many aquarium hobbyists prefer to keep freshwater fish instead of saltwater due to less work. However, it is only natural to wonder where your fish have actually come from. 

Freshwater aquarium fish are for the most part, captive-bred. It is estimated that about 95% of freshwater aquarium fish are bred in captivity. On the other hand, 99% of marine fish are caught in the wild. There are fish farms that breed freshwater fish, as well as private breeding facilities.

Read on to learn more about fish farms, breeding in captivity, and more!

Captivity Bred Freshwater Aquarium Fish

Obtaining a freshwater aquarium fish that is bred in captivity is very common.

Being bred in captivity can mean being bred in a fish farm, in a small breeding tank in someone’s home, at a specific breeder’s site, or in a fish store.  

As a matter of fact, some species are actually only available to obtain through captivity breeding.

Whereas some other species of fish are so difficult to breed that they can only be bred in their natural environment. 

Freshwater aquarium with discus fish

The Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association, or the OATA, estimates that about 95 % of freshwater fish are captive-bred.

With that being said,  some people will prefer captive-bred fish because they are easier to care for.

Fish bred in captivity also tend to live longer than wild-caught fish.

They may also prefer captive-bred fish out of concern about the negative effects of removing fish from their natural environment. 

With that being said, if a population is low in the wild it can negatively impact the ecosystem.

To combat this, having a species caught and then bred in captivity will allow the species to repopulate

On the other hand, some people prefer wild-caught fish because they feel as though the fish’s colors are more vibrant.

Some also believe that wild-caught fish create a better gene pool and they will have more luck with breeding wild-caught fish. 

Private Breeding in Homes 

If you plan to start breeding fish to sell in your own home, you will want to check with your town policies regarding the origination and distribution of freshwater fish.

While some states do not require permits for the sale or breeding of freshwater aquarium fish, some states do.

Furthermore, there are typically more regulations on the breeding and sale of saltwater fish than freshwater fish.

If you plan to sell outside of your local area, or internationally, you will need to check federal laws enforced by U.S Customs and Border Protection for the laws on exporting fish.

These laws and regulations can have severe consequences if broken. 

Prior to beginning your breeding journey, it is important to not only research laws and regulations, but it is important to do plenty of research on the breeding process itself. 

Different fish species require different types of care and some may take more time than others. 

Equipment and supplies are needed to start this venture as well and should be thoroughly researched. 

Here’s an article on 11 easy to breed aquarium fish.

Common Breeds of Fish that are Bred in Captivity 

As mentioned, most freshwater aquarium fish are bred in captivity. This means they are bred in breeder tanks in your home, pet stores, or specific breeders.

The following list includes the most common freshwater aquarium fish:

  • Guppies 
  • Black Mollies 
  • Neon Tetras 
  • Betta Fish
  • Goldfish
  • Swordtails

While these are just a few species of freshwater fish, it is important to remember that most freshwater fish you see in stores were bred in aquariums.

Furthermore, if you have any of these species, they do typically breed fast.

You will want to ensure you have a large enough tank if the fish start to breed so you don’t have an overpopulated and unhealthy tank. 

The Origins of Saltwater Fish

Some people prefer to have saltwater fish in their home aquariums because they are typically more colorful than freshwater fish and you can include a wide range of species that you would find in the coral reef. This makes for a beautiful aesthetic. 

Keep in mind that the majority of saltwater fish are caught in the wild and are therefore taken out of their habitat.

Saltwater fish are typically not as hardy or resilient as their freshwater counterparts.

This means they are more sensitive to water changes and may not survive sudden fluctuations in their tank.

Below are a few different species of saltwater fish that are commonly added to aquariums, along with their origins. 

  • Blue Tang- Found in tropical reefs in the pacific ocean. Also found in the Indian Ocean, from east Africa to Micronesia.
  • Firefish- Found in the Indian and Pacific oceans. From the eastern coast of Africa to the Hawaiian islands, and from the Austral islands north to the Ryukyu islands.
  • Clownfish- Found in tropical reefs in the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and Western Pacific ocean. Commonly found in warm shallow waters.
  • Green Chromis- Found in the Tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean, New Guinea, eastern Australia, and east of the Philippines. Found in Coral reef areas and lagoons.
  • Yellow Tang- Commonly found in the northwest and central Pacific Ocean. 
  • Blue Devil Damselfish- Originally found near coral reefs around the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
  • Coral Beauty- Found in tropical marine waters in the Indo-West and Central Pacific Oceans. Very commonly found in the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Royal Gramma- Found in coral reef environments within the tropical western Atlantic Ocean.
  • Mandarinfish- Native to the Pacific Ocean and found from Ryukyu island to Australia.
  • Pajama Cardinalfish- Found in the western Pacific Ocean- From Java to Fiji, Ryukyu islands to the Great Barrier Reef. 

What the Stores Say

Unfortunately, many stores will not give details to their consumers pertaining to where they receieve their fish from. This is why it is important to try and shop as small as you can with specific breeders. 

For example, Petco and Petsmart (popular pet stores including fish) will not give information to their customers and will simply say they received their fish stock from suppliers. However, a small local breeder was able to track where the fish originated from and breed them himself. The quality was also superior. 

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