Ornamental aquaculture is an important business line with its own size apart from the aquaculture consumed as food, and especially marine ornamental fish farming has a volume of approx. 5 billion in the aquaculture sector. In the business of growing aquatic plants, there is much more opportunity than you might think.

Ornamental aquaculture is a very important business line that does not attract much attention in the aquaculture sector, where we generally focus on feeding people and meeting their protein needs. This is an area that covers the cultivation of aquarium fish, aquatic plants, corals and mollusks and has been progressing quietly for about 70 years, with little influence from environmental conditions.

This is at least as important as the breeding of marine fish, and about 1000 freshwater fish are considered as commercial goods to be fed in aquariums. It would not be wrong to say that, 90% of these fish come from aquaculture.

When we look at the production sources of these fish, we see that China, Singapore, Indonesia and India, which are Far East countries (according to geological location of Europe), take the lead, just like shrimp, which we can consider as a consumable aquatic product. However, due to its geographical location, aquarium fish are supplied to the whole world through hunting and aquaculture from Africa and South America (specially exotic species likes Piranha).

The ornamental aquaculture market on farms is also growing with new “tissue culture” products. In addition to certain freshwater species, the industry produces fish with many different specialties.

Marine ornamental fish farming encompasses about 100 different species produced on relatively few farms relative to freshwater species. There are over 1,800 wild species caught from places like Indonesia and some Pacific island nations such as the Philippines, Fiji, and Vanuatu.While this number is followed by approximately 150 species of corals that are cultivated far from the ocean, the number of wild-caught mollusks, whose care in aquariums is becoming more and more popular, is 720, but very few are cultured and produced under controlled conditions.

Although the main market for ornamental fish or other plants, corals or mollusks in the aquarium is still Europe and USA, Brazil, China and India are among the developing regions of the market.

Ornamental aquaculture is an exciting and rewarding venture in itself. The management of the ponds, fish biology, reproduction and breeding techniques require a working understanding that requires expertise. Especially the facilities where freshwater ornamental fish are grown can be operated more easily as they can be operated with less than the technical and technological requirements of facilities working with sea water such as clown fish and coral. However, Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS), which is seen as a very popular and preferable option in consumption aquaculture in different parts of the world, has also started to be adopted for aquarium fish.

It begins at hatchery and finish at the same place

When we think of consumable aquaculture, the facilities we are dealing with are usually hatchery, raising, rearing, cages/ponds and processing departments, unless the producer's policy differs from managing all processes in-house. In ornamental aquaculture, the whole process starts and ends in the hatchery where the eggs of the fish are hatched. This qualification means that ornamental aquaculture is characterized by less capital and operating expenses, and there is less risk of large-scale financial loss.

Compared to consumption fish farming, the cost of feed used for ornamental fish farming is also less. Many fish we see in our aquariums can be easily sold, reaching 2 - 5 cm in size in an average of 6 months.

Up to 10 times more earnings compared to freshwater ornamental fish species

When compared with the cultivation of ornamental freshwater fish, the cultivation of marine ornamental fish is a farming area that requires higher capital and has high operating costs. The technical expertise and skill requirements are also high, and therefore the risk potential is higher than in freshwater ornamental fish farming. In light of the factors up to the time the fish are released, the prices of these fish are also higher than for freshwater species, sometimes even up to 10 times.

Getting started in ornamental fish business

If you want to establish a business in ornamental fish farming and work in this field, do not forget to note down the things you need to pay attention to:

Business and technical expertise

  • Do you have experience in running a business?
  • Do you have experience in aquaculture?

Most of the businesses that have worked and failed in this field before fail because they have a focus problem. Some focus on aquaculture, the colorful and relatively interesting part of the business, and forget about the sustainability of the business, while others devote more time to paperwork and put the operation of the facility in the second place.

If you are new and do not have enough experience to understand both of these two fields, definitely work with experts who know the job in both fields and try to train yourself during this time.


Do you have a capital that you can turn yourself into to buy / rent the land for ornamental fish farming, to build the facility, to cover basic expenses and until the first harvest?

  • The lows you experience in production
  • Losses caused by diseases

It is important that you can compensate for price drops in the market.


Just like in consumption aquaculture, you need enough quality water for the area in ornamental fish farming.

  • Have you decided where you want to produce?
  • Are you going to produce in the open or are you planning intensive aquaculture in the aquarium?
  • Is there an industry near where you supply your water?
  • If you are going to grow in open field, how is the climate of the region?
  • You know that ornamental fish are tropical species, how will you cope with adverse climatic conditions?
  • Do you have fast access to the airport for international shipments?


  • Will you do the job of managing the facility yourself, or will you hire someone?
  • Will you have skilled and unskilled workers to operate the plant?


Have you done a research on the types you will produce, the amount of production and to whom you will sell? It seems that COVID19 has paved the way for more people to buy more ornamental fish, but it has also resulted in higher freight and fewer flights.


Almost every branch of aquaculture is prone to natural disasters and human-induced problems. For example, flood, drought, frost, disease, earthquake, pollution; theft, vandalism is one of the main causes of financial loss in a facility. Insurance can be a good help in dealing with these problems, but it's also an important cost to take into account.


One of the good things we can say about ornamental fish farming is that the operation can recover faster than most losses that can be experienced compared to portioned fish farming.

In this article, I have discussed how ornamental fish farming is a useful and even profitable business, despite being an overlooked area of study within aquaculture. It's a good example of what new opportunities aquaculture can offer us when we shift our focus from the general to the specific.