Ornamental Fish (Aquarium) Business

Have you ever come across the names, flowerhorn, koi or betta splendens? Well, these are all aquarium fishes raised by enthusiasts as pets or ornamentals. You could usually find them in pet shops and malls side by side with exotic birds, cats and dogs.

Like the expensive arowanas, flowerhorns command one of the highest price and a nice one with beautiful Chinese markings and good colors could easily fetch P20,000.

Despite the country’s advantages, the Philippines has only around 3.8 percent of the total export market supplied by Asian countries and most of these ornamental fishes are marine species that are caught in the wild, Sarmiento said. The growing of ornamental fishes in the country’s lakes and other bodies of inland waters will be a big boost to the industry as 90 percent of the fish traded in the world market are freshwater species, he said.

Another advantage in raising ornamental fish is that it commands much higher prices than food fishes–typically at $1.8 million a ton. In contrast, the average freight on board value of food fishes exported by the country amounted to $2,700 a metric ton in 2004.

The raising of ornamental fish such as goldfish, koi, angelfish, fighting fish and similar species is easy and cheap as the fish could be reared even in one’s own backyard.

Marissa M. Mutia, chief of the BFAR’s National Fisheries Biological Center in Butong, estimated that pond culture of guppy in a 1000 sq. m. area using 4,000 breeders would enable the farmer to net some P298,000 a year. With annual fixed and operational costs estimated at P115,700 and P102,000, respectively, the payback period is 4.2 months. The country is expected to supply at least 20 percent of the world demand for freshwater aquarium fish and generate livelihood opportunities to at least 35,000 fisherfolk.


There are quite a large number of tropical aquarium fishes known to aquarists. While many of the fish are easy to breed, some of these are rare, difficult to breed and expensive. Most of the exotic species can be bred and reared easily since the technology is simple and well developed.

It is advisable to start with common, attractive, easily bred and less expensive species before attempting the more challenging ones. An ornamental fish project can be either

  1. rearing only
  2. breeding only
  3. breeding and rearing depending upon the space available.

The technology involves the following activities

Culture/rearing : The culture/rearing of these fishes can be taken up normally in cement tanks. Cement tanks are easy to maintain and durable. One species can be stocked in one tank. However in case of compatible species two or three species can occupy the same tank. Ground water from dug wells / deep tube wells are the best for rearing. The fishes reach the marketable size in around 4 to 6 months. Eight to ten crops can be taken in a year.

For commercial production, a 1,000-meter area with a good source of water, is needed to breed several kinds of ornamental fish. In the area, 10 earthen ponds or concrete tanks measuring 4 to 2 meters with a minimum depth of half meter are constructed.

Whether to use earthen ponds or concrete tanks depends on the water holding capacity of the soil. Earthen ponds are used if the soil is clayey or loamy, while tanks are used when the soil is sandy.

Different kinds of ornamental fishes must be produced to cater to different markets at different times. If it has to be an all-year round business and not just seasonal, one must have different kinds of fishes.

At the research center, interested persons can avail of breeders of both egg-layer and live-bearer ornamental fishes. Egg layers include the coy carp, gold fish and angel fish while the live bearers include the mollies, platys and swordtails.

Egg bearers

Gold fish and angel fish, which are both egg-layers, can be bred in an aquarium, although tanks are still needed for them to grow faster.

Both fishes can breed in 100 liter-capacity aquarium. For goldfish, the egg collectors are ropes or water lily roots put at the bottom of the tanks protected by slatted plastic trays. Inside the aquarium, the plastic slats, egg collector, an aerator and water are placed and the tank is aerated overnight. In one tank, one female and three or four males are put. Three to four hours after spawning, parents are removed and the tank is aerated very gently to ensure hatching.

The little goldfishes are fed with artemia (a brand of natural food) starting on the fifth day after spawning until two weeks when they are given artificial feeds. After 10 days, they are transferred to a grow-out tank or aquarium for them to grow faster. They are then given artificial feeds.

Goldfishes naturally spawn from February to October with a cycle of 15-30 days, and stops during the cold months. For small sizes, no less than 1,000 eggs are laid per spawning with a 90 percent survival rate.

To produce angel fish, almost similar procedure is undertaken although plastic strips are used as egg collectors.

To breed koi carp however, one would need concrete tanks with dripping water and a gentle aerator, egg collectors made from rope or water lilies and nets.

The egg collectors are submerged into the tank and the breeders (gravid females and males of desired colors) are put inside the tank at a ratio of one female to two males. The selection is done in the afternoon and breeding is expecting dawn of the following day. The egg collectors are then transferred to a hatching tank equipped with gentle aeration and dripping water where they are expected to hatch after 36 hours.

When the eggs have hatched, they are fed with chlorella and hard-boiled egg-yolk four times a day then the fry are transferred in hapas, where they are fed commercial food, at a lower density for faster growth.

The number of eggs laid by the koi carp depends on the spawner’s size. There are about 200,000 to 300,000 eggs laid per kilogram of fish and the survival rate is as high as 86 percent and as low as 20 percent.

Live Bearers

Live bearer ornamental fishes (mollies, platys and swordfish) are easier to bred, but a bigger space for the tanks is needed. The breeders are put in a tank which has a separate compartment where the young fishes can take refuge and where the parents cannot enter.

Live bearers tend to cannibalize their youngs so they must be separated. Daily, the little fishers are collected and placed in the separate compartment. When they are about half a centimeter long, they are placed in a grow-out pond.

Feeding : Young fish are fed mainly with Infusoria, Artemia, Daphnia , Mosquito larvae Tubifex and Blood worms. For rearing, formulated artificial or prepared feed can be used. At present no indigenous prepared feed for aquarium fish is available. The amount and type of food to be given depends on the size of the fry. Feeding is generally done twice in a day or according to requirement. For rearing from fry stage dry/ prepared feed can be used.

Breeding: The method of breeding is based on the family characteristics of the fish. The success of breeding depend on the compatibility of pairs, the identification of which is a skill born out of experience.

Generally the breeders are selected from the standing crop or purchased and reared separately by feeding them with good live food. However, it is always better to buy good breeding stock. Otherwise, the original characteristic of the species keeps on getting diluted because of continuous inbreeding.

Breeders especially egg layers should be discarded after few spawnings. Health care Water exchange, is a must for maintaining water quality conducive for the fish health. Only healthy fish can withstand transportation and fetch good price.

Chemicals / antibiotics, Methylene Blue, Methylene Yellow, Malachite Green, Ampicilin, Vitamins, Potassium permanganate, Copper sulphate etc can also be used for preventing / treating diseases.


There is a good domestic market which is increasing. The export market for indigenously bred exotic species is also increasing.

Ornamental Fishes

Aquarium fishes are mainly grouped into two categories, viz., Oviparous (egg – layers) and Viviparous (live-bearers). Further, the fresh water ornamental fish varieties can be broadly grouped into Tropical and Cold water species also. Management of these two categories are different in nature. According to water tolerance fishes are hard water tolerant, soft water tolerant species and those with wide tolerance.

Ornamental Fish breeding basic requirement

The basic requirements for successful breeding and rearing of ornamental fish are adequate space, quality water and sufficient feed. Considering this the following investments are required for starting an Ornamental fish project.

Tanks : The tanks can be of RCC or brick masonry work having flat bottoms with inlet and outlet pipes. Clay, cement, fibre glass or plastic tanks can also be used. Rearing of fishes should be done in large tanks. Size of the tanks vary according to the space, the number and type of fish cultured.

Aquariums : Glass tanks of varying size are required for breeding. Small glass bottles of 250 ml are used for keeping individual male fighter fishes. Number and size of the glass tanks depend on the specific breeding / spawning behavior of the species selected.

Over head tank : An over head tank of suitable size for storing and to enable sedimentation of water is required.

Water Supply : Deep tube wells would be the best source of water. Recycling of water through bio-filters or other sort of filtering mechanism can be tried. Other sources like dug wells, Municipal water if available can also be used . A small pump to lift the water to over head tank and a network of pipes are needed to feed the culture tanks.

Work Shed : Work shed should be designed in such a way that the tanks get filtered sunlight. Translucent HDPE sheets can be used. This also protects the culture tanks from falling debris and bird dropping etc.

Aeration equipments : A blower pump with net work of tubes for aeration is a must. Continuous power supply should also be ensured through generator set or UPS or inverter.

For equipment, fish supplies, and other information contact: Bio-Research Breeding and Hatching Facility in Brgy. San Antonio, Pila, Laguna.

sources: manilatimes.net, myworld.prepys.com, e-pao.ne, picture from waverley.gov.uk


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