Freshwater Aquaculture & Farm Ponds

tropical fishAquaculture is the culture of aquatic animals or plants. It involves many of the same skills and activities common to agriculture, including animal husbandry and marketing--aquaculture can be thought of as underwater farming. It has become a major component of agriculture in many southern states, comprising nearly $1 billion nationally in sales.

Aquaculture is a relatively new agriculture industry in Florida. The aquaculture industry is constantly experiencing challenges: increasing production costs, fluctuating market prices, and shifts in consumer interests. In order to continue to grow and be competitive, future industry development must include new information on economic feasibility of new species, reproduction, genetics, nutrition, aquatic health, water quality, product quality, aquatic weed control, production systems, marketing, processing, transportation methods, and regulations. An integrated and proper management approach can enable aquaculture producers to become competitive, enhance their production efficiency, and increase their profitability.

Aquaculture continues to demonstrate growth and importance in Florida, with state surveys reporting an increase in farm gate sales from $35 million in 1987 to $100 million in 2001. The number of active operations has more than doubled from 342 in 1987 to 684 in 2001. The leading segment of the aquaculture industry in Florida (in sales volume) continues to be tropical fish, which accounted for almost 43% of sales in 2001. Aquatic plants now rank second, accounting for 21% of total aquaculture sales, exceeding sales of clams, which accounted for 18% of total sales in 2001. Florida's diversity of species and systems provides an advantage to small businesses. As of January 2004, there are over 1,000 certified aquaculturists in the state, of which 46% are clam growers, 22% are tropical fish producers, and 19% are food fish growers. The remainder are producers of aquatic plants, alligator, baitfish, liverock, and other species.