Ornamental Fish Breeding: Part 1 Uncovering a Billion-Dollar Industry

Your little hobby of collecting koi and goldfish may be your next best chance to triple your income or even higher. According to the latest records, ornamental fish breeding is fast becoming a multi-billion dollar industry.

The Bureau of Agricultural Research’s (BAR) National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP) recognized the potential of ornamental freshwater fish (OFF) breeding in the country as a viable industry. Its promotion was stirred when the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ (BFAR) scientist, Dr. Aida Palma presented this technology nd during the 2 Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum held at BAR in August last year.

BFAR jumpstarted the Ornamental Fish Development Program in September. The project aims to widen the market base for the export of our OFF. It is expected to kick off soon with the two largest freshwater lakes in Southern Tagalog, the Laguna and Taal lakes, as sources of ornamental fishes.


A step by step process on how to start the ornamental fish breeding.

Fisheries Expert

One of the experts in OFF breeding in Pila, Laguna is Dr. Lourdes V. Castillo. She is one of the chairpersons of the newly formed Ornamental Fish Industry Council (OFIC) and a member of the Laguna Breeders Ornamental Fish Association of Southern Tagalog
(OFAST).

She has briefed numerous government offices and organizations on the prospects of ornamental fish breeding for livelihood and export. Aside from her Bachelor and Master’s Degree on Zoology, her experience includes working at BFAR’s Freshwater Fisheries Research Station and the Philippine Council for Marine and Aquaculture Resources Research and Development (PCMARRD) as zonal coordinator. She also served as station manager for five years at the Limnological Research Station at the University of the Philippines Los Baños in Laguna where she is currently a professor of Zoology.

The Lure of Ornamental Fish

The OFIC is a convergence of fisheries experts in the academe and government and private sectors. BioResearch, a private company, known to be the largest producer and distributor of ornamental fish in the country, is a member of this organization. Seeing that there is a big potential for the ornamental fish industry, the organization intends to explore the possibility of penetrating the world market for OFF. Apparently, the country is exporting ornamental marine fishes (OMF) but not freshwater fishes. We rank fifth among the top exporting countries of OMF, contributing 4 percent of the supply in the world market.

However, 90 percent of the ornamental fish traded is freshwater and only 10 percent is marine. Dr. Castillo states that this may be because there are many issues on environmental protection such as cyanide blasting (cyanide shortens the shelf life of fish) that confronts the catching of OMF from the wild. OFF are now preferred because they are grown in earthen ponds, thus they are less prone to diseases and their quality can be guaranteed by growers.

Dr. Castillo asserts that there is really a big potential for the export of OFF. She said that since we do not put prices on fishes by weight but by ton, this could mean bigger revenues for the country. The United States, Japan, and Europe are big markets for the export of OFF. The typical price per ton of ornamental fishes is $1.8 M compared to the average retail price per ton of food fishes, which is only $14,500-$16,500.

She cites Singapore, a small country, that is able to export high quality OFF that pass the standards of Europe. This is because they import OFF from Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia which they, in turn, export to Europe. In fact, they are the top exporter of ornamental fishes, contributing 25 percent in the world trade. Moreover, in Thailand, OFF breeding is starting to be acknowledged as a big player in the Asian economy. Thailand’s total annual export value of ornamental fishes is $50 M.

Everybody’s Kind of Fish

“It’s not food for the table but when you can sell it you have money to buy food,” reasons out Dr. Castillo on why the OFF deserves a second look as a practical industry. According to her, compared to tilapia and bangus hatcheries wherein you need multiple hectares of ponds and a big capital, OFF breeding is low-risk and can be started with a low capital investment. It can also do a lot for the community as it will serve as a livelihood option for displaced fishermen and unemployed families.

Before, owning ornamental fishes as pets was seen a luxury. But now, even low income families can afford ornamental fish. “You see, there is a wide client base for this business. If your market is the upper middle class to high-end families, you can breed or grow arowanas and flowerhorn which can cost to as much as P100,000. If your market is the middle class, there are angelfish and goldfish that are worth a few hundred bucks. Even the lowest income earner can have ornamental fish as pet as there are guppies and fighting fish that cost from P5-25,” states Dr. Castillo.

author: Miko Jazmine J. Mojica of www.bar.gov.ph

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