Farming comes in all shapes and sizes, and Florida’s aquaculture is working to bring the big screen to fish tanks at home.
Blue tangs rose to popularity when “Finding Nemo” was released in 2003 and “Finding Dory” earlier this year. At the box office, “Finding Dory” grossed $900 million and captivated the hearts of both old and new fans. Animal rights activists and scientists shared the same concerns that the blue fish would suffer the same as Nemo, the animated clownfish, because of the demand for tangs would put a strain on fish in the wild.
After six years of studying the saltwater fish, researchers now have a way to grow the fish in captivity for the first time. The biggest struggle in raising the fish in captivity is their delicate nature.
“The University of Florida took on this project to try to see if we could develop commercial production protocols, essentially a recipe of how do we produce the blue tangs so we could then taken and transfer to industry, transfer that to fish farmers,” said Matt DiMaggio, an assistant professor at the University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin.
Often times, unregulated harvesting in the wild can lead to the possible downfall of the species, and it also damaging to coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean. Another downfall is the cost, ranging from $30 for a young one to $150 for an adult about a foot in length.
DiMaggio and his team have focused their efforts on nutrition and how to raise young fish. DiMaggio also takes into account environmental requirements like lighting and water flow.
“The blue tangs will only eat zooplankton, the natural food that’s floating around in the ocean,” said DiMaggio. “Those are called copepods. We grow a species of copepod here that we feed to the tangs, but those copepods will only eat live micro algae. Se we essentially have to grow live algae then copepods.”
According to the researchers, it is a potential boon to Florida’s $27 million a year aquaculture industry, breeding the exotic blue tang for home aquariums.