From Ocean to Pet Store, a Fish’s Journey

Journey From Ocean to Fish Store

© 2009 Foster & Smith, Inc. Reprinted as a courtesy and with permission from

Millions of saltwater fish, reef invertebrates, and corals are sold in the United States annually. The saltwater aquarium industry is a thriving multi-billion dollar industry. But most consumers have no clue about the long and treacherous journey that the livestock takes before it gets to their aquarium. To help shine some light on the process, we’ll be discussing how a fish is collected and transported to your local fish store or online retailer.

Local divers are the start of the livestock collecting chain. These divers travel to local reefs and collect a variety of fish, corals, or inverts. Sometimes the divers use environmentally methods, such as a simple net, to catch the various livestock they collect. However, not all collectors abide by the laws. These law breakers use dangerous cyanide to help catch the various fish, which ends up killing the reef.

After the fish, corals, and invertebrates are caught, the collector hops back into his boat and meets up with various individuals working for exporting agencies. The livestock is then transported to the various exporting agencies.

Once the livestock is brought ashore by the collector, it is packaged and transported to the exporter. Sometimes the journey from ocean to exporter can take several days, so the exporter usually houses the fish for a brief period of time in holding aquariums. After a brief period at the export facility, the livestock is gradually shipped to a U.S. based importer, usually in California. The turnover rate in these export facilities is entirely dependent upon the demand in the destination countries where the livestock is sold to the general consumer. After the livestock reaches the importer it is redistributed to local fish stores. The fish stores select the livestock and make their order, which is shipped overnight freight to their closest airport. The staff at the local fish store picks up the order and brings it back to their facility for acclimation. Once acclimated, the fish are sold to the general public.

So, that wraps up a fish’s journey from the ocean to the home aquarium. It seems like a simple trip, but in reality the livestock is virtually being tortured. A fish is plucked from the ocean, sits in a bag of water and fish waste for several days, and gets shipped halfway across the world.

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© 2009 Drs. Foster and Smith, Inc.
Reprinted as a courtesy and with permission from (
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