One of the main issues with modern aquaculture projects is that they tend to focus solely on high value carnivorous species, which require high protein in order to grow, often making it inefficient and unsustainable in that they require wild fish populations to be harvested in order to feed the cultured fish. That is why at Biota we are researching fish that require low protein, and have both good market value and an efficient life cycle. We also have our own algae laboratory and plankton culture, therefore minimizing the need for commercial feeds.
At BIOTA we want to change the aquarium trade! Why? Because we believe that the only way to enjoy a marine life aquarium is by stocking it with healthy and sustainably cultured fish, invertebrates and coral. Cultured in aquariums for aquariums; not taken from the wild!
Here is an example of the species we are culturing at Biota. In the past years we have grown several new species, among them the Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum), a world first.
A world first!
Clown Triggerfish are one of the most famous and sought after species by serious reef hobbyists. They have personality and are usually very happy in any decent-sized aquarium, though they often do not mix well with other fish their own size. Remarkably, here at Biota we have raised these fish together as a school and they cohabit together well, with only the odd wrestling over a place to sleep at night.
Blue Lined Sea Bream
Known also as Sailfin Snapper, these fish are one of our favourite products. Unfortunately they grow a bit big for average home aquariums, however they have been a real success with anyone with a big tank. Notably, they don’t seem interested in eating small fish – they are more interested in crustaceans and pellets. Currently our biggest demand is for public aquariums, which love the shape, colour, hardiness and personality of this gentle creature. Their spawning season in Palau only lasts three months every year, so the stock for this species is limited. We are proud to have a school of these fish on display at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia.
This peaceful goby has been in the market for a while, however in the trade it has so far been wild-caught. In their natural habitat these fish sift through sand to find their food, so once in a tank most aquarists find it difficult to train the fish to eat from flakes or pellets, eventually resulting in malnourishment and/or death. At Biota, we have successfully produced thousands of this species of goby already trained to eat from pellets, making them a hardy, happy pet that does very well in reef tanks and are generally a good sharer with other species. We have also cultured other gobies, such as four species of Eviotas (all firsts), Link’s Goby (Ambligobius linki) and Dragon Goby (Amblygobius phalaena).
These colorful fish have large eyes, which is a sign of their natural preference to swim in discrete corners – the more hiding places you can provide, the happier your pets will be and they will actually become confident enough to explore their surroundings. Pajama cardinals are a non-aggressive schooling fish that adapt well to sharing the aquarium with other peaceful species. Despite of their popularity, they are still found in large numbers in the wild, yet we raise them at Biota because a domesticated fish is always happier in a home aquarium.
Striped Fang Blenny
Also called Striped Blenny, these are a hardy fish that have become increasingly popular in the ornamental market due to their resistance to disease and their inquisitive personality; probably due to having a set of venomous fangs used for self-defense. Although these brightly-colored blennies appreciate having little rock crevices to take refuge in, they also spend considerable time swimming in open water. Normally peaceful, Striped Blennies can turn aggressive towards its own kind or towards similar-looking fish, like the Mimic Blenny (Petroscirtes breviceps) or Forktail Blennies (Meiacanthus atrodorsalis).
These Blennies are one of our favorites. They have beautiful features for such a small fish, including very long forked tail and eyes that appear to have eyebrows. They are peaceful and very confident in a small aquarium. Although not aggressive, it is better to keep one of each species unless they are a breeding pair. Like his cousin the Striped Blenny, Forktails be happy if they have small places to play hide and seek in.
Rather cryptic in the wild due to their small size and their shy nature, Mandarinfish are still a rare sight in the aquarium industry. This brightly colored fish has been hard to keep for many aquarists due to their specific diet based on copepods, and we are working hard on researching the best solution in order to successfully bring them into the market. We have started to culture them, and the stock is steadily increasing in our holding tanks. Our Mandarins are eating a combination of frozen artemia and pelleted feeds, however it is always beneficial to stock them in a well-matured reef tank with plenty of its own plankton already established in the aquarium. Mandarinfish are a bottom-dwelling creature that display a wild mix of wavy patterns and beautiful colours – blue, green, orange and red – making them one of the most attractive fish in the market.
Filefish are in high demand in the ornamental industry, as they are natural predators of Aptasia, a species of anemone considered a pest in an aquarium environment. Normally sold at about 2-3cm, they can reach 10cm when fully grown. Being a rather shy fish, they prefer to dwell towards the back of the tank or near the bottom, especially near soft corals. There is some debate regarding the safety of corals and other invertebrates that share the same tank, as some aquarists have noticed Filefish nipping at polyps, although they don’t eat them. Other hobbyists have stated that their Filefish are not interested in their corals at all.
At Biota we dedicate part of our time to research the production of endangered and food related species, which we then restock to the local reefs of Palau.
(Siganus fuscecens and Siganus lineatus)
These particular two species may not be as colourful as their popular cousins in the ornamental market, the Foxface rabbitfish, however they are worth raising for different reasons. They are herbivores that take about nine months to reach adult size, making them an efficient species to culture for food purposes, especially in Palau, where the natural population is declining as they are considered a delicacy.
Twin Spot Snapper
As a new species with food fish potential, we have successfully reared high numbers of Twin Spot Snapper (Lutjanus bohar) at our facility. They school well in the right conditions. They are a suitable candidate for aquaculture as they grow fast and are in demand, although they do require high protein to grow out in time.
Grouper (Epinephalus polyphekdion) is a very popular table fish and is in demand throughout the world. Though being a carnivore, the Camouflaged Grouper is relatively small and therefore grows quite fast to table size. Working with a team of local researchers in Palau, we have identified their spawning behaviours and have raised several thousand of this species.
Our new coral farm is growing fast. We hope to introduce our new range of zoanthids and coralymorphs to the market soon and we also have a few new surprises coming to volume in the next few months. Stay tuned for photos and more information on our developments with invertebrates.
Traditionally, giant clams have been a secure source of food for the Pacific Islands, however in more recent times a new demand was born in the ornamental market for these beautiful animals. These CITES listed species from the Tridacnae family include several varieties, with cultured T. maxima, T. squamosa, and T. derasa, and T. crocea are already available at Biota this year. We’ve also been able to produce small batches of the newly described T. Noae as well as a hybrid T. squamosa x T. maxima we call the “Mimosa” clam. For next year we expect to harvest our first batch of T. gigas, the ever-elusive True Giant Clam. Our interest in the Tridacnae family is not limited to their culture as a product for export, but it extends towards conservation efforts in Palau and throughout the Pacific.