In 2015, the Oceanic Institute of Hawaii Pacific University and the Rising Tide Conservation project were able to successfully breed the Yellow Tang. This was a HUGE deal in the aquaculture world as breeding attempts for many other species of surgeonfish had sadly failed. It’s difficult to breed fish in general but one of the main issues is maintaining proper water quality while still keeping up with the very large and frequent appetites of the baby fish, also called fry. Once these 2 organizations discovered the key to maintaining proper water quality they accomplished this difficult feat and successfully reared a captive bred Yellow Tang. Several of them actually.
Hawaii’s Yellow Tang is a very vibrant fish with a “dog-like” personality that is an excellent addition to any saltwater aquarium that is large enough to properly house it throughout the duration of its life. The popularity of this fish led to some issues for it’s wild population numbers. In fact at one point there was a ban on collecting ornamental fish in Hawaii in order to allow the wild populations to recover for this species as well as for others.
This is where the Oceanic Institute of Hawaii Pacific University and the Rising Tide Conservation project stepped in to help. Once the first batch of captive bred yellow tangs were ready – meaning that the Yellow Tang fry became juveniles and they were stable enough to ship – Segrest Farms and Quality Marine helped to announce this great accomplishment and ship the popular fish to aquarium stores around the world.
Breeding fish can be really expensive between the food and equipment – not to mention the large amount of space that you need. So in order to expand on this project and ensure that a steady supply of this species was available to the aquarium trade, the profits from the first batch went back right into the project.
In order to really scale their efforts, The Oceanic Institute of Hawaii Pacific University has now teamed up with Biota Aquariums to scale these efforts in order to meet the demand for this species without negatively impacting their wild counterparts.
I visited Biota’s facility a while back and my jaw dropped when I got a glimpse of several captive bred Yellow Tangs in a display tank. I had heard that they existed but this was right before they made the announcement at MACNA in 2018 – which is the Marine Aquarium Conference of North America – so this was quite a shock and privilege to see all at the same time.
With the success of the Yellow Tang, this is paving the way for even more species of surgeonfish to be bred in captivity for the aquarium trade. This is a HUGE conservation win as the wild counterparts of each of these species will be left in the wild to have their populations recover while still meeting the demand for the aquarium trade.