Wild Caught Fish or Tank Bred Fish

uruguay wild caught tetra, wild caught tetraWhen you begin shopping for tropical fish you will notice two types of fish. Wild Caught fish and Tank Bred (Captive bred fish) are the choices we have today.

Now, you may be asking what is the difference in the two types of fish?

Well, when discussing which type of fish you should purchase, where the fish come from can determine your success and your budget.

Wild caught fish are prevalent in the hobby today. Some fish species that we cherish so much cannot be successfully bred (or bred in large quantities) in captivity, so the only way for us to have them is to purchase wild tropical fish. The cardinal tetra is one example of a common tropical fish that we can only get wild caught.

Fish Farms

wild caught fish habitat, Uruguay waterway for cichlidsTrue, many of our common “community” tropical fish are now bred in captivity. Fish farms in Florida breed thousands of species of freshwater tropical fish for us to purchase at our local fish store.

These fish farms use ponds, vats, and tanks to breed theirstock. These fish farms are able to breed tropical fish all year due to Florida’s tropical climate. There are other fish farms on smaller scales in other southern states in the United States. Do not get me wrong; there are many, many breeding facilities around the world that do us all a great service. This is a major business and major business and we as hobbyists should be grateful we have captive bred tropical fish.

Why do I say we should be grateful? Well wild caught tropical fish cost us more. Think about it from a business process. It is much cheaper for us, the hobbyists, if we can purchase local, captive bred tropical fish. Wild caught fish have a much higher cost to get to us from their natural environment.

Wild Caught Process: Exporting the Fish

uruguay wild caught livebearer, wild caught fishOn average, most wild caught fish are caught with nets in their native body of water. Once the fishermen return with the fish, they are often help in large holding vats. Depending on the exporter, they can be held for 1 week to 1 month or longer. The wild tropical fish are then prepared for shipment.

Exporters then take the wild caught fish to the airport for shipping. The wild tropical fish are then sent to the local fish importers and distributors. One must be licensed as a tropical fish importer to receive packages from other countries. The fish are then received, unpacked, and put into holding tanks.

The wild tropical fish will be held in the distributor’s tanks until they are ready to be shipped to local fish stores. As you can see, these wild caught fish go through a lot before they get to our tanks.

Lets review: wild tropical fish are caught, packaged and held in native land, next they are packed and shipped overseas to yourhome country, next they are unpacked and held in a distributor’s local facility, then packaged and shipped again to your local fish store, followed by being held at the local fish store, and finally packed and sent home to your tropical fish tank.

Now think about all the different waterconditionsthese fish have been exposed to.

This is why it is very important to ensure that you have excellent waterconditionswhen you bring your new tropical fish home.

Benefits of Wild Caught Fish:

  • There are numerous benefits that we can get from purchasing Wild Tropical fish. Below are just a few.
  • Wild fish generally possess better coloration. Nature does a lot betterjobin bringing out the natural colors in tropical fish through diet, waterconditions, and breeding.
  • Wild tropical fish usually have better genetics. They are less likely to have inbred. Hobbyists that wish to breed their fish will betterstockwhen using wild caught fish.
  • Wild fish are often collected as exotic fish. Many experienced fish keepers will collect wild caught fish to expand their collection and hope to have what no one else has on the block.
  • Wild fish are used to breed and in return their fry can be sold at a higher value. Usually F1 fry are very healthy and will have great coloration and markings.
  • Distributors love selling Wild fish because they sell for a higher price as compared to tank bred species.

Wild Caught Fish cons:

There are not that many downsides to owning Wild tropical fish but I would like to let you know of a few that you may come across some day.

  • Wild fish are more expensive.
  • These fish are more skittish. Remember they are not use to human interaction. This is not to say they will not get use to you, but just be aware they will be skittish.
  • Age is generally unknown. No one has an accurate age of your wild fish.
  • There are rarely any young fish that are caught in the wild. Mostly adult fish are caught and exported. So raising your fish from fry will not be a likely option.
  • Can be hard to get.

Benefits of Tank Raised Fish

  • Less expensive.
  • Wide variety available for you.
  • Not as skittish around humans.
  • You have a good idea of the age of your tropical fish.
  • Can purchase young fry and raise them up to adults.
  • Your are not depleting the native species population in the wild.
  • These fish are use to aquariumconditionsand can adapt to changing environments.

Tank Bred Fish Cons:

There are not that many downsides to owning captive bred fish. Here are a few I thought you might want to know.

  • Captive bred fish “may” have a poor gene pool. Fish breeders may inbreed certain fish with or without knowing what they are doing.  **Excellent breeders rotate their breeding stock regularly with new wild breeders.
  • Tank bred fish may portray weaker markings and less coloration. This is due usually to poor diet or poor genetics.

Tropical Fish Tips:

When shopping for tropical fish, you may see this term “WC Fish” which simply means Wild Caught Fish.

The following terminology is used to describe the generations removed from Wild Caught Fish.

F0-Wild Caught Fish

F1- These are fry born from Wild Caught parents. Hence one generation removed from the Wild.

F2- These fry are two generations removed from the Wild. So their grandparents were wild fish.


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