Fish: More Than Just a Meal

Since the origin of the human race on Earth, fish have been an important resource for human survival – everything from Ancient Egyptian art depicting fish being raised in pools, to evidence from Sumerian culture provides support for the idea that fish were integrated into human life not as a hobby but as a means of survival. From these historical clues, it is evident that humans have relied on fish to provide a stable source of food. Aquaria’s original purpose to provide a stable means of food to those living sedentary lifestyles enabled the growth of fish to become increasingly popular – this is also evident from the similarity that traditional dishes have across cultures – fish is a primary ingredient. From this, the purpose of Aquaria has evolved from pragmatic to a recreational hobby. From this developing hobby, different markets have gradually developed in order to meet the consumer demand for live fish throughout the world, with each country having its own unique market.

The passage of time marked a change in the incentive to keep fish – from purely being a foodstuff to becoming used for ornamental purposes. Asian dynasties such as the Song Dynasty from China sparked this change when they brought select varieties of goldfish from their ponds to inside their homes. These goldfish, often kept in elaborate vases, began to develop two lines – show lines, and food lines. Those raised for food began to differ distinctly from those for show. Fish raised for consumption began to appear dull and drab in color and very stocky compared to their bright and colorful cousins. This small-scale royal hobby quickly evolved to the multimillion-dollar goldfish market prominent throughout Asia.

The Asian fish market gradually gained international respect – with individuals from foreign countries paying hefty sums to import fish specifically raised in Asian farms.

With each couple hundred fish sold for hobby, the breeder usually finds that they possess a fish with exceptional qualities – scales, fins, color – these fish help to fill a smaller niche in the market – they are sold as show fish. The International fish shows that take place many times yearly, pressure those that attend to compete in them to pay high prices to bring quality stock in hopes that wins will boost reputation, and as a result some show fish are sold for several thousands. The extremely high prices that these fish fetch has indubitably boosted the market for specimens of similar caliber, and those that view these fish at shows eventually end up delving into the hobby of fish keeping. Thus, these fish also help to boost the market for their less perfect siblings, which are often sold in the hobby market to those that do not immediately want to spend a fortune.

The goldfish market that originated in Asia eventually branched into a market for tropical freshwater fish as well as marine fish – both of which bring in multimillion dollars in annual revenue as more people enter the hobby.

When examining the separate audiences that each different type of fish keeps appealing to, it is easy to see why three distinct markets exist nowadays. First, the freshwater tropical fish market has been targeted towards those that have just started in the hobby and want a break from keeping the classic fair goldfish (ex. small children). Second, the goldfish and koi market is targeted towards those that have a greater appreciation in fish as an art form as well as those wanting to keep ponds in their homes and restaurants. Third, the Marine fish market is targeted towards individuals that are more advanced in aquaria – people that want a rewarding challenge and have the money to pay for the extra cost of marine fish.

It’s easy to see why fish keeping is so appealing – there are simply so many different types of fish for all different kinds of keepers.