The Future of Aquaria

By various authors
(written for AquariumKids)

Fishkeeping is an age-old practice, but it is still constantly evolving. What does the future hold? We're asking aquarists from around the world what they think. What will aquaria look like in ten years? One hundred? Leave a comment below if you would like to contribute a perspective to this article.

The opinion of: Evan Baldonado (age 16)
(Owner of AquariumKids)

Aquaculture is the future

“Aquaria is a dual-edged sword. The captive breeding of many species such as seahorses has been a crucial part of conservation. On the other side, the aquarium hobby also has a seemingly insatiable demand for fish, some of which can only be obtained wild-caught.

When the popular children's movie Finding Nemo was released, countless inspired fans found themselves with new pet clownfish. The wild populations of clownfish suffered as a result and extirpation was documented in certain areas.

Reef fish are routinely collected using harmful methods such as cyanide fishing and electrofishing. Cyanide or electricity is used to stun fish so that they can be more easily collected by workers.

The message from Finding Nemo should have been clear: keep wild fish where they belong—in the wild. The Saving Nemo Conservation Fund reports that over one million clownfish are harvested from the wild every year. If we take fish out of the water faster than they can breed and replenish their populations, there's a serious issue. As the number of fish in the wild declines, certain species of fish will begin to face the grim reality extinction in the wild.

As an increasing number of people seek pet fish, how will our oceans provide? They can't do it by themselves. Aquaria should not be a hobby that leaves death and destruction in its wake. Instead, aquaria should be a part of conservation and that inherently mandates sustainability. Stealing fish from the sea at current rates is nowhere near sustainable.

Recently, many advances have been made in the practice of aquaculture: in late 2015, the Yello Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) was first bred in captivity. In 2016, these fish were made commercially available. Later in 2016, a group at the University of Florida Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory under the direction of Craig Watson successfully bred the Pacific Blue Tang.

We have seen these advances in aquaculture and we most definitely will see more of them over the next 100 years. Why? Selflessness. And greed.

Selflessness and greed are polar opposites, yet these two facets of human nature will drive efforts for a common cause—saving fish.

Clearly, the selfless will devote their lives to conservation because they care about animals and the environment, but it is less apparent how greed will lead to sustainable fish.

Any economist knows of the law of supply and demand: if there are 100 fish and 1,000 people who want them, the fish's price will be higher than if there were 1,000 fish. As wild fish populations decline, the captive breeding of fish will become an even more lucrative business. A monetary incentive will lead to increased captive breeding efforts by profit-seeking companies.

Conservationists and companies alike will ensure the development of aquaculture as a key component of the future of aquaria. But will it be enough? Can aquaculture be improved quickly enough to keep pace with the ever-growing demand for fish?

You can help out—abstain from buying wild-caught fish and support those working to make aquaculture the future. Aquaria has the potential to both save and to harm wild fish. By acknowledging aquaria's faults, we can work make our hobby one that is solely known for its conservation—instead of for its destruction.” (7/4/17)

The opinion of: Neil Yeung (age 16)
(AquariumKids subscriber)

Aquaponics is the future.

“An exciting concept that has gained notable traction in the sustainable food movement is aquaponics, a symbiotic system that combines traditional aquaculture (raising fish) with that of hydroculture (growing plants in water). In today’s post, we are going to briefly explore the history of aquaponics, the commercialization of aquaponics, and its impact on global economic dynamics.


One of the first instances of a civilization implementing aquaponic systems was China. South China’s primary grain is rice, due to the area’s weather conditions: heavy rain and hotter temperature than the North. These Chinese farmers would farm rice in paddy fields in conjunction with fish. In more recent times, floating aquaponic systems were installed on fish ponds in China. This allows the farmers to grow grains on a humongous scale, with the aquaponic systems sometimes stretching to as much as 2.5 acres.


First, let us break-down how an aquaponic system works fundamentally. Obviously, there are two main parts of the system: the raising of aquatic animals, and the growth of aquatic plants. In a closed system, aquatic waste resulting from the fish gathers up in the water. This waste is toxic to the animal in large doses, but contains vital nutrients for plant growth. The plant removes this waste and grows, while the fish stays healthy, all without the need for an artificial filter. Plants that work best in aquaponic systems are ones that require lower amounts of nutrients. Plants which have higher requirements, need more fish in the aquaponic system. In terms of fish, freshwater fish work best due to their high tolerance for crowding (tilapia, catfish, carp, ect.).

In recent years, small scale commercialized aquaponics have arisen. Back to the Roots, a company which specializes in providing home kits to grow things (made the mushrooms which grow in coffee grounds), provides a kit to start your own water garden. At one point, Costco was selling these systems for $50, and they quickly sold out. However, these kits are basic and meant for the masses. Is there any economic viability to using aquaponic systems?

Economic impact

Aquaponics provides farmers with the unique ability to have to sources of profit at the same time. This protects against the farmers going out of business due to poor conditions for a single crop. By diversifying their assets, they are able to be more productive. Furthermore, an aquaponic system allows for the growth of a variety of plants and leaves a little carbon footprint. Aquaponic systems are efficient due to low water usage, optimal nutrient cycling, and low land requirements. Furthermore, aquaponic systems can be established in areas with poor soil conditions, that otherwise would not be able to grow land based crops. The crops produced from these systems are free of weeds, pesticides, and diseases, malignancies associated with soil. In Barbados, a country traditionally dependent on imported food due to poor conditions for land agriculture, has begun to start utilizing aquaponic systems in citizens’ houses to wean itself off this dependence. In Palestine, where agricultural lands in the Gaza Strip have been locked off by Israel, aquaponic systems are being worked on for rooftop usage. In urban communities such as the Smith Road facility in Denver, people have utilized aquaponics to feed inmates and officers of Denver Jail.


Aquaponic systems offer numerous benefits to both producers and consumers. For farmers, they offer dual sources of income, low start-up and maintenance costs, flexibility for countries with poor traditional agricultural conditions, and efficient production of high-quality crops. For consumers, they offer pesticide free and organic produce and seafood. Aquaponics encompass the epitome of what nature does right, the power of symbiotic systems between fish and plants, and producers and consumers. In this author’s humble opinion, aquaponics is the future of the aquaria community.” (7/12/17)

There you have it—our predictions for the future of aquaria. Remember that the opinions expressed in this article are of the individual contributors, not necessarily of AquariumKids. What are your thoughts? Comment below!

Captive breeding: “the process of breeding of animals in a controlled environment”
Cyanide: “any chemical compound containing a carbon atom triple-bonded to a nitrogen atom” (ex: sodium cyanide/NaCN)
Extirpation (ecology): local extinction; “the disappearance of all members of a certain species within a given region”
The Law of Supply and Demand: “if less of a product than the public wants is produced, the law of supply and demand says that more can be charged for the product.”Merriam Webster
Aquaculture: “the cultivation of aquatic plants or animals”

By various authors
(written for AquariumKids)