ORA Resumes Captive-Bred Dragonet Offerings
03 Apr, 2020
Continuing our coverage from the 2020 Global Pet Expo, we can report that Florida-based Oceans, Reefs & Aquariums (ORA), a long-standing commercial breeder of marine ornamental fish, has ramped up their game for the 2020 season. They have a plethora of new offerings and are revisiting past species that hadn’t previously found commercial success. ORA is proving that their staff of marine fish breeders are capable of meeting the growing demand for a wide range of captive-bred marine aquarium fishes, leaving almost no challenge unmet (at this point, I think Tangs are the only outstanding item).
Among the dozen display tanks set up by ORA, one focused squarely on timid, slow-feeding fishes, highlighting ORA’s production of both seahorses and a return to their prior offerings of multiple dragonet species. At the Expo, ORA intends to resume offering captive-bred Scooter Blennies (Synchiropus ocellatus), Green Mandarins (S. splendidus), and the Spotted Mandarinfish (S. picturatus). Other species and varieties may also see a return to commercial cultivation in the near future.
Long-time aquarists might remember ORA’s prior introduction of captive-bred dragonets. They’ve actually bred five Dragonet species (add S. stellatus and S. sycorax to the previously mentioned species) and even the rare “red” variant of the green mandarin (S. splendidus). The ORA offerings came and went without finding success in the marketplace. Damning rumors circulated that the fish wouldn’t feed, which may have soured consumer acceptance of the cutting-edge offering.
In truth, ORA’s dragonets had no problem eating prepared foods, including pellets, but consumer expectations were unrealistically high; many expected that a captive-bred dragonet would be a ravenous, aggressive feeder capable of competing against other highly active reef fishes in an all-out feeding melee. Aquarists forgot the simple lessons that captive-bred seahorses should have taught us: captive breeding can bring a fish onto prepared foods, but it doesn’t fundamentally change the behavior or care requirements of the fish in question. In the case of captive-bred dragonets, it’s not magic; they remain the slow, methodical, bottom-picking substrate feeders that they always were.
That said, when I was speaking with ORA representatives about the captive-bred dragonets on display at the 2020 Global Pet Expo, they were clear that they intend to grow the fish to a larger size, and every fish released will be feed exclusively on appropriately-sized pellet foods. From my perspective, the aquarium hobby wasn’t quite ready for the release of captive-bred Dragonets from ORA the first time around. Maybe this time we can all have more realistic expectations.