Some Considerations for Building a Marine Ornamental Hatchery

The propagation of marine ornamental animals requires a substantial investment in infrastructure, and successful commercial propagation requires even more expansive facilities.    Typically, a hatchery must have adequate aquarium space to house the broodstock, larva and grow-out animals in at least three separate systems.  There must also be space for food culture, offices and packing animals for ship-out. 

Most people would think that a marine ornamental hatchery would be best located in a tropical region, near the sea for access to seawater.  In reality, inshore water is rarely of sufficient quality for this use, so less expensive locations, away from shore should be evaluated.  There is however, merit to having a hatchery location in tropical areas near the sea.  The three basic advantages are; ample natural sunlight (if photosynthetic invertebrates are being cultured), moderate temperatures to save on heating costs, and access to ocean water to collect wild plankton for use as larval fish foods. 

The project’s business plan must outline the species intended to be propagated, as this in turn determines many of the physical features of the facility.  As with stock portfolios, the general advice for propagation facilities is to diversify.  An ornamental hatchery that can supply a large variety of species will become more of a “one stop shop” for its customers, and will also be better prepared as a hedge against changes in species’ popularity over time. 

For a medium sized hatchery, a space 20 feet wide and 100 feet long, with an office at one end, and external storage space would be ideal for many purposes. Stacking of tanks can free up much-needed floor space, but there is a cost in both support structures and decreased ease of use when accessing the upper tanks.  Coral propagation systems are well-known to require much more floor space on a per unit basis due to the space needs of the corals, being all on one plane, underneath the lighting system. 

Jay Hemdal