ScienceFish - Marine Fish Aquaculture Candidate Species


One of the great and most exciting challenges ahead in marine aquaculture for the foreseeable future is going to be the selection of suitable marine fish aquaculture candidate species.


Fishes, with possibly 25,000+ species are in diversity only second to insects (!). There are over 120 families of fishes, alone two families with good aquaculture potential have 300+ and 500+ species, namely the sciaenidae and serranidae, respectively.  A study in 2003 , prepared for the WAS Salvador 2003, reviewed the species of croakers,  drums, or corvinas  family Sciaenidae (Orhun and Benetti 2003) using Fishbase org and other records) revealed that potentially 60 species (20%) had aquauculture potential.

There are also special cases such as the cobia, a single member of a fish family, with excellent candidate criteria (see further below) for production in warm temperate to tropical marine waters.


There are some already well stablished markets availalble for certain members of the family Carangidae (several species of Yellowtail Jacks, Pompanos and some possible baitfish species). Sparidae (Breams in EU an US, Snapper in AUS), have several well established in the Mediterranean and NW Pacific (Gilthead seabream dentex, Red Sea Bream and others.  Grouper culture is well established in Southeast Asia, but has still to  catch on in other parts of the world. True snappers,  fam. Lutjjanidae, are species rich as well,and routine culture has been established in some species of the genus Lutjanus sp., with many more  species to be explored. Several species from different genera are in culture for some families of fatfishes (turbot, Atlanitchalibut, Japaflounder), and also the Snooks and two important aquaculture species of the family Latidae in Australlasia. and East-Africa, namely the Asian Seabass or Barramundi and the Nile Perch or Lake Victoria Perch, respectively.


Cobia, Rachycentron canadum a single member of its own family Rachycentridae, is probable one of the most promising aquaculture candidate species, whose aquaculture potential was really just discovered about 10-15 years ago. It is still well beyond its ptorential and developing the market and the production have not been in synch as of yet. 

In the Americas, the Caribbean and almost all of Brazil have environmental conditions that are well suited for the propagation of Cobia. Many locations in the Indo-Pacific are also well suited for Cobia, i.e. from the Red Sea to Southern Taiwan (Cobia Distribution Map). We strongly believe that culture species and product line diversification is a necessity in the current market place and we suggest from the onset to culture also other valuable species in addition to Cobia.

There is vast number of new marine fish candidate species to be discovered, further explored and tested and brought into culture in the next decades. Our discussion of potential candidate species begins eleven Fish families with a total of over 1400 species (Family listings at bottom of page). There are several other suitable candidate species to choose from and whose selection depends on geographical location, culture conditions as well as (seafood) marketing strategy

Criteria for potentiallly successful marine fish farming candidate species:
1) Market Demand/Seafood Performance: Taste, Texture, Color, Versatility (sahimi, filets, steaks, etc.), Shelf Life, Freezing, and Nutritional Composition
2) Aquaculture Performance: Growth, Survival, Yield, and Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR).
3) Availability of Complete Production Technology
4) Native Distribution in Many Warm-Temperate to Tropical Oceans of the World
5) Minor Existing Commercial Fisheries.

Carangidae (151); Yellowtail Jacks, Pompanos
Suitable as other primary species such as Cobia, are Yellowtail Jack species, member of the family Carangidae, such as the Almaco Jack,
Seriola rivoliana, the Greater Amberjack, Seriola dumerili, and the Yellowtail Amberjack, Seriola lalandi.It shold be noted that the Japanese Yellowtail Jack, Seriola quinqueradiata has been a major aquaculture species in Japan for over 30 with Its first origin actually going back over 200 years. "Hamachi" is the well-known Japanese name for the Japanese Yellowtail in seafood market and sushi restaturants around the world. The selection of the individual Yellowtail Jack species will depend on environmental conditions at the geographical location of the fish farm and here especially on annual water temperature patterns. All three Seriola species are already known in the seafood market and in demand due to their high flesh quality and value as sashimi. One Carangid species that has been in culture for over 30 years is the Florida Pompano, Trachinotus carolinus. Although said to demand a high market price and "relatively" easy to culture, its success as a commercial aquaculture species is yet to materialize. Undoubtedly there are probably several other potentially high-value and viable aquaculture cadidate species in the Carangidae family still to be explored. A good example is the Striped Jack, Pseudocaranx dentex which is very high-valued In Japan. There also jacks already in culture for "stock enhancement" or restocking efforts such as the horse mackerel in Japan and others that are considered suitable as aquaculture candidates for the live baitfish trade.

Sciaenidae (282); Croakers, Drums, Corvinas
Next in the list of fish families with species where culture technologies are well established are members of the family Sciaenidae with the most succesful species being the the large Yellow Croaker Larimichthys crocea (former Pseudosciaena  cultured in China, the "iconic" Mulloway, Argyrosomus japonicus grown in Australia (and as Cob in South Africa), and the Red Drum, Sciaenops ocellatus already cultured in several location around the world. It is endemic to the US and Mexico and introduced to Martinique, Israel and Taiwan, where it has to be considered as an exotic species. Other interesting and viable candidate species are the European Maigre, Argyrosomus regius grown in several Mediterranean countries, the White Seabass, Atractoscion nobilis grown in California (and probably already Mexico ?), the Brown Maigre Sciaena umbra in the mediterranean, and the Corvina Cilus gilberti. introduced recently as a new aquaculture star (species) from Chile (*see news link below). Possibly the largest sciaenid species (next to Argyrosomus sp. ) is the Totoaba, Totoaba macdonaldi, which has been known to grow to over 2m long and 135kg in weight. It has been fished almost to extinction already decades ago in the upper Gulf of California (and sold to US markets, esp. LA) and is now under CITES, protection. It has been cultured at an experimental level at UABC, in Ensada, Baja California, Mexico and should have good potential to eventually become a succesful aquaculture species, possibly similar to Mulloway. There are more sciaenid species already in culture than just the species mentioned and an even larger number of species from a variety of genera, with large-sized (and possibly faster growing) species especially in the Indo-Pacific, where culture attempts have yet to be been made. About 60 sciaenid species world-wide were identified as potentially suitable (based on maximum size and market demand) for marine fish aquaculture by Orhun and Benetti (2003, presentated at WAS Conference in Bahia, Brazil). Some sciaenid species of the genera Equetus sp. and Pareques sp. are already in culture for the ornamental fish trade, whereas others, such as the Atlantic croaker, Micropogonias undulatus are considered viable aquaculture candidate species for the live baitfish trade. 

Chanidae (1); Milkfish
A very successful aquaculture candidate species from the Indo-pacific and a single member and species of a fish family (like the Cobia) is the Milkfish, Chanos chanos. Contrary to most carnivorous aquaculture candidates, Milkfish juveniles and adults eat benthic microalgae, other algae, and small benthic organisms. It is said to have been cultured in Indonesia for at least 700 years. Milkfish Aquaculture profile on

Mugilidae (72); Mullets
Another group of very successful aquaculture candidate species, mainly feeding on the base of the food chain, such as the Milkfish, are the Mullets. Mullets are distributed worldwide and there are alone 12 species of Mullet in the Central Western Atlantic, including species such as the cosmopolitan  Mugil cephalus distributed in coastal waters of all seas in tropical, subtropical and temperate bio-geographical regions. Mullet can eat detritus, benthic microalgae and small invertebrates,making them especially valuable candidate species suited for low-input/extensive, sustainable aquaculture eliminating or greatly reducing the need for costly feed during growout. In addition, smoked Mullet roe demands a high market price.

Sparidae (127); Seabreams and Porgies
The next family of succesful marine aquaculture species discussed are the Sparidae, the Sea Breams and Porgies, also called Snapper in Australia. The two most succesfull species that come immediately to mind are the Red Sea Bream Pagrus major. cultured in Japan, and the Gilthead Sea Bream, Spaurus aurata. cultured in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean has a high variety of sparid species, and many have aquaculture potential and/or are already in culture such as common dentex,    Dentex dentex, and the common seabream, Pagrus pagrus. There are even more speices of the genera Acanthopagrus Dentex, Pagrus nad possibly a few others. and other genera that are already in culture or have the potential to become aquaculture candidate species.

Other Fish Familes with Aquaculture Candidate Species (total # of species in family):
Latidae (11); Barramundi, LVP
Lutjanidae (108); Mutton Snapper, Red Snappers
Paralichthyidae (116); Large-tooth Flounders
Scombridae (54); Bluefin and Yellowfin Tuna
Serranidae (508); Groupers, Hinds, Coral Trout

Univ. FL IFAS Extension document

Candidate Species for Florida Aquaculture: Evaluating an Aquatic Organism's Aquaculture Potential by Ohs and Creswell

Please e-mail Your comments to Dr. Refik Orhun:     [email protected]


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