Sri Lanka is home to 111 species of aquarium fish (which are also known as ornamental fish) living in freshwater and marine habitats; thus, Sri Lanka holds a reputation as a supplier of high-quality fish to the international market and has had a steady expansion of its trade spanning more than 125 countries. The ornamental fish exports consist of 70% of freshwater ornamentals and 30% of marine ornamentals.
During the last decade, Sri Lanka's ornamental fish exports showed a compounded annual growth rate of 7.2% in value, compared to the compounded growth rate of 3.2% observed during the previous decade (2001 to 2010). Fancy guppy varieties from Sri Lanka have become very popular all over the world and fancy guppies contribute to 65% of our freshwater ornamental fish export volumes. In 2019, Sri Lanka exported ornamental fish to 76 countries, and 80% of that export volume was to 11 countries. We’d like to profile a few of the commonest species of aquarium fish exported from Sri Lanka.
The Guppy (Poecilia reticulata) is Sri Lanka's most predominant (by a large margin) species of export aquarium fish. Also called million fish and rainbow fish, the Guppy is one of the world's most widely distributed tropical fish and one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish species. The guppies were introduced to Sri Lanka in the early 1970s to some inland waters to combat the plague of malaria, a mosquito-borne disease. Since the guppies voraciously fed on the mosquito larvae, it was considered an excellent biological controlling agent.
For the ornamental fish trade, a wide variety of ornamental guppy varieties with attractive colour and fin patterns have been produced through selective breeding; they are commonly known as ‘fancy guppies’ or ‘saree guppies’. The name ‘saree guppy’ owes it to their large trailing caudal fins. Guppies can be categorised based on their tail shape, body patten, tail pattern, body colour, eye colour, pectoral fins, etc.
Platy is a common name for two related species of freshwater fish in the genus Xiphophorus. Both species are livebearers, similar to other fish of the family Poeciliidae, such as the guppy and molly. Platies are native to the east coast of Central America and southern Mexico. The two species most commonly available are Xiphophorus maculatus (southern platyfish) and Xiphophorus variatus (variable or variatus platy). They can be crossbred with each other and with swordtail species, which has resulted in many different colour variations.
New colours and patterns are constantly being produced, but some of the most popular varieties include Mickey Mouse, sunburst, red wag, blue, bumblebee, and green lantern platies. They grow to around 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) in size, but dwarf platies (which have been selectively bred for their shorter body length) usually stay around 1 inch (2.5 cm). Kept in optimal conditions with clean water, low stress, and good nutrition, they live for 3 to 4 years.
Yet another export aquarium fish from Sri Lanka, Swordtail fish (Xiphophorus helleri) are a widely popular freshwater species that originate from North and Central America. It is perhaps the quintessential community aquarium fish. The time-tested popularity of the Swordtail can be attributed to its ease of care, peaceful temperament, and wonderfully diverse fin and colour variations. The most common Swordtail varieties include Red Wag, Red Velvet, Marigold, Black Nubian, Pineapple, and Neon Swordtail. The male Swordtail is especially prized for its namesake feature, the showy extension on the lower part of its tail resembling a sword.
A barb is one of the various ray-finned fish species. Lively, hardy, and colourful, barbs are all schooling fish as well, which means they need company. Most of them prefer soft acidic water that is well-aerated and a bit on the cooler side. Sri Lanka is home to many a species of barbs including, Golden barb, Rosy barb, Scarlet banded barb, Red-side barb, Long-snouted barb, Kelum's barb, Cherry barb, Greenstripe barb, Bandula barb, Two-spot barb, Tic-tac-toe Barb, Black ruby barb, Red-finned Barb, Stoliczkae's barb, Ticto barb, etc. Since barbs are feisty things, it’s best to have equally boisterous tank mates.
Most gouramis are referred to as anabantoids or labyrinth fish. The dwarf gouramis make a tremendous addition to the passive community aquarium adding rich colour and diversity. The large Gourami fish species are very graceful swimmers that sport unique colourations and colour patterns and belong best in the semi-aggressive community aquarium.
Yet another major export fish from Sri Lanka, Molly fish are small size tropical fish, generally called short-finned molly or common molly. They are one of the most popular livebearers among the hobbyist fish keepers. Mollies are peaceful and can keep them with any non-aggressive fish. Fish like, platy, swordtail, guppy, glowlight tetra, neon tetra, etc. are best kept as molly tank mates. Easy to maintain and care for, Molly comes in various sizes and colours. Black Molly, balloon molly, gold dust molly, Mickey Mouse molly, black sailfin molly, etc. are some of the favourite breeds of molly.
Tetra is also a key export aquarium fish in Sri Lanka. There are over 150 beautiful and unique Tetra species in the world, and they are highly popular among the fish keepers of every level. Owing to their hardiness and ease of care, they can be raised in almost any kind of tank setup. Hallmarked by the iconic red line spread halfway through their body, neon tetras are found in almost every aquarium - kept at home or elsewhere - in the world. Serpae tetras are flame-coloured.
Apart from these, there are some more aquarium fish exported from Sri Lanka. They include the following in the main:
Some of the less common aquarium fish exports from Sri Lanka include: