Poma Labs, a new company co-founded by Dr. Matt Wittenrich and Nuri Fisher, has reached a milestone in captive breeding of ornamental marine fishes by bringing 9 species and hybrids of the magnificent Chaetodontoplus genus to the aquarium market. I talked with Dr. Matt and learned about his passion for reefkeeping and the path that lead him to fulfill his lifelong dream of captive breeding marine fishes.
Me: First of all, let me congratulate you for this amazing achievement, your fish are stunning and a real stepping stone in making the hobby even more sustainable.
Dr.Matt: Thank you.
Me: So tell me, how did it all start?
Dr. Matt: I think there was something missing in the marketplace and angelfish were always one of my favorite groups of fish. I was 15 when I was raising my first clownfish, peering through the glass at the little slivers of clownfish before they were even identifiable. At this time I was reading all the Martin Moe stuff. Martin Moe raised the French angels…
Me: Yes, that was one of the first captive bred species…
Dr. Matt: Exactly. I think that planted a seed in me and I’ve become completely obsessed with angelfish. That got me set out to breed marine fish, but also made me think how to change the way we buy angelfish.
Me: How so?
Dr. Matt: A lot of the fish I’m selling- the bluelines, the Conspics, they’re not readily available in the trade and the ones that are, no one offers a guarantee on them. So you have this rare fish, a really expensive fish and there’s no guarantee it’s going to live or there’s only a 24 hour guarantee. How willing are you to pay that much money for a fish that may die.
Me: What is your approach then?
Dr. Matt: We offer a 30 day guarantee because we want people to succeed with our fish.
Me: People can buy those fish directly from you, correct?
Dr. Matt: Yes. There is no wholesale at the moment. It may change in the future, but right now is all retail direct just through me and I think that allows us to be more customer centric, put individual people first to make sure everyone succeeds with their angelfish.
Me: How long did it take you to breed that particular Angelfish genus?
Dr. Matt: 4 years. It took me 4 years to successfully get these fish to adulthood.
Me: That’s amazing. How big do they grow?
Dr. Matt: Conspicuous, up to 10”. The greatest thing here, the biggest challenge everyone faces when getting those angelfish is to get them to feed. Not only that, they are usually loaded with parasites, like flukes (they’re fluke magnets). [Pointing at the tank with his captive bred angelfish] These guys don’t have any of that, they are guaranteed and they are trained to eat PE Pellets before we sell them. It’s a completely different animal compared to the wild caught fish.
Me: Great. Thank you very much for giving me a little bit of your time and I wish you all success with your company and your future breeding goals.
Dr. Matt: Thank you. Yes, we have some exciting news coming in the near future, we are working on bringing even more captive bred species to the market.
Me: Amazing, I will make sure to report back when you publish the news. Thank you Matt.