Everyone has that one holy grail fish or coral that they are totally smitten over. When you are aquaculture obsessed, then you have many. I have many, one is Tango our aquacultured Pacific Blue Tang from the University of Florida Tropical Aquaculture Lab. Another one is the Gramma dejongi or “The Cuban Basslet”. I am not smitten over this fish because of the color alone, although it is beautiful. I am completely smitten over them because of their story and what they represent. I am smitten over them because they represent everything that is good and amazing about aquaculture. This fish represents the reason I love aquaculture. If they were from the wild I fear that we in the amazing USA would never behold its beauty in person. They would not be available due to being from Cuba.
I love that these fish have a compelling story behind their being bred by the legendary Todd Gardner. If you don’t know the story then here is a link to his Reefs Magazine article all about it.
Here is my Gramma dejongi story…………I followed the Gramma dejongi success when it first took place; I was just getting known in this world because of Tango the Tang and my Aquaculture blog. I was totally in awe of what people were accomplishing breeding fish and Todd Gardner was one of my idols. One night I got a message from him asking if we wanted to trade supplies for a few Royal Grammas he had at his lab on Long Island. Of course the answer was YES!!! So my husband, daughter, and I drove to Long Island to pick up some Aquacultured Royal Grammas. We were at the lab with Todd for a while talking about aquaculture and got a grand tour. I was in complete awe of the situation, soaking in all there was to see, and then we came up to a tank of 30 or so bright orange fish. I will never forget that tank full of little Gramma dejongi. It was one of the most stunning displays I have ever seen. Even without knowing their worth it would take your breath away. Ever since that day I have been smitten with these fish.
Now let’s fast forward to today. A lot has changed in the past few years. Biota is now working with Todd Gardner and the Gramma dejongi. The price has dropped tremendously and we had an opportunity to buy two of these fish at an amazing price on sale. We got them in today and they still give me the same feeling of awe and immense gratitude for the people who raise fish that I felt when I started my aquaculture obsession years ago.
I brought these guys into my store for different reasons than you might expect. I brought them in to show my clients in store and online what is available. I feel it’s my duty to show you what is out there and possible. I feel that I need to bring in these fish that are more rare, not to “show off”, but to showcase fish rarely seen by people in the industry. Now I can show a client what the fish looks like while I tell their story instead of just showing them a picture. This connection to aquaculture is necessary and what will help solidify our future. I think this should be one of the missions of a local fish store, to inspire and to show what is possible. These fish will do far more for all of us the longer they stay in our store. That is one of my favorite things about having a store. It starts the aquaculture conversation in interesting ways that can’t be matched by just showing someone a more expensive fish and saying it’s aquacultured. We need to be more willing to start the conversation. We need to be more willing to change the conversation to one of aquaculture. We need to explain what the difference is between a fish caught in the wild and one that has been bred in captivity. The Gramma dejongi is a breathtakingly beautiful fish that has captured my heart. I am truly honored and grateful that these fish swam into our store and I am able to show people the power of aquaculture in new ways. If these fish can help even one person have a deeper understanding of what aquaculture really is then we have done our job bringing the Gramma Dejongi home.