Left: Resplendent Angelfish male and Cherubfish female (parents). Right: Resplendent Cherubfish juvenile, 200 dph.

Of the thousands of marine ornamental species traded in the burgeoning aquarium trade, less than 10 percent are bred in captivity. The undesirable practice of collecting marine ornamentals from the wild results in a high mortality rate of captured organisms, noticeable depletion of less abundant species, and furthermore, the destruction of coral reefs around the world. Aquaculture reduces the aquarium trade’s dependency on wild caught organisms.

Much of my career has focused on developing breeding techniques for difficult-to-raise marine ornamental fish species. In 2001, I raised pygmy angelfishes in captivity and subsequently founded Reef Culture Technologies. The company produced a number of rare, higher-valued marine angelfish species for close to a decade to fund aquaculture research. Culture successes followed with triggerfish in 2010, anthias and butterflyfish in 2013, and wrasses in 2015.

Most reef fishes are not aquacultured because of their long and complicated larval phase. I started the Hawaii Larval Fish Project to find more aquarium fish species with aquaculture potential. The project primarily uses eggs collected from the ocean, which allows me to work on the larval rearing of more species without having to spawn them at my hatchery. The project also documents the fascinating and rarely shown development of live marine fish larvae from egg to juvenile. Fifty-two species from 25 families have been reared through settlement for the project thus far, including many important aquarium species.

My latest research project focuses on larval fish metamorphosis—the fascinating and often drastic transformation that occurs when the larvae settle on the reef and become juveniles. This critical time is also a major aquaculture bottleneck and time of high mortality for many reef fish species. More details to come as this new project progresses ….

Select Research Publications

Baensch, F. 2017. Dwarf Angelfish. In: Marine Ornamental Species Aquaculture. P. 282-297. Ricardo Calado, Ike Olivotto, Miquel Planas Oliver and G. Joan Holt (editors). Wiley Blackwell Publishing.

Baensch, F. 2016. Exploring aquarium wrasse aquaculture and breeding success with the Ornate Wrasse. CORAL 13 (6): 38–50. PDF.

Baensch, F. 2016. The long road to breeding butterflyfishes. CORAL 13 (3): 46–59. PDF.

Baensch, F. 2014. The Hawaii Larval Fish Project. CORAL 11 (2): 64–77. PDF.

Baensch, F. 2012. The trials and tribulations of culturing the Crosshatch triggerfish and the discovery of a potential first-food organism for small-mouthed reef fish larvae. CORAL 9 (2): 41–55. PDF.

Baensch F. U. and Tamaru, C. S. (2009b). Captive hybridization of two geographically isolated pygmy angelfish species, Centropyge fisheri and Centropyge resplendens. Journal of Fish Biology (2009) 75, 2571–2584. PDF.

Baensch, F. & Tamaru, C. S (2009a). Spawning and development of larvae and juveniles of the rare blue Mauritius Angelfish, Centropyge debelius, in the Hatchery. Journal of the World Aquaculture Society. 40, 425–439. PDF.

Frank Baensch. 2004. Herzogfische der Gattung Centropyge. Die Nachtzucht ist gelungen! In: Nachzuchten für das Korallenriff- Aquarium. p. 181-207. Dieter Brockman. Birgit Schmettkamp Verlag.

Baensch, F. 2003. Marine copepods and the culture of two new pygmy angelfish species. Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine 26, 156–162.

Baensch, F. 2002. The culture and larval development of three pygmy angelfish species. Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine 25, 4–12.

Baensch, F. 1996. The Reproductive Biology of the Pygmy Angelfishes (Genus: Centropyge) and their Spawning in Captivity. Thesis. The University of Hawaii, xv+44 pp.