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

Fish Breeding, Larval Fish and more…

Commercial propagation of marine ornamentals is not an easy task and is complicated by biological and economical constraints. Many species have not been cultured because of their complex reproductive biology; others can only be raised on an experimental scale; and for those that can be raised in large numbers, production is often not cost-effective. Less than 7% of the more than 2,000 traded marine aquarium fish species are farmed at any one time.

Much of my career has focused on developing breeding techniques for difficult-to-raise marine ornamental fish species. Bringing a species into commercial culture is a three part process:

  1. Experimentation to determine the correct nutritional and environmental conditions to complete the life cycle in captivity.
  2. Developing a reliable method so that larger-scale production becomes possible.
  3. Making the method cost-effective so that production becomes economical.

In 2001, I raised my first pygmy angelfish and subsequently founded Reef Culture Technologies. The company produced a number of rare, higher-valued pygmy angelfish species to fund my 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-four species from 26 families have been reared through settlement for the project thus far, including many 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 ….


Cultured Species


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.