Our Horror Story on How We Lost 90% of Our Fish Farm
Alright . Hello. Hello. Welcome. Welcome back to another podcast. This is the aquarium insider podcast with your host. My name is Dan Conner and. So I just wanted to give a little update. We have been out of commission for a few weeks. We've had an enormous amount of growth happening here on our farm and our retail location, physical and our online sales.
And we've been we're honestly just trying to ramp up and work through some issues. And on top of. I've recorded three podcasts so far that were supposed to be released. And I had some technical difficulties. I'm not really sure how in one of them, I left out like the audio wasn't turned on. Not sure how I do it with this mic.
It's relatively foolproof. And then in another one, the last two, I wasn't sure what happened, but the audio was incredibly like static. So I think I've come to a realization in my life that technology is starting to surpass me. So I got to check it out a little bit deeper before I do things. And so I worked through those issues.
So I'm working on getting those recorded and, and have it on some cool guests coming coming soon. So I've got a, I've got a couple lined up, so excited for that. Today. I wanted to do a little bit, a little bit different podcast. I wanted to give you, I want to, I don't know what to call it, but only thing I can think of is like story times.
I don't really talk a lot about our, like, sort of my background and what it is, but I wanted to give you a little insight into what it's like into being a fish farm. So from, you know, an industry perspective into how we dealt with fish on a daily basis. And I'll take you through from when. So for those of you don't know, I come from, this is my background.
So I grew up on a fish farm, right? We used to breed fish. We bred mostly angel fish. And then the taste story is about how he ended up having a developing new line of fish because of what happened to us when I was a kid. So we're gonna talk about that and then I'll talk about what it like, what it's like to own a fish distribution company as well, because that's also part of my growing up and being in the business and then how I kinda got started into this.
So let's kind of just take a little memory trip down as a kid. I grew up on a 20 acre angel fish. Fish farm when I was a kid. So I'm 35, right? So this is, this is like early nineties when I really started remembering things like five, six years old, something like that. So we had a 20 acre farm, all of with with most of our angels going into earth and ponds, like big ponds in the ground.
And we had two buildings where we would have my God, we must have had 500 pairs of angels at any given time. And it was just massive, massive amount of angel fish growing up as a kid. Right. Stuff I take for granted, not knowing a lot of people have like, oh my gosh, you grew up in this. This is like the, this is like my dream, what I wanted to do.
And I just, I've always grown up with it. So I don't know any, I don't know any different, this is all I've ever known. So. When I was little, I was always on the farm helping out we'd pick fish. We'd, you know, we'd sort through this or through size of angels, types of angels. We'd go ponds. We'd seine them up.
So attention, essentially what we do is we would try to get up all the fish. We see all the angel fish in a certain timeframe and everything else we had to cover and just basically kind of hold out for winter. So what we would do is we would try to hatchyou know, try to hatch out some of the babies, right.
And we'd put them We'd hatch them out. And once they were free swimming and eating really, really well. And they've got up to maybe a little below dime-sized inside of our buildings we had on the property. We had basically had concrete burial vaults, but they weren't, they were actually built in concrete vats.
They weren't actual separate burial vaults. They were all just concrete vats that we poured. We'd basically get them up to like dime-sized and about, about dime-sized a little bit bigger. We would then put out 5,000 to 10,000 angels per pond. So depending on what pondwe were putting, oh, excuse me. We didn't have put in about.
I believe about 10,000 angels per pound. I was still real little as a kid when I was doing this. So about 10,000 angels, roughly per pond. Right? Sometimes, maybe 15. If we're trying to get some in there, try to get them big enough to sell is, you know, essentially as quickly as we can, we want to sell them and rotate over inventory.
So we chart trying to sell them at probably a quarter size. Right. That was a good size for us to sell at the time to the larger, you know, distributors or wholesalers, I guess at the time. To them. So we were just the first, you know, we are the people producing it. We would sell it to a wholesaler who then sells it to a distribution company who then sells it to a pet store who then sells it to you.
Right. That's essentially how it would work. So back then, I mean, it's just like this in most agriculture products. If you don't know, most farmers make the least amount of money. I don't know. I don't know what it compares with on fish, on a fish farm amount. I know in normal agriculture, you know, typical farmers make less than 10, you know, three, 4 cents on a dollar that's produced for agriculture products.
I don't know if it's actually matching up as close, but I know it's not much. So when I was about, I think I was about net house, about eight, eight or nine. We had a problem on our farm and I don't know how to explain this, but essentially we had a virus and at the time there wasn't a lot of the one we did get a lot of help from our local Extension office on, on try to, you know, find out what's going on.
But the technology was so limited back then there was like one electron microscope in the entire state of Florida to figure out what's going on. So we were having angel fish problems, not only within our farm, like in our buildings, but we were losing them in the ponds as well. We're talking in a farm with probably anywhere between at any given time, a half a million to a million angels at any given time.
And we would lose fish in the building. We started losing fish in the ponds and we couldn't even get help fast enough. It was trying to look back at the timeframe and you know, I'm a kid. I asked my dad some timeframes and he said in roughly about 14, 14 days in two weeks. Our entire livelihood was wiped out.
Every angel fish on our farm was dead, which is that's a lot to take in. Cause you think about it, you know, being in this perspective like this is, this is our livelihood. This is how we make money by raising angels to sell the people, to keep in their tanks. We have to have enough per year. We try to make enough money to put food on the table.
It's not a glorious, you know, production business. Like I think some people might think it is, but it's, it's a hard business and especially at the farm level. Right. But so now, and by the way, angel fish was like 90% of our production, 90%. And then there's nothing we can do. We never, we never really even got a good conclusive answer as to what happened other than it was airborne.
I believe, you know, only thing we went at the time. I asked my dad a lot about this, cause I was still real little. I was like nine, 10 years old, something like that. When we had to happen.
And it was, you know, it's devastating, right? You only have 10% of your crop left to sell off. And we were doing at that time plecos we were doing some African sake led. Some of them were Buenas. We were doing some checkerboard barbs, and this is stuff I can remember. And I believe velvet and pineapple soar tails at the time.
So we didn't have a lot. Left to even breed or raise up and actually make money off of, but one thing that came out of this as we were like, it was a weird scenario. So you've got to think about it. We have an entire two buildings dedicated to angel fish production. Plus we did have, you know, our other fish in there.
If we are bring them inside, the, the swordtails we bred out in the ponds. Essentially, we got the breeders, we put on a pond with them, stock it up for like nine months. And then we start harvesting some boxes out of them, you know, a thousand a week, 2000 a week, whatever it is. We could take any of those, those other fish that weren't angels.
We could take barbs, we could take the Africans, we could take the sword tails we could take. And then we try to assort tails. First we put the store tails in the same tank as some of our angels, and the angels are dying off left and right. And the sore tails, aren't eating flinching. They're not having any issues like any issues at all.
So again, Knowledge right. And technology was incredibly hard to come by back in the day. So and I, you know, back in the day, I didn't, I didn't understand it. I was a kid, like, I didn't know at the time it never resonated how hard life was about to get and how difficult it was going to be to deal with such a huge loss.
And I credit my dad for. Going through some of the most adverse times. So we had to make a quick change up, you know, how do you make a change up when you're a fish breeder and your entire 90% of your livelihood is basically dead and there's nothing you can do. Right? So let me just recap, essentially what happens.
So our farm died, the farm down the road from us, took a huge hit and lost everything. And. With no super confirmation, but it seemed to be some sort of airborne virus that came in through possibly an imported product. I don't know if it was the same fish, I don't know, but they it, it was never conclusive, but it seems the most likely some type of viral issue, because most viruses are species specific and it didn't affect anything else on our farm by the time, you know, we didn't really know.
How virus has worked. Right. And we'll talk about why this, why this could be why this was bad for us to start with. So let's, let's move on how we're, how we're going to I'll come back to this. So, all right. So we have an entire farm where we've been breeding fish and 90% of our livelihood just basically disappeared off the face of there.
In less than two weeks. So having one, you can't pivot fast enough to bring in bruh brood stock of any kind or breeders of any fish, and think you're going to turn away and start making money because that investment has to be in the broodstock luckily back then it was, and just like it is now in the commercial, the rural commercial side, it's very tight knit.
If you needed something, you probably could get some help. And it was a good group of people to be around and they were helpful. Everyone was helpful amongst each other. It was nice, you know, just from my interactions with the farmers that I knew as a kid. So it's a, it's a small group of people and still to this day, it's a small group of people.
So. We had to find some other way to put food on the table. So we, one way to supplement, you know, our money until we could get our breeders back online was collecting how chokers are freshwater flounders. So I used to go with my dad all the time. And for me as a kid, it was just fun. You know, I didn't know any, you know, again, I'm young, I'm not really understanding the gravity of our situation, but we would go and get it.
Fresh water flounders out of the rivers and we would collect them and sell those, the distributors. And that's how we were able to make it buy and put food on our table to survive until we could get our broodstock up and breeding again. And when I say breeding again, we, we did it a little bit differently.
This time. We still decided to go with angels, but it was going to, we were in diversify out. So it wasn't as heavy into angel.
So. So now this is probably, I believe like a year and a half later, it was, I had to piece all this together, asked my dad to help lay out the timeline for all of this and go through how this actually worked. And so now we're a year and a half down the road producing angels. Again, no big deal.
Everything seems to be going well, no, no issues. And then out of the blue. Out of nowhere, the whole thing hits us for the second time. So now we've set up all these angels again, and now we've divorced despite out a lot more, we're doing a lot more sickly production. We're doing a lot more barbs production.
We're doing a lot more library production in the ponds. Right? Cause they didn't have no issues and they sell just as well, very easy to deal with. So we started doing that, but we started moving back in angels and say, no's backup and they're producing and everything's going well again, and it's going good.
And then boom, out of nowhere. The angel fish thing hits again and, and literally another short time span, we lose all the angels for a second time. And it was the last time we ever raised angels commercially until we put in a farm on a new property. And. You know, I don't know how we could've got it twice.
Other than maybe there was some, the only thing that would make sense to me on how it could, how we could have got it again, as we had some angels that were still in the pond from the last time everything died, that didn't die. Right. They became they did not die from the VA, from the virus and they were able to survive and somehow pass it on to the next generation of frying the ponds.
You know, I'm not sure even to this day, I'm not sure. Technology was limited. And it's a hard thing to deal with. I mean, fortunate for us, it was not, I think it was like half our production at that time. So it wasn't as big a hit, still had to supplement our incomes, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been.
And we already get past that and, and move on. I kinda, it taught me a lot about you know, kind of living through this adversity. Right. And as a kid, I didn't know as much. And I re I look back, I reflect and I'm like, man, I'm incredibly appreciative of like the work ethic my dad has for that kind of stuff.
Cause it's, I don't know many people who could have gone through that and make it, and then still stay in the same business. Like that's some huge losses and my dad loves fish. This has been his passion for. His entire life. He quit his big job to go work on a fish farm. He was working at one of the ah, fertilizer plants.
I believe he was doing one of those work in there, mixing fertilizers for the big companies. And he quit that has, it was just, he couldn't do it anymore. And fish farm was fun. It was new capture keeps you in really good shape. Cause we were doing almost all, all of our fish were breeding, you know, breeding or we're raising them outdoors on big, you know, big piece of property.
So I don't know. I just had time. I had fun talking about this, talking about our background, give a little insight into like what it looks like to be a farmer and some of the struggles. Struggles, you know, farmers go through and by the way, this is just our struggle. You know, maybe I'll try to get some of the farmers out there and talk about what, you know, things have gone through.
And, you know, this is just one, one piece of a very big puzzle. And I just want to get, make you guys aware of these things happen. It's not, you know, we're not, you know, no, one's perfect things happen, but we do the best we can with what we have and that's all we can do. So I hope this made sense. I hope this was a good talk for you.
Hope you enjoyed it. And I look forward to seeing you guys on the next podcast. Take care.