Florida Tropical Fish Freezing to Death

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Florida locals are already calling it the 2010 Fish Kill. 

Ponds, rivers and even commercial fishery operations in Florida are full of dead or dying fish, victims of this month's unusually long cold spell, according to MSNBCThe New York Times, and many other media reports coming out of the "sunshine state." While no species is completely immune to the cold, tropical fish populations appear to be suffering the most.

(Angelfish; Credit: mendel)

The Times mentions that Florida fish farmers are already expecting African cichlid, marble molly, danio and other colorful fish populations to be reduced by 50 percent. There's even a guppy shortage now in the state, which supplies half of all tropical fish sold in the United States. (Asia supplies the rest.)

It goes without saying that U.S. economic woes continue, so the deaths are really impacting the state's $45 million fish farming industry. The industry had already taken a hit because of public interest in electronics versus aquariums and outdoor activities.

(Image: ricciardella)

A typical tropical fish farming operation in Florida, the media reports suggest, consists of several swimming-pool sized ponds that owners maintain outdoors. Some farmers keep a few greenhouses for particularly cold-sensitive fish, so it is difficult to transfer all outside operations indoors due to space considerations.

Instead, fish farmers have been rushing to pump warm water into their outdoor ponds and to cover them whenever possible.

Hard life or death choices must be made, however, as the farmers are forced to decide which fish will likely perish outside and which should be brought into the greenhouses, if those are even available. Economic considerations are influencing those decisions. For example, Ray Quillen, the owner of Urban Tropical, said that he is sacrificing "babies" for larger angelfish that are almost ready to be shipped.

The only ones to benefit from the losses appear to be wading birds that are feasting on the fish remains.

Subfreezing temperatures continued to plague many parts of Florida today, but the fish farmers and the state's many other residents are hoping for warmer days ahead.