Aquarium Fish Sex: How Craig Watson’s Obsession Helps Stimulate Florida’s Ornamental Fish Industry
Florida has been the center of aquarium fish and plant production in the U.S. since the 1930s. The state’s fish farmers currently raise hundreds of species of ornamental fish. But how do they breed all these different species? Most people know guppies give birth to fairly developed young fish, but do they know how guppies actually breed? And what about all the other species?
My guest today is a good friend and colleague, Craig Watson, Director of the University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory. Although Craig has worked in many different areas of aquaculture, he has always had an obsession for aquarium fish sex—figuring out what it is that makes fish want to breed—and it’s not just all about soft lights and music! He’s helped many farmers crack the secrets of the intimate world of fish—and will share some fascinating stories with us today. Join us!
Craig Watson, a native of Miami, began his career at a tropical fish farm in 1974. Craig paid his way through college at Florida State University by working at a local tropical fish store, and afterwards worked for a year as shipping manager of a wholesale tropical fish cooperative in Riverview, Florida. He and his wife Mary then spent three years as volunteers in the U.S. Peace Corps in Tunisia, where he assisted in a marine hatchery producing sea bass, sea bream, sole, and shrimp. After Peace Corps he did his graduate work at Auburn University in aquaculture.
Craig joined the University of Florida as a multi-county aquaculture extension agent in April of 1988 and developed a strong statewide extension program in support of the aquarium fish and plant industry. In addition to development of an industry newsletter and a highly successful monthly seminar series, he regularly provided on-site support in all aspects of ornamental fish culture. In 1997, he was appointed director and research coordinator for the newly established Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory.
Through his education, research, and one-on-one work with Florida producers, Craig has developed expertise in a wide range of issues surrounding the commercial success of ornamental aquaculture including reproduction strategies, hatchery and system design, chemical and drug usage, and environmental practices. His life’s work has taken him to every continent except Antarctica, focusing on issues surrounding aquaculture and capture fisheries involved in the aquarium industry. As director and research coordinator of the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory, he is responsible for assuring that programs and staff are providing the fundamental support to Florida’s farms as mandated by the Land Grant mission. In recognition of outstanding leadership and impact in U.S. aquaculture, Craig received the 2008 U.S. Aquaculture Society and World Aquaculture Society’s Distinguished Service Award.
Craig serves on several boards including the Florida Aquaculture Association, the National Aquaculture Association, and the Florida Aquarium, and was instrumental in development of the highly successful Aquariumania exhibit there. A father of two, Craig enjoys outdoor activities, especially camping, fishing, and boating.