street? Simply stated, Sustainable Aquatics is a saltwater fish hatchery providing captive-bred and tank-raised
aquarium animals to the international marine aquarium
trade. This, in and of itself, does not make it unique,
although the speed with which the young company has
moved to the second spot in the North American marine
ornamental hatchery industry certainly has captured the
attention of many observers.
tank-raised Clown triggerfish, Balistoides conspicillum: wild-bred
in bali, indonesia and tank-raised in tennessee.
A DIFFERENT BRAND OF HATCHERY
What really has caught my attention is the Company’s
Sustainable Islands division. This initiative adds a radical
new layer to the original clownfish hatchery model, and,
in truth, it is what motivated me to buy a ticket to Tennessee. While marine ornamental hatcheries today are
offering a growing list of species, it is a reality that only a
very small percentage of the species we keep in saltwater
aquaria have ever been bred in captivity—and even fewer
on a commercial level.
Sustainable Aquatics frequently offers animals on
their weekly price list that are unheard of from a hatchery. We’re talking tank-raised Hippo Tangs, Yellow
Tangs, various butterflyfishes, including the much-cov-eted Copperbands, and other pelagic spawners.
Because of their reproductive habits and hard-to-feed larvae, these fishes have eluded the best efforts of
breeders, and some of them have a dismal reputation
when it comes to mortality in the aquarium. So the fact
that Sustainable Aquatics is marketing them as hardy
and acclimated to aquarium conditions and foods is a
To be clear, these butterflies and tangs, among oth-
ers, were not bred in captivity at Sustainable Aquatics. These are wild-caught
fishes, net-collected as small post-larval
and juvenile fishes recently settled onto
the reef and then reared or raised at SA’s
dedicated Sustainable Islands facility.
These fishes, once imported, will spend
anywhere from a month to a year at Sustainable Aquatics before being branded
as tank-raised Sustainable Islands fish
and moved to market.
Sustainable Aquatics is not the first
hatchery to deal in tank-raised animals,
and these terms—tank-reared or tank-raised—have frequently been confused
and even abused. But as much as I get
excited about a tank-raised, hardy,
Aiptasia-eating Copperband Butterfly that devours a captive diet, I am getting ahead
of myself, for the Sustainable Islands
initiative only exists because of the able
leadership of Matthew Carberry.
A HOBBYIST FIRST
Matthew Carberry is tall and lanky. In
his late 20s, he is inclined to demonstrate
his capabilities through his actions.
Not a lot of bluster or bravado here. As
I come to know him better, however, I
am fully aware I am in the presence of a
very capable aquarist. Of course actions
do speak louder than words, and what I
observe during two days of unrestricted
access to the Sustainable Aquatics facility speaks volumes.
On this particular Saturday, Matthew is on a stepladder leaning over a
rack of tanks full of various clownfishes.
As he starts a siphon—this is one president who is not
afraid to get his hands wet—he shares his background
with me. “I spent six years at UT,” he tells me, speaking
of the University of Tennessee, located about 40 minutes
away in Knoxville. “It took a long time because I added
majors instead of switching.” He ended up graduating
with a BA in French language and a BS in ecology and
evolutionary biology. Those two degrees were supplemented by a third major in marine biology. While he
briefly considered a career in academia after being offered a job with the University, Matthew got the break of
which many hobbyists only dream.
Matthew’s father, John Carberry, was supportive of
his son’s hobby. While it is true that John, who now
serves as chairman of Sustainable Aquatics, founded and
funded the business, it is perhaps more important that it
was he who inspired Matthew to follow his passion for
the marine aquarium hobby during his formative years.