tainable Aquatics’ approach from that of other marine
hatchery businesses. His vision for what the Company
can be has never been anything short of immense—so
much so that I sometimes get the sense that those who
work day-in and day-out with the animals are a little
skeptical about exactly how much a hatchery in Jefferson
City, Tennessee, can really accomplish. Not John.
“I knew Matthew knew more about clownfish breed-
ing than most,” he tells me, “and that’s really how this
all got started.”
At first, Matthew collected eggs off the glass of the
home display tank with a tube and bowl. Downstairs, in
1,500 to 2,000 clownfish a month.
“We were working with [Amphiprion] ocellaris, per-
cula, clarkii, tomatoes [frenatus], and black ocellaris,”
John recalls, “and we started getting almost 100% yield.”
This concept of yield is one John will continually come
back to during my two days at Sustainable Aquatics. “It’s
simple,” he says. “Yield is about how many of your fish
make it to market. Most of ours do.”
In 2004, the Carberrys started selling regularly to lo-
cal fish stores in Knoxville. They also started shipping
some fishes as well. They were selling $5,000 to $7,000
worth of fish a month, which, of course, is nothing to
Sustainable aquatics’ founder and chairman, John Carberry,
gives visiting children an introduction to captive breeding.
a wine-cellar-turned-fish-room, 20 ten-gallon tanks became the nucleus of an emerging business. At this point,
Matthew and his father were both still very much hobbyists, and their trajectory from display tank with a breeding
pair to basement breeding operation was not unlike that
of many mom-and-pop hatcheries across the country.
But then things began to change.
Soon there were 30 more tanks in the workshop, and
before long the Carberrys were producing, on average,
scoff at, but Matthew was still in school, and the chores
associated with sustaining that level of production were
quickly pushing the boundaries of a hobbyist.