December 4, 2020

Winter a tough time for Florida tropical fish farmers

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In this Jan. 4, 2012, photo, Imperial Tropical's breeding manager Kevin Kramer inspects a net full of Black Tetras at the tropical fish farm in Lakeland, Fla. Almost all the nation's domestically-raised tropical and ornamental fish come from Florida, and when cold weather strikes the results can be devastating. It will be days, if not weeks, before farmer Fran Drawdy discovers how the recent cold snap will affect her fish. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — It’s a tense time at Imperial Tropicals, one of central Florida’s largest ornamental fish farms.

It will be days, if not weeks, before farmer Fran Drawdy discovers how the recent cold snap will affect her fish.

Her millions of platies, mollies and guppies in outdoor ponds could die quickly from the drastic temperature change — it went from 80 degrees on Christmas to 20 degrees two weeks later — or they could fall sick and linger from stress or a fungus.

Almost all the nation’s domestically-raised tropical and ornamental fish come from Florida, and when cold weather strikes the results can be devastating.

“We have tremendous challenges with the cold,” said Drawdy, who has owned the central Florida farm with her family for 40 years. “Our prayer was that we wouldn’t face that this year. We were just really starting to recover.”

Drawdy is referring to 2010, when many Florida ornamental fish farmers lost between 80 and 100 percent of their stock. That year, temperatures stayed below 50 for 11 days straight in January and then another cold snap in December struck the area.

“The last three winters in a row it seems like we have been just clobbered,” said David Boozer, executive director of the Florida Tropical Fish Farms Association, a group that counts 231 farmers as members.

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