Winter a tough time for Fla. tropical fish farmers

January 6, 2012 - 4:05 AM

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — Cold weather has once again set Florida's tropical fish farmers on edge.

Wednesday and Thursday's cold snap sent temperatures plummeting into the mid-20s and mid-30s in much of central Florida. That's also where many of the state's tropical fish farms are located.

Florida fish farms struggle to keep their tropical fish and aquatic plants warm during winter months. A devastating freeze at the beginning and end of 2010 wiped out many farmers' stock.

Florida produces about half of the nation's tropical fish, while the rest are imported. About 400 varieties of fish are raised in the state.

The industry started in Miami in the 1920s. As land became more expensive, farmers migrated north. Farmers say that at one time, tropical fish were the most shipped cargo from Tampa International Airport.