Biology Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for biology researchers, academics, and students. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

We cultivate a number of terrestrial organisms in greenhouses and stables where they live in completely artificial environments. This seems to extend far less to marine organisms, such as fish. Aquariums (especially the salt water variety) seem to be quite unstable and require a lot of maintenance, and commercial scale installations, like salmon farms, are set up in the ocean, rather than in a separate tank.

Are there inherent difficulties in cultivating marine organisms, or is it just that mankind has not tried as hard as with land species?

share|improve this question
up vote 2 down vote accepted

It probably depends on the type of marine organism you're referring to, some will be much more hardy than others and some will not be able to adapt to change at all. Due to the vast scale of the environment that marine fish come from it's likely that in their natural habitat the conditions they live in are not subject to drastic changes in water chemistry or temperature [1][2]. So recreating those exact conditions for them in man-made habitats, let alone maintaining them is going to be extrememly difficult. Also, if you think about the conditions that most (there will be some exceptions) terrestrial animals and plants have to deal with on a day-to-day basis they have to be able to cope with some fluctuations in humidity, temperature, weather, light etc and therefore are highly adaptable by necessity.

Other issues can be supplying the correct feed. In artificial settings food may have to be a non-natural substitute and this will likely cause problems for species who require a highly specialised diet. The terrestrial animals we tend to cultivate extensively are omnivorous/herbivorous which are not difficult needs to meet. On the other hand a fish from the sea that requires a particular other kind of fish only found in a particular area and that needs very specific conditions to thrive is going to be problematic.

Check out this article , it might be for a specific fish but it highlights some of the general issues i think you are referring to.

[1] [2] (both general articles on keeping marine fish)

hope this helps!

share|improve this answer

Large numbers of marine animals are actually cultivated in large aquaria. They're just generally not as conspicuous as farms and farm animals and are often located in difficult to access areas around estuaries or close to ports. There are also a number of specialised journals that focus on aquaculture such as the journal aquaculture. In addition to being cultivated in aquaria, large numbers of animals are also cultivated in more natural settings such as the salmon you mentioned or shrimp in shrimp ponds, which are widespread in countries such as Indonesia. A major problem in aquaculture is disease, although this can also be a problem with terrestrial livestock raised in high densities. If you're interested in marine aquaculture, I suggest you browse the various aquaculture journals to get an idea of what's going on.

share|improve this answer

Yes there are some fundamental differences

Different types of water the main challenge with aquariums compared with breeding terrestrial life, is that water differs a lot across the world, while the composition of air is virtually the same everywhere, whether over jungles, deserts, oceans or even cities. Fish from the amazon rivers require slightly acidic water, with tannins but little minerals, while fish from the great african lakes need a higher pH and more dissolved minerals. Since saltwater is all about dissolved elements and its concentration is increased by evaporation, this becomes all the more critical with saltwater fish, which work to maintain their internal concentration of ions against that of the ocean around them.

Feces Land animals drop their excrement on the ground, while fish swim in it, "breathe" the byproducts of bacterial breakdown of feces and suffer as the bacteria use up all the oxygen. Dealing with this while also maintaining "amazonian" or "tanganikan" water has kept many an aquarist busy. Land-animals are much simpler. The gecko dump its feces on the bottom of the cage and will happily breathe whatever air comes in your window.

On the microscopic scale, the difference between land and water is less pronounced. It is actually quite hard to breed in the lab many of the micro-organisms dwelling in soil. So much so that scientists has started sequencing DNA-fragments from soil to discover new species, never seeing them up front.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.