The mission of the University of Florida Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory (UF-TAL) is to enhance the understanding of tropical, ornamental aquaculture through research and education. The Laboratory performs applied research, fish disease diagnostic services, and extension education programs and promotes professionalism in Florida’s tropical aquaculture industry. Florida is home to as much as 95% of U.S. production of aquarium fish (depending on season) and plants due to its climate, geology, and presence of international shipping hubs. While production is spread throughout the state, the heaviest concentration of farms is in the southern half, particularly near the Tampa Bay region. Current production includes over 800 varieties of freshwater fish; 200 varieties of freshwater plants; and a growing number of marine fish, invertebrates, and live rock on over 100 certified farms. With a 2012 farm-gate value of $27.3 million for tropical fish and $5.3 million for aquatic plants, Florida ornamentals represent one of the largest segments of U.S. aquaculture. The UF-TAL also works closely with natural resource agencies, state game fish hatcheries, and food fish and baitfish aquaculture industries.

Research is very important to the mission of the UF-TAL. The research programs provide support for statewide extension programs in ornamental aquaculture as well as the science information needs of industry, agency, and public stakeholders. Laboratory researchers are responsive to the UF-TAL Advisory Committee and work closely with the Research Committee of the Florida Tropical Fish Farms Association, the Division of Aquaculture of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and other stakeholders in developing research priorities. Research at the UF-TAL is conducted in four core topic areas: ornamental aquaculture production and management, aquatic animal health, ornamental fish reproduction, and non-indigenous aquatic species ecology and management.

The UF-TAL began collaborating with the Rising Tide Conservation Initiative in 2010 in an effort to develop commercial aquaculture protocols for marine ornamental species identified as having high market demand and/or sustainability issues associated with their collection. Current research efforts are focused on evaluating captive reproduction and larval culture methods for a variety of species including the Pacific blue tang, Milletseed butterflyfish, Bartlett’s anthias, Halichoeres spp. wrasses, and the emperor and semicircle angelfish.


Assistant Professor UF Tropical Aquaculture Lab 


Matt DiMaggio received his PhD in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from the University of Florida in 2012. He worked for two years as a post-doctoral research scientist for the University of New Hampshire before accepting his current position as an assistant professor and extension specialist at the University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory (UF-TAL). Dr. DiMaggio has worked in the aquaculture field for over ten years and has a broad foundation, having conducted research with both marine and freshwater fish species produced for food, bait, and ornamental purposes. His previous investigations have focused on a myriad of applied culture aspects including live feed production, induced spawning, and larval rearing, as well as more basic investigations into sex determination and sex change in teleosts.

Current research projects include identifying effective larval culture methods for popular marine ornamental species such as the Pacific blue tang, Halichoeres spp. wrasses, and the Milletseed butterflyfish.

He is excited to collaborate with the talented researchers at the UF-TAL and the Rising Tide Conservation initiative to develop techniques and protocols that will allow for commercial production of new marine ornamental species. 

Micah Alo


UF Tropical Aquaculture Lab Biologist


Micah Alo has specialized in the field of aquaculture for over 15 years.  Back in 2001, he first dipped his feet in the ornamental aquaculture field with the University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory (TAL) improving strains of the freshwater swordtail livebearer, Xiphophorus helleri. His Masters degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences was with TAL and focused on growout of the saltwater ornamental clam Tridacna maxima in greenhouse recirculation systems. Micah undertook a couple of food production aquaculture projects, first with the University of Florida’s Whitney Laboratory looking into alternatives to hardclam (Mercenaria mercenaria) aquaculture with native ark clams (Anadara ovalis and Noetia ponderosa).

Micah expanded his world at Mote Marine’s Aquaculture Park, researching low salinity aquaculture of Pacific White Shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei. His next challenge was with the State of Florida Marine Stock Enhancement Laboratory. This station gave Micah experience with red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) broodstock, larval, nursery and fingerling intensive production aquaculture systems using state of the art automated feeder systems and water quality parameter monitoring SCADA systems. He has live feeds experience with various species of microalgae, as well as high density rotifer and artemia culture. His experience in extensive aquaculture includes management of 15 acres of fish production ponds and a 2 acre constructed Spartina alterniflora wetland for effluent treatment. His work on nitrate detection, nitrification and denitrification systems has helped minimize discharge from fish culture production system. Micah’s new position with TAL has brought him back full circle where he is happy to join the team and help in any way he can to advance the field of ornamental aquaculture.

Micah enjoys snorkeling, kayaking, hiking and spending time with his family (furry ones included) during his spare time.


Researcher Tropical Aquaculture Lab


Kevin received his B.S. from Michigan State University in Environmental Biology and Zoology in 2009.  He then became an intern at Mote Marine Laboratory’s Aquaculture Research Park in Sarasota, Florida, where he was responsible for live feed production, maintaining their commercial scale continuous culture rotifer system and helping with larval trials of some of Florida’s leading sport and food fish: common snook, red drum, and Florida pompano. He went overseas from there, completing a M.S. in Sustainable Aquaculture through the University of Stirling in Scotland. While there he contacted the University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Lab (TAL) about coming back to Florida to complete his research.  His M.S. focused on temperature manipulation of ocellated dragonet eggs and early larval stages in an effort to slow down development, resulting in larger, more robust larvae capable of consuming larger prey items. Upon completion of his degree, he was hired on to stay at TAL as the marine broodstock manager. He has been there since 2012, working on the Rising Tide Conservation project and working with the Florida aquaculture industry to develop new technology and get new marine species into commercial production.


Researcher Tropical Aquaculture Lab


Eric received his B.S. in Marine Biology from Hawaii Pacific University in the spring of 2002.  After a brief period with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, he began working for the Oregon State University Molluscan Broodstock Program, where he was exposed to aquaculture of the Pacific Oyster.  After a few years there, he began a position in Cedar Key, FL with the University of Florida where he focused on various production aspects of the hard clam.  In 2009, he received his M.S. in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from UF; his thesis focused on evaluating Florida pompano larvae fed nauplii of the calanoid copepod Pseudodiaptomus pelagicus

Eric joined the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in October 2010 as a part of a new project exploring the production of marine ornamental fish species.  His research focuses on the examination and production of live feed species.  Expanding the number of marine ornamental fish species in commercial production relies upon looking beyond the readily available live feeds and exploring the numerous phytoplankton and zooplankton available. Alternative live feeds organisms, including but not limited to copepods, dinoflagellates, ciliates, appendicularian larvae, nudibranch trochophores, and bivalve larvae, all have potential for use and production as live feeds in marine fish larval rearing.

Rising Tide Conservation





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