It’s hard to imagine anyone would try to establish an aquaculture facility specialising in raising Mbuna – the african Rift Lake cichlids – outdoors – in Southern Oregon’s harsh temperatures. But, if there’s enough water, at the right temperatures, anything is possible.
This report outlines how Ron Barnes tapped an abundant local supply of geothermally heated water and is commercially breeding thousands of african cichlids for the specialty tropical fish market on the U.S. West Coast and beyond.
A seasoned fisheries expert, Barnes earned a bachelor of science degree in marine biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a masters in aquaculture from University of California Davis. He started out wholesaling tropical fish in Santa Cruz, CA, in 1988, before buying a small and remote (located near Merrill in the Lower Klamath Valley – about 10 miles south of Klamath Falls), tropical fish hatchery in 1990.
Barnes raises more than 100 different varieties of fish, including cichlids from Central America that also thrive in his alkaline geothermal water. He stocks no more than three species per pond to prevent interbreeding. Minnow traps are used to catch the bulk of the two-inch fish he sells, while a seine is used to catch larger fish and brood stock. Barnes and assistant Pete Booth perform all necessary chores at the year-round breeding and growing facilities.