Polk County fish producer benefits from pandemic boom in tropical fish

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Polk County man hasn't been able to keep up with the demand for the fish he raises at Urban Tropical, his farm in North Lakeland. 

More people are setting up tanks because they don't go into the office as much as they used too or not at all. Ray Quillian, who owns Urban Tropical, and other fish producers are reaping the benefits.

"Last year was our best year since we have been in business," Quillian said. "Our sales were up about 40%."

The pandemic caused a lot of people, including Mark Sierra, to take a deep dive into owning tropical fish.

"It gives me company because I miss working around people," he said.

His new hobby wasn’t cheap to get into. He spent several thousand dollars on a fancy set up, but he said it was worth it.

Quillan’s fish, primarily Angelfish, show up in pet stores all around the country. Even though he has about three million on his property, Quillan still can’t keep up with the demand for fish to fill all the orders that are coming in. Because of this, he is expanding his operation.

This new wave of enthusiasm for tropical fish is on top of what the industry was already doing. A recent University of Florida survey indicates that tropical fish add $172 million a year into the state’s economy.