LAKELAND, Fla. — While many businesses were sinking financially during the pandemic, one Tampa Bay area industry rose to the top.
“When the pandemic hit, we had no idea that it was going to do what happened,” said Owner of Urban Tropical Ray Quillen.
The demand in tropical fish increased during the pandemic, with waves of people now working from home, setting up fish tanks.
“Either buying fish tanks and setting them up or maybe redoing their tanks,” Quillen said.
Urban Tropical Fish Farm in Lakeland reeled in 40% more in sales last year.
“Sales just went through the roof; we couldn’t keep up. It was way more than we ever expected,” Quillen said.
According to a study from the University of Florida, the tropical fish farming industry added more than $172 million in sales to Florida's economy in 2021.
Urban Tropical is the largest angelfish producer in the country. Last year, they sold nearly two million. The fish there are sold to major pet store chains around the United States.
Even though there are three million fish at the farm, the Quillen said the demand is so great, they are in uncharted waters. He’s now expanding the facility.
“This is our new angelfish room, where we’re expanding our operation to 575 more pairs of angelfish. Hopefully it will be done within the next month,” he said.