Ornamental fish culture is fast emerging as a major branch of aquaculture golabally. Aquarium keeping is the second largest hobby in the world next to photography and the ornamental fish and aquatic plant industry is fast gaining importance due to its tremendous economic opportunities and prospects. The world ornamental fish trade is to the tune of US$6 billion. In Inida it showed and increase from million US$ in 1969 to 0.18 million US$ in 1990. The growth of ornamental fish trade in India is very much encouraging. Most of the ornamental fishes cultured and marketed in India are exotic species. Our country has a rich and uniqe biodiversity with a variety of indigenous ornamental fishes. But this resource has not been porperly exploited. the Western Ghats of India is a gold mine of tropical ornamental fishes and it is one of the 25 "hotspot" areas of the world. It exhibits exceptional mega biodiversity and high degree of endemism with respect to fresh water fishes. The potential of streams and rivers of the Western Ghats as a rich source of the ornamental fishes is yet to be recongnized.
About 80% of ornamental fishes are from fresh waters and the rest from brackish and marine waters. While most of the ornamental species are warm water tropical except some eurythermal carps like gold fish koi are cold temperate in origin and now having a world wide distribution. (0% of the fresh water ornamental species are farmed and wild species through capture are only 10%. Incase of marine and brackish water species reverse is the case.
Kerala with its highly conducive climatic conditions provides scope for the development of ornamental fishries. This sector assumes special signficance due to its huge potential in providing employment to the people hailing especially from rural sector and as a foreing exchange earner. The low production cost and higher returns with in a very short time, growing demand for fishes both from domestic and inter national market are the major attractions of this sector when compared to any other sector. It is estimated that 163 ornamental fish trade units are functioning in the state. The state has rich resources of indigenous ornamental fish in various river systems that have the potential to earn income to the state. In Kerala out os 21 of 44 rivers surveyed in 2005, 142 species were reported, out of which 72 (51%) are considered as possible ornamentals. Among these fishes a few like puntius denisonii are very valuable in the international market.
Inorder to make ornamental fisheries an export oriented industry, Matsyafed, FIRMS and MPEDA are providing asistance for ornamental fish breeding and export. The ornamental fish trade is promoted by the State Government by organizing international Aquashows and seminars on biannual basis ensuring participation of scientists, administrators, breeders, traders and entrepreneurs even from foreign countries. A major derivative of this initiative was formation of aqua technology park-KAVIL (Kerala Aqua Ventures Inernational Ltd) by the Government of Kerala with public private participation which provides a unique platform for the investment and trade oppertunites of the stake holders.