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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Balloon Belly Fish

By David Lass

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On the freshwater side of the hobby/industry, virtually all of the fish that we offer for sale have been raised commercially in either the Far East or Florida. The fish farmers have done wonderful things with creating new and interesting varieties, especially of livebearers such as guppies, platies, mollies and swordtails. In addition to color varieties and long fin types, many of the fish they breed have had the “balloon belly” trait introduced into them. These are essentially “deformed” fish with slightly humped backs and fatter bodies than “normal” fish. In fact, a Florida fish farmer friend of mine said that, in the past, any fish that looked like that was thrown on the ground for the birds to eat.

Some “purists” in the hobby/industry consider balloon belly fish to be an abomination, right up there for condemnation with painted and dyed fish. I couldn’t disagree more with this point of view. When someone rants at me about the awful things they do to fish by breeding “deformed” ones, I simply ask if they think that fancy goldfish are nice. Almost every time they agree that orandas, ranchus, lionheads and other fancy goldfish are lovely fish. I then simply point out that fancy goldfish are really nothing more than balloon belly comets—and most of the time they agree.

Not all of the balloon belly fish have proven to be good sellers, but a number of them have. Balloon belly angelfish, oscars and tetras have not been good sellers, at least for me in my small wholesale business to local fish stores here in New England. However, balloon belly mollies outsell all other types of mollies by at least two to one. The newest balloon belly introduction has been the balloon belly ram. Regular rams, especially those produced in the Far East, are usually weak fish and do not do well at all. The balloon belly rams are the hardiest rams I have ever had. The balloon feature is not outrageous, and merely makes them look a little shorter and squatter than normal rams.

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