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Meet Bob Bittner of Reef Stew and More

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bob Bittner.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Bob. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Almost 20 years ago, my wife took my daughter to our local fish store to purchase a 10-gallon aquarium with a few freshwater angle fish. They began to breed and we developed a found liking for the hobby. We moved into a 55-gallon saltwater tank, which then grew into a 240-gallon saltwater reef tank that is still up and running to this day! Fish breeding turned from a fun hobby into a great part-time business that has also grown to include successfully breeding and raising seahorses in the past, and currently over 20 different specialty breeds of Clownfish and Neon Gobies with more to come in the future! In addition to fish, we have also developed an amazing zooplankton called Reefstew that is sold to our buyers to feed corals and any other filter feeders including newly hatched fish.

Has it been a smooth road?
When you are dealing with any livestock, there is always the potential for something to go wrong. Some of the obstacles we have overcome in the past include pump failures, power outages, cross-contaminated cultures, etc. One of our current largest problems we face due to being a small business is the cost of shipping our live fish. Some of our larger competitors have the ability to absorb the cost of the shipping because they have enough volume to be able to ship at no cost to the customer, which is something we strive for in the future but currently, it can cost us upwards of $100 to ship one box of fish to the East Coast overnight.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Reef Stew and More story. Tell us more about the business.
We specialize in breeding and selling over 20 different kinds of clownfish and neon gobies in addition to hand making and selling our Reefstew. We are known for our health of the fish we ship, and the vibrant coloration all our fish display. We purchase 50lbs of specialized TDO pellet feed at a time from California for our fish which we will go through in about 2 months. We are proud of the reputation our beautiful fish have created for us which sets us apart from some of our competitors. Furthermore, our facility sets us apart due to keeping it extremely clean and we are very careful to avoid any cross contamination between any of our 8 fish and coral systems and we ensure our water quality with weekly water testing of 9 different elements.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The business of captive breed fish is constantly growing due to the decrease in collecting wild fish and corals to preserve our oceans the best we can. Just in this last month, Hawaii has closed ALL collection of wild fish, and this is just the start of all coastal locations winding down the amount of collecting that is currently being done.

Due to the decrease in wild-caught fish, more and more people are trying their hand at breeding tank raised fish. While many are succeeding, it is always very difficult in the beginning to get started and the only way to turn a profit is to continually have high numbers from each spawn, which is not an easy task. There are many breeds which are currently not being breed in captivity due to the simple reason for it being cheaper to catch from the wild versus attempting to reproduce and raise in captivity.

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