Step Aside Shark Tank, These are Real Sharks
***AWESOME UPDATE – May 14***
When I wrote this post exactly a month ago, Erica was working a full time job and doing her passion business in the evenings and weekends. I am excited to share she is now doing her entrepreneurial business full time!
The success of her new product which is called AP Aquaculture Live Food on Tap, is one of the reasons she decided to take the leap. Her innovation provides aquarium hobbyists easy access via their local fish store to a live, thriving, fresh culture of phytoplankton and zooplankton to feed to their fish and corals. The phytoplankton and zooplankton are sustainably cultured and used to raise Erica’s own aquacultured baby seahorses. (You can read more about the seahorses below in the original article).
Original blog post published on April 14
I’m fascinated by the idea of taking a passion and turning it into an entrepreneurial endeavor. Especially when it seems so far removed from a way to possibly make a living, like for example a passion for sharks.
Erica Fischer, founder of Aquapparel and AP Aquaculture, has created a mission based brand and a sustainable aquaculture company around her passion for sharks.
In a recent phone call Erica shared with me “I have always been interested in marine life, I can’t remember a point in my life when I didn’t have a fish tank. I was always in the pool or the ocean which earned me the nickname of EFish.”
She went on to explain that her interest in sharks was sparked by her uncle. She describes her uncle as an aquarium nerd with a keen interest in diving. “Years ago he saved a nurse shark that had been injured by a fishing line. He brought it home, nursed it back to health and then released it.” She continues “I would watch it in the tank and I realized it was intelligent. As I walked by the tank it would sometimes follow me like any other inquisitive animal. I’ve come to find that different sharks have different personalities. Some even similar to some of our favorite animals like dolphins. It’s easy to sympathize with a dolphin. But most people don’t do that with sharks, we treat them like cockroaches.” She explains “The shark’s purpose in life is to keep the fish population in check on the reef and take care of the sick and injured. If we remove them it creates an imbalance, which can affect all the way down to the smallest fish that cares for the coral. Sharks mature late in life, by the time they are ready to have babies many have been killed or removed from the wild. The primary causes are the fishing industry (they get caught in lines) and human consumption (think of shark fin soup) and to a much lesser extent the aquarium industry. Sharks don’t have a nutritional value that really makes sense for humans to eat them; they also are high in mercury which is not good for us.”
A few years ago she built a pond in her house for her shark and published a video on youtube which got 1,000 views. That’s when she realized a lot of people had sharks and were interested. (The video to date as over 95,000 views).
So what’s a girlpreneur to do to help preserve marine wildlife and habitat? She launches the Aquapparel clothing line and brand that celebrates water creatures and water sports with a strong focus on conservation, education and sustainability. From there she developed a sister company, AP Aquaculture, to further carry out Aquapparel’s mission.
AP Aquaculture has its sights set on species that are purchased by aquarium owners that are also on the IUCN Red List which means they are a threatened species. They sustainably breed these and also provide educational videos on aquaappareltv.
Erica is currently focusing on a few species but the main one is the seahorse. These slow and docile creatures unfortunately get picked up in drift nets and also get dried out as souvenirs. Their environment is threatened by pollution and other environmental issues. By breeding them and creating educational content on their care and purpose, she is hoping to educate people who purchase them for their aquariums as well as the general public.
She explains “If you’re going to buy and care for these animals, let’s have a very real conversation about what we’re doing here…we’re taking something from its natural environment and putting it into an aquarium where we are 100% responsible for the environment, food supply and well being for that animal. As hobbyists, we need to learn how to properly care for them, feed them and treat any health issues that may arise. The more we educate people by sharing knowledge and advancements that we discover by keeping them as pets, the better off our environment and all living things on this planet will be.”
Erica shared an example I think we can all relate to about the less exotic goldfish. Erica explained that goldfish have no stomach resulting in an extremely high rate of ammonia production (who knew?). They absolutely need filtration and yet we all put that goldfish we won at the fair in a bowl. That’s why they die after a week! (A week is not the natural life span of a goldfish).
Then there are the more exotic purchases like lionfish. Erica enthusiastically explains these are awesome and really cool until the new owner discovers it’s going to eat its body weight in food and has a nasty sting. Many aquarium species are invasive – you can’t just release them where you live without a negative impact. In fact, it is illegal to release certain species in Florida.
Erica went to college thinking she couldn’t possibly make a living in the marine sciences so she studied business and got a job at an online travel company. She really enjoys this work but her passion tugged at her so she created this side passion-based business. She works full time during the day and does this in addition to that.
But this entrepreneur has also recently developed a live food product line for aquarium fish owners. We’ll be watching Erica closely, learning from her, and seeing where she and her marine creatures go from here.