Here at ReefBuilders, we occasionally shine the spotlight on people who have an impact on the marine aquarium hobby with recognition of a “Reef Builder Spotlight”. This month, we’re featuring Jesus Larralde the president of Farside Tropicals based in Miami, Florida.
I was first introduced to Jesus shortly after ReefStock 2013 in Denver. I learned that he owned Farside Tropicals, a livestock wholesale facility that supplied wholesale Caribbean fish, coral and invertebrates to retailers and suppliers around the globe. When I first spoke with Jesus, he told me that he was a diver and collector and that he was very in tune with the fish and coral hailing from the Caribbean. I was immediately fascinated with his explanation of his business; how he sustainably collects, and his incredibly vast amount of knowledge about the fish, coral and invertebrate living in Caribbean waters; both those exposed in the trade and also with a many that are not readily available or discussed much among hobbyists.
From the time Jesus was a child, he was surrounded by family members who worked as commercial fisherman, which originated his passion for the ocean and gave him the desire to pursue a career in marine biology. When Jesus decided to get his scuba certification, he was paired with an instructor who was also a full-time livestock collector. After spending time with the divemaster, he realized that this was his calling and immediately embedded himself into the aquarium hobby while beginning to explore the ocean first-hand.
With time, Jesus started working for other collectors catching fish for the aquarium trade and learning how to keep them in captivity. Several years later, Jesus decided to take his interest (and potential business) to the next level by obtaining a commercial marine collection MLD (Marine Life Dive) license, a highly coveted license which is no longer issued by the state of Florida. In 2008, Farside Tropicals was incorporated and officially became a business. Over the years, Jesus has perfected his collection efforts and has an incredibly vast amount of knowledge about the fish, coral and invertebrate living in Caribbean waters — both those exposed in the aquarium hobby and also with an endless amount that are not readily available.
In 2012, Jesus was invited to join several other divers from on a trip to Mexico in an effort to collect Passer Angels, Crosshatch Triggerfish and the ever elusive Clarion Angelfish (holacanthus clarionensis). He obliged, and took personal footage of the trip to further document the collection process. As you can imagine, a lot of the fish captured in the video were imported into the United States. In short, Jesus has had a tremendous impact on the amount of Clarion Angels available to hobbyists, and that’s a pretty amazing fact. A fish which was once in the rankings of the most sought-after rarities in the marine aquarium industry has been collected and imported in larger numbers, and as we’ve reported is now even being captive-bred and sold, completing a saga in reefkeeping history!
After lots of discussion, a friend and I planned a collection trip with Jesus and took a flight down to Miami to visit the facility in person. What we were exposed to was nothing short of breathtaking! On our dive trips, we visited several portions of the Atlantic ranging from Tampa all the way down to Key West. We saw and collected lots of different species, ranging from Lettuce Nudibranch, Flower Anemones, Gorgonians, Emerald Crabs and much, much more. There was SO much to see and take in… for those of you who have never taken the opportunity to snorkel or dive in South Florida, I highly recommend it! You’d be surprised to see some of the areas that livestock are collected in… let’s just say it’s not always what you think it would be! This is a collection video which displays just a small amount of the animals which are encountered on a collecting trip with Mr. Larralde- fascinating and a must-watch for hobbyists who have ever wondered where those purdy’ purple gorgonians came from!
In the past year, Jesus Larralde and his partner/fiancé Liza Padilla have really taken their collection and business practices to a whole new level, offering some seriously amazing livestock to wholesalers and retailers all around the world. Below, we’ll feature just a tidbit of what this dynamic duo has provided in recent past, all collected right here in the United States.
The point that I’d like to drive home isn’t just that Jesus, Liza and Farside Tropicals have amazing livestock collected here in the states, it’s how they are working very hard to provide retailers (who then supply hobbyists) all over the world with hand-collected, sustainably caught livestock. If Jesus catches 10 angelfish and only three of them look to be pristine, only three of them make the voyage back and the rest are put back in the ocean to survive and thrive. That forward-thinking, keen attention to detail provide a care level that gives us hobbyists a notion towards keeping a successful reef tank filled with healthy animals. I hope that this blog and attached videos gave readers an in-depth view of part of the collection process of the animals we love to keep in our glass habitats.
Big thanks to Jesus and Liza for their hospitality during my dive trips and to opening my eyes at all that is involved in the collection of Florida marine wildlife.