On the freshwater side of the aquarium hobby/industry, virtually all of the aquarium fish that we offer for sale have been raised commercially in either the Far East or Florida. Fish farmers have done wonderful things with creating new and interesting varieties of aquarium fish, especially of livebearers such as guppies, platies, mollies and swordtails.
In addition to color varieties and long fin types, many of the aquarium fish they breed have had the “balloon belly” trait introduced. These balloon belly aquarium fish are essentially deformed fish with slightly humped backs and fatter bodies than normal aquarium fish. In fact, a Florida fish farmer friend of mine said that, in the past, any fish that looked like that was discarded.
Some purists in the aquarium hobby/industry consider balloon belly aquarium fish to be an abomination, right up there for condemnation with painted fish and dyed fish. I disagree with this point of view. When someone rants 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.
Not all of the balloon belly aquarium 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 cichlid. 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 ram cichlids.