Aquarium fishery and licences

The Northern Territory (NT) aquarium fishery industry is a small-scale, multi-species fishery.

It includes freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats to the outer boundary of the Australian fishing zone, which is 200 nautical miles offshore.

Go to the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website for more information on the Australian fishing zone. 

Freshwater and estuarine species are generally collected between the Adelaide and Daly rivers, while most marine species are collected within 100km of Nhulunbuy and Darwin.

The aquarium fishery supplies a wide range of aquatic life to local, interstate and international pet retailers and wholesalers.

This includes all of the following:

  • aquarium fishes - mostly rainbowfish, catfish and scats
  • invertebrates - hermit crabs, snails, whelks and hard and soft corals
  • plants.

Types of licences

You must hold a licence to collect, sell or publicly display marine life in the NT.

There are three types of licences in the aquarium fishery: 

  • aquarium fishing/display licence
  • trader licence
  • display licence.

Aquarium fishing/display licence

There is a limit on the number of aquarium fishing/display licences allowed in the NT and all are currently allocated.

You can only get a licence by buying it from an existing licence holder.

To find out about existing licences contact Fisheries Licensing.

How you can use it

This licence allows you to collect, sell and display aquarium species.

You may harvest from all inland, estuarine and marine waters to the outer boundary of the Australian fishing zone.

You must not take fish from any of the following protected areas:

  • Doctor’s Gully
  • East Point Aquatic Life Reserves in Darwin Harbour
  • Aboriginal sacred sites
  • aquaculture farm leases and sanctuary zones.

You can use barrier, cast, scoop, drag and skimmer nets, hand pumps, freshwater pots and hand-held equipment to collect aquarium species.

Catch limits

Commercial fishers must record and report their catches via the logbook system.  

Read more about keeping a commercial logbook.

The aquarium fishery catch is recorded by the number of individuals or items harvested, or by weight for products such as hard corals and live rock - fragments of rock covered with living organisms.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) governs the taking and trading of wildlife and marine life. 

This includes hard corals, live rock and giant clams.  

Catch limits apply to some species under the convention.  

Go to the Australian Government Department of Environment website for more information.

Trader licence

An aquarium trader licence allows you to sell and trade aquarium species, but you can't harvest or collect specimens.

There is no limit on the number of licences allowed.

Contact Fisheries Licensing to find out how to apply for an aquarium trader licence.

Display licence

An aquarium display licence allows you to display live fish and aquatic life for profit. 

You must not sell or trade aquarium species.

You must have a minimum of 20 cubic meters of water in the display. 

Contact Fisheries Licensing  to find out how to apply.

Read more about commercial fishing licences.

Last updated: 13 October 2017