Goldfish In Space

Posted by Joe Pawlak on 2nd Feb 2022

Goldfish In Space

Ornamental Goldfish Ride on Last Space Shuttle Mission, July 2011.

On July 8th, 2011, the Space Shuttle Atlantis took off on its final mission to space, Flight STS-135, a 12 day mission. Aboard the shuttle were Ornamental Goldfish eggs. The purpose was to compare development of eggs in microgravity (a weightless environment) to eggs developed on the ground, in Earth’s normal gravity.

This project was a part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education. Mrs. Kori Milroy and her science class from Skinner West Classical, Fine Arts, & Technology School in Chicago, Illinois, received a grant from the Motorola Solutions Foundation to participate in the program, which gives them an experiment slot in a microgravity research laboratory flying on the final flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis. To choose which experiment would go to space, students participated in a microgravity experiment design competition. The winning experiment was chosen by judges from among 77 experiment proposals.

Kori Milroy contacted central Florida business Blackwater Creek Koi Farms, Inc. to help with the project. President Joe Pawlak, of Blackwater Creek, has been involved with school based aquaculture systems for over 20 years and was very excited to help make the project a success. “Preparation is the key,” said Mr. Pawlak. A lot of science is utilized to prepare and submit these eggs for the mission. Male and female shubunkin goldfish have been specially selected and prepared for the event. They were placed in a high tech holding and breeding rack supplied by Apopka Florida’s Aquatic Habitats, Inc. There they were fed a specialized high nutrient food. Males and females were then given an injection of hormones to trigger spawning (egg laying and fertilization) at a precise time. After the eggs were fertilized and given time to start to mature, they were inspected under a microscope and cleaned to ensure the best possible condition for their space flight.

When asked why a particular type of goldfish was chosen, Mr Pawlak commented, “We have been working on a new variety of Shubunkin goldfish called the “Sanke Gold” that is red, white, and blue. We thought that being the last mission and near the time of our country’s birthday, it would be most fitting.” This is not the first time Joe has been involved with a fish in space project. In 1998, while working at Aquatic Eco Systems in Apopka Florida, he worked closely with members of the NASA AMES Research Center developing equipment for a Japanese Medaka fish experiment on STS-95, when John Glenn returned to space.

Mr. Pawlak also commented that “Its great to see a favorite past time of so many (fish keeping) be related to the final mission of one of Americas truly spectacular achievements… the NASA Space Shuttle Program.” Florida is home to the nation’s largest ornamental tropical fish industry, producing 95% of the tropical ornamental fish raised in the United States. At peak, the farm gate value (price received at farm level) was 57 million dollars. Currently there are approximately 120 farms mainly located in the Tampa area and south. To gain perspective, the number one commodity at Tampa Airport is tropical fish, with 10,000 to 20,000 boxes of fish being shipped every day.

More Details below:

Kori Milroy is a Science teacher at The Skinner West Classical, Fine Arts, & Technology School in Chicago, Illinois. Students Eric Chen and Erin Fitzgerald are in charge of overseeing and reporting results and experiences obtained by the project to science classes throughout the country.

Blackwater Creek Koi Farms, Inc is a ornamental Koi and Goldfish producer with its main office located in Eustis, Florida. They produce and ship Koi and Goldfish to retail stores throughout the world, year round. A related company Aquatic Nutrition Inc develops and packages specialty ornamental aquatic diets is also located in Eustis Florida

Aquatic Habitats, Inc is a supplier of aquatic biomedical research systems designed to hold fish and frogs for studies varying from genetic, cancer, and toxicology research. Systems containing up to 3700 small aquariums are in place at universities and private facilities around the world.

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program ( is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE;, a project of the 501(c)(3) Tides Center, in partnership with NanoRacks, LLC. This on-orbit educational research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.

Blackwater Creek Goldfish were sent on the last space space shuttle mission and now are on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum.