The Amazon basin is a key supplier of wild freshwater fishes to the multi-billion US$ global aquarium market, yet limited information exists on the organization of the regional trade, its importance to local economies or conservation impacts. Through field interviews and review of government statistics, this paper describes the state of the industry in Peru, reporting on the scale and value of the trade, the nature of the fishery and the characteristics and roles of key actors in regional supply networks. An economically important industry is revealed, with 28 firms officially exporting over nine million fishes worth US$ 2.5 million to 24 countries in 2001, and involving fish species from 36 families transported from rainforest catchments up to 1100 km distant from the export centre of Iquitos. Most fish are however collected close to the city, with 10 species representing >70% of trade volume. Some 10 000 people earn income from the trade, among them many rural poor who depend on aquarium fish collection as a primary or supplementary source of cash income. The industry is currently undergoing an important transition towards supplying new Asian and European markets, increasing exports of species biologically unsuited to heavy exploitation as a result, and highlighting the conservation need for improved knowledge and management of the trade in Amazonia.