Aquaculture is the fastest-growing food production sector in agriculture, with great potential to meet projected protein needs of human beings. Aquaculture is facing several challenges, including lack of a sufficient number of genetically improved species, lack of species-specific feeds, high mortality due to diseases and pollution of ecosystems. The rapid development of sequencing technologies has revolutionized biological sciences, and supplied necessary tools to tackle these challenges in aquaculture and thus ensure its sustainability and profitability. So far, draft genomes have been published in over 24 aquaculture species, and used to address important issues related to aquaculture. We briefly review the advances of next generation sequencing technologies, and summarize the status of whole genome sequencing and its general applications (i.e. establishing reference genomes and discovering DNA markers) and specific applications in tackling some important issues (e.g. breeding, diseases, sex determination & maturation) related to aquaculture. For sequencing a new genome, we recommend the use of 100–200 × short reads using Illumina and 50–60 × long reads with PacBio sequencing technologies. For identification of a large number of SNPs, resequencing pooled DNA samples from different populations is the most cost-effective way. We also discuss the challenges and future directions of whole genome sequencing in aquaculture.