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Research Programs

Aquaculture is the husbandry of an aquatic organism in a controlled environment. The aquaculture industry in Florida has been dominated for decades by production of freshwater ornamental fishes. The purpose of my research program is to diversify aquaculture production by developing culture methods for new aquatic organisms and determining their potential for commercial production. To diversify the number of species produced in Florida I have focused my research efforts on three areas: the culture of marine baitfish, the culture of copepods and utilizing them as a first feed for larval marine fish, and development of diets and methods to condition and spawn brood fish. Each of these areas increases the potential for culture of new species by defining methods to alleviate critical bottlenecks which have prevented successful culture and commercialization.

Rising Tide Conservation

The Rising Tide research efforts of the IRREC is focused on defining culture methods for various marine ornamental fish species including broodstock reproduction and defining optimal culture parameters and feeding regimes for all stages of development to produce market sized fish. Two M.S. students are working on different species of Chromis as well as on larvae of all species housed at IRREC including the Pacific blue tang (Paracanthurus hepatus). Additionally, AZA public aquaria around the U.S. will be shipping collected eggs from their exhibit tanks so they can also define optimal feeding and culture parameters. Results will be shared with researchers and private producers to expand production of marine ornamental fishes.

Read about Rising Tide Conservation research and visit their blog here.

Read about Rising Tide Conservation in an Op-Ed piece authored by UF/IFAS leader Jack Payne: here.

And, in the Palm Beach Post: here.

Marine Baitfish Culture

Bull Minnows PinFish PigFish

My research defines culture methods to close the life cycle of several fish species commonly used as bait by the $6.6 billion saltwater fishing industry in Florida. Currently, almost all marine baitfish are harvested from the wild. The supply is seasonal, and for most of the year the demanded species and/or sizes of baitfish are not available. There is no special marketing effort needed because established retail markets exist in every coastal county and marine baitfish are in high demand. My research has defined culture methods of three new species and my lab was the first to close the lifecycle of two species. Continued research will refine culture methods of these species and define methods for year round and low salinity production.

One attractive attribute of some marine fish is their ability to survive and grow in low saline waters. This facilitates marine aquaculture to occur in inland low saline waters where high-valued marine organisms can be cultured away from expensive and developed coastal property.

Larval Culture Using Live Feeds

Read about the aquaculture program is a feature article published in a local magazine, Stuart Magazine, here.

Pompano Larvae Pinfish Larvae

There is a great desire to culture many species of high valued marine food fish and hundreds of species of marine ornamentals. Currently, the bottleneck to their production is the larval stage. This stage requires very small live food organisms to be fed to the larval fish. For the past decade, larval culture methods have used rotifers and brine shrimp (Artemia sp.) for live food, but successful culture is limited to a few species. Neither of these organisms are the natural prey of marine fish and are used because they are commercially available. Additionally, their nutritional composition will not support the growth and survival of larval fish unless they are enriched with nutritional additives. The natural prey of larval marine fish is copepods. There are 24,000 species of copepods identified and they are so numerous in the oceans that they represent the greatest biomass of any organism in all of the world’s oceans, even though their size ranges from 60 to 1000 µm. There is a growing research effort worldwide to isolate and culture individual species of copepods in tanks to produce the necessary small naupliar stage to feed larval marine fish.

Copepod Copepod Tanks Rotifer

My research on copepods includes isolating and evaluating new species and determining if they are conducive to culture in tanks, then the optimal culture conditions for each species are defined. Additionally, we are feeding copepods to marine fish larvae and comparing their performance to larvae fed rotifers and Artemia sp. The long-term objective is to allow many marine fish, including ornamental, bait and food species, to be produced commercially because the larvae can be successfully cultured with copepods.

Reproduction and nutrition of brood fish

Mono Sebae

I am PI of a research project evaluating brood nutrition of two commercially important freshwater ornamental fish, Redtail Black Shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) and Mono Sebae (Monodactylus sebae). This project is funded by a USDA grant which is part of a larger regional project to investigate broodstock nutrition of fish. For most species of fish, there is minimal information on broodstock nutrition. It is known that brood fish require additional nutrition during egg and sperm development. However, the effects different levels of fatty acids have on ornamental fish reproduction are unknown. So, we formulated diets to measure the effects of altering the fatty acid composition of brood diets.

Biopsy Inject 1

My lab is conducting research to define the optimal spawning protocol of pinfish (Lagodon rhomboides) and pigfish (Orthopristis chrysoptera), both marine baitfishes. Additionally, we are evaluating the effects of different hormones on fecundity, egg and larval quality, and survival of larvae. The results of this research will clearly define when to dose fish with each spawning hormone, how much to use, and the efficacy of the hormones. Additionally, my lab conducts research on the Seminole killifish (Fundulus seminolis), a candidate marine baitfish, to determine how it reproduces in captivity and what is the reproductive potential. My lab was the first to show that the Seminole killifish could reproduce in tanks and they deposit their eggs on substrate materials suspended within the tank, additionally their eggs do not need to be submersed in water and must only remain in a humid environment to develop.

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