Using Science to Develop Marine Fish Culture Methods: The Rising Tide Conservation Initiative
Many hobbyists know that clownfish and a few other marine species are now bred by fish farms for the industry. However, most other marine aquarium fish are even more difficult to breed and are available only as wild caught specimens. How can we ever crack their breeding and culture codes?
Rising Tide Conservation, an initiative spearheaded by the Sea World and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, is a collaborative effort designed to advance methods and disseminate information regarding captive breeding of marine fishes and to provide alternatives to collection.
Eric Cassiano and Matt Wittenrich, two scientists based at the University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory, and members of the initiative have been concentrating their efforts on culture methods of a variety of species including anthias, tangs, dragonets, and porkfish. Join us, as we discuss the opportunities and challenges in their work with Rising Tide Conservation.
Matthew L. Wittenrich
Matthew L. Wittenrich is a marine biologist who has been deeply involved with the aquarium world since the age of 15. Born and raised near Buffalo, New York he began raising marine fishes in his parent’s basement, and has since successfully raised over 60 species. He is the author of The Complete Illustrated Breeders Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes and was awarded MASNA’s 2011 Aquarist of the Year. Matthew recently earned his PhD at Florida Institute of Technology studying the relationship between functional morphology, feeding performance, and mortality in larval stages of coral-reef fishes, offering a unique opportunity to explore both the success of culturists and the fate of natural populations. Matthew has recently joined the team at University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory. Working as part of a science based, collaboration he continues to develop and experiment with new ideas for raising coral-reef fishes in aquariums.
Eric Cassiano, M.S.
Eric Cassiano received his B.S. in Marine Biology from Hawaii Pacific University in the spring of 2002. After a brief stint with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, he began working for the Oregon State University Molluscan Broodstock Program, where he assisted with the aquaculture of the Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas. After a few years there, he began a position in Cedar Key, FL where he focused on various production aspects of the hard clam, Mercenaria mercenaria. In 2009, he received his M.S. in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from the University of Florida; focusing on the evaluation of Florida pompano, Trachinotus carolinus, larvae fed nauplii of the calanoid copepod Pseudodiaptomus pelagicus. Eric joined the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in October 2010 as a part of a new project exploring the production of marine ornamental fish species. The Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory is also a part of the Rising Tide Conservation Initiative--a group of research scientists and facilities, industry partners, and AZA institutions dedicated to the sustainable production of marine ornamental fish.
Eric’s research examines the use and production of alternative live feeds for first feeding marine ornamental fish larvae. One major bottleneck in the production of marine ornamental fish is first feeding. Most marine fish species are fed rotifers (Brachionus spp.) and/or brine shrimp (Artemia spp.) nauplii during this phase. However, they are not the preferred prey of most marine fish larvae and success with them has been limited to a few species. Larvae fed collected, wild marine zooplankton typically do better during experimental trials. The problem lies in producing sufficient numbers of these organisms to satisfy the needs of commercial facilities. Furthermore, using wild marine zooplankton can be inconsistent and problematic for commercial hatcheries. Expanding the number of marine ornamental fish species in production relies upon looking beyond the readily available live feeds and exploring the numerous phytoplankton and zooplankton available, and then developing methods to culture these. Alternative live feeds organisms, including copepods, dinoflagellates, ciliates, appendicularian larvae, nudibranch trochophores, and bivalve larvae, all have potential for use and production as live feeds for early life stages of marine fish.