Last month ReefBuilders featured the new RotiGrow System from Reed Mariculture. As promised, this next installment looks at the hands-on results with the most modern marine algae paste system available to marine fish breeders. This system was actually designed for large scale foodfish operations. We tried to solicit independent feedback from large-scale producers, but were surprised to learn that no one wants to talk about it. Why? Well, Reed Mariculture believes that no one wants their competition to know what they’re using!
After months of using these products, I can safely say I have never been so impressed. While I haven’t run these product through rigorous scientific methodology, my personal experiences suggest that we are only beginning to see the benefits of these new feeds.
In short, I have seen much higher larval survival in clownfish batches than I ever obtained utilizing live algae. On average, it seems clownfish survival has doubled or better. Using my old techniques, I seldom would rear more than 50 or 75 Onyx Perculas from a single clutch. When moving the two clutches I currently have going, I counted 187 in one, and 171 in another. I even reared 150-plus Black Ocellaris from a single clutch, phenomenal results considering some breeders can’t even get that many eggs out of a pair. One of my local reefing friends, Jay Hansen, is rearing his very first batch of Gold Stripe Maroon Clownfish (Premnas biaculeatus ‘Sumatra’) using only my very generic instructions and the RotiGrow System. He now has hundreds through metamorphosis on his very first try (historically the average hobbyist first success with this species may be only single or low double-digit survival rates).
I also had a glimmer of hope with preliminary work trying to rear the Green Chromis with only rotifers and these products…made it 48 hours longer than previously documented attempts. Consider that light collected wild Green Chromis (Chromis viridis) larvae need only be the size of a five-day-old Dottyback (approximately 5 mm in length) in order to be “tank raised”, and the reality is we might be making a step in the right direction with this very difficult species.
Perhaps the most stunning successes I’ve seen is improvements in Dottyback production. I am not alone in this regard – Addy-Zone Hatcheries are seeing dramatic improvements in their culture of Pseudochromis fridmani, the Orchid Dottyback. The only change was the switch to the new RotiGrow System. Personally, I’ve been able to acheive unthinkable success on my very first attempt to rear Pseudochromis flavivertex, the Red Sea Sunrise Dottyback. Early larval survival is phenomenal. Using RotiGrow Plus for rotifer culture and occasional enrichment, and RotiGreen for Greenwater Technique, I’ve achieved results that have been suggested to be easily five times better than some commercial hatcheries have ever been able to produce. That statement is based on private conversations, but the numbers are quite real. Even if you disregard what commercial hatcheries do, most hobbyist breeders have never thought these types of numbers could be achieved.
At 12 days post hatch, I documented an official count of 999 babies in the run (With many more out of the photograph’s view, and thus, easily 1000+), in a 16 gallon black round tub.
By day 30, settlement was well underway. I split off some from a batch and counted 170. A photographic count on what remainds was 497…and that doesn’t count what I couldn’t see. The official count is 667 dottybacks, but the actual number must be higher. Of course, nothing says “tons of dottybacks” better than video! Production was so insanely high from a single run that I probably will not have a need to cultivate this species again!
[youtube width=”640″ height=”385″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Tc9UuQK-OI[/youtube]
Why It’s a Value
Those who’ve known me for a long time know I used to be a proponent of live algae. If you’ve looked at algae pastes before, they may seem like a substantial investment (a.k.a. “expensive”). In fact, the cost is what kept me away from algae pastes for so long…I thought I was doing it better and cheaper with live algae. Well, it turns out that when I really did the math, the materials it cost me to set up a phytoplankton culture station was easily the same as a couple liters of frozen algae pastes. But that’s before I added in the ongoing costs of light, bulbs, saltwater, bleach and dechlor to sterilize, 2L bottles, and ongoing replacement of tubing to keep things clean. Then, add on the hour I spent every week harvesting and splitting cultures, the gallons of live phytoplankton I had to store in my refrigerator, and the monthly hours I spent filling 2L bottles with saltwater I mixed and bleached to keep it sterilized until I used it.
Now, I grab a couple cubes of frozen paste, thaw them in a jar in my refrigerator, and use a pipette to add drops into the cultures and baby fish as needed. Does live phytoplankton sound easier? Or look at it this way — over the next two years my phytoplankton needs will set me back about $1.50 a week, or $6 a month. Would you spend $6.00 a month to get back 4-8 hours of your free time to do other things? Bottom line, I will never culture live algae again unless it is absolutely proven that I can’t get the results I need from the RotiGrow system from Reed.
Most hobbyist marine fish breeders are looking at purchasing 2 algae products and being fully ready to go. 1L of RotiGrow Plus, and 1L of RotiGreen Omega, combined will set you back $140 + shipping. Toss in ChlorAm-X® (for ammonia control with rotifers and fish larvae, essential stuff) @ $40 and 1 million Rotifers for $20 if you don’t already have rotifers! For $200 (or about $0.30 per day) Reed Mariculture / Reef Nutrition can get you started with the latest improvements in larval feeds, and you’ll wind up with a two-year supply of high-quality nutritionally balanced rotifer cultures and exceptional greenwater phytoplankton that’s more than adequate for most all hobby-level breeders! That’s right, a two-year supply high quality live rotifers and greenwater for roughly the cost of one or two really nice corals.
Interestingly, this article truly only scratches the surface of the story. Reed Mariculture has put out a tremendous amount of documentation and data on this. There is a substantial Rotifer Compendium that goes into great detail about the latest rotifer revelations, mirroring a lot of what Randy Reed presented at MACNA 2010. It may all seem to be a bit much until you realize that unlike other producers of similar products, Reed Mariculture’s main business is not the aquarium hobby, but the aquaculture and mariculture industry, most often foodfish. The simple truth is that we, as hobbyists, are benefiting from the R&D being invested to improve the hatchery rearing of species like Cod and Barramundi! When it comes to rearing baby fish, from a science standpoint, it truly surpasses the skills required for most coral cultivation!
My Tips for Hobbyist Breeders
For a hobbyist end-user, here’s my quick suggestions based on how I’m working with the RotiGrow System. When you get a 1L package of frozen paste, let it thaw ever so slightly so it’s not a solid brick. Take it out of the bag, put it on a cutting board, and with a very sharp knife, cut it into cubes small enough to fit into a jar you’ll use to store thawed feeds. This is a messy process, but a one time ordeal!
Put the cubes into a zip lock bag and store them in your freezer, being very careful to mark which is which (I included the packaging label). It is highly important that you don’t confuse RotiGreen (optimized for Greenwater fish culture) and RotiGrow Plus (optimized for rotifer enrichment culture).
RotiGrow Plus is too rich in lipids for larval fish, and when (mis)used with fish, at higher concentrations can cause severe adverse reactions. It is also important to thaw RotiGreen slowly, overnight in the refrigerator. Reed Mariculture conveyed that thawing too rapidly can cause micro-clumps to form, which can cause problems for some larvae (probably affecting the gills). So, keep a couple of cubes thawed in your refrigerator (again, keep RotiGrow Plus and RotiGreen separate and well marked) and when things get low, thaw out another cube or two.
For daily rotifer culturing, I’m using approximately 10 to 20 drops of thawed RotiGrow Plus into a five gallon rotifer culture every morning depending on how clear the culture is. I keep a few rotifer cultures going so I have backups if I crash one (this has been a rare occurrence with this system). I also add in 20 drops of liquid ClorAm-X (prepared by taking 16 tsp. of CloramX powder and mixing with 1L of distilled water) for ammonia control. In short, I feed RotiGrow Plus and dose my ClorAm-X solution at a 1:1 ratio. Of course, regular rotifer harvest is necessary, but I keep it at low levels of maybe 50% per week unless I’m ramping up for a new batch of fish or the culture seems to be waning (this harvest level is far lower than what Reed recommends). You’ll find your own protocol that works best for your needs. Reed Mariculture also provides far more in-depth instruction on rotifer culture at Rotifer.com
For greenwater technique, there is certainly no exact science or dosage I can recommend. My base dose seems to be 5 to 10 drops per gallon once or twice per day. Dosing will vary depending on your needs. It helps to first swirl your drops of RotiGreen into water before adding them to the larval rearing tank — if you don’t do this, the liquid paste is so thick that it simply falls to the bottom, unsuspended.
To recap my personal experience with the RotiGrow System, I haven’t cultivated phytoplankton in over a year and I certainly do not miss it. It would seem, based on the hundreds of Clownfish I’ve already reared and sold, as well as the hundreds of Clownfish and Dottyback babies in the basement, that for the time being, I no longer have any need to culture phytoplankton. With the time demands of a new baby in our family, I can tell you I might very well not be breeding fish were it not for the RotiGrow system taking away the often times burdensome task of culturing phytoplankton.
Word on the street suggests we may be seeing another new line in the future specifically targeted at the hobbyist-scale marine breeder. As I don’t have the “dirt” on these future release yet, I wouldn’t let those rumors stop you from jumping in on this new system now, as this is already a huge leap forward for a fish breeder. It takes a lot for me to personally endorse anything, but on this rare occasion, I cannot say enough about the benefits I’m seeing using these products— I strongly recommend them to anyone contemplating marine fish breeding.