A partnership of six public aquaria and Roger Williams University have been collecting eggs from saltwater fishes that have been spawning in public aquaria. The eggs are collected and photographed before being submitted for DNA barcoding to identify the species of parent fish they have come from. Once identified and cataloged the species are assessed for potential rearing efforts and aquaculture viability.
This comes hot off the back of the captive breeding success of the Longnose butterflyfish, a species whose eggs were also collected from spawning adults in public exhibits. The team sponsored by The Association of Zoos and Aquariums has cataloged 29 species by their eggs so far, and the number is climbing.
Of the 2,000 species of marine aquarium fishes traded in the marine aquarium industry currently, only about 5% of them are aquacultured. The Coral Reef Aquarium Fisheries Campaign seeks to advance the saltwater aquarium fish industry by recommending priority species to culture, and by developing protocols that can then be passed on.
Public aquariums have all the right ingredients for broodstock too including lots of mature fish, talented staff, quality diets, and excellent water quality. They also want to be less reliant on wild fish while helping to conserve species for the future, as well as a sustainable industry. Scientists and Interns at Mystic Aquarium tackled which fish to rear through data analysis. Evaluating the most popular fish species imported into the U.S., they scoured the knowledge base to learn about these species’ market characteristics, aquaculture practicality, and conservation assessment.
They then plugged these data into a Principal Components Analysis to help guide the industry to prioritize investment in species that are popular in the industry and do well in aquaria, are practical to aquaculture, and merit the effort due to their vulnerability to overfishing in the wild. Its objectives were to research and develop marine aquarium fish aquaculture techniques for technology transfer to the industry and to develop the next-generation workforce in the marine aquarium industry at the same time. Sustainable saltwater aquarium fish and jobs both in the aquaculture and aquarium industries are a big plus.
The Royal Gramma is one such popular reef aquarium fish, with huge captive breeding potential and a ready supply chain. Already successfully bred in captivity, public aquaria are full of mature adults and readily breeding pairs. The JARLab optimized Royal Gramma broodstock sex ratios for courtship and mating in small-scale aquaculture and developed protocols for their continued reproductive success.