Sunday, February 15, 2015

Early Success with a Halichoeres Wrasse!

Figure 1. Halichoeres melanurus egg on a 1 mm Sedgewick
Rafter cell.  
Here at the Tropical Aquaculture Lab we’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to work in a field we’re truly passionate about.  That passion inspires me to not only work on captive breeding of marine species here at work, but to also explore other fish by working from home.  I’m pleased to announce that the first project I’ve taken on as an at-home aquaculturist resulted in the successful captive rearing of the melanurus wrasse, Halichoeres melanurus, using only cultured prey items.  Although only a few fish were brought through metamorphosis, survival should be higher when larvae are raised in the controlled environment of a dedicated facility as opposed to the chaos of a household living room.  I strongly believe this fish, and others in this genus, will have significant commercial potential.  We now have broodstock at the Tropical Aquaculture Lab because of this early success.  The work done so far will stand as strong supportive evidence to move forward with other wrasses as well.

Figure 2. First feeding (~3 days post hatch) Halichoeres
larva on a 1 mm Sedgewick Rafter cell.
This species is a protogynous hermaphrodite, meaning fish transition from females to males as they mature based on social structure.  Females can be identified by the presence of the third black spot at the front of the dorsal fin.  The first step these fish make in transitioning from female to male is the loss of that particular spot, so this acts as a great way to identify females.  Females can get along fine in groups, however males will compete for territory and only the largest terminal phase male will survive.  Spawning these fish in small harems of one terminal phase male with three to four females seemed to work well for me.

One to two hours before the tank lights turned off the male would rise to the highest point of structure in the tank and begin a vibrant display for the females followed by continuous chasing.  The male would then find an accepting female and the pair would spawn hundreds up to several thousand pelagic eggs into the water column.  The eggs were about 660µm in diameter. Despite this small size, larvae hatch out relatively large (~2.5mm) but with a very small mouth gape (~125µm).  Larvae were reared in a static 5 gallon aquarium and were ready to feed at 3dph (days post hatch).  At that point, the rearing water was darkened with T-ISO and larvae were fed Parvocalanus crassirostris nauplii at 1-2 nauplii/mL.  Lights were on continuously until larvae were 12dph and over the next 8 days lights were transitioned down to a 14 hour light: 10 hour dark schedule.  Varying size fractions of copepod nauplii were maintained in the tank throughout the rearing process and at 14dph Otohime A micro diet (75-250µm size) began being fed to larvae.  Larvae reached flexion by 15dph (see video) and were settled juveniles by 22dph.

With work on this species now being conducted here at the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory, we look forward to bringing more information on optimized rearing protocols for this species in the near future.

A slightly better quality video can be found by following this link:

Kevin Barden

The Rising Tide Team at the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory

Monday, January 19, 2015

Commercially Available Porkfish

Figure 1. Captive bred Porkfish juvenile available from
FishEye Aquaculture.
Three years ago we posted a blog stating the commercial production potential of Porkfish, Anisotremis virginicus (Porkfish Protocol – Rising Tide’s First Commercial Species).  As you’ll recall, researchers at the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory collected eggs spawned at SeaWorld Orlando and grew them to the juvenile phase and beyond.  This was not the first time that Porkfish had been grown in captivity (again credit goes to Martin Moe and company).  It was, however, the first time that Porkfish had been grown from eggs spawned in captivity using standard commercial production protocols; including the use of hatchery grown live feeds (rotifers and Artemia).  This proved inspiring to one of Rising Tide’s industry partners who decided to add this fish to their list of available species.

Figure 2. Captive bred Porkfish juveniles available from
FishEye Aquaculture.
Jonathan Foster of FishEye Aquaculture is making available for the first time aquacultured Porkfish based on the information provided to him via Rising Tide.  Shortly after that Rising Tide success, Jonathan acquired Porkfish broodstock (each around 12-15” in length and weighing up to 2 lbs) in the hopes of spawning them.  For the past three years he has been conditioning them and waiting….and waiting….and waiting.  He confided in us that they may, indeed, need a public aquarium sized tank to spawn.  If you’ve been to a public aquarium then you’ll know that those tanks are quite large and not realistic for his facility.  Then, as he describes it “late one evening, while checking on our breeders, I noticed quite a bit of commotion and splashing coming from their tank…they were spawning!  And here we are today, collecting eggs frequently, and raising Porkfish!”.  This marks the first time that this species has been conditioned, spawned, eggs hatched and larvae grown all in one facility; increasing the number of pelagic spawning species available from FishEye Aquaculture to four. 

This is a great example of the goal put forth by Rising Tide; making all marine ornamental fish species an aquaculture reality.  It’s also a great example of what can be accomplished given time, perseverance, and collaboration.  Our hats are off to you Jonathan for believing in Rising Tide and those that wish to move forward.  One day it’ll be captive bred tangs coming out of your facility…that’s our goal.

The Rising Tide team at the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory

Monday, November 17, 2014

UF / IRREC's New Graduate Students

Figure 1. Graduate Student Isaac Lee.
I would like to introduce my two new M.S. students who will be working with Rising Tide.  The first is Isaac Lee who started his first semester this fall and is working towards his Master’s degree at the University of Florida’s Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC).  Isaac received his B.A. degree in Biology from Colgate University in 2013.  He has had a passion for marine aquaria for years and over the past year he worked at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead.  He learned about aquaculture of marine ornamentals and how to culture live food organisms.  

Figure 2. Graduate Student Carter Cyr.
The second is Carter Cyr who also just started this fall and is working towards his Master’s degree at IRREC.  He received his B.S. degree in 2013 from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island where he majored in Marine Biology and worked as a research assistant working with marine ornamentals and live feeds.  He grew up in Southern Maine and has had a strong attachment to the aquarium hobby for as long as he can recall.  Over the past four years he developed a strong passion for aquaculture.

While they are at UF, they will focus their research efforts on culturing 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.  Additionally, AZA public aquaria around the U.S. will be shipping collected eggs from their exhibit tanks so we can also define optimal feeding and culture parameters.  Results will be shared with researchers and private producers to expand production of marine ornamental fishes.

We would like to thank Rising Tide for funding both of these graduate student positions.

Thank you,
Cortney Ohs, Ph.D.
Associate Professor – Aquaculture
University of Florida

New students contact information:

University of Florida
Indian River Research and Education Center
2199 South Rock Road
Fort Pierce, FL 34945
772-468-3922 ext. 135

Monday, October 6, 2014

Larval Rearing of the Purple Masked Angelfish (Paracentropyge venusta) Using Only Cultured Food

Figure 1. 25 day post hatch Purple Masked Angelfish larva.
Over the past year while working on our Rising Tide project, the larval rearing work has focused on the Purple Masked Angelfish Paracentropyge venusta. We had success on our fifth rearing trial in getting the larvae to the juvenile stage. That larval trial started in November of 2013 and the success was most likely brought about through the use of wild plankton collected from Kaneohe Bay. Plankton was collected almost daily in an effort to provide the larval fish with the necessary nutrients to get them through the larval phases, past metamorphosis and into the juvenile stage. Although we were happy with this accomplishment it meant that larval rearing of this species might be dependent and only possible in areas near a source of wild plankton. In an effort to make larval rearing successful in any location our next step was to try and rear the P. venusta using only cultured food items.

Figure 2. 44 day post hatch Purple Masked Angelfish larva.
On our third try while using only cultured foods for the P. venusta larvae we had success again to the juvenile stage. This larval run, “Trial 8” started on June 28, 2014 and the juveniles are currently just over three months old wearing their beautiful yellow and blue colors and are fully transitioned onto frozen and flake foods.  The food items used for this trial were the calanoid copepod, Parvocalanus crassirostris, the rotifer, Brachionus plicatilis, and the brine shrimp Artemia salina. We were pleasantly surprised that this larval run was on a faster track as compared with our successful wild plankton fed larval run which was quite long. The temperature of this run averaged 26C whereas out trial 5 temperature averaged 25C and this of course could be the reason for faster larval development. We also had a better percent survival with Trial 8 showing 20% survival at day 40 compared to trial 5 at 8.5% survival at day 40. The larvae in Trial 8 were able to capture larger prey starting at day 12 while the larvae in Trial 5 were closer to day 30 when they were able to catch larger prey. The transition to non living foods for the fish in trial 5 took place at 137 days old, which is more than six weeks longer than the fish in trial 8! So not only is it possible to rear these angelfish on only cultured foods, they actually did better on it in terms of survival and development through the larval phase.

October brings to an end the year I had working as part of the Rising Tide team. As I conclude this year I hope that those of you out there who are interested in the captive rearing of marine fish will continue on with what we have learned here. I feel that the small scale breeder can make a significant difference in the numbers and species of fish raised in captivity and I encourage you all to continue on with your efforts. I truly appreciate having been involved in a Rising Tide project and I’m extremely grateful to Rising Tide Conservation for giving me the opportunity to focus solely on marine ornamentals this past year.



Monday, September 22, 2014

Matthew DiMaggio joins TAL; PhD Posting

Figure. Dr. Matthew DiMaggio joins TAL and Rising Tide.
Matt DiMaggio joined the University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in 2014 as an assistant professor.  His research program focuses on the culture of ornamental fish species in Florida and he works closely with the local industry to identify opportunities for optimization and innovation. Dr. DiMaggio has a broad foundation in the field of aquaculture, having conducted research with both marine and freshwater species produced for food, bait, and ornamental purposes. His previous investigations have focused on a myriad of applied culture aspects including live feed production, larval rearing, and induced spawning. Additionally, elucidation of basic physiological responses within a species can provide an opportunity for intervention or manipulation to achieve desired outcomes in a production setting. Consequently, reproductive endocrinology, stress physiology, and osmoregulation, are areas of particular interest to him due to their importance for the successful propagation of fishes in captivity. Matt is very excited to contribute to the ongoing research efforts of Rising Tide and he believes that the open dialogue fostered through this collaboration will help to accelerate the commercialization of many of these challenging marine species.

Dr. DiMaggio is currently accepting applications for a four year PhD research assistantship investigating production methods for ornamental fish species in Florida. Please follow the link below for further information .

The Rising Tide team at the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Rising Tide at MACNA 2014

Figure. Samantha Groene in the Rising Tide booth at MACNA 2014.
Hello Everyone!

My name is Samantha Groene, and I am a biological technician at UF-TAL. I’ve been with the lab for almost two years, but this is my first official introduction on the Rising Tide Conservation blog. This past week, some of you might have seen me in Denver. The annual Marine Aquarium Conference of North America (MACNA) took place in Denver, Colorado this year, and I had the privilege of representing Rising Tide at the conference!

This year's MACNA was quite the experience! I met so many wonderful people, made a lot of new contacts, and had an overall great time. MACNA is a great opportunity for Rising Tide to be able to communicate the importance of aquaculture to hobbyists and help foster a better future for the critters that we all love. It was very rewarding raising awareness for Rising Tide -- meeting hobbyists, vendors, and exhibitors and sharing with them a cause that is so important for our hobby and our reefs.

I brought with me to MACNA some of our F1 semicircle angelfish to put on display at the Rising Tide booth and at the Boyd Enterprises booth. These fish were some of the stars of the show, and later were raffled off (along with a complete aquarium set-up and other livestock/drygood goodies) to two lucky winners. Of course, there were a lot of other highlights at MACNA. I am sure many of you have heard, but the announcement at MACNA of Karen Brittain’s success rearing the Masked Angelfish (Genicanthus personatus) pretty much stole the spotlight at this year’s conference. However, I will leave it to Karen to apprise you all of the juicy details of that larviculture endeavor.

I would like to thank the wonderful sponsors and people who helped make Rising Tide's presence at MACNA possible and made the event such a success. Specifically, I would like to thank the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, Boyd Enterprises, the Denver MACNA Committee, and everyone that donated items for the aquariums that we raffled off at MACNA (thank you JBJ, Martin Moe, and A & M Aquaculture!). I really appreciate all of your support and generosity! All of you helped to make MACNA awesome, and I am very grateful for the opportunity that I was given to serve as the Rising Tide Ambassador at this year’s conference.

I am very happy to have a job where I feel like I make a difference in this world for the better, and it was a great pleasure being able to share my work with MACNA.

Until next time!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rising Tide Intern Joe Frith

Hello Everybody!  My name is Joe Frith and I have been interning here at the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin, FL for the past 2 months. I would first like to say “thank you” to Dr. Judy St. Leger, Eric, Kevin, Roy, Craig, Jon and the rest of the staff here at the Lab for giving me this opportunity and making this a meaningful experience. I’m currently an undergraduate at the University of Missouri-Columbia completing my degree in Fisheries and Wildlife with a minor in Biology. As a child growing up in the woods of Missouri I was always very intrigued by the natural world and usually had several different aquariums spread throughout my house at any one time. My interest in the aquatic world slowly evolved from freshwater aquariums to saltwater aquariums to eventually trying my hand at breeding the Bluestripe pipefish (Doryrhamphus excisus), which I had help with from Matt Pederson and the other members at It was back in February of this year, after reading posts on the Rising Tide blog that I decided to contact Dr. St. Leger about possible internships they may be awarding for the summer. I received an email shortly after and we soon started laying the groundwork for me to become an intern at TAL. What was once a dream was now a reality.

Over the course of this summer I have helped the Rising Tide team with a number of different projects ranging from Pacific blue tang and emperor angelfish spawning to water quality refinement in an attempt to increase spawning and overall health of all brood fish. Specifically I constructed an algae scrubbing device, complete with mangroves, which has made a significant impact on lower the nitrate levels in the fish growout system (the details of which will be discussed in a future blog). In addition I have learned a lot about the whole marine fish larval rearing process including egg collection, egg counting, stocking and density, and important first food items such as copepod nauplii and rotifers. And if I wasn’t working on any one of these projects I was traveling alongside Dr. Roy Yanong to one of the many aquaculture farms here in the Ruskin area.

This experience has opened my eyes even further to the wonderful world of aquaculture and I can’t think of any other way I would’ve rather spent my summer. With all of the knowledge and insight I have gained in the past couple of months I hope to continue on in this field and hopefully make some great discoveries.

Another big thanks to the Rising Tide team for such an awesome experience!

Best Regards,

Joe Frith