Thursday, April 9, 2015

Breaking The Internet: Check Out Our Wrasses! (safe for work)

As mentioned in our previous post, six adult melanurus wrasses (3 male, 3 female) were moved to the Tropical Aquaculture Lab back in February.  After settling into their new environment and being offered a conditioning diet of LRS Reef Frenzy, PE mysis shrimp and Otohime EP1 pellets, the wrasses have quickly got back into their routine of spawning nearly every night.  While we continue to work through some kinks in production, we wanted to share some of our excitement with our latest group of captive bred melanurus wrasses.  

Video 1:  Melanurus wrasse broodstock spawning at dusk.  Notice in slow motion all three males can be seen making an attempt at fertilizing the female’s eggs.

Figure 1.  10 dph melanurus wrasse larva.

Figure 2. 14 dph melanurus wrasse larva. 

Figure 3. 36 dph melanurus wrasse juveniles.

Video 2:  Melanurus wrasse juveniles, 36dph.

The Rising Tide Team at the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Huntley Penniman Joins Rising Tide

A student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I’m currently working through a Masters program in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation.  I graduated from Boston College in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, and shortly thereafter, began working for the Navy Marine Mammal Program, where I have been fortunate enough to work with an awesome group of California sea lions and bottlenose dolphins.

After graduation, I hope to explore the realm of business and marketing within the marine conservation community. There’s some incredible research being done, and I would like to help bridge the gap between the science and the public. It’s a steep learning curve, but my goal is to focus on market research and social media for Rising Tide – so please stay tuned to like the up-and-coming Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

In my time away from studies, I enjoy continuing to work for the Navy Marine Mammal Program, hitting the trails with our two horses, and working my way down an ever-increasing list of must-reads.

I look forward to working with the Rising Tide Conservation team to help develop marketing material and getting the word out about Rising Tide’s incredible work. Rising Tide is accomplishing game-changing research, and I’m grateful for this amazing opportunity!

Huntley Penniman

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Pomacanthus Angelfish Update

One of our first Rising Tide successes was harvesting eggs from Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (CZA), shipping them to UF’s Tropical Aquaculture Lab, and successfully raising what turned out to be semicircle angelfish.  We had samples from that first cohort DNA analyzed for identification.  We have since raised multiple cohorts shipped to us from CZA; which has been well documented in previous blog posts (late 2011-early 2012).  Ramon Villaverde at CZA has also raised multiple cohorts of angelfish in house.  When space got limited we arranged for those juvenile angelfish to be sent to public aquariums which not only had adequate space to house them, but also could effectively inform the public about Rising Tide’s endeavors.  We were always curious what other Pomancanthus species (if any) may be spawning in that exhibit.  During that time CZA housed two Pomacanthus semicirculatus, two P. annularis, one P. asfur, one P. imperator, two P. maculosus, and two P. xanthometapon in their Discovery Reef exhibit.  We have kept some angelfish from those previous spawns and although we definitely have some semicircle angelfish, we also have angelfish displaying coloration not indicative of that species.  Below you will find a series of photographs of angelfish on display in public aquariums as well as some from our own facility.  Tell us what you think?
Figure 1.  Angelfish (2-3 years old) on display at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Photo credit: Ramon Villaverde.

Figure 2.  Two angelfish (2-3 years old) on display at SeaWorld Orlando. Photo credit: Joe Moynihan.

Figure 3.  Angelfish (2-3 years old) on display at SeaWorld Orlando. Photo credit: Joe Moynihan.

Figure 4.  Angelfish (~2 years old) on display at SeaWorld San Antonio. Figure 4 and 5 are the same fish.  Photo credit: Nick Ireland.

Figure 5.  Angelfish (~2 years old) on display at SeaWorld San Antonio. Figure 4 and 5 are the same fish.  Photo credit: Nick Ireland.

Figure 6.  Angelfish (~1.5 years old) kept at UF's Tropical Aquaculture Lab. Photo credit: Kevin Barden.

Figure 7.  Angelfish (~3 years old) kept at UF's Tropical Aquaculture Lab. Photo credit: Kevin Barden.

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.