Mystic Aquarium Research Aquaculturist Vince Vacco tends to algae cultures in the Joint

Aquaculture Research Lab at the Marine Science Magnet High School.  Photo by C. Lavin

Eggs of the Royal Gramma. Photo by H. Pratt/Mystic Aquarium

Of the ~2,000 species of marine aquarium fishes traded in the marine aquarium industry, only about 5% of them are aquacultured.  The State of the Art of Aquaculture is still in its infancy for marine aquarium fishes.  The Coral Reef Aquarium Fisheries Campaign advances the State of the Art for the industry by recommending priority species to culture, and by developing protocols to be adopted by the industry.  

Photo by SGR

Species Selection for Aquaculture R&D

We've got a lot of species to work on!  Which ones do we pick next?  Mystic Aquarium Scientists and Interns tackled this question through data analysis.  Evaluating the most popular fish species imported into the U.S., they scoured the knowledgebase to learn about these species' market characteristics, aquaculture practicality, and conservation assessment.  Then, they 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.  

Mystic Aquarium Research Aquaculturist Vince Vacco films Royal Gramma courtship behavior. Photo by C. Miller/Mystic Aquarium

The Joint Aquaculture Research Laboratory

The Joint Aquaculture Research Laboratory was established in 2014 by a partnership between Mystic Aquarium and the Marine Science Magnet High School.  Its objectives are 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 (see Upgrade the Value Chain).  The JARLab optimized Royal Gramma broodstock sex ratios for courtship and mating in small-scale aquaculture, and developed a protocol to assess fish feeds on aquaculture outcomes of broodstock condition and reproductive success. In the process, the JARLAb engaged numerous Mystic Aquarium college and post-baccalaureate interns and MSMHS students in the field of aquaculture science.  Over the course of its work, the JARLab enjoyed the generous support of the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates, Rising Tide Conservation, the Sea World/Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, Connecticut Sea Grant, Roger Williams University, New England Aquarium, and others.