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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Orono, Maine » National Cold Water Marine Aquaculture Center » Research » Research Project #442375

Research Project: Improving Lumpfish Grow-out Production: Optimizing Feed Strategies

Location: National Cold Water Marine Aquaculture Center

Project Number: 8030-31000-005-039-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Apr 1, 2022
End Date: Mar 31, 2024

The objective of this project is to develop optimal feeding strategies for lumpfish hatcheries, which will increase production, lower feed costs, and improve fish health. The domestic salmon aquaculture industry is moving forward with the development of lumpfish for use as a cleaner fish to manage sea lice on salmon production in marine net-pens. Industry trials have shown that use of lumpfish to control sea lice can reduce costs by 10% compared to the use of the existing mechanical treatments currently in place. As such the development of lumpfish in Maine is a key strategy currently being pursued by industry to manage sea lice. Recent collaborative work between the USDA and the University of New Hampshire (UNH) has developed a set of guidelines for hatchery culture of lumpfish. However optimal feeding strategies have not been investigated. This project will investigate the optimal feeding rates at two temperatures. It will also compare hand feeding to use of automated feeders at different feeding frequencies for different feeding goals (maximum or controlled growth). The project will not only evaluate the various feeding strategies on growth, but will also evaluate the physiological impacts on the health of the fish.

A series of feeding trials at either the National Cold Water Marine Aquaculture Center (NCWMAC) or the University of New Hampsire (UNH) will be established. All fish will be feed a standard commercial lumpfish diet that performed best in previous trials. In all of the trials fish will be sampled to measure a range of immune parameters to determine the impact of each feeding strategy has on the baseline health of the animal. In the first trial four different feeding amounts, based on % body weight of the fish per day, will be trialed at two different temperatures, one representative of current temperatures, and a second higher temperature that reflects the potential for local warming but is still within the normal range of more southern populations of lumpfish. The second trial will evaluate the impact of feeding strategy, regular fixed dose compared to satiation feeding and feeding frequency. These will be compared under two different growth goals, controlled growth and maximum growth. The third feeding trial will compare a range of feeding frequencies using automated feeders to a standardized hand feeding also used in trial 2. These will again be compared under the same two growth goals as trial 2. The study results will be used to develop optimized feeding strategies for both controlled and maximum growth situations. These will be incorporated into a revised version of the lumpfish hatchery guidelines already produced collaboratively by the NCWMAC and UNH. A workshop will also be hosted at the NCWMAC to demonstrate lumpfish hatchery husbandry techniques including the developed feeding strategies.