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Fathead minnow reproduction: Implications for commercial culture

Stone, Nathan M., Roy, Luke A., Park, Eric D.
Journal of the World Aquaculture Society 2019 v.50 no.2 pp. 267-298
Pimephales promelas, adhesion, aquaculture, breeding, cannibalism, economic analysis, eggs, feed conversion, fish production, food animals, forage, males, markets, minnows, predators, reproductive performance, spawning, stocking rate, supply balance, toxicity testing, United States
The fathead minnow, Pimephales promelas, is widely used as a bait, forage, and research fish in the United States. A hardy and fecund fish, this species has many attributes that are excellent for culture. Unfortunately, despite the widespread use of fathead minnows in toxicity testing and thousands of resulting publications, relatively little aquaculture‐related research has been conducted in support of commercial production. On the surface, current commercial fathead minnow production practices appear much the same as those of a decade ago. However, producers continue to refine culture methods, balancing broodfish stocking rates, spawning substrate quantity, and feeding rates in an attempt to meet both losses to predators and market demand. This review examines relevant reproduction‐related studies in the fields of ecology, behavior, toxicology, and aquaculture with the goal of advancing fathead minnow culture. In fathead minnow production, relative to the culture of food fish species, reproduction is vital, more so than rapid growth or a low feed conversion ratio. Fish numbers may exceed 1 million fish/ha, while feeding rates are relatively low and in feeder fish production, growth is deliberately restrained in order to maintain fish within market sizes year‐round. Underappreciated factors identified as affecting reproduction and with implications for commercial culture include: (a) poor egg adhesion to commonly used spawning substrates, (b) egg and fry cannibalism at high fish densities, and (c) the relatively short breeding period of individual males. Results highlight the importance of selecting an appropriate broodfish stocking rate based on fish size, anticipated pond fertility, and feeding program. New methods to improve reproductive performance will likely increase costs and will need to be accompanied by thorough economic analyses.