[slideshow]Digging my fingers into the dog food like fish meal, I grabbed a handful and tossed it into the large tank filled with ravenous cobia. This is one moment that we experienced during our introductory day to the world of aquaculture. Many people don’t fully understand how aquaculture works or even simply what it is. Aquaculture, otherwise known as fish farming, is the cultivation of aquatic plants and animals, and is often perceived as a sustainable practice. However, people do not realize the negative repercussions that it has. To sustain the farmed carnivorous fish, smaller pelagic fish must be harvested to create fish meal. Our goal through this project is to determine if we can use a smaller percent of fish meal in the feed and still produce an equal amount of growth. Last semester a group students compared the growth of fish using 40% fish meal feed and 80% fish meal feed and found that there was no difference in the rate of growth. This summer we are comparing the growth of fish using 25% fish meal to 40% fish meal. We are predicting that the fish fed 25% fish meal and the fish fed 40% fish meal will grow at the same rate. If our data supports our hypothesis, then aquaculture can become a more sustainable industry. Currently we are testing 3 tanks filled with cobia, 2 of which are fed 40% fish meal and the other 25% fish meal. One problem we face with the cobia in close proximity is the transmission of parasites.
One method used to remove parasites is formalin, a chemical that can cause excessive damage to not only ourselves but the environment around us. A new method that has been recently proposed is the use of gobies, which are cleaner fish. Another thing we would like to study in this term is the use of formalin compared to the use of gobies to remove parasites. We hypothesized that sadly the formalin will be a more effective parasite removal method. This is because the gobies have too many variables that we are unable to control, such as the cobia may eat them.
We have already learned much about the sustainability and misconceptions of fish farming. We hope that we can find ways to make aquaculture a more sustainable industry for the future! Working in the lab is always a fun and interesting part of our day and we cannot wait for the results of our experiment.