Sun, Sep 14, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Pingtung museum is the first to breed ringed pipefish successfully in captivity

By Tsai Tsung-hsien  /  Staff reporter

Two ringed pipefish swim together in an undated photo.

Photo: Copy by Tsai Tsung-hsien, Taipei Times

The National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Pingtung County has established a new record by breeding the ringed pipefish (Dunckerocampus dactyliophorus), becoming the first institution in the world to do so.

The museum said that the achievement serves as an important reference for future egg-hatching and fish-fry cultivation projects and helps to ease the strain caused by commercial fishing, allowing local fishermen more time to prepare for the imminent challenge of the depleting amount of economic fish faced by fishing communities throughout the world.

By simulating the fish’s living environment with underwater caves and fissured corals, the museum was able to provide an environment where the fish could hatch their eggs, the museum said.

The average survival rate of the fish stood at about 37 percent on the 100th day after hatching, it said, adding that the first batch of offspring began mating in the 11th month post-hatching.

According to the museum, although pipefish are not an endangered species, more than 30 million are caught and sold each year because Asian consumers view them as a precious material for traditional Chinese medicine and it is highly sought after by aquariums around the world. These twin demands have led to its population diminishing over time.

The museum said that by conducting artificial breeding projects, marine biologists are able to improve their understanding of different species’ needs for survival and aid the preservation of rare and endangered species.

Ringed pipefish generally inhabit the Indian and Pacific oceans. Adults have a dark yellow body ringed with crimson or dark brown stripes from their mouths to their tails. The fish’s tail — red with white banding and a white dot in its center — makes them instantly identifiable.

The museum said that wild ringed pipefish are only interested in live food; if they cannot adapt to their food in captivity, they can become underweight or die.

There is very limited literature on ringed pipefish laying eggs or on breeding fry in captivity, it said, adding that the successful breeding provides valuable input for future artificial breeding projects.

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