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Research

Current and Recent Research Projects

Research is very important to the mission of the UF/IFAS Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory (TAL).  The research programs provide support for statewide extension programs in ornamental aquaculture as well as the science information needs of industry, agency, and public stakeholders.  Researchers at the TAL are responsive to the TAL Advisory Committee and work closely with the Research Committee of the Florida Tropical Fish Farms Association, the Division of Aquaculture of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and other stakeholders in developing research priorities.

Research at the TAL is conducted in four core topic areas:

  • Ornamental aquaculture production and management
  • Aquatic animal health
  • Ornamental fish reproduction
  • Nonindigenous aquatic species ecology and management

Ornamental Aquaculture Production and Management

Production of ornamental fish and aquatic plants dominates the aquaculture industry in Florida with a combined $67.6 million in farm-gate sales, comprising 70.8% of all Florida aquaculture, in 2003. Ornamental fish production is conducted primarily in small, earthen ponds.  With increasing pressures in Florida in terms of water usage and land prices, there is growing interest in intensification of culture practices (i.e., producing more ornamentals using less water and space).  This goal may be obtained by increasing efficiency of culture practices on a per surface area basis in ponds and by developing alternative culture systems.  Current research is investigating increasing production of fish yields and profits of ponds through feeding and fertilization regimes.  Recirculating systems are being used to a greater extent in the industry, but there are significant research needs concerning system design criteria, economics, and nutrition.  There are recent and current TAL projects in these areas.  In addition, there is a small industry based on the culture of marine ornamentals (fish and invertebrates such as corals, clams, and snails).  This industry faces many challenges to growth, including system design, larval rearing, nutrition, and many aspects of husbandry.  Besides working to increase production in various systems, researchers at TAL also seek to evaluate and improve practices for harvesting, grading, holding, and transporting live ornamental fish.  Improvements in these activities results in fewer mortalities and higher quality fish for producers.  Research in aquatic plants has focused on improved propagation methods and pest control and management.

Aquatic Animal Health

Unlike traditional agriculture where only a few animal species are grown, there are hundreds of varieties produced in ornamental aquaculture.  Relatively little is known about diseases and water quality needs of many ornamental species.  The TAL has a strong program investigating water quality, pathogens, and husbandry practices, and their relationships with fish health.  In addition, there are few drugs or other chemicals that are approved for use in aquaculture.  Researchers at TAL are working closely with the ornamental aquaculture industry, manufacturers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Aquatic Animal Drug Approval Partnership Program (USFWS AADAP) investigating the effectiveness and safety of aquaculture drugs and therapeutants.  These data will be submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval under the New Animal Drug Application (NADA) approval process.

Ornamental Fish Reproduction

Producers in Florida breed a wide variety of ornamental fish species.  Nevertheless, there are many important species that are available only as wild-caught imports or that are commercially produced only outside of the U.S.  Researchers at the TAL are working with a variety of these species in investigations of basic reproductive biology, broodstock conditioning, reproduction through environmental manipulation, and induced spawning techniques.

Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Ecology and Management

Increasingly, non-native aquatic species (e.g., fish, mollusks, crustaceans) are being introduced into Florida, the U.S., and into other world regions.  Some introductions provide benefits for fisheries and ecosystem management.  A few introduced aquatic species have become invasive, causing ecological or economic harm, or threaten human health.  On the other hand, many introductions seem to have little effect.  Unfortunately, relatively little is known about the biology and effects of most established nonindigenous aquatic species.  Furthermore, predicting the outcome of future invasions is difficult.  Florida is an ideal location to study the ecology of nonindigenous species due to numerous introductions, particularly of freshwater fishes.  In addition, nonindigenous aquatic species are important to the economy of Florida, contributing to the aquaculture industry, recreational and commercial fisheries, and aquatic weed management.  For example, the economically valuable tropical ornamental aquaculture industry is based almost entirely on the production of non-native species.  Researchers at the TAL work closely with the aquaculture industry, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other agencies and institutions to develop data on the biology and effects of non-native aquatic species to assist in natural resource management.

Current and Recent Research Projects


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Last updated October 02, 2012.
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