Bozeman Fish Technology Center
Mountain-Prairie Region
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Bozeman Fish Technology Center

4050 Bridger Canyon Road | Bozeman, MT 59715
Hours: 8:00 am to 4:30 pm | Phone: (406) 587- 9265 | Fax: (406) 586-5942

Nutrition and Diet Development – Projects

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Growth and Acute Temperature Tolerance of June Sucker (Chasmistes liorus) Juveniles Fed Varying Dietary Protein and Lipid Levels »

June sucker are endemic to Utah Lake in central Utah, but are now listed as an endangered species. The success of the captive propagation program is dependent on obtaining quality fish for stocking; however, little is known regarding the nutritional needs of this species during captivity. Credit: USFWS.

Project Title: Effects of the Reservoir Headwater Environment on Survival and Behavior of Larval Sturgeon: Are Reservoirs an Ecological Sink for Recruitment of Sturgeon?

Principal Investigators: Wendy M. Sealey, Gibson Gaylord, Matt Toner, Jason Ilgen, Chris Hooley, Frederic T. Barrows (USDA-Agricultural Research Service)

Partners: USDA-Agricultural Research Service

Funding Source: June Sucker Recovery and Implementation Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Project Summary: Reports from production hatcheries have demonstrated that commercially available diets are inadequate for June suckers and that growth and fish quality could be improved through species-specific diet optimization. Therefore, the goal of the present study was to determine optimum dietary protein and lipid levels for juvenile June suckers. Experimental diets varying in protein and lipid levels were formulated and fed to juvenile June suckers for 12 weeks. An acute temperature challenge was conducted at the end of the trial to investigate dietary adequacy using acute temperature tolerance. Significant effects of diet on growth and condition indices were observed; fish fed the diet with 45% crude protein gained more weight than fish fed 40 or 35% crude protein. Increasing dietary lipid levels also increased June sucker weight gain with fish fed 16% dietary lipid gaining more weight than fish fed 12 and 8% crude lipid. However, a significant negative interactive effect of dietary protein and lipid on acute temperature tolerance was observed at 45%CP and 16% lipid. Results of this study define acceptable ranges of dietary protein and lipid for juvenile June suckers and provide culturists information to make better choices regarding appropriate diets for this species as defined by their culture and stocking goals.


Improved Growth Performance of Bonytail (Gila elegans) Through Optimization of Diet, Temperature and Rearing Density »

June sucker are endemic to Utah Lake in central Utah, but are now listed as an endangered species. The success of the captive propagation program is dependent on obtaining quality fish for stocking; however, little is known regarding the nutritional needs of this species during captivity. Credit: USFWS.

Project Title: Improved Growth Performance of Bonytail (Gila elegans) Through Optimization of Diet, Temperature and Rearing Density

Principal Investigators: Colleen Caldwell (USGS-New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit), Rick Barrows (Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station, Idaho), Kevin Kappenman, Manuel Ulibari (USFWS- Dexter National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center, New Mexico), Grant Webber (USFWS-Uvalde National Fish Hatchery), Greg Kindschi

Partners: USGS-New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, USDA- Agricultural Research Service, Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station, Idaho, USFWS- Dexter National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center, New Mexico, USFWS-Uvalde National Fish Hatchery

Funding Source: Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Project Summary: The bonytail (Gila elegans) is an endangered species native to the Colorado River Basin. The short-term recovery goal is to prevent its extinction through propagation. A 300mm sized hatchery bonytail is necessary to reduce being predated upon by piscivorous non-native fishes. Grow-out time frame of 8 months to 2 years is currently needed to obtain the target size. A series of experiments were conducted from 2007 through 2010 by a multi-institution workgroup to determine the effects of diet type, water temperature, and rearing density on the survival, growth, and performance of juvenile and sub-adult bonytail. Our project objectives were: 1) to evaluate the effect that protein and lipid source and level in grower diets have on growth and survival of bonytail, 2) evaluate the effect ingredient sources and palatability in grower diets have on growth and survival of bonytail, 3) evaluate the effect that optimal diet has on thermal optima and thermal tolerances for juvenile bonytail, 4) evaluate the effect rearing densities have on growth. A production-scale experiment was conducted to verify that results from laboratory studies could be adequately transferred to production-level efforts.


Evaluation of Ethanol Yeast as an Alternative Protein Source for Rainbow Trout »

Novel energy technologies may also be a source of sustainable feed for ingredients for hatchery reared fish if appropriate inclusion levels can be determined. Credit: USFWS.

Project Title:Evaluation of Ethanol Yeast as an Alternative Protein Source for Rainbow Trout

Principal Investigators: Wendy M. Sealey, T. Gibson Gaylord, Stephanie Block(Archer Daniel Midlands), John A. Paterson (Montana State University), Frederic T. Barrows (USDA-Agricultural Research Service)

Graduate Student/USFWS STEP Student: Blake Hauptman

Partner: Archer Daniel Midlands, Montana State University, USDA-Agricultural Research Service

Funding Source: Archer Daniel Midlands, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Project Summary: Ethanol yeast is a single cell protein obtained as a co-product during the production of fuel ethanol that may have potential as a protein replacement for rainbow trout. The objective of the current study was to determine if ethanol yeast could replace fish meal without negatively impacting growth performance and proximate composition of juvenile rainbow trout. Ethanol yeast apparent digestibility coefficients (ADCs) for protein, DM, lipid, energy and AAC for phosphorous were quantified; however, results from the feeding trial demonstrated significantly reduced growth (P=0.0001) and increased feed conversion (P=0.0174) when ethanol yeast replaced more than 37.5% of dietary fishmeal. Although nutrients in ethanol yeast were highly digestible and feed intake measurements indicated no palatability issues, growth was reduced after extended feeding at the higher inclusion levels. Additional research is necessary to identify reasons for the decreased performance of rainbow trout when ethanol yeast replaced more than 37.5% of fishmeal. This research allows feed formulators and feed buyers to know what acceptable levels are for inclusion of this feed ingredient in diets for cultured rainbow trout.


Utilization of Fishmeal Free Feeds for Rainbow Trout in Conservation Hatcheries »

Ennis National Fish Hatchery experimental hatchery building. Credit: USFWS.

Project Title: Utilization of Fishmeal Free Feeds for Rainbow Trout in Conservation Hatcheries

Principal Investigators: T. Gibson Gaylord, Wendy M. Sealey, Sean Henderson (USFWS-Ennis National Fish Hatchery), Frederic T. Barrows (USDA-Agricultural Research Service ), Cal Fraser

Partners: USFWS-Ennis National Fish Hatchery, USDA-Agricultural Research Service

Funding Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Project Summary: Rainbow trout reared in raceways for both stock enhancement and for food fish often show increased incidence of fin damage or less than optimal appearance compared to wild caught fish. Many factors may play a role in the fin damage and less than optimal appearance including nutritional deficiencies, stress, decreased healing capacity and general damage of tissues in culture systems. Preliminary data has indicated that plant based feeds formulated for amino acid balance, vitamin balance and mineral balance can improve general fish condition as quantified by fin index and skin appearance. To test the hypothesis that nutritionally balanced fish meal free diets will support growth and health of rainbow trout reared for stock enhancement, three experimental diet formulations were assessed with 0, 50, 100% replacement of fish meal protein from a “commercial type” formulation. The commercial type formulation contained 26% protein from fish meal for the fry diets and 18% protein from fish meal in the grower diets. Trout were reared at Ennis NFH on two commercial control feeds and the three experimental feeds with decreasing fish meal concentrations for 11 months from spawn to approximately 12 inches in length. The fish were assessed for growth and feed efficiency monthly and dorsal fin index quarterly through the trial. Results indicated that rainbow trout reared on the fish meal free feeds had superior growth rates and efficiency and were equivalent to or better than the commercial feeds utilized at Ennis NFH. No notable differences were detectable on fish condition assessed by dorsal fin index. Implications of these finding to hatcheries rearing trout for stock enhancement are that alternative protein sources that may be more sustainable can be utilized in nutritionally balanced feeds with improved fish growth and feed efficiency and at least equivalent fish condition.


Development and Evaluation of Starter Diets and Culture Conditions for Subspecies of Cutthroat Trout and Gila Trout »

Gila trout in net. Credit: USFWS.

Project Title: Development and Evaluation of Starter Diets and Culture Conditions for Subspecies of Cutthroat Trout and Gila Trout

Principal Investigators: Chris Myrick(Colorado State University-College of Natural Resources), Greg Kindschi, Kevin Kappenman

Partners: Colorado State University-College of Natural Resources, Ken Cline (Cline Trout Farms), Chris Nelson (Nelson & Sons, Inc), Gary Fornshell (University of Idaho), John Seals (Mora NFHTC), Molly Webb, University of Idaho-Cooperative Extension Service, Liley Fisheries

Funding Source: Western Regional Aqua Culture, Cline Trout Farms, Nelson & Sons, Inc, University of Idaho, Colorado State University, Liley Fisheries, USFWS, Mora NFHTC

Project Summary: The aquaculture industry requested research to develop culture techniques for cutthroat trout species. Past attempts to culture cutthroat trout using techniques developed for rainbow trout had not been very successful. A multi-institution team conducted a series of experiments. Our objectives were: 1) determine the effect of feed texture and formulation on survival, growth and quality of cutthroat trout, 2) determine the effect of water temperature on trout growth, survival, and quality, 3) determine the effect of rearing density on cutthroat trout growth, survival, and quality, and 4) conduct production-scale evaluations of the best diet × temperature × density combinations identified in the first three objectives and 5) develop outreach products to provide culturists and feed manufacturers with information on optimal growth temperatures, optimal rearing densities, and diet formulations for cutthroat trout subspecies. The study demonstrated that first-feeding cutthroat trout have the highest growth rates and survival when fed premium diets, the optimal temperatures for rearing cutthroat trout are subspecies-specific (14.5-16.4°C), and rearing density does have an effect on growth. The production-scale trial demonstrated that laboratory study results could be used to predict growth rate. A website was developed by the Western Regional Aquaculture Center to provide project information. A manual on cutthroat trout production is being developed that will synthesize the study information.


Optimizing Dietary Protein and Lipid Levels of Warmwater Fish Cultured in High Intensity Systems »

Montana State University M.S. students and BFTC STEP employees Blake Hauptman (L) and Chris Hooley (R) examine how dietary protein and lipid levels alter fish stress tolerance and water quality following a simulated hauling trial. Credit: USFWS.

Project Title: Optimizing Dietary Protein and Lipid Levels of Warmwater Fish Cultured in High Intensity Systems

Principal Investigators: Wendy M. Sealey, John A. Paterson (Montana State University), Kevin Fitzsimmons (University of Arizona), Gary Fornshell (University of Idaho), Frederic T. Barrows (USDA-Agricultural Research Service)

Graduate Student/USFWS STEP Student:Christopher G. Hooley

Partners: Montana State University, University of Arizona, University of Idaho, Extension and USDA-Agricultural Research Service

Funding Source: USDA, NIFA through the Western Regional Aquaculture Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Project Summary:Numerous threatened and endangered species covered under the USFWS mission are by definition too few in numbers to allow for extensive or invasive scientific inquiry regarding their nutritional needs without compromising the already limited populations.  Model species, such as tilapia, can aid the conservation research needs of these species.  Therefore, the objectives of the current study were to optimize dietary protein and lipid levels for juvenile tilapia cultured in high-intensity recirculating-water system and assess how dietary changes alter hauling stress-tolerance. To achieve this objective, a factorial design with diets formulated to contain three levels of dietary protein (28, 32 and 36%) and three levels of dietary lipid (3, 6, and 9%) was employed. Weight gain, feed conversion and feed intake was significantly (P<0.05) effected by diet. Increasing dietary protein significantly improved gain (P=0.01), feed conversion (FCR, P=0.03), feed intake (P=0.02), and protein retention (P=0.01). Increasing dietary lipid also significantly improved weight gain (P=0.05) and FCR (P=0.01) but at 9% decreased feed intake (P=0.02). Results of this study indicate a lack of dietary protein sparing by increasing dietary lipid at the levels investigated.  Further, these data suggest that while increasing protein and lipid levels in diet formulations can improve growth of fish in high intensity systems, stress tolerance during live hauling may be reduced.


The African Women in Agriculture Research and Development program, (AWARD) »

Ms. Omolola Betiku from Obafemi Awolowo University learning about the evaluation of alternative ingredients in aquatic animal diets at the BFTC in order to increase fish culture sustainability when she returns to Nigeria. Credit: USFWS.

Project Title: The African Women in Agriculture Research and Development program, (AWARD)

Principal Investigators: Wendy M. Sealey and Omolola Betiku (Obafemi Awolowo University)

Partner: Obafemi Awolowo University

Funding Sources: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, US-AID, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Project Summary: The African Women in Agriculture Research and Development program (AWARD) provides funding for education and training attachments and are awarded to eligible fellows (holding a master’s degrees or a doctorate) following a competitive application process. The attachments are supported with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and US-AID. Through funds provided by this mechanism, Omolola Betiku will receive education and training in the evaluation of alternative ingredients in aquatic animal diets. The education and training will be directed by Dr. Wendy Sealey at Bozeman Fish Technology Center. Ms Betiku arrived on March 19th and the fellowship will continue through November 28, 2011.


Development and Optimization of Spawning and Intensive Culture Techniques for Woundfin: Development of Life-Stage Diets »

Juvenile woundfin and thermal control culture system. Credit: USFWS.

Project Title: Development and Optimization of Spawning and Intensive Culture Techniques for Woundfin: Development of Life-Stage Diets

Principal Investigators: T. Gibson Gaylord, Wendy M. Sealey, Frederic T. Barrows (USDA-Agricultural Research Service), Cal Fraser.

Undergraduate Student: Grant Brink

Partners: Virgin River Resource Management and Recovery Program, Dexter National Fish Hatchery, Wahweap State Fish Hatchery-Utah, Bubbling Ponds State Fish Hatchery-Arizona, USDA-Agricultural Research Service

Funding Source: Virgin River Resource Management and Recovery Program

Project Summary: Woundfin Plagopterus argentissimus is an endangered species from the Virgin River System in western US. Currently, the species is being cultured for restoration stocking in their native drainages. Nutritional needs of woundfin maintained in refugia are currently unknown. Thus, the desire to increase production intensity of this species necessitates determination of the nutritional requirements for woundfin across life stages to ensure optimal fish growth, health and reproductive fitness. Research at the BFTC has entailed a series of diet trials to assess both the fish’s preference for the feed’s physical characteristics as well as the nutrient needs of the fish across life stages. The first trial was undertaken to test the effect of diet processing type on growth and nutrient utilization in juvenile woundfin. A second trial was undertaken to evaluate effects of dietary fatty acid profile on woundfin fry survival and growth. A third trial evaluated the effect of culture temperature on dietary protein and energy utilization by juvenile woundfin. A fourth trial is on-going to evaluate the effect of dietary fat levels and dietary fatty acid profile on fecundity and larval survival of woundfin broodstock. Results from these trials will give hatchery managers nutritional targets for feeds to be utilized with woundfin cultured across multiple life stages. Therefore complete nutrition can be provided as pelleted feeds when woundfin are cultured in tanks with limited or no natural prey availability.


Cost-Effective, Alternative Protein Diets for Rainbow Trout that Support Optimal Growth, Health and Product Quality »

Twin screw extruder at Bozeman FTC. Credit: USFWS.

Project Title: Cost-Effective, Alternative Protein Diets for Rainbow Trout that Support Optimal Growth, Health and Product Quality

Principal Investigators: Wendy Sealey, Carolyn Ross (Washington State University), Christopher Myrick (Colorado State University), T. Gibson Gaylord, Frederic T. Barrows (USDA-Agricultural Research Service), Gary Fornshell (University of Idaho Extension)

Partners: Washington State University, Colorado State University, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, University of Idaho Extension

Funding Source: WWestern Regional Aquaculture Center

Project Summary: When formulating feeds with alternative ingredients, nutritionists attempt to ensure that production parameters such as growth rates and feed conversion ratios are not detrimentally affected. Concomitant with the higher inclusion levels and increased variety of ingredients in aquatic feeds is a pressing need to understand how these changes also could negatively alter fish health and product quality. For these reasons, interactive effects of nutrient and anti-nutritional compounds in the alternative feed ingredients require additional study. Specifically, an increased understanding of the amino acid needs of trout and the amino acid content and availability of commercially available alternative feed ingredients can be utilized to identify appropriate ingredient combinations, thus maintaining the ability to produce cost-effective feeds while maintaining fish growth, health and product quality. Our long-term goals are to (1) develop cost effective alternative ingredient diet formulations that support maximal growth, health and product quality (2) increase the amount of information available to feed manufacturers regarding amino acid availabilities and retention efficiencies of synthetic amino acids, thus improving utilization of alternative ingredients in trout feeds. Results to date have identified candidate ingredients for utilization in rainbow trout feeds and determined their nutrient composition and apparent digestibility values. Research is ongoing testing combinations of these ingredients in feeds and evaluating fish performance and product quality. The information produced from the research will allow feed manufacturers and fish culturist to manufacture feeds and utilize sustainable ingredients in combination to meet the nutritional needs of rainbow trout to support fish growth, fish health and product quality in economically viable and sustainable production for rainbow trout.


Evaluation of the Dietary Fish Meal and Phosphorus Levels on Growth and Fin Curl in Juvenile Pallid Sturgeon »

Inappropriate diets, specifically diets that contain high levels of low-quality fish meal with hig levels of ash, have been hypothesized as contributing to fin curl occurrence in hatchery reared pallid sturgeon. Credit: USFWS.

Project Title: Evaluation of the Dietary Fish Meal and Phosphorus Levels on Growth and Fin Curl in Juvenile Pallid Sturgeon

Principal Investigators: Wendy M. Sealey, T. Gibson Gaylord, Cal Fraser, Jason Ilgen, Matt Toner, Chris G. Hooley, Frederic T. Barrows (USDA-Agricultural Research Service)

Partners: USDA-Agricultural Research Service

Funding Source: Western Area Power Administration

Project Summary: The purpose of the experiment was to identify possible effects of dietary fish meal concentration and phosphorus concentration on the occurrence of fin curl in pallid sturgeon. Four dietary treatments were utilized in a 2X2 factorial design with two fish meal levels (46% and 15%) and two phosphorus levels (basal and 3 x basal). Pallid sturgeon growth was improved with the low fish meal inclusion with supplemental phosphorus diet while juvenile pallids fed the high fish meal and supplemental phosphorus had significantly decreased growth and survival. Fin curl was observed at low levels in all treatments and was not significantly altered by diet. This information will allow for modification of diets for advanced pallid sturgeon juveniles to improve growth and feed efficiency. However, the age of the fish used in the experiment likely masked any dietary effects on fin curl as it is believed that the detrimental diet effects occur in early life stages. Additional research is necessary to further identify causes of the high incidence of fin curl observed in hatchery cultured pallid sturgeon.


Database of Nutrient Digestibility’s of Traditional and Novel Feed Ingredients for Trout and Hybrid Striped Bass »

CD release of database on nutrient composition and digestibility for rainbow trout and hybrid striped bass. Credit: USFWS.

Project Title: Database of Nutrient Digestibility’s of Traditional and Novel Feed Ingredients for Trout and Hybrid Striped Bass

Principal Investigators: F.T. Barrows, T.G. Gaylord, W. Sealey, and S.D. Rawles (H. K. Dupree Stuttgart National Aquaculture Research Center, Stuttgart, AR)

Partners: USDA-Agricultural Research Service, National Program 106 – Aquaculture, Trout-Grains Project, Aberdeen and Hagerman ID and Bozeman, MT; H. K. Dupree Stuttgart National Aquaculture Research Center, Stuttgart, AR

Funding Source: USDA-Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Regional Aquaculture Center

Project Summary: Determination of nutrient digestibility’s in specific ingredients and diets for fish has been an area of active research for decades. The Apparent Digestibility Coefficients (ADC), the percentage of nutrients in an ingredient that are available to the fish, is information needed by researchers, producers, and feed mills to accurately formulate feeds and thus meet the needs of the animal without excess. ADC’s are also necessary for determining the nutritional and economic value of alternative ingredients. Data developed from many different laboratories have been compiled in publications such as the NRC (1993), and often show extreme variability. A project was initiated in 2005 to determine ADC’s for macronutrients, amino acids and minerals for traditional and novel ingredients in rainbow trout and hybrid striped bass. In the database, the content of macro-nutrients amino acids and minerals of each ingredient is provided. The ADC’s for each ingredient for specific nutrients are reported. The anti-nutrient composition of selected ingredients also is reported. The database will be updated as additional ingredients are evaluated. The intention of this project was not to be all inclusive of every nutrient for all ingredients, but to make an attempt at standardizing procedures for as many ingredients as possible. Copies of the database can be downloaded here.

Data provided in the database will provide the information necessary to utilize a wide variety of ingredients in feed formulations for rainbow trout and hybrid striped bass and ensure nutritional targets are attained to meet the needs of the fish. This information has been released to the public (September 2011) and is being utilized by commercial feed companies as a tool during formulation of rainbow trout and hybrid striped bass feeds.


Development of Alternative Protein-Based Diets for Prominent Coldwater and Warmwater Marine Fishes »

Project Title: Development of Alternative Protein-Based Diets for Prominent Coldwater and Warmwater Marine Fishes

Principal Investigators: Delbert M. Gatlin (Texas A&M University System), Frederic T. Barrows (USDA-Agricultural Research Service), Steven Craig (Virginia Cobia Farms), Konrad Dabrowski (Ohio State University), T. Gibson Gaylord, Joseph R. Tomasso (Texas State University)

Partners: Texas A&M University System, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Virginia Cobia Farms, Ohio State University, Texas State University

Funding Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – National Marine Aquaculture Initiative

Project Summary: The aquafeeds industry has for many years recognized that viable utilization of plant feedstuffs formulated for the production of aquatic species is an essential requirement for the future development of aquaculture, especially with marine carnivorous species. Such plant feedstuffs must provide cost-effective diets that will grow aquatic species with minimal environmental impact and result in a product that is appealing and nutritious. Therefore, evaluation of both commerciality available plant protein concentrates from soybean, corn gluten and canola as well as products in development such as soybean, barely and corn co-products from ethanol and biodiesel production with representative coldwater and warmwater marine species including, Atlantic salmon (Sa/mo safar), cobia (Rachycentron canadum), and red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) is being performed. Results from this project will directly address the issue of sustainable alternative protein sources for the aquafeed industry. The outcomes will allow precise diet formulations using plant feedstuffs for each species to be performed on a digestible/available nutrient basis and limit the over-formulation of dietary protein to meet the amino acid and energy needs of each species. In addition, refinement of amino acid nutrition of several carnivorous fish species as well as development of innovative feeding strategies will be achieved to support optimal growth and feed efficiency while limiting nitrogenous waste output from these species when plant proteins are utilized in place of fishmea1. It is anticipated that results from this project will yield data and technologies that can be directly applied by the industry and will reduce the costs of production while minimizing environmental impacts.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: April 08, 2015
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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