Ash Meadows Fish Conservation Facility

DHP in Tank for promo

Home for a backup population of Devil's Hole pupfish

The facility began operations in early 2013, focusing on the conservation of the Devils Hole biological community, especially the establishment of a viable population of endangered Devils Hole pupfish. The AMFCF is not open to the general public. 

Equipped with custom-designed aquarium systems, the facility receives pupfish eggs collected from Devils Hole. The eggs are hatched and the fish reared to adulthood in aquariums where conditions are carefully controlled. To collect eggs, biologists place egg recovery mats, ceramic tiles covered with carpet, on the natural shelf in Devils Hole for a period of two to three days. Pupfish deposit their eggs on the mats and, then they are carefully collected and transported to the facility.

The mats are placed under microscopes to search for the Devils Hole pupfish eggs. This is a painstaking process, because the eggs are clear and tiny—about 1 millimeter in diameter. When found, eggs are placed in aquaria for anti-parasitic/bacterial/fungal treatments, hatching, and rearing. The fish are fed, in part, invertebrates that are collected from Devils Hole and cultured in the propagation room. Upon reaching adulthood, fish are transferred to the refuge tank. There, they can mingle, mate, and hopefully build a thriving captive population.

Pure Devils Hole pupfish raised from wild eggs collected from Devils Hole were introduced into the refuge tank, thus establishing the first captive population of the species in almost 10 years, and the first ever using these unique methods. Signs of recruitment have also been observed in recent months, with at least five larvae and juveniles recorded during surface and snorkel surveys, bringing the captive population to approximately one-third the current size of the wild population.

The National Park Service, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Shark Reef (Mandalay Bay), the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and the University of Arizona are all involved in the program. Operations are closely coordinated among three Service programs (Refuges, Fisheries, and Ecological Services).

The primary objectives are to prevent extinction of the Devils Hole pupfish and support recovery efforts, which include propagating other organisms found in Devils Hole (snails, algae, etc.) and conducting relevant research. Establishing a refuge population of Devils Hole pupfish reduces the risk of extinction, while increasing their numbers. Viable populations of the pupfish in locations apart from Devils Hole provide a level of insurance against total loss of the species.