Fish Lab and Marine Life

Landaa Giraavaru’s Fish Lab breeds ornamental fish to promote marine conservation and education among guests and local school children, with the future aim of establishing fish breeding on neighbouring local islands as an alternative source of livelihood.

The aquarium fishery in the Maldives is regulated to safeguard tourism. While this goes some way to protect the reefs, it also limits growth in the lucrative ornamental sector – estimated to have an annual worldwide trade value of USD 220-300 million. Although some ornamental marine species have been successfully reared in farms or labs, it is important to note that the majority (90%) of species available to international aquarists and hobbyists have been collected from the wild. Captive cultivation techniques enable the production of hardy and disease-free fish, reducing pressures on the reef and eliminating the dangerous impacts associated with other forms of collection, such as the use of chemicals or breaking the corals. It can also provide a valuable alternative and sustainable source of income to local communities.

See also: Our Zooplankton Monitoring Project

Zooplankton monitoring and ID - Copepod with egg sack (Maldives)
Zooplankton monitoring and ID - Copepod (Maldives)
Zooplankton monitoring and ID - Porcelain crab larvae (Maldives)

Clownfish & Damselfish

Our most recognisable residents are clownfish, a well-known family of fish found in all tropical waters, made famous by the movie ‘Finding Nemo’. We also breed a close relative of the clownfish called the damselfish, which is in high demand for the aquarium industry. We breed two common local clownfish species in the Maldives:

  • the Maldivian anemonefish (Amphipion nigripes) with its single white stripe;
  • the Clark’s anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) with three white stripes.

Breeding females lay between 200 to 1500 eggs per clutch, which the parents guard and care for over six to seven days (clownfish) or three to four days (damselfish). During this time, we also monitor egg development and the health of the clutch, so we can estimate when the larvae will hatch. After hatching, we collect the larvae and place them in a separate tank, where we closely monitor their growth and feed them a suitable diet. If possible, we try to move the egg clutch just prior to hatching, to reduce stress.

In nature, only a tiny proportion of fish larvae survive to adulthood (1 in 150,000). In the Lab, we can ensure greater survival rates by eliminating predation and increasing the larvae’s food capture potential. Our live food lab produces and grows both rotifers and Artemia, to ensure that our larvae and baby fish have a constant supply of suitable fresh food.

  • For the first 5 days, the larvae consume approximately 350-600 rotifers (plankton) per day.
  • From day 6, larvae are given Artemia (brine shrimp).
  • By day 10 to 15, larvae start metamorphosis to become fish, developing the stripes and colouration that characterise the species.

Our approach is simple: “A happy fish is a healthy fish”.
To maintain this requires dedication for each of the different ornamental fish species we are trying to breed.

Marine Savers - Fish lab tanks

Seahorses

We have also been attempting to breed the common seahorse (Hippocampus kuda), with the first juveniles successfully produced back in 2012. Juvenile seahorses are hungry little animals that devour a lot of rotifers and Artemia (just like the clownfish larvae). They are not easy to rear as they are very fragile, and sensitive to parasites, and can suffer from a deadly ailment called air bubble syndrome’.

The purpose of breeding seahorses in our Fish Lab is to further demonstrate an alternative to harvesting them from the wild. There is so little data available on seahorse species that we stand at risk of losing them globally, purely through not knowing enough about them. These reasons – compounded by the global deterioration of seahorses’ coral reef and sea grass habitats – make us even more passionate about breeding and rearing them here in our Fish Lab. Through our research and refining of breeding and raising protocols, we gain valuable information about the care, reproduction, and lives of these animals.

Shrimp

Most of the research surrounding shrimp aquaculture concerns the commercial production for human consumption. We are attempting to breed two different species of ornamental shrimp that are in demand for hobbyists and aquaria alike, the Coral Banded Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus) and the Sexy Shrimp (Thor amboinensis). Currently, most attempts to breed shrimp fail at the larval stage as they are very delicate, so our research could impact the early-stage lifecycle care of these species.

Ref: Cato, J.C. and C.L. Brown. 2003. Marine Ornamental Species: Collection, Culture, and Conservation. Ames, IA: Iowa State Press.

Marine Aquarium

We invite you behind the scenes to watch the refurbishment process of our large (4000L) marine aquarium at Landaa Giraavaru’s Marine Discovery Centre, back in 2017 (time flies!) Two months in the making, and all of Aku and Carla’s hard work is paying off ! Enjoy our photo slideshow of the construction process, and meet all the inhabitants in our DIARY feature on corals, invertebrates and fish.

Marine aquaculture Maldives Fish Lab - Helen

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