Aquarium breeds and raises rare basslet

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Staff at the Long Island Aquarium have successfully bred and reared Candy basslets (Liopropoma carmabi) a rare and much sought after aquarium subject.

Aquaculturist Todd Gardner has spent the last three years working on techniques to breed and rear the species, and hopes his break through may pave the way for more widespread commercial breeding of these expensive fish.

The strikingly coloured basslets are very popular in the aquarium trade, but are secretive and live at considerable depth in the wild making collection costly, dangerous and expensive. Previous attempts to raise the species in captivity have failed due to their long and complex larval stage where the young fish spend months drifting with plankton in the open ocean before settling down for a life on the reef.

Gardner's interest in basslet breeding began over 15 years ago, but it was only after the aquarium was presented with a pair of the fish three years ago that his efforts became focussed. After many failed attempts the latest batch of 12 larvae finally settled into life among their aquarium's rocks after 69 days of drifting. He believes a number of factors led to success this time, such as finding the right type and size of first food and the correct time to feed it, selecting the right tank size, shape and even colour as well as the method employed in collecting, separating and disinfecting the fishes' tiny eggs.

"This is our first, big step – it's big news and we are excited. We hope with each successive attempt, we are able to get more to survive and to produce a lot more of them to study," said Gardner.

As well as attracting the attention of the aquarium industry, Gardner's work has caught the eye of scientists at the Smithsonian Institution who were glad to have their first chance to see photos and video of the unique physiological adaptations of the larvae in live, rather than preserved, specimens.

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