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 TAC Fish Breeding

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David Harvey


Male Posts : 5381
Join date : 2010-01-21
Age : 103
Location : Surrey,

PostSubject: TAC Fish Breeding   Thu Apr 19, 2012 10:27 am

Wanted to know if anyone has had experience of breeding coarse fish.

With incidents like the devastation on the River Crane, all species were wiped out so that includes the Perch, Pike, Gudgeon, Bullheads and so on.

The EA will restock but only from what they get from Calverton so if I am correct this would be chub, barbel, dace, roach, bream, tench, rudd, crucian carp and grayling.

Our forefathers the Thames Angling Preservation Society (TAPS) did it but this was well before the EA, NRA and of course bio security rules are very tough but not so prohibitive to make it impossible.

I am sure there are a few of you have some knowledge and would love to hear about it.

The Crane is a perfect place to start and could be the template for any future incidents.

Views and opinions folks Smile

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Andy Banham


Male Posts : 514
Join date : 2010-06-18
Age : 50
Location : essex

PostSubject: TAC fish breeding   Thu Apr 19, 2012 8:55 pm

the EA stocked gobios in the ingrebourne. the roding has had several total fish kills in the last 33 years and i am sure the EA dont stock minnows, bullheads and stoneloach which are plentiful now as every year i rake loads out when clearing swims and search through the weed to return them.
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James Mitchell


Posts : 738
Join date : 2011-11-14
Location : Kingston

PostSubject: Re: TAC Fish Breeding   Fri Apr 20, 2012 9:53 am

By no means an expert, but I've bred sticklebacks and goldfish on a small scale before so share what little I've learnt from that. Not sure what scale you're thinking of Dave but I can't imagine most coarse fish are too much more difficult to manage than these species if you have the right equipment and enough resources. However, fish that are restricted to rivers (dace, barbel) might prove more challenging as I assume you would have to have some sort of running water set up.

Basic formula is:

Phase one:
Plenty of aerated water + healthy fish + appropriate spawning material (I'd imagine places like Calverton would use some sort of fabric mesh/sponge for fish to lay eggs on, depending on species)

Phase two:
Gradually increase amount of food going in + water temperature. Obviously this triggers them into thinking its Spring and spawning time.

Phase three:
Fish breed in response to changing conditions. Remove eggs / fry from fish environment and place in nursery tank

Phase four:Feed fry appropriate food until maturity [and then release if you get the appropritae EA clearance?]

In practice, I would imagine that for a species like bullheads or gudgeon, the set up would consist of a [large] plastic tank of some kind, with gravel or sand, and a heavy duty aerator to keep water oxygenated and stimulate flow in the water. Ideally, this would have to be kept in someone's garage, or somewhere else indoors where it is possible to influence the temperature.

Some sort of sub-tank for aquatic insects to be kept in/breed (I used to use Daphnia as they reproduce quickly ) or wormery would need to be set up in parallel to ensure a constant (and increasing) supply of food for the fish and fry. Although you can just feed processed fish food I found live food to be better at prompting fish to spawn, and also is more environmentally friendly as well (given lost of processed fish food comes from fishmeal i.e. marine overfishing of sandeels, sprats, etc).

The spawning material would need to be introduced, and then removed and placed in a nursery tank once the eggs are laid on it, depending on the species. This is to stop the adult fish eating the eggs and/or fry, a mistake I made several times. Alternatively, and possibly more easily, simply remove the adult (breeding fish) from the main tank to leave the fry unmolested.

Then keep feeding the fry until they mature and are ready to be released.

Sounds relatively simple when I put it like that, but, beleive me even when you only have a couple of breeding pairs, there are a million and one things that can go wrong!
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Steve Holmes

Posts : 2435
Join date : 2010-01-28

PostSubject: Re: TAC Fish Breeding   Fri Apr 20, 2012 12:17 pm

Good reply James - you might be in danger of talking yourself into a job! Very Happy

We'd be doing it on a biggish scale, enough to restock tributaries, something naturally none of us have done before, so all knowledge and experience welcome.
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James Mitchell


Posts : 738
Join date : 2011-11-14
Location : Kingston

PostSubject: Re: TAC Fish Breeding   Fri Apr 20, 2012 1:39 pm

Cheers Steve. Like I say, I’m by no means an expert on this – my experience is confined to amateur breeding as a hobby when I was younger. The goldfish were easy – they are essentially carp and therefore very tolerant of environmental conditions, and have an uncomplicated breeding procedure. Sticklebacks were slightly more complicated but also exciting. Their mating rituals and nest building are famous in ecology/biology as relatively easy to produce in a laboratory with spectacular results.

I have to say, it can be very frustrating. Watching a month’s worth of careful work and tending literally disappear (into the adult fish’s belly) overnight because you have not removed the eggs on time is pretty devastating. Equally, it is rewarding when it all comes together. I remember lighting a cigar when my first stickleback fry survived.

Obviously each species presents their own problems and probably only trial and error (or experienced advice) will result in a batch you could reintroduce. If you stick with bullheads, for example, some quick searching reveals specific problems and advantages:

- eat any animal they can swallow, food should therefore be straightforward
- relatively tough and resilient
- simple ecosystem required (sand and stones)
- fairly quick gestation time for eggs (10 days)
- lay a good amount of eggs at a time (250 approx)

Potential problems
- highly aggressive and territorial – each adult needs their own “lair”
- problematic gestation. The female digs a “nest” in sand under a stone (fairly easy to provide) and lays her eggs inside it. The male then fertilises them, and then guards the eggs for the duration of the gestation (10 days). He also fans the eggs with his fins – if the male is removed, and there is not sufficient flow/aeration, they will be ruined by fungus.
- The male also does not eat during his time guarding the eggs. He will therefore start eating the eggs out of starvation as time goes on. He will also eat any fry that remain near the “nest”.
- Temp range is 6c to 16c. So the breeding tank will need to be kept in a coolish place.

This document discusses the issue and options regarding reintroduction into a small trib:

So could be fairly complicated, although feasible. You could, for instance, have a couple of large plastic “ponds” – as you would buy in a garden centre – with a breeding pair in each. Once they have bred, it would be relatively easy to simply remove the rocks with the clumps of eggs attached - they look like this:

And place them in some large aquariums - with good aerators – to hatch and allow the fry to grow.

Whether all this would be compliant with EA rules and regs I have no idea…

It would be a very exciting project for the TAC to conduct. However, I would say it is difficult to underestimate the time and resources needed to make it work. I’d say at the least, a large garage dedicated to the project is necessary, and feeding / checking at least a couple of times a day. And that would be to (optimistically) produce 500 bullheads every 2 or 3 months. Although probably, with practice and experience, you could produce higher yields in less time.

Living in a slave-box in central London, and having to work full-time in the City, there’s no way I could successfully make this work myself. But, of course, more than happy to lend a hand, advice, and donate what I can if someone wanted to give it a go.
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Steve Holmes

Posts : 2435
Join date : 2010-01-28

PostSubject: Re: TAC Fish Breeding   Fri Apr 20, 2012 2:15 pm

Great post again James.

If we did get permission from the EA and it became a reality, we'd do it properly in breeding ponds/ mill races rather than in a garage for example and under full Fisheries guidance.
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James Mitchell


Posts : 738
Join date : 2011-11-14
Location : Kingston

PostSubject: Re: TAC Fish Breeding   Fri Apr 20, 2012 2:52 pm

If you could get access to professional / commercial facilities like that it would make things a lot more realistic (than my "knock it up in your shed" solution anyway!) and fisheries guidance would make it a lot more straightforward.

Breeding "mini-species" for restocking in such conditions would be great, I wonder if it is done elsewhere. I'd imagine only the commercially important species (silver fish, carp, trout) are grown on a large scale like at Calverton. Would be great if the TAC could fill the micro-species "niche."

As I've exhuasted my experience/speculative powers I'll now stand aside so anyone who actually knows what they are talking about can make suggestions!
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David Harvey


Male Posts : 5381
Join date : 2010-01-21
Age : 103
Location : Surrey,

PostSubject: Re: TAC Fish Breeding   Fri Apr 20, 2012 4:40 pm

James your input is invaluable as always mate, kicks off the discussion very nicely and keep it coming.

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Andrew Shaw


Male Posts : 632
Join date : 2011-06-09
Age : 39
Location : Wimbledon

PostSubject: Re: TAC Fish Breeding   Fri Apr 20, 2012 6:11 pm

This was recently done on the wandle.
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Steve Holmes

Posts : 2435
Join date : 2010-01-28

PostSubject: Re: TAC Fish Breeding   Fri Apr 20, 2012 8:01 pm

Andrew Shaw wrote:
This was recently done on the wandle.

Very encouraging link Andy nice one. The precedent has been set elsewhere so I'm sure we could progress this.

Any recovering river needs the loach, bullheads, ruffe, gudgeon, minnows, sticklebacks and if the EA don't rear them, we have to do something.
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Andy Banham


Male Posts : 514
Join date : 2010-06-18
Age : 50
Location : essex

PostSubject: TAC fish breeding   Sat Apr 21, 2012 9:44 am

didn,t the barbel society buy up some of the river lee side streams for allowing barbel to reach a fair size before releasing into the main river in the 90,s
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