Skip to main content

Raising Fish at MFEC

inside of a building with several round tanks, pipes and lighting and a close up view of a round tank

Scientists at the FWC Marine Fisheries Enhancement Center in Apollo Beach, FL spawn adults captured in the wild, incubate the developing eggs and larvae, and grow the larvae to juveniles indoors using recirculating aquaculture systems. Hatchery reared fish are harvested from tanks and released to assess the impacts of stocking hatchery-reared fish into the wild.

Most of the hatchery-reared animals are stocked into estuaries in habitats suitable for their survival. Stocked fish have DNA unique to their parents which FWC scientists use to identify them if captured. Larger fish can be marked prior to release with external streamer tags for more visible identification. Hatchery-reared fish that are captured are used by researchers to determine survival rates, growth rates, diet, health, migration, and contribution to the fishery.

Hatchery adult redfish spawning in a tank

Adult fish collected from the wild are placed into hatchery tanks where they spawn after scientists mimic the natural twelve-month seasonal cycle of sunlight and seawater temperature in just five months.

Redfish eggs hatch into small larvae

The day after spawning, the eggs hatch into larvae that are approximately 1.5-2.5 millimeter in length (about the width of a quarter) and grow to a 25-millimeter juvenile fish (about the diameter of a quarter) 25-30 days after hatching.

Live food for fish larvae

The sportfish larvae are fed live rotifers and brine shrimp (types of small zooplankton grown in the hatchery) for 2-3 weeks before they are fed a pelleted food.

Stocking juvenile fish into the wild

Juvenile sportfish are transported from the hatchery to estuaries, such as Tampa Bay, in live-hauling tanks. The juveniles are then boated to designated sites where they are carefully acclimated to the surrounding environmental conditions and released.