Age-Related Changes in Survival Behaviour in Parasite-Free Hatchery-Reared Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

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Millions of hatchery-reared Rainbow trout are currently released in Australian waters to
support recreational fisheries objectives, yet many of these fish die soon after release. In addition, little is known whether these fish harbour parasites that can potentially threaten freshwater ecosystems and human health. Here, we tested the behaviour of hatchery-reared trout using six tank-based tests at six different ages to evaluate their chances of survival and then dissected fish to investigate parasite prevalence. At 7 weeks of age fish readily emerged from a hide and showed the greatest number of startle responses to predators. Behaviour around 25–29 weeks of age was relatively “shy”, staying in shelter and avoiding open water. At around 37–41 weeks of age though, behaviour changed, with fish emerging from a hide more readily and exploring the environment. Interestingly, at 58 weeks of age fish were slower to initiate exploration, possibly indicating a return to “shyer” behaviour. All fish underwent thorough parasite examination, revealing no infections. We conclude that knowledge of the behaviour of hatchery-reared fish at different ages is useful for decisions
around the timing of release that balance the needs of recreational fishers whilst managing the impact on freshwater ecosystem.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1315
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

Grant Number

  • LF037
  • LF042


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