Heidelberg project breeds success

Heidelberg project breeds success

09 March 2011

published by heidelberg-leader.whereilive.com.au

Australia — HEIDELBERG-based scientists have saved an endangered fish that was almost wiped out in the Black Saturday bushfires.

After researchers from the Arthur Rylah Institute rescued 394 barred galaxias from small mountain creeks near some of the hardest hit areas, they successfully bred 1400 new fish in captivity.

There are only 13 known populations of barred galaxias remaining in the world – all in Victoria.

Fish ecology scientist Tarmo Raadik said breeding the barred galaxias in the institute’s $500,000 Heidelberg aquarium was vital in saving the fish.

“Barred galaxias populations have dramatically declined from predation by trout and impacts of drought,” Mr Raadik said.

“Unfortunately, 90 per cent of its known habitat has also been affected by either the 2006 or the 2009 bushfires.”

He said the species was named “Victoria’s Nemo” because it resembled the fish that starred in the movie Finding Nemo and had been displaced from its homes.

“After rescuing the fish … we kept them in our aquariums with the aim of releasing them again when their habitat recovered,” Mr Raadik said.

“Artificially rearing young is another way to help struggling populations, but previous attempts on other rare galaxiids in Australia failed or produced very few young.

“This is a breakthrough as we now understand what goes on in the barred galaxias’ bedroom and are able to apply this to artificially breed and raise young.”

But making the fish feel at home wasn’t easy.

“We collected some eggs naturally spawned in the wild, but also lent a helping hand by artificially fertilising eggs in the aquarium,” Mr Raadik said.

“An incredibly dedicated team spent weeks anxiously watching as eggs developed, waiting for them to hatch.”

Then the scientists spent a further six weeks caring for the young, feeding them and changing their water, until they were large enough to be released into the wild.

“We gave the fish the luxury suite and not the backpacker-style accommodation, so we really looked after them,” he said.

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