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Larval rearing of flying fish (Family: Exocoetidae)

Binu Varghese
Programme Manager, Marine Products Export Development Authority
Kochi, India
During sea cruises flying fishes attract our attention with their gentle gliding movement
just above the water surface. These fishes were reported to have mass spawning activity
with many pairs using same floating substrate to attach their eggs. The drifting
Sargassum weeds attached with egg mass of flying fishes were collected from Vizhinjam
coast (Southern India).The eggs were perfectly camouflaged with the sargassum weeds as
if to appear as the air bladders in Sargassum (fig. 1). The egg mass was carefully
transferred to a 250 liter aerated aquarium and hung in the water column to allow
movement as well as circulation between the densely packed eggs. The salinity of water
was maintained at 32 ppt, pH at 8.1 and temperature 281 C.

Fig. 1. The egg mass of flying fish

The egg was spherical with a diameter of 2.4 mm. They were clubbed together and
attached firmly to the seaweed with numerous thin filaments. Close observation of eggs
revealed fully developed embryo moving inside (fig. 2).

Fig.2. Egg with fully developed embryo

Immediately after transfer many small wrigglers were found on the bottom of the tank.
These newly hatched larvae were comparatively large with 7.0 mm and had hefty yolksac (fig.3a). This heavy yolk reserve made them occupy the bottom of aquarium with a
typical wriggling movement (fig. 3b). The hatching process continued for a few days
suggesting the eggs to be part of mass spawning activity. Even after three days several
unhatched eggs were found attached to the substrate.

Fig. 3a. The newly hatched larvae (wrigglers)

Fig. 3b. Newly hatched larvae with the yolk-sac

The larvae were transferred to two FRP tanks with recirculation provided with gentle
aeration. The yolk lasted for about 4-5 days and by then they were readily feeding on the
Artemia nauplii. The larvae developed into strange shapes with rounded fins and swarm
near the surface (fig.4).

Fig. 4. Intermediate fry stage with rounded fins

Most amazingly in this early days itself larvae had the ability to glide over the water
surface. Showing their true character even the week old larvae glided over the water

surface whenever their movement is obstructed. The larvae were fed with artemia nauplii
immediately after yolk absorption.
Gradually the body shape and the fins changed into adult form (metamorphosis) with the
typical elongated and expanded fin structures. After this change they rapidly gained
momentum and started hitting the side walls which caused heavy mortality. Subsequently
fries were released after a months growth back to the Vizhinjam Bay.
The length and weight of fries recorded
Length (mm)

Weight (mg)

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