Version: B | 2.0 (2022-08-02)
Please note: This part of the profile is currently being revised.
WelfareScore | farm
Condensed assessment of the species' likelihood and potential for good fish welfare in aquaculture, based on ethological findings for 10 crucial criteria.
- Li = Likelihood that the individuals of the species experience good welfare under minimal farming conditions
- Po = Potential of the individuals of the species to experience good welfare under high-standard farming conditions
- Ce = Certainty of our findings in Likelihood and Potential
WelfareScore = Sum of criteria scoring "High" (max. 10)
Ictalurus punctatus is a nocturnal catfish species native to North America (St. Lawrence-Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and Missouri-Mississippi rivers basins) and highly invasive in most of the USA, in some European countries, and Japan. In the US, it is dominating the aquaculture industry; worldwide, its production is highest in China, and it is also cultured in Cuba, Mexico, Russia, and Bulgaria. In aquaculture, it is often hybridised with the related species Ictalurus furcatus, and it can be co-cultured with this and with other species such as Polyodon spathula, Oreochromis niloticus, Pimephales promelas, and Lepomis microlophus. Escapees can be a threat to local populations of FISHES. There is a common high-standard slaughter method in place, and it is cultured with appropriate substrate and depth. However, further information is needed on stress during husbandry procedures and on the proportion of malformations in farms. There are several reports of natural spawning in farming conditions, and there is some potential to improve home range, migration needs, and aggregation needs and to reduce aggression levels.
1 Home range
Many species traverse in a limited horizontal space (even if just for a certain period of time per year); the home range may be described as a species' understanding of its environment (i.e., its cognitive map) for the most important resources it needs access to.
What is the probability of providing the species' whole home range in captivity?There are unclear findings for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.
LARVAE and FRY: WILD and FARM: no data found yet.
JUVENILES: WILD: no data found yet. FARM: in-pond raceway: 37.6 m2 (7.7 x 4.9 m) 1, 110 m2 (22 x 5 m) 2; cages: 1.4 m3 (1.2 m ∅), 1.5 m2 (1.2 x 1.2 m), 2.9 m2 (1.2 x 2.4 m), 5.9 m2 (2.4 x 2.4 m) 3; ponds and net pens in reservoirs and lakes 4.
ADULTS: WILD: sedentary, little daily movement for feeding 5. In floodplains: majority at ≤5,000 m, some also >40,000 m 6. In summer: ~15 m/day 7, 60% within their 2,000 m home range 8; in winter: ~10 m/day 7. FARM: daily trips to feeding station following the same route, except in winter, where IND remained in home areas 9 10. Ponds: 16,000 m2, home areas established by groups of IND: 14.3-277.0 m2 10, 40,000-80,000 m2 11; in-pond raceways: 37.6 m2 (7.7 x 4.9 m) 1, 110 m2 (22 x 5 m) 2; ponds and net pens in reservoirs and lakes 4; net cages in reservoirs 12.
2 Depth range
Given the availability of resources (food, shelter) or the need to avoid predators, species spend their time within a certain depth range.
What is the probability of providing the species' whole depth range in captivity?It is low for minimal farming conditions, as these do not cover the whole depth range, and it is high for high-standard farming conditions, as it is conceivable that that these will cover the whole depth range after some modifications. Our conclusion is based on a high amount of evidence.
JUVENILES: WILD: daily movement to shallow riffle areas for feeding 5. <1 m 16, 1-2 m 14-13, non-native waters: ≤5 m but go to surface (1-2 m) if dissolved oxygen is low at larger depths 17; deep pools 15. FARM: ponds: average 1 m 18; in-pond raceways: 1.2 m 1, 2 m 2; cages: 4 m 3.
ADULTS: WILD: 0.3-2.6 m, the larger depth for warmer water in winter 7, 1-2 m 14-13, non-native waters: ≤5 m but go to surface (1-2 m) if dissolved oxygen is low at larger depths 17. FARM: ponds: 0.3-1.0 m depending on temperature and fish size 10; 1.2-1.8 m 11; in-pond raceways: 1.2 m 1, 2 m 2.
SPAWNERS: WILD: ➝ LARVAE and FRY. FARM: ponds: preference for shallow areas in a 0.3-1.0 m deep pond 10.
Some species undergo seasonal changes of environments for different purposes (feeding, spawning, etc.) and with them, environmental parameters (photoperiod, temperature, salinity) may change, too.
What is the probability of providing farming conditions that are compatible with the migrating or habitat-changing behaviour of the species?It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.
JUVENILES: WILD: nocturnal 5 16 24. Probably remain in main river until 3-4 years old 25. More abundant in salinities of average 1.7 ppt, but can tolerate ≤11.4 ppt 26-13. FARM: stressed by being caged at ≥ 26.6.°C 3. Tolerate ≤11 ppt 21, ideally kept at <4-6 ppt, mostly kept at <0.5 ppt 27. For details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1 and 2.
ADULTS: WILD: nocturnal 5 24. ≤469 km in 72 days 25. In autumn: median 2-11 km 25, ~35 m/day 7 mostly downstream migration from summer home site 25 8 to overwinter in dam, returning in spring 8; in spring: 7-32 km 25 ~65 m/day 7 mostly upstream migration to summer home site 25 8. Probably move into and remain in tributary at 3-6 years old 25. After 38 cm in size, probably move from tributary to main river and remain there for rest of life 25. Some individuals show fidelity for home site 8. More abundant in salinities of average 1.7 ppt, but can tolerate ≤11.4 ppt 26-13. FARM: stressed by being caged at ≥ 26.6.°C 3. Tolerate ≤11 ppt 21, 12 ppt 23, growth slowed at ≥6 ppt 23, ideally kept at <4-6 ppt, mostly kept at <0.5 ppt 27. For details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1 and 2.
A species reproduces at a certain age, season, and sex ratio and possibly involving courtship rituals.
What is the probability of the species reproducing naturally in captivity without manipulation of theses circumstances?It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is high for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.
WILD: mature at 5 years old 5, water temperature 23-30 °C (optimum: 27 °C) 5. Spawning period Feb-Aug depending on weather and latitude 5, peak in May 5 or June 28. Courtship 29-13 30. Parental care of eggs by males 5. Females spawn once a year, males seldom spawn more than once 5. FARM: mature at 2-3 years old 5. Sex ratio: 1:3-2:3 male:female 31. Stimulation of reproduction by simulating natural habitat temperatures: gametogenesis stimulation by ~1 month of water temperature <10-15 °C 13, spawning stimulation by slow rise to 20-25 °C water temperature 13. Pond: natural spawning 10 32 13 4. Pen and aquarium spawning 32 13 that often involve ovulation induced by hormonal injections 13. After removing eggs from spawning containers, males spawn again 3-4 times 5. LAB: compressed annual thermal cycle advanced maturity from 3 years to 22 months 33.
Species differ in the way they co-exist with conspecifics or other species from being solitary to aggregating unstructured, casually roaming in shoals or closely coordinating in schools of varying densities.
What is the probability of providing farming conditions that are compatible with the aggregation behaviour of the species?It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.
JUVENILES: WILD: possibly solitary 36 37 or schooling 38. For aggregation and aggression ➝ crit. 6. FARM: 256-655 IND/m3 (17.7-92.3 kg/m3) 1, 11,250 IND/ha 11, 13.6 kg/m3 2; cages: 212-494 IND/m3 3, dexreasing oxygen from >318 IND/m3 on 3; overstocking can cause growth and health problems 3. LAB: schooling and shoaling behaviour 39. Lower cortisol levels in solitarily kept FINGERLINGS than in control (0-20 versus 30-40 ng/mL), but no significant difference compared to IND kept in pairs (13-43 ng/mL) 40 and unusually low cortisol levels in all three conditions compared to even the control of another study (100 ng/mL) 41-40. Homogeneity of body sizes and enough space probably more important than number of IND 40. For aggregation and aggression ➝ crit. 6.
ADULTS: WILD: possibly solitary 36 37 or schooling 38. Average 21.5 kg/ha, maximum 52 kg/ha 42. For aggregation and aggression ➝ crit. 6. FARM: higher stress at 80-215 kg/m3 than at 18 kg/m3 43 and at 14,800-19,800 IND/ha than at 9,800 IND/ha 44. 6,000 IND/ha, with aggregations of same-size IND within home areas of 0.11-0.14 IND/m2 10. Smaller size aggregate more than larger size 10. 198-503 IND/m3 (54.9-199.0 kg/m3) 1, 11,250 IND/ha 11, 13.6 kg/m3 2. Holding ponds: 2,000-3,000 kg/ha (for ADULTS to become SPAWNERS).
There is a range of adverse reactions in species, spanning from being relatively indifferent towards others to defending valuable resources (e.g., food, territory, mates) to actively attacking opponents.
What is the probability of the species being non-aggressive and non-territorial in captivity?It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.
LARVAE and FRY: WILD and FARM: no data found yet.
ADULTS: WILD: ➝ JUVENILES. FARM: hierarchy during feeding 9 and in home areas 10. Chasing of smaller size IND during feeding 9. Smaller IND acclimate to lower temperatures, lower dissolved oxygen levels, and later feeding times to avoid aggressions from larger IND 9. Monthly cropping of large IND does not eliminate hierarchy 9. Homogeneous body size known to eliminate cannibalism and reduce food competition 1. Aggression at low densities 43 like 6 IND/100L 45, decreasing with increased density 43. LAB: aggressions towards same size IND during feeding 9.
Depending on where in the water column the species lives, it differs in interacting with or relying on various substrates for feeding or covering purposes (e.g., plants, rocks and stones, sand and mud).
What is the probability of providing the species' substrate and shelter needs in captivity?It is low for minimal farming conditions, as in-pond raceway systems have a concrete basis and cinder block walls, and it is medium for high-standard farming conditions, as provision of shelters need to be confirmed for farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a high amount of evidence.
JUVENILES: WILD: sand, 5 46-13 15, rocks 15, gravel 5 46-13, boulders 46-13, silt 46-13. Dense aquatic weed 5. Preference for clear water, but also common in muddy water 5. Use logs and rocks as shelter 5. Moderately turbid water 46-13. FARM: ponds: 50-90% montmorillonite clay 13. For details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1 and 2. LAB: shelter use in shoals during the day 39.
SPAWNERS: WILD: cavities, crevices, and other confined spaces 5 47-7, preference for semi-dark areas 5; nest in holes in the banks, undercut banks, hollow logs, log jams or rocks 5, probably over rock, rubble or gravel bottoms 28. Male builds nest and attracts female 5. FARM: ponds: 50-90% montmorillonite clay 13, home areas and swimways to feeder: hard bottom without silt, remaining areas: mud and silt 10; spawning containers 10 5.
Farming involves subjecting the species to diverse procedures (e.g., handling, air exposure, short-term confinement, short-term crowding, transport), sudden parameter changes or repeated disturbances (e.g., husbandry, size-grading).
What is the probability of the species not being stressed?It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.
LARVAE and FRY: FARM: stressed by handling at >30 °C 48. For stress and aggregation ➝ crit. 5.
JUVENILES: FARM: stressed by grading due to overcrowding 49, by handling at >20 °C (>30 °C for FINGERLINGS) 48, by being caged at body size ≥25.4 cm 3. For stress and a) temperature ➝ crit. 3, b) aggregation ➝ crit. 5. LAB: stressed by low water level 50.
ADULTS: FARM: stressed by grading due to overcrowding 49, by handling at >20 °C 48, confinement 45, by being caged at ≥ 26.6.°C 3. For stress and aggregation ➝ crit. 5. LAB: stressed by low water level 50.
SPAWNERS: no data found yet.
Deformities that – in contrast to diseases – are commonly irreversible may indicate sub-optimal rearing conditions (e.g., mechanical stress during hatching and rearing, environmental factors unless mentioned in crit. 3, aquatic pollutants, nutritional deficiencies) or a general incompatibility of the species with being farmed.
What is the probability of the species being malformed rarely?There are unclear findings for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.
LARVAE and FRY: risk of deformities at incubation temperature >30 °C 51, higher frequency of spinal deformities when reared in soft than in hard water 52, higher frequency of triple-tail after premature hatching due to low dissolved oxygen concentration compared to natural hatching 53.
JUVENILES: side sprigs 54-13, taillessness 54-13 30, stumpbody 55-56 54-13 30, triple-tail 54-13 53. Taillessness or reduced caudal fins in 1% progeny of stumpbody parents 30. Stumpbody and taillessness not genetically inherited but probably due to environmental aspect 30.
ADULTS: ➝ JUVENILES.
The cornerstone for a humane treatment is that slaughter a) immediately follows stunning (i.e., while the individual is unconscious), b) happens according to a clear and reproducible set of instructions verified under farming conditions, and c) avoids pain, suffering, and distress.
What is the probability of the species being slaughtered according to a humane slaughter protocol?It is high for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a high amount of evidence.
Side note: Domestication
Teletchea and Fontaine introduced 5 domestication levels illustrating how far species are from having their life cycle closed in captivity without wild input, how long they have been reared in captivity, and whether breeding programmes are in place.
What is the species’ domestication level?DOMESTICATION LEVEL 5 60, fully domesticated. Cultured since 1914 61-13.
Side note: Forage fish in the feed
450-1,000 milliard wild-caught fishes end up being processed into fish meal and fish oil each year which contributes to overfishing and represents enormous suffering. There is a broad range of feeding types within species reared in captivity.
To what degree may fish meal and fish oil based on forage fish be replaced by non-forage fishery components (e.g., poultry blood meal) or sustainable sources (e.g., soybean cake)?
All age classes: WILD: omnivorous 5, JUVENILES insectivorous 16. FARM: fish meal may be mostly* 62 or completely* 63 replaced, fish oil may be completely* 64 replaced by sustainable sources, but no data found yet for ADULTS and SPAWNERS.
partly = <51% – mostly = 51-99% – completely = 100%
DOMESTICATION LEVEL 5 = selective breeding programmes are used focusing on specific goals 60
FARM = setting in farming environment or under conditions simulating farming environment in terms of size of facility or number of individuals
FINGERLINGS = early juveniles with fully developed scales and working fins, the size of a human finger; for details ➝ Findings 10.1 Ontogentic development
FISHES = Using "fishes" instead of "fish" for more than one individual - whether of the same species or not - is inspired by Jonathan Balcombe who proposed this usage in his book "What a fish knows". By referring to a group as "fishes", we acknowledge the individuals with their personalities and needs instead of an anonymous mass of "fish".
FRY = larvae from external feeding on, for details ➝ Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
IND = individuals
JUVENILES = fully developed but immature individuals, for details ➝ Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
LAB = setting in laboratory environment
LARVAE = hatching to mouth opening, for details ➝ Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
POTAMODROMOUS = migrating within fresh water
SPAWNERS = adults during the spawning season; in farms: adults that are kept as broodstock
STENOHALINE = tolerant of a narrow range of salinities
WILD = setting in the wild
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