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Raising mosquitofish

Posted: September 4th, 2015, 4:57 am
by tomharten
I am in the process of starting a project for seventh grade students in our school system to rear Gambusia in cooperation with our local department of Mosquito Control. We are currently planning a rather simple set up- 20 gallon high aquariums with separate 10 gallon aquariums to serve as "nursery" tanks. We will have about 15 classrooms in six different schools participating in this effort.

One goal is to produce fish that the MC department can use to combat mosquitoes and reduce the need for pesticide applications. To me the larger goal is to provide the kids with an opportunity to make first hand observations of the life cycle of these animals and to use it as a springboard for discussion about a variety of environmental topics

I'd appreciate any tips from folks that have reared Gambusia. From what I've researched, they seem like a pretty simple species to work with.

Thank you!


Re: Raising mosquitofish

Posted: September 4th, 2015, 10:13 am
by Joseph S.
Hello Tom.

Any particular reason to settle on Gambusia? I wonder if banded killifish or another species may be appropriate.

These little critters are very cannibalistic indeed. Several possibilities

-run adults in single tanks-removing plump females to mesh net enclosure in nurseries (this will require frequent attention)

-run small groups of adults in mesh nets in tanks.

The idea here is that most of the babies will swim through the mesh into the tank proper. I would then remove these babies to nursery tanks-they are pretty dumb and will swim back into the nets to be eaten by the adults. You would get the fastest growth outdoors where you could seed stock tanks to get blooms of micro organisms to feed the young.

I don't know how many fish you guys will need but it will be pretty tough to get decent production. You'd almost have better luck simply harvesting the fish to supply the department with them. Here in CA they stock ponding basins with mosquitofish and these are then seined to supply vector control.

Re: Raising mosquitofish

Posted: September 4th, 2015, 2:08 pm
by tomharten
Thanks! We are set with the mosquito fish as that is what our Mosquito Control Department has selected for this effort.

We will try the mesh nets idea that you mentioned. Although production of surplus fish to supply MC is a goal, I am really hoping to engage the students with the processes of science. I don't remember a whole lot from my middle school days. I do remember those experiences when we had live animals and even plants in the classroom. We do have some large tanks at our facility that can be used to ramp up production, but I really see the value in having classes with their own set ups.

Thanks again!

Re: Raising mosquitofish

Posted: September 6th, 2015, 8:31 am
by VICtort
Tom, Joseph is on the mark as usual. I have casually raised Gambusia over the years and found them very prolific and easy. I keep aquariums or ponds with them with lots of cover, the babies will seek the heavy vegetation and some escape predation by the adults. At the end of the warm season, I have LOTS of Gambusia... and Yes, they keep mosquitos larvae in check, but Gambusia is coming under increasing scrutiny here in the west as a non-native invasive pest that may out compete/displace native species. I would assume you are in native range, that is not likely a problem but is worthy of considering in your class discussions.

I just recently started a new pond, to try and get some aquatic plants established. I returned from vacation 10 days later, and found it infested with mosquito larvae. I netted a single large female out of another pond, walked across the yard and dumped her into the new plant nursery pond. Within 5 seconds she started feeding on wrigglers, apparently unstressed from the transfer. They are tough fish, and tolerant of temp changes. I suggest either following Joseph's net pen method or providing a lot of vegetation and the strong and wary will survive.

good luck ,Vic

Re: Raising mosquitofish

Posted: September 7th, 2015, 6:12 am
by BillMcGighan
I keep aquariums or ponds with them with lots of cover, the babies will seek the heavy vegetation and some escape predation by the adults.
Just a comment on this:

When I moved to Florida the first time and bought a house, I noticed many of my neighbors had yard, ornamental water structures, from water lily gardens to bare concrete bird baths.

All these folks had added Gambusia to stop mosquitoes.

In each structure, no one manually fed these animals or in any way took "care" of them; they were left to their own devices, living or dying on mosquito larva and cannibalism. In each structure the population size was direct proportional to the cover that Vic mentioned.

What amazed me was the consistency of the population size, regardless of water structure; their populations large or small remained constant over a 7 year observation.

Re: Raising mosquitofish

Posted: September 7th, 2015, 6:03 pm
by tomharten
Thank you all for these posts. I find it encouraging that these fish seem pretty easy to raise. Of particular interest to me is the importance of cover for the success of Gambusia in ponds and in aquaria. This new project will be taught in tandem with an existing science unit that focuses on the importance of submerged aquatic vegetation for the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay. I am hoping to integrate live SAV into our Gambusia project as well.

I will post some pix once we get the tanks established in some classrooms. Thanks again!

Re: Raising mosquitofish

Posted: September 8th, 2015, 2:43 pm
by Joseph S.
Agreed with open tanks babies are eaten almost immediately by other adults.

Re: Raising mosquitofish

Posted: May 17th, 2016, 9:19 am
by chris_mcmartin
Any status updates? I've been toying with the idea of getting into aquaponics, and using mosquitofish to control the inevitable wrigglers in the setup. Wouldn't be doing this for at least a year--too many other projects to wrap up right now.

Re: Raising mosquitofish

Posted: June 11th, 2016, 10:21 pm
by lateralis
As several have mentioned gambusia are a snap to maintain and breed. They are considered a direct competitor with desert pupfish and other endemic species out here in the west but they do like skeeters. Pupfish have actually proven to be more effective but the paperwork is a pain.
Chris, you should check out the aquaponics journal they have been around since 96-97 and have a lot of good information. I wrote a DIY piece called Food from Small Places for one of their first issues; the system I designed and built used goldfish to grow various types of heirloom lettuce.