Commercializing intensive copepod culture: A transformational foundation essential for increasing domestic production of high-value marine finfish

End Date: 8/31/19

Scientists will optimize production systems and culture parameters to facilitate and implement copepod mass production at the producer level. 


We propose to integrate research, education, and outreach from the University of Southern Mississippi, Virginia Tech, the University of Florida and Reed Mariculture, Inc., all of which have developed reliable experimental-scale culture of copepods, to relieve a major constraint on the development of domestic marine aquaculture. We seek to develop commercial-scale culture of Acartia tonsa, Parvocalanus crassirostris, Oithona colcarva and Apocyclops panamensis by:

  1. Elucidating the responses of different life history stages to environmental factors to produce stable production protocols
  2. Optimizing diets, nutrition, and the use of algal concentrates to enhance copepod production
  3. Optimizing the microbial environment to enhance copepod health
  4. Developing directed breeding to select for copepods that thrive in captivity on algal concentrates
  5. Employing copepod protocols in large-scale larval rearing trials using fish species relevant to the domestic aquaculture industry
  6. Performing economic analyses to demonstrate the economic viability of copepod production
  7. Conducting Outreach to disseminate the results of the research to stakeholders


The inability to raise the larvae of marine fish through their larval phase constrains the potential for marine aquaculture to fill the gap between the supply of marine fish and the demand. Current commercial production of marine fish larvae relies on the use of nutritionally enriched rotifers and/or Artemia as first feed items, but standard rotifer and Artemia diets are insufficient due to limitations in larval gape and/or inadequate nutritional composition. Copepods, the natural prey items for most larval fish, are small enough to overcome the gape limitation issue, possess an optimal nutritional profile, and already have been applied to the rearing of several high-value marine fish at the small- or extensive-scale. The current impediment to wide-scale use of copepods in the aquaculture industry is the inability to mass produce copepods in a biosecure, consistent, and economically viable manner.