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The knowledge of how fish survive and grow at different temperatures, and how these traits vary between life stages, is essential to evaluate the effects of climate change on wild fish and implement effective strategies in aquaculture. These issues are addressed in this study through a series of experiments that evaluate the effect of temperature (23–34 °C) on the embryos and larvae of clown loach, Chromobotia macracanthus. This species is endemic to the rivers of Sumatra and Borneo, highly praised on the ornamental fish market, and has been reproduced in captivity recently. No embryo survived a 24-h exposure to 34 °C until the age of 3 days after hatching (dah); mortality was high at 32 °C at 2 and 3 dah, whereas it was low and similar from 1 to 4 dah at 23–29 °C (<10%). Yolk absorption was proportional to water temperature (Q10°C
of 1.69 in the 23–32 °C range), but fish reared at cold temperatures were larger than others at the start of exogenous feeding (5.7 vs. 5.5 mm TL, at 23 and 32 °C, respectively). The survival of larvae fed Artemia nauplii ad libitum was high at 23–32 °C (80–100%), but almost null at 34 °C. Growth models at different temperatures were produced from weekly measurements in two experiments, and tested by comparing their predictions with the results of a third experiment. Throughout the larval stage, the optimal temperature for growth (T°opt)
was close to 29 °C, and departures from T°opt
resulted in substantial growth penalties (–30% SGR for –5.1 °C and + 3.1 °C). High survival, fast growth (0.7 mm day-1) and limited size dispersal at T°opt
are encouraging perspectives for the aquaculture of clown loach. From an ecological perspective, the species has an atypical thermal biology, as it is less thermophilic than other tropical fishes, but more stenothermal than temperate fishes exhibiting similar values of T°opt
, both traits being of particular concern in the context of global warming.
In comparison to older life stages, the embryonic stages of fishes generally have narrow tolerance ranges for environmental conditions, as regards water quality, temperature and mechanical shocks. The knowledge of these factors is indispensable to appraise the threats brought about by climate or anthropogenic changes upon their resilience, and to define adequate ways of incubating their eggs for an efficient propagation of the species under controlled conditions. Clown loach eggs have a narrow thermal tolerance range in comparison to other tropical and temperate fishes. Hatching occurs at 22–30 °C, and non-deformed larvae can only be obtained at 23.8–30.2 °C. Furthermore, the thermal tolerance of any particular progeny was found dependent on the maintenance temperature of the female parent, thereby making the actual tolerance no broader than 4.5 °C. The (log-log) relationship between the duration of the incubation period and temperature was characterized by a shallow slope, which is more typical of coldwater fishes, as is a narrow thermal tolerance range. On the other hand, clown loach hatched more rapidly (20 h at 26 °C) than predicted by existing models on the basis of water temperature and egg diameter, a feature that is shared by other warmwater fishes producing eggs that undergo a strong swelling process (about three times the ova diameter in clown loach). Clown loach embryos are strongly sensitive to mechanical shocks, but their development is not viable either in protracted steady state conditions, in absence of water movement, as they develop various deformities (e.g. pericardial oedema). This is thought to originate from a hypoxic microenvironment around the embryo, as a consequence of an oxygen gradient developing inside and outside the egg, since the boundary diffusion layer is not refreshed by water movement. This issue is worsened by strong egg swelling and incubation at warm temperature.
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