Another Milestone in Aquaculture: First rearing of the reef basslets at the Long Island Aquarium

by | Nov 10, 2011 | Aquaculture, Fish | 16 comments

Basslet larva at 40 days post-hatch. Photo by Christopher Paparo.

As I sit here writing, my wife Ashleigh is in the kitchen opening the first bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin that’s been permitted in our house in more than a year.  After having worked on this species off and on (sadly, more off, than on) for more than fifteen years, last fall I managed to raise a single larva of the swiss guard basslet (Liopropoma rubre) to a record age of 46 days post hatch (DPH).  I was so sure that I was on the brink of making history, that I boldly declared: “I will not have any more gin in this house until I get one of these larvae to settle.”  Of course I may not have been so bold had I known that my broodstock was about to go on a nine-month spawning strike.  Nevertheless, after months of troubleshooting, I started getting viable spawns again this past July, and with the help and support of a vast network of friends and family, including Forrest Young, Martin Moe, Ashleigh, my colleagues at the Long Island Aquarium, and many others, I was able to pick up where I left off.

Throughout the summer and fall, I chipped away at the problem, experimenting with tank shapes and sizes, food densities, egg handling, and microbe control, getting a few more larvae to survive for a little bit longer with each consecutive attempt.  The latest batch of larvae is now at 69 DPH and although most of the dozen or so left still appear to be a few days away from settlement (the major physiological change that hastens the behavioral switch from a pelagic to a benthic mode of existence), one front runner has firmly settled to the bottom and has taken up residence in a PVC pipe fitting.  As far as I know, this is the first time any Liopropoma species has been raised  through settlement in captivity.

69 day old post larva of Liopropoma sp. Time will tell whether it's L. rubre or L. carmabi.

My broodstock consists of three pairs of swiss guard basslets (L. rubre) and three pairs of candy basslets (L. carmabi).  Since I collect and combine eggs from both species several times a week and none of these late-stage larvae or the one post larva have enough coloration for a definitive identification, I still have days or even weeks of anticipation ahead.  For now however, there’s an icy cold gin and tonic waiting for me in the next room and it’s time for a toast.  On a side note, Ashleigh will be toasting with a glass of cranberry juice as the basslets aren’t the only thing we’re celebrating these days.

Check out the winter edition of Reefs Magazine for an article detailing the methods involved in broodstock management, egg collection, and larval rearing.

  • Todd Gardner

    Todd Gardner is a professor of Aquaculture and Marine Biology at Carteret Community College in Morehead City, North Carolina where he oversees a partnership between the college and The Biota Group, a world leader in sustainably cultured marine life. Todd's life and career have been shaped by his passion for ocean life and he has written numerous scientific and popular articles about his research and experiences collecting, keeping, and culturing marine organisms. Todd’s professional background includes work on a National Geographic documentary, commercial aquaculture at C-quest Hatchery in Puerto Rico, and an 11-year term at the Long Island Aquarium where he spent much of his time developing techniques for rearing marine fish larvae. To date he has raised more than 50 species. In 2013 Todd received the prestigious Aquarist of the Year Award from the Marine Aquarium Society of North America (MASNA). In his spare time, Todd dives, photographs marine life, runs marathons, and makes music.


  1. Randy Donowitz

    Congratulations Todd! This is such a fantastic breakthrough. Here’s hoping they are L. carmabi 🙂

  2. Sanjay Joshi

    Awesome. !!!! I knew you could do it. 🙂

  3. Tal Sweet

    Excellent! Great work, Todd!

  4. James

    Congrats on the baby! (and the fish, pretty awesome, captive raised L. carmabi just shot to the top of my list as my next tank will filled with all aquacultured rock, coral and fish)

  5. Jared Goldenberg

    That is so awesome Congrats! Can’t wait to start seeing these guys popping up on availability lists (especially if it’s carmabi). Very impressive.

  6. LauraB

    INCREDIBLE!!! What an amazing accomplishment. Congratulations and enjoy the Bombay!!

  7. Marcin Smok

    This is amazing. I hope you’ll have more success rearing this beautiful and rare fish!

  8. Dominick Cirigliano

    Congrats Todd! I’m hoping for carmabi 🙂

  9. FaviaFreak

    Todd Congrats! that is one heck of an achievement!! you have all of us extremely excited!

  10. Treef

    Awesome! Congratulations

  11. Todd Gardner

    Thanks guys. And thank you for all your support along the way. Sanjay, your little pep talk at NERAC a year and a half ago will certainly not be forgotten. Dom, your contributions to my ever-growing dream broodstock should be pointed out; and Tal, I really have to credit the MBI gang too. I think I was at an all-time low in my confidence on this project when you invited me out to the workshop. It gave me just the boost I needed to jump back into the saddle and charge ahead.

    Oh, and by the way…there are now 3 settled.

  12. Pedro Nuno Ferreira

    TY Todd, this is an amazing accomplishment, its a milestone that will surely make the difference for these exquisite fish from now on. Hope you have a lot more successes. Science, the hobby, will gain a lot from this “small (but very difficult) step” yet a giant leap towards the development of the knowledge on these fish biology, reproductive habits, husbandry. TY

    Pedro Nuno

  13. Todd Gardner

    Update: 4 now firmly settled into pipes, but still no stripes.

  14. Boomer

    Congrat’s Todd, a job well done.

  15. Todd Gardner

    Thanks Boomer! I guess it’s time for an update and more photos. I’m going to try to get a photo of the latest development today (day 85) and post it as a new entry tonight.


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