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Barramundi

The Barramundi – also known as the Lates Calcarifer or Asian Sea Bass – is a species of catadromous fish that is widely distributed in the Indo-West Pacific region from Southeast Asia to Papua New Guinea and Northern Australia. Known in Thai as "Pla Kapong," the Barramundi is very popular in Thai cuisine.

As both a salt and freshwater fish, Barramundi are Australia's iconic sportfish and a popular choice for aquaponics and stocking ponds/lakes. Barramundi have large, silver scales which may become darker or lighter depending on their environment. Capable of growing to massive sizes, their reputation as an angling sportfish is well known. People love to eat Barramundi, which have a mild flavor and a white, flaky flesh, with varying amount of body fat.

Barramundi in Aquaponics
Barramundi is an ideal candidate for aquaculture because it is a relatively hardy species that tolerates crowding and has a wide physiological tolerance. They live in freshwater, saltwater and estuaries (where fresh and saltwater meet). The high fecundity of female fish provides plenty of material for hatchery production of seed, something which is relatively simple. Barramundi feed well on pelleted diets, and juveniles are easy to wean to pellets. They grow rapidly, reaching a harvestable size of 12 ounces to 6 pounds between six months and two years. Large female Barramundi can produce more than 32 million eggs in a single season. Barramundi have been recorded to be more than 4 feet long and weighing over 90 lbs!

Aquarium Use
These magnificent fish have both elegance and fantastic speed; they are a real talking point and make a very worthwhile addition to the aquarium. They are usually a pale grey-green with a copper-silver shimmer. They generally exhibit a bright white stripe down the front of their face. Juveniles are a popular aquarium fish, and they can be very entertaining, especially at feeding time. They do grow quickly, so they are recommended for aquariums or tanks of 130 gallons or larger. In an aquarium environment, they become quite tame and can be hand fed; they are not aggressive, but their feeding reflex is violent and sudden, so they cannot be kept with any tank-mates small enough to be swallowed.

Environment
Barramundi require a large-sized tank with a slow continuous flow of water with the temperature and hardness remaining consistent. They do not mind being in clear or turbid water. They also show a distinct preference for submerged driftwood, rock ledges and other structures, so making sure there is plenty of hides in the aquarium is essential.

The success of your Barramundi depends on providing them with the least stressful environment possible. Provided your system has an established grow bed, you haven’t overstocked, and the weather is warm, the more you feed them, the larger and faster they will grow (ensuring they are large enough to eat by the end of the season). Commercial grow-out in ponds or re-circulating systems starts once the fingerlings reach 1 to 4 inches. Fingerlings are stocked at up to 33 pounds per 260 gallons of water. Stocking rates in tank systems vary, depending on the capacity of the system and the intensity of the operation.

The optimum temperature for Barramundi is 82°F, with acceptable growth rates between 78° and 86°F. Temperatures below this range will result in decreased metabolism and growth. Barramundi generally stop feeding at temperatures below 68°F. To maintain acceptable growing temperature conditions, some existing farms rely on the use of warm subterranean bore water and climate-controlled or insulated sheds. Expensive alternatives include the heating of individual tanks with electric submerged heaters. At optimum temperatures, Barramundi can be raised to market size of 1 pound in 6 to 12 months.

Ensuring Optimal Growth
Barramundi are carnivorous, feeding on live prey such as fish and prawns. Due to their carnivorous nature, a high protein diet is required for efficient growth. Commercial diets are readily available from many feed manufacturers and are generally produced in a floating or sinking pellet.

In Australia, Barramundi is farmed in a variety of systems such as ponds and open net pens or cages. In the U.S., it is usually raised in large tanks, isolated pools, or re-circulating systems.

Farming Barramundi
Barramundi are ideal for farming because of their fast-growing and hardy nature. They spawn in saltwater, but they can be grown in a variety of environments including fresh, salt or brackish water. They can also be stocked at higher densities. And while they are carnivores – feeding on smaller fish and some shellfish – they also feed on high-protein grain diets. Growth rates vary, but usually, commercial-sized one-pound Barramundi can be produced in six months.

Because they are farmed in the U.S. in closed systems, and because of their low dependence on fish-based diets, they are considered an environmentally friendly fish to grow, particularly in comparison with salmon, which depends largely on fishmeal for its diet. In addition, in the U.S., Barramundi are raised naturally, without the aid of hormones or antibiotics.

All Barramundi are hermaphroditic and begin their lives as male. They mature sexually at three to four years of age. Most of the fish mature initially as males and participate in one or more spawning seasons before undergoing a sexual inversion (protandry) and becoming functional females by the next breeding season.

Water Quality/Feeding
Barramundi are rapid feeders but along with that benefit comes a problem: What goes in must come out. Barramundi are big poopers and fouling the water requires an adequate system to deal with water filtration. You may find that what works well with Tilapia, which are a very tough fish species, won’t work as well when dealing with Barramundi. Their water requirements are more stringent. You will need lots of dissolved oxygen going into their tank, supplying good aeration. Barramundi need very good water quality in aquaponics systems and are considered an ideal fish for aquaponics if you live in the tropics, but an expensive proposition if you live in a cold climate. Some people prefer to grow Barramundi only over the summer months in an aquaponics system. You could eat them in the Fall as plate-sized fish, then over the cold winter months, replace them with a more cold-tolerant species – a smart idea if you can get both types of fish in your state or country.

Today, most cultured Barramundi are fed on compounded pellets, although "trash fish" or "low-value fish" are still used in areas where it is cheaper or more available than pelleted diets. Barramundi that are fed pellets are generally fed twice each day in the warmer months and once each day during winter. The fingerlings are fed a semi-floating pellet five to six times a day when they are small. This decreases to one to two times a day as they grow. Pellet size increases as the fish size increases. Feed your fish pellets until all feeding ceases.

Eating After Moving
It is common for Barramundi to not feed for a week after the initial introduction due to the stress of being moved, if this happens, it is important to be patient and slowly tempt your fish into feeding. If your Barramundi are not feeding, then don’t feed them. Uneaten feed will eventually sink to the bottom of the tank, foul your water, and exacerbate the problem. Barramundi will readily accept a pellet, and can be aggressive feeders, preferring to take pellets from the surface.

Barramundi are carnivorous in nature and require a high-protein diet. They are also
territorial and will cannibalize. It is important to ensure that all the fish in the tank are offered the opportunity to feed to ensure that not just the dominant fish get fed. It is important to grade this fish and keep fish of a similar size together to limit the aggressive behavior as much as possible. For this reason, it is often necessary to separate the larger fish in a tank, so several culture tanks may be necessary.

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