Hybrid striped bass (HSTB) are produced by crossing striped bass (Morone saxatilis) with white bass (M. chrysops). There are two crosses produced: the original cross (also called palmetto bass) is made by using female striped bass and male white bass; the reciprocal cross (also called sunshine bass) is made when female white bass and male striped bass are used.
Hybrid striped bass require warm temperatures (68-86
degrees F) for rapid growth and thus, many pond-based farms have been located in the southern United States.
In 1992, approximately 60% of all HSTB production occurred in this region. However, HSTB can be farmed in a wide variety of culture systems, including earthen ponds, raceways, cages, and large cylindrical tanks. In pond systems, ground and surface waters are used and the ambient temperatures control the fish’s health and growth rate.
In tank or raceway culture systems, heated water can be utilized and recirculated. These recirculating systems are usually indoors and can be developed in areas where pond culture may not be feasible or where natural water temperatures may be too cold to allow for optimal growth rates.
Massachusetts, for example, is a leading producer of HSTB, almost exclusively through the use of recirculating systems. Hybrid striped bass culture can be divided into four phases of production: Phase I culture, the hatchery phase, where the hatched fry are grown for 30-60 days to reach a 1-3 inches fingerling, Phase II culture where phase I fish are grown for between 5 to 9 months to grow to 3 to 10 inch fingerlings, and Phase III culture which is basically a grow-out of fish to market-size (1.5-2.5 pounds) or to adult fish.
For Phase I culture, there are many variables that need to be taken into consideration when growing hatched fry (larvae) to a small fingerling such as pond preparation, water quality management, and handling of fry. All these will differ based on method of production, desired intensity of production, and edaphic conditions of site.
In general, 5 to 10 day old fry (post-hatch) are stocked into ponds at rates of 50,000 to 60,000 fry per acre. However, many facilities growing fish for stock enhancement will stock up to 250,000 fry per acre. For commercial food-fish production, a lower stocking rate will allow for more rapid growth.
Survival of fry-to-fingerlings can be low (less than 20%), however, values between 25-60% are typical. Fry should be stocked into ponds at night to minimize stress and when water temperatures are 66°F. Oxygen level of the pond should be recorded twice daily (a.m. and p.m.) and ammonia, nitrite, pH, and alkalinity measured twice per week.
The ponds are generally fertilized one to two weeks prior to stocking with inorganic or organic fertilizers to aid in the growth of zooplankton which the fry eat. Fry generally will eat the zooplankton in the pond, but supplemental feeding may allow for increased growth and survival of fry.
When fish are about 21 days old, a high-protein salmon starter diet is fed 1 to 3 times per day, 7 days per week, at a rate of between 1-5 pounds per acre per day for the first week, and increased up to 10-15 pounds per acre per day, thereafter. It is generally recommended not to exceed 30 pounds acre per day.
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