Researchers at HPU's Oceanic Institute are First to Rear Yellow Tang in Captivity

October 29, 2015


Honolulu, Hawaii — A team of researchers at the Oceanic Institute of Hawai‘i Pacific University have become the first in the world to successfully breed and rear yellow tang, one of the most popular saltwater aquarium fish in the world.

After nearly 15 years of research, roughly 100-150 juveniles ranging in age from 70 to 90 days old are living in tanks at the Oceanic Institute. Achieving this milestone has meant overcoming a series of obstacles, from establishing a consistent egg supply to developing specialized larval rearing tanks that maintain water quality while providing a minimally turbulent environment, and identifying an appropriate food source for the larvae.

”We are really excited to finally see the results of over a decade’s work coming to fruition,” said Chatham Callan, director of the finfish program at the Oceanic Institute of Hawai‘i Pacific University and current leader of the yellow tang breeding project. “None of this would have been possible without the tireless work of our current and past teams at OI. This achievement is the result of what can only be described as a monumental group effort, and certainly would not have been possible without the financial support from many organizations. We look forward to continuing this important work, aimed now at improving the methods necessary to take this to the next level.”

“Dr. Callan and his team have worked hard to accomplish this significant milestone and it has been a huge labor of love,” said Shaun Moss, Executive Director of the Oceanic Institute at Hawai‘i Pacific University. “Their achievements have implications and impacts far beyond those in the marine aquarium trade. Our ability to raise yellow tang in captivity now affords us the opportunity to enhance wild stocks with captive-reared fish as we did with moi and mullet in the past. In addition, we now have an invaluable research tool to explore the impacts a global climate change on larval development of important coral reef fish species. This recent achievement with yellow tang could be a game changer, and we are all looking forward to continuing this important work.”

The yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) is the most harvested ornamental fish in Hawaii’s waters. Since 2001, the Oceanic Institute has focused on breeding and rearing the iconic species in hopes of establishing protocols to produce these, and other marine ornamentals, in a sustainable aquaculture setting as an alternative to reef collection. Successful breeding of saltwater ornamentals would bring about a significant change; today, while ninety-five percent of freshwater aquarium fish are raised in aquaculture, nearly ninety-eight percent of marine aquarium species are wild caught.

The successful development of this technology will ultimately provide opportunities to diversify aquaculture production in Hawaii and assist in the protection of threatened fisheries, including the coral reef ecosystem in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.