• Fathead minnow;
  • Pimephales promelas;
  • Mass culture system;
  • Egg production;
  • Water treatment system design


Fathead minnows are routinely cultured for use in aquatic toxicology studies. A new mass culture system described in the present study consisted of 6 stainless steel tanks, each containing 68 fish and 20 spawning substrates. Spawning results are compared with a previous system of 22 individual glass aquaria, which contained 16 fish and 4 spawning substrates per tank. During a 19-mo period, the new system produced an average of 4105 eggs/d, compared with an average of 2465 eggs/d with the previous system. Labor and maintenance were reduced with the new system. The stainless steel tanks eliminated aquaria glass breakage, and daily water use was reduced by 45%. Analysis of reference toxicant data from fish cultured using both systems indicated no change in the sensitivity of the test animals. Analyses of 2009 egg production data determined that a 6:1 to 7:1 female to male ratio had a significantly positive impact on egg production levels and that 6-mo-old breeding stock should be introduced to the spawning tanks in mid-spring for optimal egg production during the rest of the year. Implementing a stainless steel mass culture system significantly increased efficiency of egg production; reduced turnaround delay of mature animal availability for toxicity and molecular testing; and reduced labor time, costs, and inherent safety hazards, compared with glass aquaria systems. Environ Toxicol Chem 2014;33:126–133. © 2013 SETAC