• captive breeding;
  • conservation;
  • ex-situ conservation;
  • freshwater fish;
  • mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA);
  • microsatellite

The maintenance of genetic diversity is one of the chief concerns in the captive breeding of endangered species. Using microsatellite and mtDNA markers, we examined the effects of two key variables (parental number and duration of breeding period) on effective population size (Ne) and genetic diversity of offspring in an experimental breeding program for the endangered Tokyo bitterling, Tanakia tanago. Average heterozygosity and number of alleles of offspring estimated from microsatellite data increased with parental number in a breeding aquarium, and exhibited higher values for a long breeding period treatment (9 weeks) compared with a short breeding period (3 weeks). Haplotype diversity in mtDNA of offspring decreased with the reduction in parental number, and this tendency was greater for the short breeding period treatment. Genetic estimates of Ne obtained with two single-sample estimation methods were consistently higher for the long breeding period treatment with the same number of parental fish. Average Ne/N ratios were ranged from 0.5 to 1.4, and were high especially in the long breeding period with small and medium parental number treatments. Our results suggest that the spawning intervals of females and alternative mating behaviors of males influence the effective size and genetic diversity of offspring in bitterling. To maintain the genetic diversity of captive T. tanago, we recommend that captive breeding programs should be conducted for a sufficiently long period with an optimal level of parental density, as well as using an adequate number of parents. Zoo Biol 31:656-668, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.