Coping strategies in farmed African catfish Clarias gariepinus. Does it affect their welfare?

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Tel.: +31 317 483371; fax: +31 317 483937; email: johan.schrama@wur.nl

Abstract

The objective of this study was to assess whether and how coping strategies affect the welfare of African catfish Clarias gariepinus housed at low and high densities. Group composition influenced feed intake; re-active groups (comprised of 100% re-active fish) had a lower specific growth rate (G) and feed intake and a higher feed conversion ratio (RFC) than pro-active groups. Furthermore, re-active groups had a lower energy retention than pro-active groups. The latter was fully due to differences in feed intake, since energy partitioning (on % total gross energy intake basis) was similar among the group composition treatments. Fish held at high stocking density showed a higher RFC and feeding speed and a lower energy retention and agonistic behaviour. None of the measured variables was influenced by the interaction effect. In mixed groups, G and number of skin lesions seemed to be affected by different behavioural phenotypes at low stocking density, but not at high density. These results indicate that both stocking density and group composition affect physical and behavioural responses of C. gariepinus. Furthermore, physical and behavioural data of individual fish housed in mixed groups suggest that coping strategy affects the fitness of different behavioural phenotypes at low, but not at high, stocking density.

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