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Abstract

Manufactured feeds are commonly added to earthen ponds to enhance growth and survival of juvenile fish. However, excessive feeding may decrease fish production efficiency and yields by causing hypoxia (dissolved oxygen, DO < 2 mg/L) and stimulating excessive phytoplankton, filamentous green algae, and vascular plant growth. In this study, we quantified the effects of manufactured feed addition (no feeding, 1%, or 3% body-weight/day, BW/d) on DO and inorganic phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) concentrations, plant abundance, and invertebrate prey production in ponds stocked with age-0 channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus. We found that the 3% BW/d ponds had lower DO concentrations and greater infestation by filamentous green algae (Rhizoclonium spp.) as compared to the 1% BW/d and no-feeding ponds. Using stable N and carbon (C) isotopes to trace the fate of feed-derived N and C in ponds, as well as analysis of zooplankton abundance, we determined that the supplied feed did not support or enhance production of natural invertebrate prey. To improve fish production efficiency, we recommend that managers leverage natural prey support of growth during early life, then adjust feeding levels to enhance growth of older fish and maintain suitable habitat quality.