Determining an effective density regime for rearing juvenile Austropotamobius pallipes in a small-scale closed system hatchery

Jen Nightingale*, Paul Stebbing, Nick Taylor, Gráinne McCabe, Gareth Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


With recent advances in aquaculture techniques, captive-breeding of the endangered white-clawed crayfish Austropotamobius pallipes for restocking is becoming a widespread conservation method. Establishing optimal stocking densities for aquaculture is essential in maximizing productivity, and increases the likelihood of crayfish survival when released. A 240-day experiment took place using 2-month-old juvenile, captive-born, A. pallipes, within a small-scale, closed-circuit hatchery to investigate survival, growth and aggression at three treatment densities, low (100/m2), medium (200/m2) and high (300/m2). Crayfish were counted and measured every 60 days between August 2015 and April 2016. Mean survival rates were high across all three densities (87.7% ± 2.8%). Carapace length was significantly longer at low density than at medium and high densities. While growth rate was not significantly different between treatments, it was significantly higher in the first 2 months, across all three treatments (47.1% ± 6.6%) than in subsequent periods (14.1% ± 5.8%). Size variation within groups increased with density, suggesting that social dominance hierarchies are established with increasing stocking density: dominant individuals are larger and competitively exclude smaller individuals from food resources. Males were significantly larger than females from 6 months of age, (when they could be reliably sexed), in all three treatments. The larger male size suggests that sexual dimorphism begins prior to sexual maturity, with males growing faster and being more dominant and aggressive than females. In conclusion, young-of-the-year A. pallipes can be reared at high densities without compromising survival; however, the optimal stocking density that maximizes growth and health is 100/m2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3055-3062
Number of pages8
JournalAquaculture Research
Issue number9
Early online date15 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


  • aggression
  • conservation
  • growth
  • survival


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