Three years of work at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead has resulted in the successful breeding — all the way through the larval stage — of a small, colorful and shy fish called the reef basslet.
That progress, aquarium officials say, is a key step toward their goal of raising the fish in captivity, something they say has never been done.
Aquaculturalist Todd Gardner started working with the fish when the aquarium received two of them as a gift three years ago. Now, after a larval breeding stage that lasted more than two months, a dozen of the fish have reached the settlement stage, where they hide from the light amid the coral and sand at the bottom of their tanks.
Gardner, who described the breeding as “the first big step,” said several factors could have contributed to the success, from separating and disinfecting the eggs to the colors of the rocks used in the breeding tanks.
People who buy tickets to the aquarium cannot view the fish — the work is done in a behind-the-scenes area.
There are about a dozen species of reef basslets; the candy basslets being raised in Riverhead are usually less than 6 inches long.
Aquarium officials say the work could lead to successful breeding of the species, which is naturally found from the Florida Keys through the Caribbean and in the northern part of South America.
Pictured above: Seals swim in a pond outside the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center on East Main Street in Riverhead. (March 22, 2011)