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Food and Feeding Habits of Fishes in Reservoirs

Food and Feeding Habits of Fishes in Reservoirs

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Published by Feroz Khan
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Published by: Feroz Khan on Dec 07, 2010
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Food and feeding habits of fishes in reservoirs
Preetha Panikkar and M. Feroz Khan
Regional Centre, Central Inland Fisheries Research InstituteHesaraghatta Lake Post, Bangalore 560089
In the reservoir ecosystem, plankton, benthos, periphyton, macrophytes andnekton form the major biotic communities. The nekton constitute the harvestable biological community which in turn depends on the other biotic communities for their food. In a complex chain of community metabolism the energy fixed by the primary producers passes through the different trophic strata, a fraction of which ends up as fishflesh. Therefore, the structure of different fish food biotic communities assumes greater significance to reservoir fisheries management. Biotic communities are important anddynamic components of freshwater ecosystems because of their potential as producers,consumers and decomposers.
Live organisms, essentially microorganisms those drift, or are visibly mobile arereferred to as plankton. The term ‘plankton’ was coined by Victor Hensen in 1887.Plankton, by virtue of drifting habit and short turnover period, constitutes the major link in the food chain in the reservoir ecosystem. Plankton provides about 50% of total foodrequired for the fish. Due to their balanced nutritional content, plankters are referred to as‘living capsules of nutrition’. These food organisms are broadly categorized as phytoplankton and zooplankton.
Phytoplankton are the microscopic plant life of any water body which forms the primary producers synthesizing the basic food to almost all the animals in an aquaticecosystem. They form the basic live feed to all the zooplankton and larval forms of crustaceans, molluscs and fishes. Their importance lies in the fact that they are photosynthesizing organisms and serve as first link in the food chain. They belong to theClass Algae which besides chlorophylls possess other characteristic pigments. Most phytoplankton organisms are unicellular, some are colonial and filamentous in habit.Phytoplankton in reservoirs include both pelagic and (attached) benthic algae thathave broken off from the bottom. By major taxonomic category, the following traits arecharacteristic of each major taxon:
Diatoms (Bacillariophyceae):
These mostly non-motile organisms may be pelagic(suspended in the water column) or benthic (attached to or residing on the bottom of lakes). Diatoms are considered desirable because of their value as food sources for therest of the aquatic food web.
These “green” algae are a diverse group that includes forms consideredecologically desirable (i.e., suitable for grazing by crustacean zooplankton) as well asthose that are not (e.g., flagellated forms and eutrophic indicator species such as
Cladophora spp
.). Some make colonies surrounded by a gelatinous matrix that can beeaten by zooplankton, but pass through the gut undigested. It is difficult to generalizeregarding this group, as they range in size from very large to very small, some aremobile, and many are not.
Blue-green algae (Cyanophyceae) :
This major category of phytoplankton known as the“blue-green algae” has certain species that may produce toxins harmful to humans andanimals in some circumstances. They are more bacteria-like than plant-like, but sincethey may photosynthesize, they are included with the phytoplankton. They can alter theentire structure of the food web in a lake when they become prevalent, and are generallyconsidered as less desirable or noxious species. Besides toxins, some forms arefilamentous and therefore less desirable for grazing by many forms of zooplankton.Extensive studies of these properties have been conducted, but the factors that triggers or control toxin production and the suitability of various types of blue-greens as crustaceanzooplankton food are still a research issue.Blue-green algae from the mainstay of plankton community in vast majority of the reservoirs studied. The overwhelming presence of 
Microcystis aeruginosa
in Indianreservoirs is remarkable. The productive water of Gangetic plains, Deccan plateau, southTamil Nadu and Orissa invariably has good standing crop of 
. The species isalmost omnipresent in the southern Peninsula, except in the reservoirs of Karnataka andKerala, which tend to be oligotrophic and have poor plankton count with desmids andother green algae as the main constituents.
: Dinoflagellates are motile, heterotrophic, or autotrophic forms that can be considered midway between plant and animal kingdoms. They can form extensive blooms in fresh and salt water, but are typically more of a problem in marine coastalareas where they may cause red tides or harmful algal blooms.
Zooplankton are planktonic animals that are the primary consumers of  phytoplankton. They are important food web components in the reservoir ecosystem for larval, juvenile and even larger fishes. The zooplankton communities in reservoir ecosystem are not species enriched. The principal constituents of zooplankton arerotifers, cladocerans, copepods and protozoans. Some of the food organisms include therotifer (
 Brachionus, Keratella
). Copepods (
 Diatoms and Cyclops
) and cladocerans(
). They have high reproduction rate, short generation time and havethe ability to grow and live in crowded conditions.
: The copepods constitute one of the important components of the food chain inaquatic ecosystem. Planktonic copepods consist of two major groups, the calanoids andthe cyclopoids. Along with cladocerans, they are the principal food of a whole series of 
freshwater fishes. The most common and important ones are the
spp. and
: Rotifers are very small microscopic animals found in large numbers in the planktonic fauna. When abundant in a water body they are generally indicative of detritus-based food webs that may be eutrophic or approaching eutrophy. Most of therotifer forms are well known food of freshwater fishes. Fry and small fishes eat rotifers.Among them
 B. calcyflorus
 B. rubusta
have been proposed as food for fishes.
 B. plicatilis
have become one of the important components in fish hatcheries.
: Cladocerans are one of the most important of the zooplankton groups,which is good natural food for fishes. The lower crustacean is the principal food item of  plankton and is eaten by fry and young fish and also by adults in plankton eating fisheslike Catla. Adult carnivorous fishes consume the higher crustaceans. The most commonand important ones are the
Sida, Alona, Daphnia
and Bosmina
Communities of sessile microorganisms growing on stones, sticks, aquaticmacrophytes and other submerged surfaces are periphyton. Periphyton has been found tofrom food of some fishes. Besides phyto-organisms, periphyton includes bacteria, protozoans, bryozoans, rotifers etc. Periphyton is almost universally present in water  bodies and plays a significant role in limnological process in water and form the food for most of the fishes especially the economically important carps in the reservoir. Sincefishes directly graze this group, specially browsing fishes, their abundance has a directlink with production in fish culture system. Frequent water level fluctuations often retarda rich growth of periphyton in a reservoir.For good periphyton growth, light intensity is more important than temperature.The growth is distinctly abundant during the warm summer months with bright sunlight.A decline of growth is generally preceded by a decline in penetration of adequate lightinto water. Composition of organisms in the periphyton is similar to plankton. Thecomposition and their ratio exhibit location specific temporal and spatial variations.Diatom groups are predominantly represented by
 Asteroinella, Amphora, Navicula, Fragilaria,
. Among blue-green algae,
Oscillatoria, Anabaena,Merismopedia
etc. are present in large densities. Chlorophyceae is also well representedwith
 Pediastrum, Spirogyra, Oedogonium
etc. A large number of sessile and free livingciliates also occurred among periphyton (
Vorticella, Hexotricha, Oxytricha
The benthos occupies an important position in the reservoir ecosystem and it plays akey role in the food chain, which in turn affects the cycling of minerals hence as acomponent of fish food in an aquatic ecosystem, the benthos assumes great significance.

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