Novák, J., Frynta, D., Nováková, D. et al. 2023. Social deprivation in maternal mouthbrooders Tropheus sp. “Caramba” (Teleostei: Cichlidae) decreases the success rate of reproduction and survival rate of fish fry. Scientific Reports 13(1), 8284.

Early offspring separation from mothers causes social deprivation. Mouthbrooding, when eggs and fry are incubated in the buccal cavity of the parent, is one of the reproductive strategies in fish. The mother is the incubating parent in African lake cichlids from the genus Tropheus. Many of these are produced in captivity and some producers use artificial incubators in which eggs are incubated separately from the mother. We hypothesized that this practice may dramatically modify the reproduction rate of fish individuals produced by the method of artificial incubation. The long-term experiment focused on Tropheus sp. “Caramba” had been carried out for 10 years when maternally incubated and separated individuals were compared. We found a negative effect of artificial egg and offspring incubation out of the mother’s buccal cavity. The deprived females laid the same number of eggs as maternally incubated females, but most eggs were lost during the incubation. Moreover, the reproduction frequency was significantly lower in deprived females in comparison with those maternally incubated. This study should be perceived as preliminary. For this reason and with respect to welfare principles, we strongly recommend similarly designed experiments focused on other potentially sensitive fish mouthbrooders. Once the syndrome would be confirmed, we recommend avoiding artificial incubation of mouthbrooding fish in general.

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