Cite as: «Castanheira, Maria Filipa. 2019. Oncorhynchus mykiss (Short Profile). In: FishEthoBase, ed. Fish Ethology and Welfare Group. World Wide Web electronic publication. Version 1.16.»
© fair-fish international

Short profile

FishEthoScore of the species

Abbreviated assessment of the species' likelihood and potential for fish welfare in aquaculture, based on ethological findings for 10 crucial criteria.

Criteria Li Po Ce
1 Home range
2 Depth range
3 Migration
4 Reproduction
5 Aggregation
6 Aggression
7 Substrate ?
8 Stress
9 Malformation
10 Slaughter
FishEthoScore 0 1 4
Li = Likelihood that the individuals of the species experience welfare under minimal farming conditions
Po = Potential overall potential of the individuals of the species to experience welfare under improved farming conditions
Ce = Certainty of our findings in Likelihood and Potential
                    ?     /  
  High    Medium     Low     Unclear  No findings
FishEthoScore = Sum of criteria scoring "High" (max. 10)

General remarks

Oncorhynchus mykiss is one of the dominant freshwater salmonids farmed in Europe and North America. In addition, it is one of the most widely studied model fish species in the wild and in captivity. Yet, the living conditions and the husbandry systems that maximise the welfare of this species are still to be defined, developed and improved. This lack is quite incomprehensible, given the background and the availability of research performed on this species. The low FishEthoScore is mainly due to the dependence of fish in the diet, need of space, high levels of aggression, needs of substrate, stress under farming conditions and high levels of deformations. In addition, anadromous fish experience changes in morphology, behaviour and environmental requirements through their life history. Thus, husbandry systems and practices need to take such differences into account in order to achieve and maintain higher welfare standards throughout the life cycle of the cultured fishes. The development of new rearing strategies to optimise the husbandry practices, handling with special care and the establishment of a slaughter protocol would be a step forward to solve some specific welfare concerns. Finally, providing feed which does not contain any fish components from wild catch has proven feasible for this species in lab studies, so a protocol for application in farming conditions has to be developed.

1. Are minimal farming conditions likely to provide the home range of the species? Is there potential for improvement? How certain are these findings?


Eggs: Deposited in redds [1]. Trays, tanks: 40-50 cm x 4 m [2].

Alevins and fry: Salmonids move short distances from the redd [3]. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to Oncorhynchus mykiss as well. Round tanks: 2 m in diameter [2]; tanks: 2 x 2 m [2]

Parr and smolts: Usually 0-3 km [4] [5] [6] [7]. Raceways and ponds: 2-3 m x 12-30 m [2]; cages: 6 x 6 m [2].

Adults: Usually 1-15 km [4] [8] [9] [10] [6] [11]. Raceways and ponds: 2-3 m x 12-30 m [2]; cages: 6 x 6 m [2].

2. Are minimal farming conditions likely to provide the depth range of the species? Is there potential for improvement? How certain are these findings?


Eggs: Deposited in redds [1]. Trays, tanks: 20 cm [2].

Alevins and fry: Salmonids move short distances [12] [13]. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to Oncorhynchus mykiss as well. Tanks: 50-60 cm [2].

Parr and smolts: Usually swim 0-5 m deep [14] [15] [16]. Raceways and ponds: 1-1.2 m [2]; cages: 4-5 m [2]

Adults: Usually swim 0-20 m deep [14] [8] [15]. Raceways and ponds: 1-1.2 m [2]; cages: 4-5 m [2].

3. Are minimal farming conditions compatible with the migrating or habitat-changing behaviour of the species? Is there potential for improvement? How certain are these findings?


Alevins, fry and parr: Stationary [2] [1].

Smolts and adults: Migratory populations: Anadromous: Migrate from the sea to fresh water to spawn [10] [17] [11]. Stationary populations: Stay permanently in freshwater [10].

4. Is the species likely to reproduce in captivity without manipulation? Is there potential to allow for it under farming conditions? How certain are these findings?


Adults: In the wild, female builds redd [18] [14] [19]. Do not spawn naturally under farming conditions, eggs and milt are stripped [2].

5. Is the aggregation imposed by minimal farming conditions likely to be compatible with the natural behaviour of the species? Is there potential to allow for it under farming conditions? How certain are these findings?


Alevins and fry: In the wild, territorial, establish social hierarchies [20]. In the lab, territorial, establish social hierarchies [21] [22] [23] [24].

Parr and smolts: In the wild, territorial, establish social hierarchies [25]. Under farming conditions, stocking densities 10-40 kg/m3, up to 80 kg/m3 [26] [27] [28]. Cages: 30-40 kg/m2 [2]. Low and high stocking densities affect welfare [26] [27] [28].

Adults: Salmonids live in schools during migration [29] [30] [31]. Cages: Stocking densities usually 30-40 kg/m[2]. Spawning tanks: Rearing at low densities with unknown extension [2]. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to Oncorhynchus mykiss as well.


6. Is the species likely to be non-aggressive and non-territorial? Is there potential for improvement? How certain are these findings?


Alevins and fry: Higher levels of aggression in wild than under farming conditions  [20] [22]. Under farming conditions, no food competition at stocking density 9.9-37.6 kg/m3 [21]. In the lab, individuals with larger yolk sacs [23] and quick emergence from spawning gravel are more aggressive [24] [32].

Parr and smolts: In the lab, aggressive when establishing dominant-subordinate relationships [33] [34] [35] [36] [37] [38]. Under farming conditions, more aggressive with feeding schedule compared to free access regime [39].

Adults: In the lab, aggressive when establishing dominant-subordinate relationships [35] [35] [35].

For all age classes, no data found yet on aggression behaviour in the wild.

7. Are minimal farming conditions likely to match the natural substrate and shelter needs of the species? Is there potential for improvement? How certain are these findings?


Eggs, alevins and fry: In the wild, successful incubation and emergence dependent on gravel characteristics [40] [19]. In the lab, emergence from spawning gravel used to distinguish distinct stress coping styles and growth performances [24] [32]. In the lab, the use of gravel reduce fin erosions [41]

Parr and smolts: In the wild, use gravel, stones and boulders as shelters [14] [42] [43] [44].

Adults: In the wild, use substrate to build redds [14] [19].

For all age classes, no data found yet on the effect of missing environmental enrichment in farming conditions.

8. Are minimal farming conditions (handling, confinement etc.) likely not to stress the individuals of the species? Is there potential for improvement? How certain are these findings?


Alevins and fry: Stressed by acute handling [45].

Parr and smolts: Stressed by repeated handling [46] [47] [48], confinement, crowding [49] [50] and group hierarchies [51] [35] [36].                                            

Adults: Stressed by confinement [52] [49], repeated handling [53] [35] [54] and group hierarchies [52].

9. Are malformations of this species likely to be rare under farming conditions? Is there potential for improvement? How certain are these findings?


Alevins and fry: Malformations of spine [55] in >15% of individuals.

Parr and smolts: Malformations of spine [56] [57] [58] [59] [60] in >10% of individuals.

Adults: Malformations of spine [57] [58] [60] in >10% of individuals.

For all age classes, no data found yet on frequency of malformations in the wild.


10. Is a humane slaughter protocol likely to be applied under minimal farming conditions? Is there potential for improvement? How certain are these findings?


Indications that electrical stunning before killing by chilling/bleeding are most effective [61] [62] [63] [64] Castanheira 2018.

Side note: Domestication

Domestication level 5 [65] [66]. Cultured since late 19th century [2].

Side note: Feeding without components of forage fishery

Alevins and fry: WILD: carnivorous [2] [1]. FARM: fish meal and fish oil may be completely* replaced by plant protein [67] [68].

Parr and smolts: WILD: carnivorous [2] [1]. FARM: fish meal and fish oil may be mostly* replaced by plant protein [69] [70] [71] [72]. Further research needed to clarify the feasability of complete* replacement.

Adults: WILD: carnivorous [2] [1]. FARM: fish meal and fish oil may be completely* replaced by plant protein [68] [73].

* partly = <51% – mostly = 51-99% – completely = 100%



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