I have learned something about myself during this study. I really enjoy working with animals and researching, but when I have to do observations, I have the attention span of a gerbil. I can stare at them for hours if they are doing something that interests me such as eating, shooing one another into the net, or even just swimming, but the moment I have to do it for the observation portion of my study, I get bored, that is unless they are fighting.
To account for the possibility that the shrimp may not be tasted, Dr. Gowan proposed that I do a behavior study. He left it pretty open for me to choose which aspects I would like to study. I read in a few articles stating that when shrimp molt (ecdysis) they are more vulnerable, just as other molting creatures. The larger ones are often tested during this time for territory and an exchange of dominance. This is what I decided to focus on.
Every morning, I come in, check the pH and temperature of the tanks, and proceed to observe. I am doing two types of observances; focal and scan. Scan is the easiest and most exciting.It takes about 30 seconds per tank and all I have to do is note the position and activity of as many visual shrimp at that moment. The idea is to reflect a snapshot of the tank during a moment in time. The focal is my least favorite.
Right after scans, I start focals. This involves going to every tank, finding a shrimp, watching, and charting everything it does for 5 minutes. That may not seem like much, but more times than not they are just sitting there, cleaning. Three hours a day watching a shrimp clean itself gets really boring really fast, but I can say I have learned some useful information. For instance, for the longest time I thought the shrimp adored me as much as I adored them. When a person stares at a shrimp and it notices them, it will approach and wave. So, every time I walked up as said "aww look how cute they are," or "oh look he's saying hi," I was completely wrong.What they are actually doing is initiating a fight. Sometimes they even charge the glass. Nevertheless, it's cute, even if they are trying to kill me.
On weight-in last Friday, the shrimp averaged 0.40 g or 0.01 oz. The largest of them was 1.24 g, which I cannot explain how happy I am about that. They are growing steadily, but I am beginning to worry (more so than before) if they will be ready in time for taste testing.
Next Wednesday, July 20th, the shrimp are supposed to be harvested and tested by a panel of 60 members. However, there are probably only 2 or 3 that are actually ready to be eaten. According to the growth chart they should be averaging about 4.0 g or 100/lb. By the end of this week according to the same chart they should be approximately 70/lb. I am feeding them according to the maximum amount they will eat for their body weight, but I am wondering if maybe they were actually younger than we thought.
By the end of the week I should know if a taste test will be possible. Please check back for information on joining the taste panel. Thanks!
As I mentioned before, the shrimp are weighed every Friday, so that I may adjust their feeding rate. However, I could not do it without my friends. LaChelle Lewis, Alex Spivey, Ssamira Golo, Monique Meeks, and Rachel Rader have been here for me since the very beginning. They have helped me setup, clean tanks, feed shrimp, and more importantly weigh them, which may sound like an easy task, but it most definitely is not.
When Dr. Gowan said "make sure you weight the shrimp every week," I thought, "oh that won't take long." WRONG! Weighing shrimp takes hours, lots of patience, and the mindset that you will get wet, even if you are taking notes. Each tank has to be weighed individually, vacuum the filters cleaned, and every shrimp taken out, put into a cooler, transported to the weighing station, weighed individually, and returned; all while making sure no one jumps out or as Golo experienced this week, gets bitten (sorry Golo).
I cannot complain though, it is fun (even when the AC is not running). Monique is usually sleepy during weigh-in, so there is always music, which leads to LaChelle singing, and strange looks when people peer in as they pass by the lab. Golo firmly dislikes half of Monique's music, so she brings her iPod, causing me to get confused when she breaks into dance that definitely does not match what Monique is playing. I have yet to figure out how she keeps her iPod dry. Alex is just a card of his own. Half the time he's either talking to himself or causing a flood, but he's the fastest worker so we keep him around. Rachel on the other hand, does not get to help on Friday's because she works at the Bookstore, but she pays the shrimp a visit almost everyday and gives them a pep talk.
Yes, my friends are strange, but I love them just the same. Friday is definitely my favorite day of the week, despite being the hardest.
Today when I came in to feed the shrimp I noticed much growth. When fed, they seemed like they could not wait to get food. I also noticed that they were not out and about as usual. Almost every tank seemed bare because the shrimp were hiding in netting and cups. While feeding Tanks 1 and 2, LaChelle Lewis, noticed that a shrimp in Tank 9 was eating another shrimp about half his size! We took some photos and a video, which I will post later. I decided to feed the shrimp double for the rest of the week.
Every Friday I have to weigh the shrimp so that I can adjust their feeding rate. Freshwater Prawns eat about 3% of their body weight. Their weight on June 24th averaged 0.25 grams. On July 1st, many tripled in size, averaging 0.30 g. However, this was mostly because there were a few shrimp that were still 0.07 g. The largest however was 0.84 g! They are definitely beginning to look like edible shrimp, instead of sea monkeys.
My name is
Jamie Grant and this summer I will be working with Dr. Charles Gowan to
determine if the taste and texture of freshwater prawns (shrimp; Macrobrachium
rosenbergii) can improve with alternative feed and post-harvest methods.
Currently they are perceived as being bitter tasting and mushy, which is
leading to a market decline. If this continues, it could negatively effect
southern aquatic farmers.
even though it's week 3 of SURF I have not yet received my shrimp. At first
this was fine because I had to set up the tanks, which is way more
difficult than I thought. I had no idea that the tanks needed to be
interconnected and siphons had to be made, which all feed into a huge sump. I
then had to worry about water quality. The water needs to be pretty basic (pH;
higher than 7.5, but lower than 10) and the temperature at 80 oF,
for optimum growth. Once all of this is done, goldfish are put in to ensure
that ammonia levels are low and the water quality is not deadly, before putting
in the prawns.
It was nice
being able to take my time and set all this up before the shrimp got here, and
not having to rush and possibly kill all of my shrimp because I overlooked something,
but the past couple days I have been sort of antsy. Dr. Brian Nerrie, at
Virginia State University, is providing the prawns. He has been more than
helpful on this project, by providing aquaria, the shrimp, and much appreciated
information. However, because of the recent storms along the East Coast, the
shrimp delivery got delayed.
As of about
3:00 pm the shrimp made it to RMC and by 7:30 pm were living happily in their