Oreochromis variabilis Boulenger (1906) is an indigenous and critically endangered fish species of Lake Victoria. It is among the species targeted for stock enhancement and restoration in Kenya. Such mass stock enhancement requires simple and easily applicable techniques to maximize its larviculture. This study investigated the growth potential of O. variabilis from fry to fingerling stages using diets formulated from locally available feed materials during the rearing period. Fish fry reared on formulated diets incorporating Rastrineobola argentea Pellegrin and Caridina nilotica Roux as protein source and cassava as basal feed gave higher growth and survival rates than those maintained on plankton live feed alone. There were significant differences in the final mean lengths and weights of fish fed the three treatment diets. Diet 3 gave significantly higher final mean lengths and weights than Diets 1 and 2. Growth rates of fish fry fed diets 2 and 3 regimens were significantly higher than those fed diet 1. The best food conversion ratio and condition factor were maintained in fry populations reared on Diet 3. The study concluded therefore that, viability of larviculture of O. variabilis using simple formulated diets may be achieved, and that this result provides an important breakthrough in the propagation of its seed stock for mass culture towards stock enhancement and restoration to marketplace.
Key words: Oreochromis variabilis, endangered species, rearing techniques, larviculture, stock enhancement, restoration.
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