The physiological traits that allow fish to survive periods of limited food resources are poorly understood. We assessed changes in proximate body composition, relative organ mass, blood metabolites, and relative weight (Wr) of sedentary and actively swimming (15 cm/s) juvenile rainbow trout (154-182 mm total length) over 147 d of fasting. Fasting caused measurable responses that were augmented when fish were swimming. Lipids and plasma triacylglycerides declined over time. Proteins were catabolized simultaneously with lipid reserves, but ammonia concentrations in plasma did not increase. The liver somatic index (LSI) did not change substantially over 105 d, suggesting that gluconeogenesis maintained blood glucose concentrations and hepatic glycogen reserves for a substantial period of fasting. The gut somatic index (GSI) and Wr declined linearly during fasting, but the LSI did not decline until after 105 d of fasting. Consequently, the use of different body condition indices could lead to different conclusions about the condition of juvenile rainbow trout. Swimming activity caused fish to have lower lipid and protein reserves than those of sedentary fish. No mortalities were observed among sedentary fish, but mortalities occurred among actively swimming fish after 97 d of fasting when 3.2% or less lipid remained in their bodies. Body condition indices did not account for differences in proximate body composition between sedentary and actively swimming fish and were relatively poor predictors of lipid content and risk of mortality. The probability of mortality was most accurately predicted by percent lipid content. Therefore, we suggest that fisheries scientists consider using percent lipid content when evaluating the physiological status and risk of mortality due to starvation among juvenile rainbow trout.
Additional publication details
Physiological responses of juvenile rainbow trout to fasting and swimming activity: Effects on body composition and condition indices