UL-EPA (Experimental Platform in Aquaculture)


The URAFPA-team DAC (domestication in Inland Aquaculture) is a lab from the University of Lorraine. Its mission is to perform research in the field of diversification in aquaculture, with focus on the domestication of new relevant species for the development of European fish production. It carries out experiments on the reproduction function and fish welfare in particular on the environmental control of gametogenesis, broodstock endocrinology, gamete quality, embryo behaviour and comparison of biological traits linked to reproduction. The lab has particular research interests in the biology of percid fishes.

UL-EPA (Experimental Platform in Aquaculture)

Infrastructure: UL-EPA (Experimental Platform in Aquaculture)

Location: Vandoeuvre les Nancy, FRANCE

Web site address: www.urafpa.fr

Contact: Sylvain Milla (Sylvain.Milla@univ-lorraine.fr); Alain Pasquet (Alain.Pasquet@univlorraine.fr)


The EPA of UL (800m²) is a new and modern indoor infrastructure dedicated to research on freshwater fish culture with facilities adapted to the different fish developmental stages (eggs, larvae, juveniles and breeders). The EPA is composed of two RAS for eggs incubation, two RAS for larval rearing (5 tanks of 700 L each) and 16 individual, autonomous and identical RAS (tanks of 2m3, see picture) for juveniles and breeders, completed by a specific area (6 RAS of 1700 L each) for fish acclimatization step. These facilities are located in isotherm boxes to allow a very precise regulation and management of environmental factors (water temperature, photoperiod, light intensity, dawn and dusk simulation …). In relation to water management, the EPA is able to rear all freshwater species, from cold water species like salmonids to warm water species like tropical species. The water temperature can vary between 4 and 30°C whatever the season.

The EPA also contains a hatching room with five independent hatcheries (see the picture below) and a behaviour room to study social interactions (e.g. cannibalism), predatory behaviour, using a temperature/light intensity control. The behavior room is equipped with cameras (X3) for movies monitoring with low light intensity (<5 lux), and devices for behavioural tests (e.g. arena and labyrinths, see below). The EPA also contains two zebrafish rearing systems, each one enclosing 50 aquariums with automatic control of the environmental factors (e.g. temperature, photoperiod).

The experimental studies performed in EPA are accompanied with analytical laboratories. This area is dedicated to carry out physiological, cellular and molecular analysis and it is equipped with apparatus to perform microscopy, cells and organotypic culture, western blot and in-situ hybridization, gel electrophoresis, ELISA, enzymatic assays, microassays, HPLC, PCR and more.

Services currently offered by the infrastructure

Domestication of new species is investigated in Europe to diversify fish production. During the first steps of the domestication, fish performances are highly variable, fish features can be compared to a complex “black box” and the fish performances depend on multifactorial determinisms resulting from the effects of environmental, nutritional and “populational” factors. The accurate and fine control of the environmental conditions is fundamental to achieve a repeatable induction of the reproductive cycle, gonadal maturation, stimulation of the final stages and the optimal embryo-larvae development. Controlling the whole reproductive cycle is one of the key bottlenecks for fish diversification and the domestication of new species is one of the major promising topic for ongoing and future research in aquaculture.

In the EPA infrastructure, the number of identical experimental units (for example 16 RAS for juveniles and breeders) and their independent environmental control allow the application of multifactorial experimental design such as fractional or complete factorial design in order to study in parallel multiple factors and their interactions by reducing the number of experimental units. This infrastructure is thus mainly used for experiments which aims at optimizing the external rearing factors (e.g. temperature, photoperiod, luminosity), to understand their influence on the fish biology and on the zootechnical performances. The EPA of UL will allow such multifactorial studies on freshwater fish species in the framework of initial approach (screening) or more advanced approach (optimization of protocols). For example, that could be used for the development of protocols for larval rearing or growth, or for the control of reproductive cycle to achieve out-of-season spawning, or for the improvement of fish welfare.

Modality of access

In all, 3 projects are expected to be achieved in UL facilities. For each project, the visitors will benefit from these facilities to perform all experimental works on freshwater fish species in relation with modulation of external factors. They will first describe their research goals and, if suitable, they will be supported in performing the experiments in the EPA of UL. The field of research will concern larvae development, welfare, reproductive and growth performances, reproductive physiology and the use of molecular tools to assess the progress of gametogenesis and embryogenesis. According to the scientific goals, each visiting user will be linked to a local group of researchers depending on the technical and scientific skills.

Together, they will schedule the experiments by finding out the most appropriate experimental period. The equipment necessary will be determined, purchased and prepared in advance.

Before the experiment, the users will be provided access with all the fish, equipment and consumables to carry out their research projects. They will also benefit from advices for collecting good data (optimization of experimental parameters, design of experiments, calibration of sampling) and for highlighting information from the data using appropriate statistical analysis. Two animal keepers will be available to follow the progress of the experiments, to help for monitoring the zootechnical performances and the water quality and for organ sampling. One research engineer will supervise the schedule, organization and quality of the experiments (quality certification of EPA with the highest standard of UL). Partners will benefit from a rigorous archiving and recording data to improve the safety of the experiments. Users will have full access to computing and offices, and will also receive all the services offer by the university. A report enclosing the description of the experiment and the scientific data obtained will be written after each experiment. The users will be encouraged to present their results during local seminars.

Unit of access

On average each user or user group is expected to stay twice between 4 and 8 weeks (2 trials) in the infrastructure with thus a typical/average duration of 12 weeks per project.

The unit of access is defined as 1 RAS.week. For eggs (hatchery), one trial is expected to range between 4 and 16 units (i.e. 1 RAS during 4 weeks; 2 RAS during 8 weeks) and a maximum of 16 units per project is authorized. For larvae, one trial is expected to range between 4 and 16 units (i.e. 1 RAS during 4 weeks; 2 RAS during 8 weeks) and a maximum of 16 units per project is authorized. For juveniles and breeders, one trial is expected to range between 24 and 128 units (i.e. 6 RAS during 4 weeks; 16 RAS during 8 weeks) and a maximum of 150 units per project is authorized. For zebrafish, one system of 50 aquariums equals to 5 RAS.

Access typically consists of: discussions on the experiment, definitive time schedule, acclimatization period, sampling procedures, zootechnical and analytical measures, modalities of storing samples, statistical analysis.

EPA-UL facility video>>>


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