Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 43–49 | Cite as

A review of polymer-based water conditioners for reduction of handling-related injury

  • Ryan A. Harnish
  • Alison H. Colotelo
  • Richard S. Brown
Research Paper


Fish are coated with an external layer of protective mucus. This layer serves as the primary barrier against infection or injury, reduces friction, and plays a role in ionic and osmotic regulation. However, the mucus layer is easily disturbed when fish are netted, handled, transported, stressed, or subjected to adverse water conditions. Water additives containing polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) or proprietary polymers have been used to prevent the deleterious effects of mucus layer disturbances in the commercial tropical fish industry, aquaculture, and for other fisheries management purposes. This paper reviews research on the effectiveness of water conditioners, and examines the contents and uses of a wide variety of commercially available water conditioners. Water conditioners containing polymers may reduce external damage to fish held in containers during scientific experimentation, including surgical implantation of electronic tags. However, there is a need to empirically test the effectiveness of water conditioners at preventing damage to and promoting healing of the mucus layer. A research agenda is provided to advance the science related to the use of water conditions to improve the condition of fish during handling and tagging.


Fish Mucus Scales Polymer 



This research was funded by the US Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is operated by Battelle for the US Department of Energy under Contract DE-AC05-76RL01830. With appreciation, we acknowledge the technical contributions of James Boyd, Andrea Currie, Jill Janak and Andrea LeBarge from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. We also appreciate comments from Steven Cooke of Carleton University and Glenn Wagner of EDI Environmental Dynamics.


  1. Alexander JB, Ingram GA (1992) Noncellular nonspecific defence mechanisms of fish. Annu Rev Fish Dis (incorporated into Aquaculture) 2:249–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beeman JW, Maule AG (2006) Migration depths of juvenile Chinook salmon and steelhead relative to total dissolved gas supersaturation in a Columbia River reservoir. Trans Am Fish Soc 135:584–594CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bouck GR, Smith SD (1979) Mortality of experimentally descaled smolts of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) in fresh and salt water. Trans Am Fish Soc 108:67–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown RS, Harnish RA, Carter KM, Boyd JW, Deters KA (2010) An evaluation of the maximum tag burden for implantation of acoustic transmitters in juvenile Chinook salmon. N Am J Fish Manage 30:499–505CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Buermann Y, Du Preez HH, Steyn GJ, Smit L (1997) Tolerance levels of redbreast tilapia, Tilapia rendalli (Boulenger, 1896) to natural suspended silt. Hydrobiologia 344:11–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carmichael GJ, Tomasso JR (1988) Survey of fish transportation equipment and techniques. Prog Fish-Cult 50:155–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Colotelo AH, Cooke SJ, Smokorowski KE (2009) Application of forensic techniques to enhance fish conservation and management: injury detection using presumptive tests for blood. End Species Res 9:169–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cooke SJ, Schreer JF, Wahl DH, Phillip DP (2002) Physiological impacts of catch-and-release angling practices on largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. In: Philipp DP, Ridgway MS (eds) Black bass: ecology conservation and management. American Fisheries Society Symposium 31. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, pp 489–512Google Scholar
  9. Danley ML, Mayr SD, Young PS, Cech JJ Jr (2002) Swimming performance and physiological stress responses of splittail exposed to a fish screen. N Am J Fish Manage 22:1241–1249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dauble DD, Deng ZD, Richmond MC, Moursund RA, Carlson TJ, Rakowski CL, Duncan JP (2007) Biological assessment of the advanced turbine design at Wanapum Dam, 2005. Prepared for the US Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Wind and Hydropower Technologies, under Contract DE-AC05–76RL01830. Richland, WAGoogle Scholar
  11. Davis MW, Ottmar ML (2006) Wounding and reflex impairment may be predictors for mortality in discarded or escaped fish. Fish Res 82:1–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eddy AE, Fraser JE (1982) Sialic acid and mucus production in rainbow trout (Salmo gairdneri) in response to zinc in seawater. Comp Biochem Physiol C-Toxicol Pharmacol 73C:357–359Google Scholar
  13. Ficke AD, Myrick CA (2009) A method for monitoring movements of small fishes in urban streams. N Am J Fish Manage 29:1444–1453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Floyd EY, Chuchwell R, Cech JJ Jr (2007) Effects of water velocity and trash rack architecture on juvenile fish passage and interactions: a simulation. Trans Am Fish Soc 136:1177–1186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gaines PC, Martin CD (2004) Feasibility of dual-marking age-0 Chinook salmon for mark-recapture studies. N Am J Fish Manage 24:1456–1459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gilliland ER (2003) Livewell operating procedures to reduce mortality of black bass during summer tournaments. In: Philipp DP, Ridgway MS (eds) Black bass: ecology conservation and management. American Fisheries Society Symposium 31. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, pp 477–487Google Scholar
  17. Godinho AL, Kynard B (1993) Migration and spawning of radio-tagged zulega (Prochilodus argenteus) in a dammed Brazilian river. Trans Am Fish Soc 135:811–824CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Handy RD, Eddy FB, Romain G (1989) In vitro evidence for the ionoregulatory role of rainbow trout mucus in acid, acid/aluminum and zinc toxicity. J Fish Biol 35:737–747CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harmon TS (2009) Methods for reducing stressors and maintaining water quality associated with live fish transport in tanks: a review of the basics. Rev Aquacult 1:58–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Helfrich LA, Liston CR, Mefford B, Bark R (2001) Survival and injury of slpittail and Chinook salmon passed through a large hidrostal pump. N Am J Fish Manage 21:616–623CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hockersmith EE, Muir WD, Smith SG, Sandford BP, Adams NS, Plumb JM, Perry RW, Rondorf DW (2000) Comparative performance of sham radio-tagged and PIT-tagged junvenile salmon. Prepared for the US Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District under contract W66QKZ91521282, Seattle, WAGoogle Scholar
  22. Ingram GA (1980) Substances involved in the natural resistance of fish to infection–a review. J Fish Biol 16:23–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kline SJ, Bonar SA (2009) Captive breeding of endangered yaqui topminnow and yaqui chub for recovery purposes. N Am J Fish Manage 71:73–78Google Scholar
  24. Meals KO, Miranda LE (1994) Size-related mortality of tournament-caught largemouth bass. N Am J Fish Manage 14:460–463CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mueller RP, Moursund RA, Bleich MD (2006) Tagging juvenile Pacific lamprey with passive integrated transponders: methodology, short-term mortality, and influence on swimming performance. N Am J Fish Manage 26:361–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Muniz AH, Leivestad H (1980) Toxic effects of aluminum on the brown trout (Salmo trutta). In: Drablos D, Tollan A (eds) Ecological impact of acid precipitation. SNSF Project, Oslo, Norway, pp 320–321Google Scholar
  27. Nagashima Y, Sendo A, Shimakura K, Shiomi K, Kobayashi T, Kimura B, Fujii T (2001) Antibacterial factors in skin mucus of rabbitfishes. J Fish Biol 58:1761–1765CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Noga EJ, Udomkusronsi P (2002) Fluorescein: a rapid, sensitive, nonlethal method for detecting skin ulceration in fish. Vet Pathol 39:726–731PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ottesen OH, Olafsen JA (1997) Ontogenetic development and composition of the mucous cells and the occurrence of saccular cells in the epidermis of Atlantic halibut. J Fish Biol 50:620–633CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Peterson JH, Barfoot CA (2003) Evacuation of passive integrative transponders tags from northern pikeminnow consuming tagged juvenile Chinook salmon. N Am J Fish Manage 23:1265–1270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pickering AD (1974) The distribution of mucous cells in the epidermis of the brown trout Salmo trutta (L.) and the char Salvelinus alpinus (L.). J Fish Biol 6:111–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pickering AD, Macey DJ (1977) Structure, histochemistry and the effect of handling on the mucous cells of the epidermis of the char Salvelinus alpinus (L.). J Fish Biol 10:505–512CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pickering AD, Richards RH (1980) Factors influencing the structure, function and biota of the salmonid epidermis. Proc R Soc Edinb Sect B-Biol Sci 79B:93–104Google Scholar
  34. Plumb JA, Grizzle JM, Rogers WA (1988) Survival of caught and released largemouth bass after containment in live wells. North Am J Fish Manage 8:325–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Richardson-Heft CA, Heft AA, Fewless L, Brandt SB (2000) Movement of largemouth bass in northern Chesapeake Bay: relevance to sportfishing tournaments. N Am J Fish Manage 20:493–501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Roberts RJ, Bullock AM (1980) The skin surface ecosystem of teleost fishes. Proc R Soc Edinb Sect B-Biol Sci 79B:87–91Google Scholar
  37. Rosen MW, Cornford NE (1971) Fluid friction of fish slimes. Nature 234:49–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Seitz AC, Norcross BL, Payne JC, Kagley AN, Meloy B, Gregg JL, Hershberger PK (2010) Feasibility of surgically implanting acoustic tags into Pacific herring. Trans Am Fish Soc 139:1288–1291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Shephard KL (1994) Functions for fish mucus. Rev Fish Biol Fish 4:401–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Specker JL (1982) Interrenal function and smoltification. Aquaculture 28(1–2):59–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Stoskopf MK (1993) Fish medicine. W.B. Saunders Company, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  42. Swanson C, Mager RC, Doroshov SI, Cech JJ Jr (1996) Use of salts, anesthetics, and polymers to minimize handling and transport mortality in delta smelt. Trans Am Fish Soc 125:326–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Taiwo VO, Olukunle OA, Ozor IC, Oyejobi AT (2005) Consumption of aqueous extract of raw Aloe vera leaves: histopatholigical and biochemical studies in rat and tilapia. Afr J Biomed Res 8:169–178Google Scholar
  44. Taylor RE, Kynard B (1985) Mortality of juvenile American shad and blueback herring passed through a low-head Kaplan hydroelectric turbine. Trans Am Fish Soc 114:430–435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Virtanen E (1987) Correlations between energy metabolism, osmotic balance and external smolt indices in smolting young salmon, Salmo salar L. Ann Zool Fennici 24:71–78Google Scholar
  46. Weber ED, Borthwick SM, Helfrich LA (2002) Plasma cortisol stress response of juvenile Chinook salmon to passage through Archimedes lifts and a hidrostal pump. N Am J Fish Manage 22:563–570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wedemeyer GA (1996) Physiology of fish in intensive culture systems. Chapman & Hall, International Thompson Publishing, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan A. Harnish
    • 1
  • Alison H. Colotelo
    • 1
  • Richard S. Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.Ecology Group, Pacific Northwest National LaboratoryRichlandUSA

Personalised recommendations