The site requirements for hatcheries and indoor nurseries, which are normally associated with each other, are similar. In this section of the manual, reference to hatcheries therefore includes indoor nurseries.
NEEDS FOR GOOD QUALITY WATER
Although the larval stages of freshwater prawns require brackish water for growth and survival, hatcheries do not have to be located on coastal sites. Prawn hatcheries can be sited on inland sites. There, the necessary brackish water can be obtained by mixing locally available freshwater with seawater or brine (and sometimes artificial seawater) which has-been transported to the site. Two decades ago, when the original FAO manual was written, most hatcheries operated on flow-through systems. Many still do so but the establishment of inland hatcheries, the costs of obtaining and transporting seawater or brine, and increasing concerns about the discharge of saline water in inland areas have encouraged some operators to minimize water consumption through partial or full recirculation systems. Inland hatcheries have the advantage that they can be sited wherever suitable freshwater is available and their market (namely outdoor nurseries and grow-out facilities) is close by. Where to site a hatchery is therefore not only a technical but also an economic consideration.
This involves balancing the costs of transporting seawater and brine, or using recirculation, against the advantages of an inland site. Prawn hatcheries, regardless of type, require an abundant source of freshwater as well as seawater or brine. The quality of intake water, whether it be saline or fresh, is of paramount importance for efficient hatchery operation. Water quality is thus a critical factor in site selection. Hatchery sites should preferably be far from cities, harbours and industrial centres, or other activities which may pollute the water supply.
Due to the extra problems and dangers involved, it is generally recommended that freshwater prawn hatcheries should not be sited where the only source of water is surface water. However, this guidance has not always been observed. The minimum requirement during site evaluation should be to carry out watershed surveys and water analyses, especially for pesticides and oil spill residues. In coastal areas, it may be possible to draw good quality water from sub-surface layers, usually with freshwater overlying more saline water. The ideal site, where wells sunk to different depths provide both freshwater and seawater, is rare, although it is sometimes possible to make good use of groundwater sources, which are usually cleaner and less liable to become contaminated. The quality of water depends on the soil materials. In coastal areas with underlying coral rock, hatcheries can often get good quality seawater, free of pollution or harmful protozoa and bacteria. If sites with borehole seawater are not available, direct access to a sandy beach with mixed sand particle size can be selected. On this type of site a shallow beach filter of the type described in Annex 2 can be utilized. Muddy areas are not so suitable, but a larger filter may be used, provided it can be cleaned out periodically.
Many freshwater prawn hatcheries utilize surface supplies for both freshwater and seawater. Often, seawater can be drawn from areas where the salinity is 30 to 35 ppt, usually through a rigid pier off-take in the sea or a flexible buoyed system. Crude screening can be used to prevent the entry of the larger flora and fauna but this alone is not sufficient to protect the larvae from disease and parasitical problems. The use of unfiltered water will almost certainly result in disaster, so additional filtration is essential. Brine, sometimes used instead of seawater for inland hatcheries to minimize transport costs, can be obtained from salt evaporation pans. The brine, which is often between 80-100 ppt salinity but can be as high as 180 ppt, can be diluted with freshwater to form brackish water (in theory, the higher the salinity of the brine used, the better; this is because the sudden osmotic shock which occurs when brine and freshwater are mixed together may reduce the numbers of bacteria and parasites present in the original supplies). Some hatcheries obtain freshwater pumped or fed by gravity from surface supplies such as rivers or irrigation canals. This practice exposes the hatchery to severe variations in water quality and particularly to water contamination from agricultural chemicals.
In all cases, water supplies need careful analysis during site selection, to determine their physical, chemical, and biological characteristics, and the extent to which these may vary daily, seasonally, or through other cycles. Special care is needed where hatcheries are situated in or near areas where the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers is intensive. Ideally, freshwater should be obtained from underground sources, though some of these may be unsuitable because of high levels of iron and manganese, which are lethal to prawn larvae. Methods of reducing the levels of these ions are provided later in this section of the manual. City tap water is also normally suitable, provided it is vigorously aerated for 24-48 hours before use to remove residual chlorine, but may be too expensive to use. Well water should also be aerated, by cascading for example, to bring its dissolved oxygen level up to, or near to saturation point.
The brackish water derived from the mixture of seawater, brine or artificial sea salts with freshwater for use in M. rosenbergii hatcheries should be 12-16 ppt, have a pH of 7.0to 8.5, and contain a minimum dissolved oxygen level of 5 ppm. Water of various levels of salinity is also required for hatching Artemia as a larval food; the ideal hatching salinity depends on the source of cysts. The use of estuarine water, which would theoretically limit the need to balance freshwater and seawater to obtain the optimum salinity, is possible. However, the salinity of estuarine water varies, both diurnally and seasonally, making management difficult. In addition, although estuarine water can be utilized if its salinity is above the hatchery operating salinity, its use is not recommended because the levels of micro-organisms and potential pollution may be high.
Both freshwater and seawater must be free from heavy metals (from industrial sources), marine pollution, and herbicide and insecticide residues (from agricultural sources), as well as biological contamination (e.g. as indicated by the presence of faecal coliforms, which can be common in residential and agricultural areas). The analyses of water found suitable for use in freshwater prawn hatcheries are given in Table 2. Not much is known about the tolerance of larvae to toxic materials but it can be assumed that larvae are at least as (probably more) susceptible to pollution and toxicity as juveniles. As safe and lethal levels of specific substances are not yet fully understood, it is inappropriate to provide a summary of current research in this manual. Those who wish to know more about this topic are recommended to consult Boyd and Zimmermann (2000), Correia, Suwannatous and New (2000) and Daniels, Cavalli and Smullen (2000).