Twenty of the tiny fish were donated to the ECO Center and are on display in a small tank where they can’t be gobbled up by the larger fish in the main aquarium.
The Conasauga logperch, which grows to about five inches in length, is found in a stretch of less than 30 miles of the Conasauga River in the Cohutta Wilderness of extreme Northwest Georgia. The fish is considered to be extremely vulnerable to eradication, since it is found in such a small segment of a single stream.
Conservation Fisheries Inc., an environmental group based in Knoxville, Tenn., tried a captive breeding program a decade ago but it was unsuccessful, for reasons that were not clear to the fisheries’ biologists.
Nine years later, the same researchers worked closely with the Tennessee Aquarium and Univ. of Tennessee-Chattanooga, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service and were able to produce 700 of the fish in a hatchery type setting. The fish that were sent to the ECO Center were among those captive-bred fish.
Ben Winkelman, an ECO Center employee, said the river museum is working with the Tennessee Aquarium on the project.
“With the Conasauga being part of the Coosa River Basin, we were very excited to take advantage of the opportunity to display the fish,” Winkelman said.
Winkelman indicated he hopes one day the Rome facility would become a part of a research project that would help re-populate the species in the event of a major pollution disaster — which could wipe out the species, since their natural habitat is in such a small area.
The Conasauga is fertile ground for endangered species. It ranks fourth among U.S. waterways as home to the largest number of threatened fish, snails and mussels.