University Of Tasmania

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Metabolic and functional impacts of hypoxia vary with size in Atlantic salmon

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 00:22 authored by Oldham, T, Barbara NowakBarbara Nowak, Hvas, M, Oppedal, F
The most capricious environmental variable in aquatic habitats, dissolved O2, is fundamental to the fitness and survival of fish. Using swim tunnel respirometry we test how acute exposure to reduced O2 levels, similar to those commonly encountered by fish in crowded streams and on commercial aquaculture farms, affect metabolic rate and swimming performance in Atlantic salmon of three size classes: 0.2, 1.0 and 3.5 kg. Exposure to 45–55% dissolved O2 saturation substantially reduced the aerobic capacity and swimming performance of salmon of all sizes. While hypoxia did not affect standard metabolic rate, it caused a significant decrease in maximum metabolic rate, resulting in reduced absolute and factorial aerobic scope. The most pronounced changes were observed in the smallest fish, where critical swimming speed was reduced from 91 to 70 cm s−1 and absolute aerobic scope dropped by 62% relative to the same measurement in normoxia. In normoxia, absolute critical swimming speed (Ucrit) increased with size, while relative Ucrit, measured inbody lengths−1, was highest in the small fish (3.5) and decreased with larger size (medium = 2.2). Mass specific metabolic rate and cost of transport were inversely related to size, with calculated metabolic scaling exponents of 0.65 for bSMR and 0.78 for bMMR. Metabolic O2 demand increased exponentially with current speed irrespective of fish size (R2 = 0.97–0.99). This work demonstrates that moderate hypoxia reduces the capacity for activity and locomotion in Atlantic salmon, with smaller salmon most vulnerable to hypoxic conditions. As warm and hypoxic conditions become more prevalent in aquatic environments worldwide, understanding local O2 budgets is critical to maximizing the welfare and survival of farmed and wild salmon.


Publication title

Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. Part A








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Elsevier Science Inc

Place of publication

360 Park Ave South, New York, USA, Ny, 10010-1710

Rights statement

Crown Copyright © 2019 Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Aquaculture fin fish (excl. tuna)