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Raising Trout - Background
Oncorhynchus mykiss (rainbow trout or steelhead trout) are the most commonly encountered species in classrooms. They are native to the West coast of North America but have been introduced to oceans, lakes and rivers world wide. They are a highly prized game fish in many North American rivers.
They belong to a class of fish known as salmonids that includes salmon and trout. Salmonids are anadromous, that is, they are born in fresh water but may spend much of their adult lives in the ocean, returning to the rivers in which they were born to spawn and lay their eggs. The freshwater form of Oncorhynchus mykiss is called rainbow trout. These fish may spend their entire lives in fresh water. The saltwater form is known as steelhead trout. These are generally larger than rainbow trout and can find their way back to the stream of their birth to spawn and lay eggs. Steelhead are then able to migrate back to the ocean and repeat the cycle several times in their life. Salmon, the other genus of salmonids, die after spawning and do not return to the ocean. For more information on the trout life cycle, see the Nevada Trout in the Classroom website.
Each of these factors (besides the food supply since the alevin will have a yolk sac while in the classroom) must be carefully recreated in the classroom aquarium. Steelhead are classified as a threatened species since water diversion (dams), migration barriers (culverts, roads, and walls), habitat destruction, introduced species and creek disturbances (pollution, trash, dogs, erosion, etc.) have dramatically reduced the amount of acceptable habitat.
Different parts of the country have different programs for teachers to raise salmonids in their classrooms, each with its own set of rules and regulations. See the Procedures below to get in contact with a program near you. Information on how to set up a tank and care for your fish can be downloaded from Trout Unlimited. Curriculum resources may be downloaded from the Nevada Department of Wildlife.