Father builds nest

Visitors to Bristol Aquarium are being treated to the unique experience of seeing a fish building an underwater nest.

Just like their wild counterparts the Harbourside attraction’s native fifteen-spined sticklebacks have begun breeding this month.

Following a complicated mating ritual, the male stickleback began to build an underwater nest made from seaweed.

At Bristol the male stickleback is actually making use of artificial seaweed, however the results are equally successful and he is now caring for several dozen eggs.

Bristol Aquarium’s Jake Graham said: “It’s exactly the same behaviour which is being recorded on the BBC Springwatch programmes ‘stickleback cam’.

“Apparently their male, whose been nicknamed ‘Spineless Si is proving so popular he has even got his own Twitter account!

“The only difference is that our male, who we’ve decided to call ‘Spiny Norman’, has been rather more successful and we’re hopeful it won’t be too long before we can start to see the eggs developing and, eventually, hatching out,” he added.

The fifteen-spined, or sea stickleback, is the largest member of the stickleback family and can reach length of up to 20cms.

Native to UK waters they are most commonly found in the brackish waters of the Atlantic Ocean living among seaweed.

The males build a nest by digging a small pit and then using special thread-like mucus around plants causing them to come together to create a nest.

They then perform a zig-zag like mating dance around this nest to attract a female.

Once inside the nest the female lays up to 300 peppercorn-sized eggs which the male externally fertilises.

He then guards the eggs and fans them with his fins until they hatch. He continues to care for the fry until they have absorbed the contents of their egg yolks and can feed for themselves.

“It’s fascinating behaviour and it’s very rare to actually have to opportunity to witness it first hand. We’ve been videoing the whole process and are now anxiously awaiting the next stage when the eggs begin to hatch out,” Jake added.

Issued by Bristol Aquarium. For more information and to arrange filming or photo opportunities please contact Sarah Moore or Jake Graham on 0117 929 8929.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Video of the male building the nest is available on request.

Photos: Sarah Moore