Research Document - 2016/002

Fish swimming performance database and analyses

By Katopodis, C. and Gervais, R.


Fish speed and stamina, locomotion and the mechanics of fish swimming, are important to the development and design of passage, exclusion, and guidance systems for fish. Such systems include fishways, fish bypasses, and culverts to assist fish to move upstream or downstream of obstructions; fish screens, fish louvers, and bar racks to exclude fish from harmful environments; fish barriers to exclude invasive species. Swimming speeds and endurance vary with species and body morphology, fish length, water temperature and other variables. Fish swimming speeds are classified as burst, prolonged, or sustained. Data on fish swimming performance are collected from swim tests conducted in swim tunnels or respirometers (also known as swim chambers or stamina tunnels). Field studies with culverts to determine whether fish are able to navigate in upstream migrations have provided data on water velocities and passable culvert lengths. More recently data from volitional fish tests in open channels (flumes or raceways) have been collected. Studies on fish swimming performance and data availability have been increasing. Significant gains in knowledge and better understanding of fish biomechanics have been made. This report presents and summarizes an extensive data base on fish swimming performance generated from the literature. This effort utilized data from a large number of studies since 1990 when the first and much smaller database was produced. Extensive data scrutiny and analyses of the available data were performed. Large variability in swimming performance is indicated. Fatigue curves or fish speed-time regressions were developed for individual species. There are insufficient data for many species and significant regressions are not available for these fish. Dimensionless variables allowed more global data analyses for groups of species and the ability to use limited data sets. Significant speed-time regressions (fatigue curves) were developed for six fish groups: Catfish and Sunfish; Eel; Herring (Clupeidae); Pike; Salmon and Walleye; and Sturgeon. The large variability in the data is reflected in these curves. Swim distance – water velocity curves were derived from each of the groups. Derived swim distance estimates were in good agreement with available swim distance data. Ranges of swim distance estimates allow the level of protection needed for a particular fish population to be considered in specific projects.

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