Fish Hatchery will shut down aquarium for site improvements, but fish and wildlife will return

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Nathan Wilson
The Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery will close its aquarium beginning Aug. 29 as the building undergoes a major renovation for the first time since its construction in 1966. The site improvements will include replacement of the building’s aging roof and electrical systems along with installation of a new HVAC and back-up generator system to maintain suitable climatic conditions for each habitat. “The back-up generator will protect them when we have power outages so the fish will continue to have air and water,” says Hatchery Manager Brett Hortman.

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Much of the original equipment in the hatchery’s lab facilities will also be replaced and modernized. The lab facilities are used to breed native species of fish, turtles/tortoises and mussels.
Margitifera hembeli, an endangered species of freshwater mussel, once inhabited much of Louisiana and Arkansas, but is now found in only a handful of Louisiana waterways. The species matures parasitically in fish in nature and is bred under a microscope when raised in lab conditions.
Renovations to the aquarium building are projected to be complete by Dec. 1 with resumption of aquarium exhibits and tours to follow. The hatchery is a federal facility operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.