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


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.