Modular Experimental Riffle-Pool Stream System

William J. Matthews, University of Oklahoma
Keith B. Gido, Kansas State University
Gary P. Garrett, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Frances P. Gelwick, Texas A&M University
Jeffrey G. Stewart, Three Rivers Environmental Assessments
Jacob F. Schaefer, University of Southern Mississippi


We describe a modular method for building a large, outdoor experimental stream system that has great flexibility for research projects in fish ecology, behavior, conservation, or management. The system has been in use for more than a decade at the University of Oklahoma Biological Station (Kingston, Oklahoma) and has been used with modification at four other research facilities in the Midwest. Here, we document the system in detail, including specifications for construction of the original system and modifications or improvements at other sites. The system uses commercially available, customized fiberglass round tank and trough units that can be configured in many different ways to create flowing pool and riffle habitats. The system appears to be a good mimic of small natural streams based on system flow rates, establishment of natural substrates and cover, stream chemistry relative to that of a natural creek, and fish behaviors. At least 39 fish species have been used successfully in 1-14-month experiments in these systems and approximately half have reproduced. The system offers great flexibility of design to experimenters, is cost effective, and may be of interest at other facilities that research basic biology, conservation, or management of stream fishes.