Aquaculture Farming Fish Meal Diets

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Cost-Effective Solutions for Reducing Fish Meal in Aquaculture Diets

3 minute read

For years, the aquaculture industry has been attempting to reduce the amount of fish meal included in aquaculture diets to reduce feed costs while ensuring long-term sustainability. This has led to the use of alternative sources of protein that may be significantly limited in trace minerals and have decreased trace mineral bioavailability, thereby negatively affecting animal performance, health and product quality.

Read More: Changes in Aquaculture Nutrition

Comparing the trace mineral composition of different protein sources to that of fish meal exposes significant deficiencies in zinc, selenium and iron, among other nutrients. Not only do they contain a lower concentration of minerals, but the antinutritional factors in plant-based protein sources, such as phytic acid, are not digestible by fish. This has negative effects on trace mineral absorption, which makes it harder for fish to meet nutritional requirements and negatively impacts growth and performance.

To maintain high growth, health and ultimately production rates, the industry must adopt solutions to ensure that nutritional requirements, including trace mineral requirements, are met despite antinutritional factors. Metal amino acid complexes (a mixture of a single specific metal complexed with different amino acids in a 1:1 ratio) are taken up by amino acid transporters instead of common metal ion transporters. This reduces the risk for transport saturation and improves absorption efficiency. Another advantage of using metal amino acid complexes instead of metals in their inorganic form is that they are more stable and minimally antagonized by other dietary ingredients like phytic acid.

Read More: The Proven Path to Performance

Cut Costs and Maintain Performance While Lowering Fish Meal Levels

Utilizing Zinpro Performance Minerals® at half the rate of inorganic sources proved to maintain or even improve growth performance in European sea bass and Atlantic salmon. We also saw a reduction in skin lesions and improvements to skin and gut health, indicating an enhanced defense against pathogens.

More recently, we evaluated the effectiveness of Zinpro Performance Minerals as a cost-effective solution to reduce the amount of fish meal in European sea bass diets by 50%.

European sea bass were fed one of three diets for 12 weeks.

  • The control diet contained 20% fish meal and was supplemented with zinc from Availa®Zn, iron as Availa®Fe, manganese as Availa®Mn, Cu as Availa®Cu and selenium and Availa®Se.
  • The second diet (FM10, 1.5x) contained just 10% fish meal and the same mineral premix at a level 1.5 times higher than the control diet.
  • The third diet (FM10, 2x) contained 10% fish meal and the same mineral premix at a level 2 times higher than the control diet.

By increasing the level of Zinpro Performance Mineral supplementation by 1.5 and 2 times, we were able to maintain growth performance and even slightly increase the whole-body zinc content of European sea bass, even as we reduced the amount of fish meal in the diet by 50%.

Additionally, we saw the feed conversion ratio drop to a level similar to the fish fed the control diet.

These results yielded a cost savings of up to 8.5% when compared to the control diet, confirming that Zinpro Performance Minerals are a cost-effective solution to maintaining high production rates while respecting the trace mineral supplementation limits in the European Union (EU). 

Improving Sustainability Together 

As our industry works together to improve environmental sustainability and meet the expectations of fish consumers globally, we continue to look for solutions that allow us to reduce the use of fish meal in aquaculture diets in a cost-effective way. By using effective sources of trace minerals, like Zinpro Performance Minerals, we are able to reduce the level of fish meal in diets, maintain high growth and production rates, and cut costs.

Connect with your Zinpro representative to discuss ways you can formulate your aquaculture nutrition to improve environmental sustainability.