Microalgae-blend tilapia feed eliminates fishmeal and fish oil, improves growth, and is cost viable
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-75289-x
Aquafeed manufacturers have reduced, but not fully eliminated, fishmeal and fish oil and are seeking cost competitive replacements. We combined two commercially available microalgae, to produce a high-performing fish-free feed for Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)-the world's second largest group of farmed fish. We substituted protein-rich defatted biomass of Nannochloropsis oculata (leftover after oil extraction for nutraceuticals) for fishmeal and whole cells of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-rich Schizochytrium sp. as substitute for fish oil. We found significantly better (p < 0.05) growth, weight gain, specific growth rate, and best (but not significantly different) feed conversion ratio using the fish-free feed compared with the reference diet. Fish-free feed also yielded higher (p < 0.05) fillet lipid, DHA, and protein content (but not significantly different). Furthermore, fish-free feed had the highest degree of in-vitro protein hydrolysis and protein digestibility. The median economic conversion ratio of the fish-free feed ($0.95/kg tilapia) was less than the reference diet ($1.03/kg tilapia), though the median feed cost ($0.68/kg feed) was slightly greater than that of the reference feed ($0.64/kg feed) (p < 0.05). Our work is a step toward eliminating reliance on fishmeal and fish oil with evidence of a cost-competitive microalgae-based tilapia feed that improves growth metrics and the nutritional quality of farmed fish.