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Gut Health in Aquaculture

Why is maximizing aquaculture gut health important?

Achieving optimal growth and minimizing operational costs are the two main goals of aquaculturists. Improved weight gain and lower feed conversion ratios (FCR) put increased pressure on the digestive tract to function at its highest efficiency.

In farmed environments, stress is always a concern. When combined with external environmental factors such as temperature, salinity and pH and the rigors of production, in addition to disease resistance, age and feed, the gut can become imbalanced, potentially leading to disease. Poor gut health also hinders growth and performance. Most of these factors are controllable, and we must focus on improving and protecting the gut in order to optimize efficiency. 

Aquaculture gut health is key to success 

Protecting fish and shrimp from the start of their lives is critical to long-term success. Their first point of contact with the outside world — the skin, gut and gills — play a vital role in protecting the animal against potentially harmful environmental effects. The gut is a complex system of tissues and organs that plays an essential role in all interactions related to several functions, including:

  • Food digestion and absorption 
  • Metabolism and energy production
  • Defense mechanisms 
  • Immune response 

An unhealthy gut cannot defend itself. On the other hand, a healthy gut can digest and absorb the maximum amount of nutrients, providing the most benefit for the farmer. Once the optimal gut structure and efficient feed utilization are achieved, growth and performance are also maximized, and feed waste is minimized.

Improve aquaculture gut health with functional feed additives

Farmed fish species are typically exposed to many different microorganisms inhabiting the water column in aquaculture systems. The interaction between environmental microbes and the fishes' gastrointestinal systems can lead to gut microflora disturbances, affecting overall fish health.

Alltech produces aquaculture feed additives that provide many benefits, including:

  • Reduced gut inflammation: Gut inflammation often affects carnivorous fish fed with high levels of plant ingredients. Our feed additives can help reduce this inflammation and support microbiota — the microorganisms living in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Improved gut structure: A well-developed gut structure is crucial to nutrient digestion and absorption. It also acts as a natural barrier against pathogens. Alltech feed additives can help increase gut microvilli length and height, improving protein and fiber digestibility.
  • Better overall health: A strong gut can optimize growth and immune capabilities for overall better health. Our feed additives can enhance enzyme activity to increase fish survival in various environmental conditions.

What practical changes can you make to support aquaculture gut health?

  1. Start early: Each species and stage of growth has specific nutritional needs. It is crucial to start implementing an on-farm gut health program as early as possible. This will support the development of the digestive system and promote optimal performance.
  2. Quality feed: Providing a nutritionally balanced feed with quality ingredients suitable for the appropriate farming environment will have a significant impact. Alltech Coppens and Guabi develop specialty feeds for fish and shrimp that undergo rigorous testing to ensure they meet the highest standards to support animal health and welfare.
  3. Tailored solutions: Alltech has developed several innovative solutions based on many years of research and development, providing you with the right solution for your farm and contributing to improved profitability.

Ways to maximize aquaculture gut health 

A healthy gut is essential to achieving and maintaining optimal health for all fish and shrimp. The intestinal microflora, gut morphology, immune system and nutrient uptake — and how each of these elements interacts — all play a role in the health and performance of fish and shrimp.  

Animals in farmed environments also require essential nutrients to meet their basic nutritional needs. An imbalance in these requirements can put unnecessary stress on the immune system.

Alltech’s solutions for improving gut health and natural immune defenses in fish and shrimp include: 

  • Comprehensive packages, such as Aquate®, to aid in promoting GI integrity, stability and function 
  • Bio-Mos® and Actigen® to help combat digestive health challenges 
  • Bioplex® and Sel-Plex® chelated trace minerals to help improve absorption of essential nutrients 

Together, these technologies synergistically boost natural defense systems, thereby aiding improved gut function and overall fish and shrimp health.  

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