January 18, 2010
SPIRULINA ALGAE, AN IMPORTANT FOOD SOURCE
An important food source
What is Spirulina Algae?
Spirulina is one of the most concentrated natural sources of nutrition known for both terrestrial and aquatic animals. Early interest in Spirulina focused mainly on its potential as a source of protein and vitamins. Spirulina is 60-70% protein by weight and is the richest source of Vitamin B-12 and Beta carotene (twenty times that of carrots) and is also loaded with essential fatty acids and minerals. Today, there are several commercial companies in the U.S., China, and India culturing Spirulina primarily as a food supplement for the health food markets. More recently, there has been new interest concerning the therapeutic effects of Spirulina as a “probiotic” or booster for the immune response system in animals and fish.
Spirulina as a Probiotic
What are probiotics and why should you feed them to your fish? Probiotic means “that which promotes life,” as opposed to antibiotic which means “against life.” Both types of therapy have their place in fish husbandry. While antibiotics kill microbes and harmful bacteria after an infection has occurred, the probiotics will help to prevent the infection from occurring in the first place.
Recent studies have found that Spirulina algae functions as a probiotic, allowing the fishes own immune system to function at a higher level of activity. The idea of using probiotics for disease control is receiving greater attention lately due to:
Ineffectiveness of the available antibiotics; and The public’s growing interest over the use of probiotics or holistic type medications. Benefits of Using Spirulina Algae:
It has been shown that Spirulina algae increases and promotes more uniform growth rates when fed at the recommended .5-2.0% inclusion rate. Spirulina improves the intestinal flora in fish by the breakdown of otherwise indigestible feed components, thereby extracting more nutrition from the feed. The same beneficial flora or bacteria produce vitamins and displace harmful which is why fish fed Spirulina have less intestinal compaction, a slimmer abdomen, and are more resistant to infection.
Spirulina stimulates the production of enzymes that transport fats within the fish’s body.
The fish utilize their fat to power growth instead of just storing it and becoming flabby.
The 5 ppt carotenoid pigments that are concentrated in Spirulina algae improve and intensify the coloration in fish. This is especially important for koi and goldfish for commanding a higher price in the marketplace. Chlorophyll and phycocyanin also enhance the skin colors.
Increases survival rates.
Studies in Japan on marine yellowtail showed that fingerlings fed a ration of 0.5% (5 ppt) spirulina resulted in a significant gain in survival over the non-Spirulina fed group. Similar results were obtained from professional Discus fish breeders whom incorporate Spirulina powder into the diet for newborn Discus fry.
Lessens the usage of medication.
Fish farmers have found that including Spirulina in the diet reduced the amount of medication or therapeutics that are normally required to treat sick fish. Spirulina also reduced toxicity of medications and may itself have anti-viral properties. Most disease treatments on the market are “water baths” in which the fish must absorb the drug from the aquarium water. Unfortunately, the treatment water is often discharged down the drain into our environment and waterways.
Orally feeding your fish a diet containing Spirulina could effectively reduce or eliminate the need for bath treatments. Using Spirulina algae as a “prophylactic” treatment in place of antibiotics can effectively reduce wastewater pollutants, eliminating costly treatment systems and increases the effectiveness of existing systems.
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