What are the essential amino acid needs of fish and crustaceans?

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By Milthon Lujan

Have you ever wondered what drives the growth and health of the seafood we love? The answer lies in a complex orchestra of nutrients, where each essential amino acid (EAA) plays a fundamental role. But understanding the specific needs of different fish and crustaceans can be a “dark” science, with contradictory and confusing information circulating.

For years, scientists have been deciphering this code, conducting countless studies on the specific EAA needs of different species. But until now, the results were like a jumble of puzzle pieces, without a clear picture in sight.

That’s where a recent meta-analysis comes into play, published by scientists from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the University of Porto, the Ocean University of China, and the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, shedding new light on the essential amino acid requirements of fish and crustaceans.

The Study

The researchers navigated a vast ocean of 358 studies, covering 77 different species, to discover hidden patterns amid the diversity of data. They meticulously followed the ‘Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA)’ guidelines, ensuring the highest standards of scientific rigor.

The study results highlight that the essential amino acid needs of fish and crustaceans depend on various factors. Here’s a breakdown of the key findings:

  • EAA requirements are not the same for everyone: Factors such as the diet of aquatic animals, their position in the food chain, and water temperature influence their needs. This means that understanding specific requirements is crucial for optimal growth and health.
  • The EAA puzzle is now clearer: The study provides precise estimates of the ideal intake of each EAA in fish and crustaceans, expressed as a percentage of their total protein intake. This is like a nutritional roadmap, guiding both researchers and aquaculturists toward optimal feeding strategies.
  • Fish and crustaceans, united but different: Although there are some similarities, the analysis revealed subtle differences in their EAA needs. Arginine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, and threonine stood out as particularly important for both groups, while crustaceans seemed to require slightly more valine and histidine.
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Essential Amino Acid Needs of Fish and Crustaceans

In the following table, we summarize the study’s findings:


Amino AcidFish (Percentage of Crude Protein)Crustaceans (Percentage of Crude Protein)
Arginine (Arg)5.0%5.1%
Histidine (His)2.0%2.5%
Isoleucine (Ile)3.3%4.3%
Leucine (Leu)4.9%5.7%
Valine (Val)3.8%4.3%
Lysine (Lys)5.2%4.9%
Sulfur-containing Amino Acids (Met + Cys)3.5%3.2%
Aromatic Amino Acids (Phe + Tyr)6.2%5.1%
Threonine (Thr)3.5%3.8%
Tryptophan (Trp)0.9%0.8%

Impacts on the Aquaculture Industry

This groundbreaking research has far-reaching implications for the aquaculture industry:

  • Improved Aquaculture: By understanding specific dietary needs, we can formulate better and more efficient feeds for farmed fish and crustaceans. This means less waste, less environmental impact, and ultimately, a more sustainable blue food production.
  • Healthier Fish and Crustaceans: Optimal nutrition leads to healthier animals, translating to higher-quality fish and crustaceans for consumers. Who wouldn’t want fish that are not only delicious but also packed with nutritional goodness?


This meta-analysis is just the tip of the iceberg in our quest to understand the intricate world of fish and crustacean nutrition. But by shedding light on their EAA requirements, it provides a valuable tool for researchers, aquaculturists, and anyone passionate about ensuring a future of healthy and sustainable seafood products.

The research authors recommend that future studies focus on exploring the relationship between animal energy metabolism and the efficient use of amino acids, as well as the use of amino acids for maintenance and growth in low-protein diet formulations.

Remember, the next time you savor a succulent fish or juicy crustacean, you can appreciate the delicate interplay between science and nature that made it possible. Rest assured, researchers are still out there delving into the nutritional aspects and needs of these fascinating creatures, ensuring the ocean’s abundance continues to thrive for generations to come.

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Want to delve deeper? Check out the full scientific article for a detailed explanation of our research and its implications.

The study has been funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, National Key Research and Development Program of China, Agricultural Science and Technology Innovation Program (ASTIP), Agricultural Science and Technology Innovation Program of CAAS, China, Beijing Innovation Consortium of Agriculture Research System, Beijing Natural Science Foundation, and Xinjiang Key Research and Development Program.

Sadasivam J. Kaushik, Ecoaqua Inst
University of Las Palmas de Gran Canarias
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain.
Email: kjsachi@gmail.com

Min Xue
National Aquafeed Safety Assessment Center
Institute of Feed Research, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences
Beijing 100081, China.
Email: xuemin@caas.cn

Reference (open access)
Shujuan Xing, Xiaofang Liang, Xiaoran Zhang, Aires Oliva-Teles, Helena Peres, Min Li, Hao Wang, Kangsen Mai, Sadasivam J. Kaushik, Min Xue. 2023. Essential amino acid requirements of fish and crustaceans, a meta-analysis Review in Aquaculture. https://doi.org/10.1111/raq.12886

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