The global aquaculture industry is booming, but intensive farming conditions can lead to outbreaks of diseases due to microbial infections. This not only harms the health and well-being of fish but also results in significant financial losses for aquaculturists.
Traditionally, antibiotics have been used to combat disease issues. However, concerns about antibiotic resistance and environmental impact are driving the search for more sustainable solutions.
In this scenario, probiotics have emerged as a potent and environmentally friendly alternative to antibiotics.
Scientists from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Lagos State University investigated the effects of dietary probiotics on modulating the immune response and tilapia resistance against common diseases.
These beneficial live microorganisms offer a promising alternative. Probiotics, beneficial live bacteria, provide a natural and environmentally friendly alternative to antibiotics in tilapia farming.
Probiotics are known for the benefits they confer to animals, including fish. Various species of microorganisms, such as Bacillus, Lactobacillus, Lactiplantibacillus, Lactococcus, Enterococcus, Pseudomonas, Vibrio, Aeromonas, Enterobacter, Clostridium, Carnobacterium, Shewanella, Leuconostoc, and Saccharomyces, have been employed as probiotics.
Based on a comprehensive meta-analysis, scientists delved into the science behind the use of probiotics in tilapia farming. They explored the benefits, and different types of probiotics, and reported significant findings for tilapia aquaculture.
The meta-analysis, examining data from 67 studies, provides robust evidence of the positive effects of dietary probiotics on tilapia health. It adds to other studies highlighting the benefits of probiotics, prebiotics, and symbiotics.
Key Findings for fish farmers
As reported by scientists, the main benefits probiotics offer to aquaculturists can be summarized as:
- Improved growth and efficiency: Probiotics led to increased weight gain and specific growth rate (SGR), indicating faster and more efficient growth. Additionally, feed conversion ratio (FCR) decreased, meaning less feed is required for the same weight gain, benefiting both farmers and the environment.
- Enhanced immunity: Probiotics significantly strengthened the innate immune system of tilapia, increasing lysozyme activity, phagocytosis (engulfing and destroying pathogens), and phagocytic index.
- Disease resistance: Fish fed with probiotics showed significantly higher survival rates when facing common pathogens, demonstrating increased disease resistance.
Symbiotics: The Better Alternative
Scientists identified three main categories of probiotics: single strain, multiple strains, and symbiotics (probiotics combined with prebiotics).
According to the study results, symbiotics showed the most promising outcomes, suggesting a synergistic effect between probiotics and prebiotics. However, researchers caution that further research is needed to definitively confirm the superiority of symbiotics over other categories.
Benefits for Aquaculture
The use of probiotics in tilapia farming goes beyond fish health. It also contributes to:
- Reduced dependence on antibiotics: This leads to lower antibiotic resistance in bacteria and safer seafood products for consumers.
- Environmentally friendly: Probiotics improve water quality and reduce waste production by tilapia.
- Sustainable aquaculture: Promotes healthy fish populations and responsible farming practices.
The research provides solid evidence that probiotics can significantly benefit tilapia farming, promoting fish health, growth, and disease resistance. While more research is needed to optimize the use of probiotics, the potential for sustainable and profitable aquaculture is clear.
The study has been funded by the Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia, under the Transdisciplinary Research Grant Scheme and the Higher Institution Centre of Excellence.
Abdulwakil Olawale Saba
Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), 43400, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia
Department of Fisheries, Faculty of Science, Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos, 102101, Nigeria
Saba, A.O., Yasin, I.S.M. & Azmai, M.N.A. Meta-analyses indicate that dietary probiotics significantly improve growth, immune response, and disease resistance in tilapia. Aquacult Int (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10499-024-01404-8