Tartaric acid to promote growth, immunity, and disease resistance in shrimp

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By Milthon Lujan


Diseases, suboptimal growth, and digestive problems can wreak havoc on shrimp farms. But what if there were a natural and readily available solution?

Research conducted by scientists from RUDN University, Urmia University, University of Tehran, and Islamic Azad University delves into the fascinating world of tartaric acid (TA) as a potential powerhouse for shrimp. The study investigated the effects of TA in the diet on the growth, intestinal health, immunity, and even disease resistance of Pacific white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei).

Tartaric acid (TA)

Tartaric acid (TA; synonym: dihydroxybutanol, chemical formula: C4H6O6) is a common organic acid found in grapes, bananas, and even wine. Organic acids are compounds with antimicrobial properties and are known for their ability to modulate intestinal microflora and inhibit pathogen growth.

Due to its various biological properties, tartaric acid has gained popularity in food and pharmaceutical activities, regulating acidity, and improving the shelf life, and sensory properties of foods.

Key findings

The researchers utilized 600 shrimp, feeding them with five different levels of TA spread in their feed. After 56 days of shrimp rearing, the results were astonishing:

  • Accelerated growth: Shrimp fed diets with 5 and 7.5 grams of TA per kilogram (TA5 and TA7.5) ate better, grew faster, and converted their food more efficiently.
  • Increased intestinal bacteria: Diets TA5 and TA7.5 increased the population of beneficial intestinal bacteria, especially lactic acid bacteria, known for promoting digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • Improved immune system: Shrimp with the TA diet showed a notable improvement in their set of immune tools. Their total blood cell count, key immune cell types, and various immune enzyme activities received a significant boost.
  • Antioxidant shield: TA acted as a cellular bodyguard, enhancing the activity of antioxidant enzymes that protect shrimp from harmful free radicals.

Challenge tests

When challenged with a common bacterial pathogen, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, TA-treated shrimp showed significantly higher survival rates, with TA7.5 emerging as the ultimate shield.

Shrimp survival rates increased significantly compared to their counterparts without TA, highlighting the protective power of the acid against diseases.

Impact on the shrimp industry

These findings paint a compelling picture of using tartaric acid as a powerful tool for shrimp producers. By incorporating TA at the optimal level (around 7.5 grams per kilogram of feed), they can potentially:

  • Boost shrimp growth and performance: More shrimp, happier shrimp farmers, and ultimately, a higher shrimp supply.
  • Improve digestion and nutrient utilization: Less food waste translates to cost savings and environmentally friendly practices.
  • Strengthen shrimp immunity: A healthier shrimp is a more resilient shrimp, better equipped to fight diseases and infections.
  • Reduce antibiotic use: A strong natural immune system can reduce dependence on antibiotics, promoting both shrimp health and consumer trust.


“The findings indicated that tartaric acid in the diet stimulates growth markers and defense systems of L. vannamei,” conclude the scientists; and they highlight significant improvements in growth indices, food utilization, intestinal LAB, digestive enzyme activities, hemolymph immune parameters, antioxidant status, and disease resistance against V. parahaemolyticus were particularly recorded in shrimp fed the TA7.5 diet.

The potential of TA as a sustainable and effective booster for shrimp health is truly exciting. Further research can refine its application, optimize dosage levels for different shrimp species, and explore possible long-term benefits.

Reference (open access)
Yousefi, Morteza, Mehdi Naderi Farsani, Alireza Afzali-Kordmahalleh, and Sara Ahani. 2024. “Dietary Tartaric Acid Improves Growth Performance, Gut Microbiota, Digestive Enzyme Activities, Hemolymph Immunity, Antioxidant Markers, and Disease Resistance against Vibrio parahaemolyticus in Pacific White Shrimp” Journal of Marine Science and Engineering 12, no. 1: 83. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse12010083