Turmeric and garlic can protect biofloc-raised tilapia

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By Milthon Lujan

Experimental design. Source: Bhadra et al., (2024), Aquaculture.
Experimental design. Source: Bhadra et al., (2024), Aquaculture.

The cultivation of tilapia in the biofloc system is a lucrative business, but it faces an unpleasant enemy: the bacteria Aeromonas hydrophila. This foe causes widespread losses and jeopardizes the profits of fish farmers.

Intensive biofloc aquaculture must confront the challenge of diseases affecting fish. Antibiotics, once the preferred solution, pose resistance problems and leave residues in fish, raising concerns for human health. Moreover, the use of chemotherapeutics can disrupt the delicate microbial balance.

But what if there were a natural ecological solution to this problem? Turmeric and garlic have the potential to strengthen the immune system of tilapia, enabling them to face different diseases.

A study by a team of scientists from ICAR-Central Institute of Fisheries Education evaluated the impact of supplementing the diet with extracts of Curcuma longa (turmeric) and Allium sativum (garlic) on the health of genetically improved farmed tilapia (GIFT) in the biofloc system.

Turmeric and garlic

These common kitchen spices hold powerful secrets for sustainable aquaculture. Their active ingredients, curcumin and organosulfur compounds, respectively, have impressive disease-fighting properties. They act as natural immune stimulants, helping fish resist pathogens like the dreaded Aeromonas hydrophila, a major scourge in tilapia farming.

In recent years, there has been increased interest in exploring the use of medicinal plants in aquaculture. However, fish farmers have been using them as therapeutic agents for a long time. Among them, turmeric and garlic are the most commonly used.

Studies report that turmeric contains 71.5% curcumin, 19.4% demethoxycurcumin, and 9.1% bisdemethoxycurcumin, possessing medicinal and biological qualities such as antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and hepatoprotective.

On the other hand, garlic contains 65% water, 30% carbohydrates, and 5% other bioactive compounds. Organosulfur compounds significantly influence the immune physiology of fish, and in aquaculture, garlic improves appetite and stimulates growth.

Several studies have reported that turmeric and garlic can effectively control major pathogenic bacteria: Edwardsiella tarda, Vibrio anguillarum, Myxococcus piscicola, Yersinia ruckeri, and Aeromonas punctata.

Potential of turmeric and garlic for tilapia

According to the study, phytobiotics have broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties that facilitate the prevention and treatment of various infectious diseases. The advantage is that these substances are cheap, ecological, biodegradable, and biocompatible.

The innovative study explores the potential use of turmeric and garlic extracts in tilapia raised in biofloc systems. These ecological systems recycle fish waste to reduce water usage and waste. However, maintaining water quality is crucial, and disease outbreaks can be devastating.

This is where turmeric and garlic come into play!

The main results of the study were:

  • Fish fed diets with 0.1% turmeric or garlic extract showed a stronger immune response and better growth compared to the control group.
  • After a bacterial challenge, fish fed with spices had a significantly higher survival rate, demonstrating their potential to stimulate the immune system.
  • For the treatment of persistent infections, a mix of 75% turmeric and 25% garlic was more effective, helping fish recover from aggressive bacteria.

Application in biofloc tilapia farming

By feeding tilapia with diets enriched with turmeric and garlic extracts, scientists demonstrated:

  • Strengthening their immune system to combat Aeromonas hydrophila infections.
  • Improving fish growth and health, resulting in better yields for fish farmers.
  • Maintaining a healthy biofloc system by providing natural disease control and reducing the need for harmful antibiotics.


“This study suggests that dietary supplementation with 0.1% turmeric and garlic extracts separately as a prophylactic measure and supplementation with a 75:25 herbal blend (turmeric and garlic) at 0.1% as a therapeutic measure can effectively control A. hydrophila infection in GIFT tilapia raised in biofloc,” concluded the scientists.

This research marks a step toward a greener and safer future for aquaculture. Harnessing the power of nature, we can protect fish, safeguard human health, and ensure a sustainable fish supply. In this way, turmeric and garlic join the list of strategies to enhance tilapia immunity.

The study was supported by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in New Delhi and the ICAR-Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE) in Mumbai.

Babitha Rani Asanaru Majeedkutty
Division of Aquaculture, ICAR- Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai 400061, India
Email: babishibu@gmail.com

Bhadra, S., Krishnani, K. K., Sharma, A., Sahoo, U., & Majeedkutty, B. R. A. (2024). Curcuma longa and Allium sativum as health promoters in genetically improved farmed Tilapia (GIFT)-A green drug approach in hi-tech aquaculture using biofloc. Aquaculture, 740516.

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