Unconventional Ingredients for Tilapia Feed

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By Milthon Lujan

The use of the additive increases the cellular resistance of fish in intensive culture systems, with the potential to improve health and reduce production costs. Source: EMBRAPA
Tilapia. Source: EMBRAPA

The growth of the aquaculture industry faces various challenges, including the production of aquaculture feed based on ingredients from sustainable sources. In this pursuit, a team of researchers from the Pontifical Bolivarian University published a scientific review to identify and classify unconventional ingredients from terrestrial plants, animals, algae, and fungi with potential for tilapia feed.

The Study

The researchers conducted a systematic review based on an adaptation of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) methodology. They reviewed documents in the Scopus and Web of Science (WOS) databases.

They created tables regarding the incidence of the evaluated ingredients on tilapia growth rates, selecting documents presenting results related to weight gain, specific growth rate, and feed conversion rate.

Feeding Experiment Publications

The study reports that the majority of scientific publications originated in Brazil (20.67%), followed by Egypt (18.27%), Thailand (7.69%), China, and Saudi Arabia, each with 5.29%.

Furthermore, the researchers note that 75% of the studies were conducted with Oreochromis niloticus, 13.19% with red tilapia hybrid (O. niloticus × O. mossambicus), 6.25% with GIFT (genetically improved O. niloticus), 4.87% with O. mossambicus, and 0.69% with O. niloticus × O. aureus.

“Moreover, 61.81% of the studies tested supplements, 37.5% produced concentrated feeds including the studied raw material, and 0.69% did not report information on this,” they emphasized.

Unconventional Ingredients

According to the study, some of the unconventional ingredients found were used to replace fishmeal, soy, or similar protein sources. Out of 144 reviewed documents, the researchers report that 50.7% evaluated terrestrial plants, 22.2% animals, 13.9% algae, 9% fungi, and the remainder is a combination of the mentioned categories.

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It is important to note that the study excluded studies based on bacteria.

Terrestrial Plants

The most researched species, in order of importance, include Linum usitatissimum L., Helianthus annuus L., Salvadora persica L., Moringa oleifera, Cocos nucifera L., Astragalus membranaceus, and Olea europaea.


Highlighted raw materials in the animal category are Hermetia illucens L., followed by by-products of pigs, poultry, and shrimp. The study notes that black soldier fly larvae and white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) were the most employed.


In this category, Saccharomyces cerevisiae stands out, used as an extract in tilapia diets.


Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) is a microalgae employed as an unconventional ingredient in tilapia feed.


“We conclude that most of the unconventional sources analyzed have a potentially positive impact as alternatives for tilapia production,” emphasizes the study.

However, the researchers also highlighted that some of these potential unconventional ingredients pose certain risks to tilapia survival. Plants S. persica and H. brasiliensis, and microalgae A. platensis and C. vulgaris were identified as having some risks.

The study was funded by Technologies in Urban Agriculture from Minciencias, financed with resources from the Autonomous Heritage National Fund for Science, Technology, and Innovation Francisco José de Caldas.

Reference (open access)
Zuluaga-Hernández, Christian David, Carlos A. Hincapié, and Marisol Osorio. 2023. “Non-Conventional Ingredients for Tilapia (Oreochromis spp.) Feed: A Systematic Review” Fishes 8, no. 11: 556. https://doi.org/10.3390/fishes8110556

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