The Azolla sp: an unconventional resource valuable in aquaculture feed

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* The Azolla: Its use in feed for aquaculture species

* Bibliography


Aquatic organisms such as fish and shellfish have high protein requirements, therefore, used for feeding the nutrient-rich foods. Fish meal has traditionally been used as the main resource, but its high cost and increased the growing demand for aquaculture, as well as habits of cultivated land, have made efforts be made to find alternative sources unconventional protein. This paper reviews the use of Azolla as an alternative source of vegetable protein to substitute the conventional balanced whole or in part in aquaculture feed.

Keywords: Azolla, aquaculture, fish, shrimp.


The demand for feed for shrimp is a growing trend in the world (Casas et al., 2006). For the shrimp culture industry in recent years has shown remarkable growth worldwide (FAO, 2000). This has generated increased demand for feed for shrimp and a growing interest in finding new unconventional ingredients to bringing the consumer a value-added product (Lawrence, 1985 and Casas et al., 2006) .

The search for alternative food production in the agricultural field and emphasizing the main line using available natural resources is an important aspect, one of the biggest challenges has been to find sources of readily available proteins (FAME, 2000).

In this sense, there are local products as aquatic plants called conventional foods, which are not universal use in animal feed, but good use can become an important element of sustainable production systems, by virtue of its low cost, further recognizing that some of them to accumulate in fixed locations can become environmental pollutants (Llanes et al., 2003).

The aquatic macrophytes have been considered by several authors as a pest due to its rapid growth sometimes come to invade gaps and cause various problems (Esminger, 1995). However, if handled properly spread their power, their ability to absorb nutrients and other compounds bioaccumulation of water make them a useful tool in the treatment of wastewater. In the world and particularly in Asia, farmers produce and harvest aquatic plants for different purposes, which include green manure and animal food source (Becerra, 1991).

Different authors Van Hove and Lopez (1983) and Tacon (1989) and Becerra et al. (1994) reported values of 25 -33% of crude protein in dry matter for Azolla, about 28% crude protein were able to Tacon (1989), Becerra et al. (1994): Garcia and Molinet (2005). On the other hand Becerra et al. (1994) and Leng et al., (1994) showed that Azolla has an adequate amino acid balance which makes their use as food for fish and crustaceans.

Manifest several authors (Gelabert et al., 1988; Carrillo et al., 2000: Cruz et al., 2004), which in aquaculture one of the limiting factors is the development and production of food that meets all requirements for the species culture and that these prove affordable.

We should note that food is a decisive factor for the success of this activity and account for 50 – 70% of the total cost of production in any culture of aquatic organisms, which is why the food-nutrition has become one of the research and development areas of interest for camaronicuicultura (Tacon, 1995).

Today there is an almost universal tendency to constantly look for alternatives to the systems used in the field of aquaculture, with the laudable aim of increasing the yield and quality of them.>

II. Azolla: Its use in feed for aquaculture species

Some Features

High nutrient content

It grows on the water surface

Can be fed to animals in various forms (fresh or dry in the diet)

For its thin consistency

Provides a valuable source of nutrients

It grows quickly and its production is high

Azolla is an aquatic plant that most have been used in animal feed. China and possibly Vietnam are the countries where they are most aquatic plants have been used in animal feed, however, due to the lack of South-South communication and availability of information has made it difficult to assimilate so rewarding experience (Liu Zhung Zhu, 1996) in China and (Nigua Duc Ach, 1997) in Vietnam, who also recognize that the incorporation of Azolla to animal feed like pigs at a rate of 1-4 kg per day of fresh Azolla in relation to animal weight reduces feed costs by 40%.

Aquatic plants can also be used more conveniently (fresh or made from flour) and productive for food of certain fish, shellfish and other species, mainly herbivorous (Hernandez et al., 1995 and Hernandez, 2001).

Data for the use of Azolla as both fresh as flour in experiments to assess features such as: Consumption (kg / MS) Gain (g / day), conversion (kg DM / kg) of behavior in pigs and poultry are more in which many have had very favorable as told by Alcantara and Querubin (1989); Querubin et al. (1988), Becerra et al. (1990), these authors state that there is no disadvantage in performance traits when fed to animals to a third of the diet in the form of Azolla, and more importantly, prepared in different ways. It is logical to assume that some deterioration in feed conversion should be the answer to the incorporation of this material in food, because it contains a substantial amount of cell wall (vide supra).

This fern maintain a symbiotic relationship with cyanobacteria. This fact makes the azolla tend to contain relatively high levels of N and be an attractive protein source for animal feed, not only the livestock and poultry (Buckingham et al., 1978), but also in aquaculture species in way cool (Pantastico et al., 1986, Chen and Huang, 1987; The Know, 1992) or dry (Almazan et al., 1986, James et al., 1988; Siomi and Kitoh, 1994, Joseph et al. 1994). In fact, more information on the use of Azolla in diet of species of aquaculture and other animal species (Naegele 1998), although assessments have been integrated production systems for pigs, ducks, fish and Azolla (Gavina, 1987 .)

With Azolla pinnata Santiago et al. (1988) found that O. niloticus grows well with levels of up to 42% inclusion of this macrophyte meal in diets containing 35% protein. While El-Sayed (1992) observed marked reduction of growth in the same species, replacing animal protein with this fern in diets containing 30% protein. Apparently the differences are related to energy and protein content in diets. It is considered that the nutritional value of aquatic macrophytes as food is more fresh. Hassan and Edwards (1992) found that Azolla is an appropriate supplemental food for herbivorous fish such as tilapia (O. niloticus).

This fern is well accepted by many species of herbivorous fish. In some trials have shown that tilapia nilotica can consume 50 – 80% of their weight per day azolla digestion with a percentage close to 60%. When cultured fish azolla should provide some open space in the layer forming the Azolla for fish to reach the surface of water without being hindered by the fern. Also during periods of rapid growth azolla excess must be removed to avoid situations where the fern can die and rush into the background raises the possibility of eurotropicacion (Bentsen et al., 1996).

There are new research areas of massive protein production in plants using halophytes as alternative sources, which can be integrated into semi-intensive farming systems, intensive commercial fish, crustaceans, marine and brackish water, using the nutrient-laden effluent, transforming in proteins, oils and carbohydrates for human consumption and animal.

Raises Tacon (1989) that aquatic fern (dry basis) can be used in shrimp feed and fish, as it reveals a good nutritive value: crude protein: 25.3, crude fat: 3.8, crude fiber, ash 9.3 and 12.5 .

Santiago et al. (1988), El-Salle (1992) included in diets for tilapia the Azolla sp 10% growth and reached levels above the control treatment, but when included in diets of Azolla sp on a 25% growth and reached values lower than the control treatment.

These aquatic plants can be used as feed for farm animals and fish (Than et al. 1997) because they are sources of high nutritional value protein (18 to 32% PB) but have a deficiency that are too voluminous for their food low dry matter production (5 to 6%) (Bytniewska et al., 1980).

Gopal (1987) said that they should be analyzed in the high water content of the food, suggesting a drying treatment to reduce the volume of the inclusion or for silage which adds a little system. For the above we recommend the possibility of a better use of these foods in smaller species of farm or freshwater fish, which are promising in terms of high yields of biomass.

Results are reported in Bangladesh by Journey et al. (1991), under experimental conditions, which has developed a system to produce azolla in a central pool, using it in a food fresh tilapia in other nearby ponds. The fresh biomass yield is 4 t / ha / day, equivalent to 80 t dry matter / ha / year. By using this system in a single pond of 0.6 ha, occurred in a year and 4.5 tonnes of tilapia is estimated that it could duplicate the performance 10t/ha/a~no.

Hernandez et al. (1995) using the Azolla sp. In the feeding of fish and poultry production and results were satisfactory economic efficiency, demonstrating the benefits of this plant, which has also been recognized by other authors.

Azolla is noted for commercial plantings of O. hornorum and O. combined with balanced food mossambicus has proven adequate for growth in the state of Morelos, Mexico (Ponce and Fitz, 2004).

Edwards (1990) conducted an experiment where he tilapia yields of 3.7 t / ha / year from the fertilization of the water with excreta and 13.4 t / ha / year with the addition of Azolla as a nutritional supplement.

According to the chemical composition, aquatic plants are feasible to be used as partial substitutes for protein concentrates as part of diets for shrimp, fish and other farm animals, especially when taking into account the high cost of commercial foods. The use of certain aquatic plants for animal feed will depend on the needs, requirements and their quality.

These plants can be used as feed for herbivorous fish and shrimp or processed into flour to be included as an ingredient in feed. Macrophytes are distributed globally, being found in almost all environments and are usually considered as pests by interfering with various economic activities, it would be important to use (Appler and Jauncey, 1983, Singhal and Mudgal, 1984).

III. Bibliography

* Alcantara, P.F. and Querubin, L.J. 1989. Feeding value of Azolla meal (mixed variety) for starter and growing pigs. Philippine Journal of Veterinary Science, 15:22-29

* Almazan, GJ, Pullin, RSV, Angeles, AF, Manalo, TA, Agbayani, RA and Trono, M.T.B. 1986. Azolla pinnata as a dietary component for Nile tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus. In: First Asian Fisheries Forum (JL Maclean, LB Dizon and LV Hosillos, editors). Manila 1:523-528

* Appler, H.N. and Jauncey, K., 1983. The utilization of a filamentous green alga (Cladophora glomerata (L.) Kutzin) as a protein source in pelleted feeds for Sarotherodon (Tilapia) niloticus fingerlings. Aquaculture, 30: 21-30.

* Becerra, M., Murgueitio, E., Reyes, G. and Preston, T.R. 1990. Azolla filiculoides as Practical replacement for traditional protein supplements in diets for growing-finishing pigs based on sugar cane juice. Livestock Research for Rural Development, 2:15-22

* BECERRA, M., OGLE, B. AND PRESTON, T. R., 1994. Replacing effect of boiled whole soybeans with Azolla microphylla in the diet of growing ducks (manuscript). In Becerra, M. 1994. Evaluation of feeding systems for growing ducks based on aquatic plant and sugar cane juice. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Derparment of Animal Nutrition and Management. M.S.c. Thesis. Husdjurens f”or Instituonem Utfoddring Ochvard.

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* Bentsen, H. B., Gjedrem, T. M. and Dan, N. C. 1996. Breeding plan for Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) in Viet Nam INGA Report No. 2, International Network on Genetic in Aquaculture, p: 10.

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* Chen, D.F. and Huang, C.Y. 1987. Study on Azolla as a fish fodder. In: Proceedings of the Workshop on Azolla Use. International Rice Research Institute. Manila, p 270

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* El Sayed, A.F.M. 1992. Effects of substituting fish meal with Azolla pinnata in practial diets for fingerling and adult Nile tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus (L.). Aquaculture Fisheries Management, 23:167-173

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* Shiomi, N. and Kitoh, S. 1994. Culture of Azolla filiculoides Lam. in a pond and Its use as feed. In: Proceedings of the 6th International Symposium on Nitrogen Fixation with Non-Legumes (NA Hegazi, M. Fayez and M. Monie, editors). American University in Cairo Press. Cairo, p 463-468

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* VAN HOVE, C. AND LOPEZ, Y. 1983. In Azolla physiology. Technical Bulletin, National University of Colombia, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Palmira. Volume I, Number 1. p 43 – 58.


Yuniel Mendez Martinez

Filia Perez Tamales,

Juan J Perez Reyes

University of Granma

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

Center for the Study of Animal Production

Carretera Manzanillo, Km 17. 1/2 Bayamo, Granma