Critical Micro Feeds to optimize quality egg production and larval development


John Carberry, Terry Snell and Matthew Carberry

In their 2013 review, Fantastically plastic: fish larvae equipped for a new world Karin Pittman et al detail how important various nutritional and metabolic factors are to larval development and suggest that this larval development is determinant in the outcome of the adult fish during its life time.

In their 2017 review Linking rates of metabolism and growth in marine fish larvae Marta Moyano et al detail various nutritional and metabolic factors to growth and development of marine fish larvae. 

In these and other reviews and literature, no mention is made of the role of astaxanthin in facilitating greater energy production by the mitochondria or several other critical micronutrients. Certainly, no data exists for showing how these factors can influence outcomes in egg production, larval development or outcomes in grow out stemming from these factors.

Sustainable Aquatics (SA) has been studying and experimenting and performing advanced Research and Development addressing these topics for nearly 20 years. We have made a series of discoveries which improve fish diets in aquaculture as never before demonstrated.

SA is a unique inland dry floor marine hatchery for marine ornamental fish. We employ nearly 50 people, we operate 5000 square meters of indoor hatchery facilities, we collect between 6 and 10 new nests every day, 365 days a year, and we have always done a lot of experiments splitting many of these collections to do evaluations of various hypothesis and treatments.

Ornamental fish are luxury items purchased by very demanding, picky customers who expect perfection. SA consistently ships 25,000 live fish a month to 40 countries and 50 states in the US and we house and feed about 300,000 fish on any given day. We have a yield on eggs hatched to sale of more than 99%. We see nearly no deformities. Such culture success is necessary to serve and satisfy our discriminating, fussy customers.

The euphotic zone in the seas have been very stable for hundreds of millions of years. Understanding the composition of the food pyramid in the euphotic zone is essential to tailoring feeds for fish broodstock and larvae for optimal health and development. Fish in the wild on this diet do not suffer from disease or deformities, the mode of death is most all from predation.

The euphotic zone starts at the surface and goes as deep as 200 or more meters depending upon how clear the water is, how deep the sunlight can penetrate. Several factors influence how deep the sun light can penetrate including turbidity from particulates and blooms of various phytoplankton.

More than 90% of all marine life lives in the photic zone. The disphotic zone begins at the base of the euphotic zone. The euphotic zone together with the disphotic zone coincides with the epipelagic zone. The zone below the euphotic zone, is called the aphotic zone. For the most part, the aphotic zone has been thought to be barren, but this turns out to be wrong. A picture can perhaps best describe marine architecture:



So the food pyramid has three main foundations:

  •  Phytoplankton are the base of the pyramid and are its foundation.
  •  Zooplankton for the most part eat phytoplankton, but also the product of bacterial processing of “marine snow”.
  •  Most of the phytoplankton and zooplankton does not get eaten, but dies and sinks, after mostly very short life cycles, often days or weeks. Dead organisms fall from the euphotic zone down into the Aphotic zone, where they can spend months, years, decades, even centuries, falling and drifting. During this period bacteria are very busy working on this marine snow, converting it into very nutritious feeds which are often brought up to the surface by upwellings. In terms of biomass, the marine snow is probably the largest organic component in the euphotic zone, followed by plankton.

 SA has learned that there are several important micronutrients in the plankton resident in the world’s euphotic zones as well as the products from the bacterial processing of marine snow. We have come to understand these both in terms of their presence in the food chain and in terms of the functional biochemistry of degradation. We have also come to understand the engineering of micronutrient bioavailability.

 SA takes as established fact that there is a “time clock” driving fish development, that is operating on a strict schedule from the time of investment of the vitellogenin in the egg to the end of larval development, through metamorphosis. We take as established fact that this time clock drives all larval development, including the gastrointestinal system, the endocrine system, the nervous system and the muscular system and that failure to support development on this schedule with necessary energy and nutrients, will permanently compromise the animal.-

We find that selenium, iodine, taurine, and astaxanthin are all abundant and very bioavailable in marine food webs. We believe that no commercial hatchery is supplying these nutritional requirements. Nor is any commercial hatchery supplying the energy and nutrition requirements to broodstock and in larval diets that allow the fish larvae to achieve optimal developmental rates.

In terms of energy, astaxanthin takes up residence in the mitochondrial and cell plasma membranes, where it protects the mitochondria from the destructive Reactive Oxidative Species that are associated with the mitochondria’s capacity to generate energy:


Cells do not divide till there is sufficient energy to support cell division. Otherwise they enter apoptosis and self-destruct.  Mitigating ROS also protects several important cellular processes to proceed without impairment, including the protection of arachidonic acid (for multiple pathways including the eicosanoid cascades), COQ10 (which is the essential enzyme for the conversion of one oxygen atom and two adenosine diphosphate to two adenosine triphosphate and the two extra elections for energy, selenium (critical for most thyroid functions), taurine and others. So a requisite amount of bioavailable astaxanthin is critical for optimal metabolism and development.

SA has addressed these issues with products which include Amplifeed Topcoat, Amplifeed Replete, and SA Hatchery Feed, among others. Using these products in broodstock feed, in the production of live feeds like rotifers, and larval feeds, will produce stunning improvements in fish survival, health, and reproduction. For instance, we have tested and characterized these products in tests in our hatchery and have observed the great performance of these products in our daily operations. 

Amplifeed Fed Rotifers Astaxanthin content in tissue:



In this case the unextracted is cracked Haematoccocus pluvialis biomass, the extracted was processed by Super Critical Carbon Dioxide (SCCO2) extraction and the oleoresin is our in house name for our lipid rich nano emulsified astaxanthin.


The Impact of SA’s SN’s Lipid Rich Nano Emulsified Astaxanthin compared to SCCO2 extracted Astaxanthin on Egg Quantity, Quality and Yolk Volume:


 The Impact of SA’s SN’s Lipid Rich Nano Emulsified Astaxanthin compared to SCCO2 extracted Astaxanthin on Clown Fish Nest count from 220 Pairs of Clown Fish:



The Difference 25 ppm Lipid Rich Nano Emulsified Astaxanthin fed to Rotifers then fed to Clown Fish make in 14-day development: The proofs of all This Theory:


These 14 day fish are achieving terminal growth rates and 4X body mass and the only difference is 25 ppm lipid rich nano emulsified astaxanthin, providing sufficient energy for cell division and metamorphic requirements for growth and development, a stunning proof.




  • Fish have a “terminal growth rate” programmed by a time clock, and to develop into healthy fast-growing fish they need to achieve this growth rate;
  • To achieve this growth rate the broodstock and larvae must have a lipid rich nano emulsified astaxanthin to supply required energy levels and protect molecular pathways from ROS;
  • To achieve this growth rate and development they need sufficient amounts of bioavailable micronutrients including iodine, selenium, taurine and astaxanthin.
  • SN’s products including the Amplifeed Topcoat for broodstock, Amplifeed Replete for larvae, larvae, and SA Hatchery Diet fish feeds supply all nutritional requirements;
  • SN’s SOPs and products and support for rotifer growth and enrichment helps fulfill these requirements in fish being fed live feeds;
  • Amplifeed Topcoat or SA Hatchery Diet fulfills these needs in larval feed and grow out.
  • SN supplies lipid rich nano emulsified astaxanthin oils as well as incorporating it into our feeds and supplements. 
  • SA and SN provide systems and protocols for rotifer cultivation which precludes pathogenic bacterial infections and provides a full spectrum nutritional profile.
  • Applying these protocols and products in hatcheries will provide attractive compelling economic benefits.