How Fish Control Fire with Astaxanthin

Fire pits, single cell lifeforms, industrial furnaces,  pizza ovens, and combustion engines all share one thing in common. These structures create, contain, and control energy.  In each example,  toxic combustion byproducts are dumped out into the environment using air or water to dilute the toxins to non-lethal levels. 

Multicellular life faces a unique challenge.  If Cell #1 dumps its toxic byproducts into Cell #2  and vice versa then both cells die.(1)

This article describes  how fish evolved to contain and control combustion and combustion byproducts using a very powerful antioxidant called astaxanthin.

3.8B years ago the atmosphere was rich in methane and carbon dioxide. 

Astaxanthin did not exist and neither did fish. 

The first single cell lifeforms were bacteria and a bacteria-like cell called archaea. 

Some bacteria evolved to use carbon dioxide,  water,  and sunlight to make and store energy in the form of sugars and starches via photosynthesis.  Other bacteria got energy by fermenting these sugars and starches and others evolved to  break down a range of other non-organic chemicals. 

Archaea are anaerobic, only surviving in low oxygen environments using chemical combustion for energy.    Their combustion byproducts include methane,  carbon dioxide and Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS).  (fish carry around archaea in their gut as part of their microbiome to help with digestion) 

Nothing much happened until about 2.5B years ago.   The expelling of oxygen by photosynthesis flipped the atmosphere from one rich in methane and carbon dioxide to one rich in oxygen. (2) 

Archaea needed a place to hide
from the oxygen rich environment or find a new way of life.  Through a process called endosymbiosis they merged into a bacteria,  ultimately creating the first mitochondria. Cells incorporated mitochondria creating a new class of life-form, Eukaryotes, aka the plant and animal kingdom. Eukaryotes are cells with functional organelles such as the nucleus and mitochondria. Many if not most of this new life form was heterotrophic: They needed sugars for their metabolic function. Autotrophs make sugars from carbon dioxide and energy for instance, sunshine.

Mitochondria use oxygen and sugars to make and store energy by the ADP->ATP process.  The combustion byproducts are carbon dioxide and toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS). Carbon dioxide was dumped overboard but ROS was a much more difficult problem.  ROS is so highly reactive that it quickly oxidizes and damages the mitochondria and cell DNA as well as interferes with intracellular chemistry. 

To thrive, eukaryotes needed much more powerful antioxidants and started to make carotenoids (3) to counter ROS production. 

It took 1.8 Billion years for single cell Eukaryotes to make the "perfect" antioxidant,  astaxanthin. 

Astaxanthin solved several problems. It provided rigidity and strength to the cell and mitochondria wall. It protected the cell from viruses and bacteria. Astaxanthin prevented ROS from attacking the mitochondria and cell DNA. It also protected other metals, minerals and acids from being oxidized by ROS freeing them up for other essential metabolic molecular functions.

Let’s take ascorbic acid (vitamin C) as an example. Vitamin C is a mild antioxidant easily oxidized by ROS.  As an antioxidant, astaxanthin  is 5000X more powerful.  Cells producing astaxanthin suddenly could use vitamin C to make other compounds, most importantly collagen.

Collagen was used to form the first blood vessels that could carry nutrients to cells and remove waste products.  For first time in history,  cell #1 did not dump its combustion byproducts into Cell #2.  

The creation of astaxanthin,  then collagen,  sparked the Cambrian Explosion (4)  creating the multicellular lifeforms that we know today.

Two observations:

Once astaxanthin showed up 700M years ago, no other more powerful carotenoid was ever needed or created. 

Higher order animals including most feed fish evolved to drop the whole carotenoid process entirely instead taking astaxanthin in by eating other fish. 

Salmon take up oxygen in water which has only 8 ppm oxygen. They metabolize oxygen of about 1000 ± 200 mg O2/kg/hr  depending upon activity. So about 72,000 mg of oxygen a day for a 3 kg salmon of which 2% will be ROS,  about 1,440 mg of ROS every day. To mitigate this ROS,  salmon eat copepods, krill & shrimp (astaxanthin makers) as well as higher order feed fish that don't make astaxanthin but feed on astaxanthin producers.  

When we industrialized salmon production, the industry substituted soy and corn for marine proteins and extruding feeds at temperatures that denature micronutrients.  

Without astaxanthin, fish are burning a chemical wildfire inside their cells that will slow growth,  impair their immune system and cause deformities.  

To contain and control the fire burning and escaping from their mitochondria,  they need astaxanthin in the right form and delivered to the right place.

Synthetic astaxanthin and astaxanthin made by yeast and bacteria make a toxic isomer or variant of astaxanthin and fail on both fronts. 

Amplifeed Topcoat uses algae to make the right form and our patented process to get astaxanthin to the right place.   

The results speak for themselves. 99% of our fish are alive and well at month 12, no vaccines, antibiotics, GMOs or growth hormones.  




(1) This is the theme of John Conway’s Game of Life (Conway's Game of Life - Wikipedia) based on John Leech’s Leech Lattice. ( Leech lattice - Wikipedia)

(2) The Great Oxidation Event 

(3) There are over 1,100 types of carotenoids and two subclasses. Xanthophyll carotenoids (contain oxygen) and carotenes (hydrocarbons only).

The antioxidant activity of a molecule is based upon its conjugated chain length. The more double-bonds the better, as these double bonds contain electrons that are easily donated. For example, the ROS hydrogen peroxide (H202) can be converted into 2 H2O and 2 O2. 

Astaxanthin has 13 conjugated double-bonds whereas β-carotene (vitamin A) only has 11, making astaxanthin five times more powerful as an antioxidant.