As with other livestock production, antibiotics are widely used in aquaculture to prevent disease. However, a healthier, more sustainable alternative to drugs may soon emerge-seaweed.
Building on previous research, researchers at the University of Australia’s Sunshine Coast recently experimented with adding 11 different types of powdered algae to a pelleted commercial diet of captive dark leopards (Siganus fuscescens).
Although three species of algae have been shown to be effective in enhancing the immune response of animals, the red algae Asparagopsis taxiformis has performed better than its counterparts. Even when the supplement was only 3% of the fish feed, the immune response in sigans increased by 4 times. This means the algae made the fish four times more resistant to pathogen infestation.
In fact, seaweed has performed better than the four conventional immune-boosting foods currently used in aquaculture.
Interestingly, eating red asparagopsis also reduces the amount of methane emitted by cows when burping. Scientists are conducting research though to see if a seaweed feed supplement will strengthen the immune systems of cattle and other farm animals.