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Plankton Culture for Feeding Larval Fish. Introduction. You’ve got larval fish!! Good job!! Now what?? If you’ve researched then it shouldn’t be a big deal, because you’re ready to feed those little critters!

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Plankton Culture for Feeding Larval Fish

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Plankton culture for feeding larval fish

Plankton Culture for Feeding Larval Fish



  • You’ve got larval fish!! Good job!!

  • Now what??

  • If you’ve researched then it shouldn’t be a big deal, because you’re ready to feed those little critters!

  • Mostly food for larval fish is size dependant. If they can get it down and it doesn’t damage their gut lumen, then it might be a good food.

  • Not all larval food is created equally. We’ll consider micro plants as first feeding options, then progress toward larger and larger prey items.

Microalgae phytoplankton

Microalgae (phytoplankton)

  • Nutritionally, microalgae are a good source of macro and micronutrients for some larval fish.

  • Fatty acids and pigments gained from ingestion of microalgae are especially important for larval fish health.

  • Table 1 and 2 highlights some of these features.

Table 1 approximate percent nutritional composition of several microalgae fed to larval fish

Table 1. Approximate percent nutritional composition of several microalgae fed to larval fish.

Species ProteinFatCarbAsh

Chaetoceros muelleri 35302015

Pavlora virdis 601616 8

Tetraselmus tetratheie 30 52738

Isochrysis galbana 46222210

Table 1

Table 1

SpeciesEPA % Total n-3 FA %




Phaeodactylumtricornutum8.6 9.6

Tetraselmustetratheie6.4 8.1

Isochrysisgalbana 3.522.5

Isochrysisaffgalbana 0.5 3.3

Spirulina the ultimate food

Spirulina: The Ultimate Food?

  • Cultured for over 600 years.

  • ~65-68% protein

    • (similar to herring)

  • One acre of this stuff

    produces 10 tons of protein

    (wheat only gets you 0.16 tons)

Other goodies

Other Goodies…

  • Chlorella and Scenedesmus are also excellent sources of protein.

  • Could yield 40 tons/acre/yr

  • That would be feeding 1000cows for a year with a one acrepond of this stuff 3 ft deep!!

Plankton culture for feeding larval fish

Spirulina is a single-celled, spiral-shaped blue-green microalgae. Highly digestible food, 60% vegetable protein, which is predigested by the algae. It is higher in protein than any other food. 1 tsp of Spirulina contains 280% DV Beta Carotene, 110% B12, 15% Iron, 2% Calcium and no fat. Its outstanding nutritional profile also includes the essential fatty acids, GLA fatty acid, lipids, the nucleic acids (RNA and DNA), B complex, vitamin C and E and phytochemicals, such as carotenoids, chlorophyll (blood purifier), and phycocyanin (a blue pigment), which is a protein that is known to inhibit cancer. The carotenoids and chlorophyll may also contribute to Spirulina's anticancer and apparent immunogenic effects. Spirulina is two to six times richer in B12 than its nearest rival, raw beef liver. Spirulina is 58 times richer than raw spinach in iron. Spirulina is nature's richest whole-food source of Vitamin E. It's 3 times richer than raw wheat germ and its biological activity is 49% greater than synthetic vitamin E. Spirulina is nature's richest whole-food source of Beta-Carotene (Pro Vitamin A). It's 25 times richer than raw carrots. Unlike the preformed vitamin A of synthetics and fish liver oils, beta-carotene is completely nontoxic even in mega doses. Spirulina is nature's richest whole-food source of Antioxidants. It contains a spectrum of every natural antioxidant known, including: the antioxidant vitamins B-1 and B-6; the minerals zinc, manganese and copper; the amino acid methionine; and the superantioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin E and trace element selenium. Spirulina is nature's richest whole-food source of Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA). Its oils are 3 times richer in GLA than evening primrose oil. Studies have indicated that GLA helps lower blood cholesterol and high blood pressure and eases such conditions as arthritis, premenstrual pain, eczema and other skin conditions. Spirulina is nature's richest whole-food source of Chlorophyll - many times richer than alfalfa or wheat grass! Spirulina is nature's richest whole-food source of Complete High-Biological Value Protein: Spirulina - 60-70% Soybeans - 30-35% Beef - 18-22% Eggs - 12-16% Tofu - 8% Milk - 3%


Phytoplankton production

Phytoplankton Production

  • Feeding Larvae

    • Cell Size 4-8 microns

    • Species

      • Isochrysis galbana

      • Chaetoceros gracilis

      • Nannochloris sp.

      • Chlorella sp.

      • Pavlova lutheri

Pavlova lutheri

Pavlova lutheri

  • Morphology

    • Golden brown

    • Spherical with 2 flagella

    • 3-6 µm

  • Salinity

    • 8-32 ppt

  • Temperature

    • 11-26 °C

  • Culture media

    • Guillards f/2

  • Proximate Analysis

    • 52% Protein

    • 24% Carbs

    • 29% Fat

Isochrysis galbana

Isochrysis galbana

  • Morphology

    • Tahiti (T-Iso strain)

    • Golden brown

    • Cells spherical with 2 flagella

    • 5-6 µm length, 2-4 µm wide

  • Salinity

    • 8-32 ppt

  • Temperature

    • 23 - 28°C

  • Culture media

    • Guillards f/2

  • Proximate Analysis

    • 47% Protein

    • 24% Carbs

    • 17% Fat

Chaetoceros gracilis

Chaetoceros gracilis

  • Morphology

    • Golden brown diatom

    • Medium-size 12 µm wide, 10.5 µm long

    • Cells united in chains

  • Salinity

    • 26 - 32 ppt

  • Temperature

    • 28 - 30°C

  • Culture media

    • Guillards f/2 with Si

  • Proximate Analysis

    • 28% Protein

    • 23% Carbs

    • 9% Fat

Plankton for larger fry shellfish

Plankton for Larger Fry/Shellfish

  • Broodstock and Spat

    • Cell Size 10-24 microns

    • Species

      • Tetraselmis sp.

        • Green

      • Thalassiosra sp.

        • Diatom

Tetraselmis sp

Tetraselmis sp.

  • Morphology

    • Ovoid green cells

    • 14 to 23 µm L X 8 µm W

    • 4 flagella

  • Salinity

    • 28-36 ppt

  • Temperature

    • 22-26°C

  • Culture media

    • Guillards f/2

  • Proximate Analysis

    • 55% Protein

    • 18% Carbs

    • 14% Fat

Thalassiosra sp

Thalassiosra sp.

  • Morphology

    • Golden brown diatom

    • Cells united in chains

    • Barrel-shaped

    • Non-motile

    • 4 µm

  • Salinity

    • 26 – 32 ppt

  • Temperature

    • 22-29 °C

  • Culture media

    • Guillards f/2 with Si

  • Other characteristics

Micro algae culture

Micro Algae Culture

  • General Conditions

  • Culture Phases

  • Culture Water

  • Sterilization

  • Nutrient Enrichment

  • Inoculation

  • Cell Counts

  • Harvest and Feeding

  • Stock Culture

Table 2 2 a generalized set of conditions for culturing micro algae modified from anonymous 1991

Table 2.2. A generalized set of conditions for culturing micro-algae (modified from Anonymous, 1991).

Figure 2 3 five growth phases of micro algae cultures

Figure 2.3. Five growth phases of micro-algae cultures.

1 lag induction phase

1. Lag/Induction Phase

  • This phase, during which little increase in cell density occurs, is relatively long when an algal culture is transferred from a plate to liquid culture.

  • Cultures inoculated with exponentially growing algae have short lag phases, which can seriously reduce the time required for upscaling.

  • The lag in growth is attributed to the physiological adaptation of the cell metabolism to growth, such as the increase of the levels of enzymes and metabolites involved in cell division and carbon fixation.

2 exponential phase

2. Exponential Phase

  • Cell density increases as a function of time t according to a logarithmic function:

    Ct = C0 x emt

  • Ct and C0 being the cell concentrations at time t and 0, respectively.

  • m = specific growth rate. The specific growth rate is mainly dependent on algal species, light intensity and temperature.

Plankton culture for feeding larval fish

3. Phase of declining growth rate

Cell division slows down when nutrients, light, pH, carbon dioxide or other physical and chemical factors begin to limit growth.

4. Stationary phase

In the fourth stage the limiting factor and the growth rate are balanced, which results in a relatively constant cell density.

5. Death or “crash” phase

During the final stage, water quality deteriorates and nutrients are depleted to a level incapable of sustaining growth. Cell density decreases rapidly and the culture eventually collapses.

Why did my culture crash

Why Did My Culture Crash??

  • A better question might be why did it not crash?

  • Culture crashes causes:

    Nutrient depletionOxygen deficiency

    OverheatingpH disturbance

    All of the above

  • The key to the success of algal production is maintaining all cultures in the exponential phase of growth.

  • Moreover, the nutritional value of the produced algae is inferior once the culture is beyond phase 3 due to reduced digestibility, deficient composition, and possible production of toxic metabolites.

Culture water bad

Culture Water Bad?

  • Sources

    • Seawater

    • Saltwater wells

    • Prepared seawater

  • Salinity

    • 26-32 ppt

Nutrient enrichment not right

Nutrient Enrichment Not Right?

  • Guillard’s f/2

    • Part A and B

    • 0.5 ml/L each part

    • Na2Si03 for diatoms

Sterilization techniques poor

Sterilization Techniques Poor?

  • Methods

    • Heat Pasteurization

      • 80◦C and cool naturally

    • Autoclave (heat and pressure)

    • Sodium Hypochlorite (bleach)

      • 0.5 ml/L (10 drops)

      • Neutralize: 10-15 ml sodium thiosulfate (248 g/L) per liter

    • Hydrochloric acid (muriatic)

      • 0.2 ml/L (4 drops)

      • Neutralize: Na2CO3 0.4-0.9 g/L

Figure 2 5 aeration filter fox 1983

Figure 2.5. Aeration filter (Fox, 1983)

Culture types

Culture Types

  • Indoor/Outdoor. Indoor culture allows control over illumination, temperature, nutrient level, contamination with predators and competing algae, whereas outdoor algal systems make it very difficult to grow specific algal cultures for extended periods.

  • Open/Closed. Open cultures such as uncovered ponds and tanks (indoors or outdoors) are more readily contaminated than closed culture vessels such as tubes, flasks, carboys, bags, etc.

  • Axenic (=sterile)/Xenic. Axenic cultures are free of any foreign organisms such as bacteria and require a strict sterilization of all glassware, culture media and vessels to avoid contamination. The latter makes it impractical for commercial operations.

Plankton culture for feeding larval fish

Table 2.6. Advantages and disadvantages of various algal culture techniques.

Batch culture

Batch Culture

  • The batch culture consists of a single inoculation of cells into a container of fertilized seawater followed by a growing period of several days and finally harvesting when the algal population reaches its maximum or near-maximum density.

  • In practice, algae are transferred to larger culture volumes prior to reaching the stationary phase and the larger culture volumes are then brought to a maximum density and harvested.

  • Your handout depicts an example of how consecutive stages might be utilized: test tubes, 2 l flasks, 5 and 20 l carboys, 160 l cylinders, 500 l indoor tanks, 5,000 l to 25,000 l outdoor tanks (Figs. 2.6., 2.7).



  • Culture vessels

    • 1,000 ml flask

    • 18.7 L (5 gal.) Carboy (glass)

    • 178 L (47 gal) Transparent Tank

  • Add enough algae to give a strong tint to the water

    • 100,000-200,000/ml

  • Lighting

    • Types

      • Sunlight

      • Fluorescent

      • VHO fluorescent

      • Metal halide

    • Highest Densities: 24/7

Plankton culture for feeding larval fish

Figure 2.8.

Carboy culture apparatus

(Fox, 1983).

Continuous culture

Continuous Culture

  • The continuous culture method (supplied with fertilized seawater continuously, the excess culture is simultaneously washed out)

  • Permits the maintenance of cultures very close to the maximum growth rate! Very desireable.

    Turbidostat culture: Algal concentration (cell density) is kept at a preset level by diluting the culture with fresh medium by means of an automatic system.

    Chemostat culture: Fresh medium is introduced

    into the culture at a steady, predetermined rate.

    Addition of a limiting vital nutrient (e.g. nitrate) at

    a fixed rate is also required. This way the growth

    rate and not the cell density is kept constant.

Cell counts

Peak Algae Density

I. Galbana

10-12 million cells/ml

10-14 days

2 wk stability

T. pseudonana

4 million cells/ml

3 days

5 day stability


Count total in centermost 1 mm

Multiply by 10,000

Product = number/ml

Cell Counts

Motile cells should be killed

Harvest and feeding to fry

Algae Density

Wk 1 = 50,000 cells/ml

Wk 2+ = 100,000 cells/ml

Onset of spatting = 200,000/ml

Tank cleared in 24hrs

Larvae Density

5-10 larvae/ml

Harvest and Feeding to Fry

Liters to feed = (TD x V)/CD

TD = Target Density (1,000s/ml)

V = Volume of larval tank (thousands of L)

CD = Cell Density (millions/ml)

Harvesting and feeding

Harvesting and Feeding

  • Batch

    • Total harvest occurs once or over several days

  • Semi-Continuous

    • Works well with diatoms

    • Part of the algae remains in the vessel

    • New media is added to replenish the algae removed

Stock culture

Purchase pure strain

Avoid contamination

No aeration

Half filed container



Test tubes

Conical flasks


1 drop/wk for T. pseudonana

1 drop/2 wk for I. galbana

Stock Culture

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