Fish Physiology and Biochemistry

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 1–16 | Cite as

Novel methodologies in marine fish larval nutrition

  • Luis E. C. Conceição
  • Cláudia Aragão
  • Nadège Richard
  • Sofia Engrola
  • Paulo Gavaia
  • Sara Mira
  • Jorge Dias


Major gaps in knowledge on fish larval nutritional requirements still remain. Small larval size, and difficulties in acceptance of inert microdiets, makes progress slow and cumbersome. This lack of knowledge in fish larval nutritional requirements is one of the causes of high mortalities and quality problems commonly observed in marine larviculture. In recent years, several novel methodologies have contributed to significant progress in fish larval nutrition. Others are emerging and are likely to bring further insight into larval nutritional physiology and requirements. This paper reviews a range of new tools and some examples of their present use, as well as potential future applications in the study of fish larvae nutrition. Tube-feeding and incorporation into Artemia of 14C-amino acids and lipids allowed studying Artemia intake, digestion and absorption and utilisation of these nutrients. Diet selection by fish larvae has been studied with diets containing different natural stable isotope signatures or diets where different rare metal oxides were added. Mechanistic modelling has been used as a tool to integrate existing knowledge and reveal gaps, and also to better understand results obtained in tracer studies. Population genomics may assist in assessing genotype effects on nutritional requirements, by using progeny testing in fish reared in the same tanks, and also in identifying QTLs for larval stages. Functional genomics and proteomics enable the study of gene and protein expression under various dietary conditions, and thereby identify the metabolic pathways which are affected by a given nutrient. Promising results were obtained using the metabolic programming concept in early life to facilitate utilisation of certain nutrients at later stages. All together, these methodologies have made decisive contributions, and are expected to do even more in the near future, to build a knowledge basis for development of optimised diets and feeding regimes for different species of larval fish.


Fish larvae nutrition Genomics Proteomics Tracer studies Modelling Metabolic programming 



Amino acid(s)


Days after hatching


Differential in-gel electrophoresis


Fatty acid(s)


Gas chromatography


High-performance liquid chromatography


Highly unsaturated fatty acids


Isotope-ratio mass spectrometry


Marker-assisted selection


Nuclear magnetic resonance


Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis


Polymerase chain reaction


Quantitative trait loci


Sodium dodecyl sulphate


Single nucleotide polymorphism


Suppression subtractive hybridisation



C. Aragão, S. Engrola, S. Mira and N. Richard acknowledge financial support by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, Portugal, through grants SFRH/BPD/37197/2007, SFRH/BPD/49051/2008, SFRH/BPD/23514/2005 and SFRH/BDP/34888/2007, respectively. Project HYDRAA—PTDC/MAR/71685/2006, granted by “Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia” (FCT), Portugal, with the support of FEDER, is also acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luis E. C. Conceição
    • 1
  • Cláudia Aragão
    • 1
  • Nadège Richard
    • 1
  • Sofia Engrola
    • 1
  • Paulo Gavaia
    • 1
  • Sara Mira
    • 1
  • Jorge Dias
    • 1
  1. 1.CCMAR—Centro de Ciências do MarUniversidade do AlgarveFaroPortugal

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