Consensus Report

Nutrient Requirements of Fish and Shrimp (2011)

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Report in Brief >>

The continued growth of the aquatic farming industry depends on the development of nutritious feeds that maximize fish growth and health while minimizing the environmental impacts caused by uneaten feed and animal waste—a challenge that can only be met with updated information on the nutritional requirements of fish and shrimp. This report, the latest in a series of National Research Council reports on the nutritional needs of fish, evaluates the most recent scientific literature on the nutrient requirements of several commercially important species of fish and shrimp. The report also reviews the role of aquaculture feeds in determining the nutritional value of seafood to humans, and identifies critical research needs for better defining fish and shrimp nutrient requirements.

Key Messages

  • Based on recent scientific literature on the nutrient requirements of fish and shrimp at all stages of life, the report provides an extensive discussion of each of the nutrient classes, including proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals and a review of experiments to determine nutrient requirements. This material forms the basis for updated values for the daily requirement intakes of essential nutrients such as lipids, amino acids, minerals, and vitamins.
  • Topics such as the digestive physiology and metabolism of fish are reviewed to provide context for understanding how to use nutritional data in preparing feeds and applying appropriate feeding regimens to support efficient aquaculture production.
  • Sustainable alternatives to the fish meal and fish oil found in many commercial aquaculture feeds are needed for aquaculture production to continue to expand as it has in recent years. However, fish meal and fish oil constitute important sources of nutrition in aquatic feeds, conferring desirable characteristics to the diet and health of the cultured organism, and ultimately to the consumer. The report reviews efforts to identify sustainable alternatives to fish oil and meal that still offer similar desirable qualities.
  • Fish fed diets that contain fish oil are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids in the human diet. However, when fish are cultivated using alternative feeds that do not contain fish oil, their omega-3 fatty acid content is reduced. Currently, there are no ideal substitutes for fish oil as a source of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Feeds constitute the major source of environmental pollution resulting from aquaculture, either directly, in the form of uneaten feed, or indirectly, through animal waste. These pollutants can contribute to the nutrient loading of the culture system, and the environment. The development of feeds that provide balanced nutrition to maximize growth, while minimizing environmental effects, depends on knowing the species' nutritional requirements—and meeting those requirements with diet formulations and appropriate feeding practices.
  • The report discusses strategies for reducing the environmental impact of aquaculture. These strategies include minimizing the generation of waste, for example by selecting highly digestible ingredients, reducing indigestible components from the feed and minimizing nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the diet; and ensuring appropriate feed management is critical to obtaining efficient aquaculture production by determining the proper feed ration and providing the correct form of the feed—flakes, pellets, or liquid.
  • The committee identified several topic areas that represent critical needs for future research. These include the requirements, delivery, and interaction of nutrients; alternatives to fish meal and oil; diet formulation and processing; and the effects of nutrition on gene expression and metabolism.

About this Report

Primary Board:

Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources


American Feed Industry Association; American Soybean Association; Catfish Farmers of America; David Suzuki Foundation; EPA; FDA; International Fish Feed Companies; NOAA-Sea Grant; Packard Foundation; Pew Foundation; USDA (CSREES and ARS)