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Phytoplankton culture for aquaculture feed

This paper focuses on the monoculture of microalgae under clearly defined environmental conditions and production protocols.

October 9, 2019


Phytoplankton consists of one-celled marine and freshwater microalgae and other plant-like organisms. They are used in the production of pharmaceuticals, diet supplements, pigments, and biofuels, and also used as feeds in aquaculture. Phytoplankton are cultured to feed bivalve molluscs (all life stages), the early larval stages of crustaceans, and the zooplankton (e.g., rotifers, copepods) that are used as live food in fish hatcheries.

Flagellates and diatoms are two important types of phytoplankton at the base of the food chain. They manufacture cellular components through the process of photosynthesis, taking up carbon dioxide and nutrients from the water and using light as an energy source.

The microalgae used as feed in hatcheries vary in size, environmental requirements, growth rate, and nutritional value (Helm et al., 2004). When selecting a species for culture, it is important to take all of these parameters into consideration. Most hatcheries grow a variety of species that serve different needs throughout the production cycle with respect to size, digestibility, culture characteristics, and nutritional value (Muller-Feuga et al., 2003).

Culture conditions can vary widely‚ÄĒfrom outdoor ponds or raceways with nutrients added to promote a bloom of the natural microalgae, to monocultures reared indoors under controlled environmental conditions. This paper focuses on the monoculture of microalgae under clearly defined environmental conditions and production protocols.

Microalgal culture facilities typically use seawater enriched with nutrients‚ÄĒprimarily nitrates, phosphates, essential trace elements, vitamins, and, in the case of diatoms, silicates. Water used to culture microalgae should have similar chemical composition to that used to culture the animals, and it should be pretreated. Some laboratories use synthetic seawater for small-scale cultures, but¬†it is prohibitively expensive for large-scale production in commercial hatcheries.¬†


Phytoplankton, microalgae


LeRoy Creswell, University of Florida Sea Grant


Southern Regional Aquaculture Center (SRAC) Publication No. 5004, 2010. 

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