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K J Gordon Science Fiction

Zooplankton Aquafarming



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Updated August 2017



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The problem with all aquaculture is its reliance on processed nutritional diets. Usually in the form of a size-specific pellet.

Why is that a problem?

It is because all pellet diets are a commercial trade-off... Nutrition for percentage profit. The commercial consequence is slow growth and disease issues. In short low quality output.

The reason for this is simple. Aquatic protein has nutritional elements (essential amino acids) that cannot be duplicated or supplemented by terrestrial protein. Animals grown with incomplete nutrition have retarded growth, are susceptible to disease and deformity. And humans are no exception. There is a great and powerful lessen here that has been totally ignored in today's processed foods.

How do we overcome this problem?

Unfortunately, it is a fact that for every kilogram of aquaculture product three kilograms of wild caught ocean fish are needed to make up the diet. The process is indiscriminate slaughter.

And to make the diet profitable the high protein fish meal is cut with vegetable protein wholly and solely to make a profit margin on sales.

In any case, the above facts are as dangerous as they are unsustainable. And here is why.


Australia is a relatively small aquaculture nation with a total aquaculture production at $2.3 billion AUD in 2003-2004.

Current figures are sketchy but it is believed finfish and crustaceans make up 70% of total Australian Aquaculture production. If pellet diets make up 40% of the market price then it can be assumed that Australia uses approximately $2.3 billion x 0.7 x 0.4 = $644 million AUD in pelleted diets annually. Unfortunately aquatic protein is also used in cattle and chicken production and these industries are much more substantial than fish farming in this country.

If the above figure is equated to kilogram output for Australia, at an average of $10/kilogram, the output of aquaculture production is 2.3 billion divided by $10 x 0.4 = 57 million tonnes annually. This figure is what it should be..

Actually, it is nowhere near that.... ????


So the figures are wrong, based on $10/kg, but they suggest 160 million tonnes of ocean fish are harvested annually to supply fish food. In any event these figures are, horrendous, ugly and extremely dangerous. And this is just Australia. We, this nation, should be leading the way to sustainable aquafarming. But we continue to flounder....

It gets worse. If this indescriminant harvesting continues it must damage the intricate life cycles of the oceans leading to most planet-based life cycles becoming dysfunctional. Both aquatic and land based organisms placed under excessive environmental stress go into extinction... I can't believe I'm writing this simple definition of global extinction!!!


Aquatic protein arrives in Australia as a processed gray powder. It is manufactured aboard huge trawlers/ships which target schools of fish from satellites. These monster trawlers use 20 kilometer purse-seine nets to encircle the entire school. Indeed they are not so much trawlers as they are ocean going processing factories. And they leave nothing. If dolphins or turtles or even whales are captured they are macerated and boiled down for the rich aquatic protein.

This product, this fish meal, sells for approximately, $1.50 to $3.00 per kilogram and makes up about 40% of pelleted diets. And remember, Australia imports approximately $260 million dollars worth of processed fish meal annually.




Zooplankton are a valuable resource and a new/ancient form of high quality aquatic protein. Basically, waste nitrogen and mass nutrient can be utilised to generate enormous amounts of this precious resource, without damaging the oceans. This can easily be achieved in the form of Commercial Zooplankton Aquafarming.


And this is where the planet will have to seek its protein in the future for human foods... YES, this will be the future... Of human nutrition.... The world cannot support itself beyong about 2030... Zooprotein can...


Daphnia Daphnia is one species of many capable of commercial culture

Known Factors on Zooplankton Aquafarming Potential



Back To the Start: Introduction

Aquaculture has now been identified as highly significant in terms of globally sustaining protein to feed the worlds populations. World wide, Aquaculture is making great technological advances in fish production. These include breeding and hatchery techniques, expanding species domestication and increasing efficiency of grow-out applications.

Text Box:  Almost 38 million tonnes of seafood was farmed globally in 2001, representing 30% of total fisheries production. By 2030, more than half our seafood will be farmed.  Major challenges facing aquaculture industries worldwide include health management, production efficiency, genetic improvement of stock, endemic species development, and identifying alternative protein and oil sources for animal feeds.


Globally, aquaculture has increased by123% in ten years to rise from 17 million tonnes in 1996 to nearly 40 million tonnes of product worth approximately $60 billion USD in 2003-2004.


Earth Policy Institute Resources on FISH

Fish Indicator

Eco-Economy Indicators are twelve trends that the Earth Policy Institute tracks to measure progress in building an eco-economy. The world fish catch is a measure of the productivity and health of the oceanic ecosystem that covers 70 percent of the earth's surface. The extent to which world demand for seafood is outrunning the sustainable yield of fisheries can be seen in shrinking fish stocks, declining catches, and collapsing fisheries.


In comparison, world fisheries have been in constant return on investment decline since about 1990. This factor can be shown on almost all fish catch verses fish catch effort analysis.



Pelleted diets vary from mill to mill but basically, they all consist of a known percentage of protein, a known percentage of lipids and a known percentage of carbohydrate (PLC) and carbohydrates are plant protein. Basically, the ingredients are mixed and extruded into various sizes with varying degrees of weight/volume to suit a floating or sinking application.



Usually the carbohydrates ingredients are made of locally farmed grain products or grain waste products in combination with either fish meal, fisheries waste or trash and or blood meal products. The use of inferior carbohydrates, and animal waste is necessary due directly to the cost of fish meal.


In any case, the aim of the mass produced pellet diet is to produce a targeted PLC product, with adequate nutritional requirements, for a reasonable cost. However it is fairly true to say that all fish pellet diets represent a nutritional trade-off and therefore a potential reduction in fish culture performance.




The Fish Meal Industry

"Balancing nutrients in diets by using the minimum amount of fish meal to meet specific amino acid requirements for fast growth and reproduction and reducing feed costs constitute one of the principal objectives in formulation of fish feeds. Another important aim in feed formulation is to increase dietary nutrient density and digestibility of the feed to increase biological performance and to reduce nutrient leaching and water-quality degradation. The aquaculture industry must continue to seek out alternative sources of high-quality plant and animal-based protein ingredients for their feedstuffs. Presently, this is an active area of research in aquaculture nutrition".



Text Box: Fish meal production has not responded in any way to this growth in aquaculture production.


Fish meal protein is by far the best protein source, currently available, but it is also quite expensive at approximately $1.00 - $2.00/kg landed in Australia in bulk. Because of the high fish meal cost factor, protein substitution is used to off-set the cost of pellet production. Protein substitution allows millers to supply an affordable product into the market.

What is Fish meal?

Fish meal is a thick powder obtained from cooking, drying, and grinding raw fish. Fish meal is a rich protein source, and is used as an ingredient in feedstuffs in the aquaculture, dairy, and poultry industries.

The Fishing Fleet

Our fishing fleet is the largest and newest fleet in Peru. The fleet currently totals 38 vessels with an average age of 3 years. All vessels are purse seines.

The vessels range in size from 240 to 1,000 tons, with a total hold capacity of 12,500 metric tons. A large portion of the fleet is refrigerated, thus guaranteeing a fresh supply of fish.
*VLT = Very Low Temperature


However, as mentioned above, protein substitution tends to reduce growth potential as it introduces protein uptake limiting factors and other nutritional uptake and digestibility uncertainties. Added to these restraints is the potential inclusion of GM grains as well as the use of grains contaminated with insecticides and pesticides. And these are all factors of great concern for the forward development of the industry and the potential of fully organic fish feeds.


Another factor worthy of consideration is the gross culture health based on inferior nutrition. This is the pre-curser event to culture stress, disease, loss of growth performance and high culture mortality. The analogy is that we try to grow athletes on wheatbix.


The current cost to buy an Australian made fish culture diet varies from about $1400 per tonne to approximately $2200 per tonne. Imported diets tend to be slightly more expensive but the quality and the protein source can vary considerably. Recently concerns were raised within the commercial sector about the potential to introduce disease from insufficiently processed protein meal as well as concerns about the original source of the imported protein meal.





Australia imports nearly all fish meal requirements from South America and to a lesser degree Asia. Vast seine nets are used off the coast to capture massive tonnages of schooling fish species which are all processed and sold around the world.



"It is fish meal that makes aquafarming a business however it is the fish meal process that makes aquafarming unsustainable".

Contact Aquafarmer


Intrafish says a shortage of 1,000,000 tonnes of fish meal, food fed to farm-raised salmon, is keeping down the amount of farmed salmon on the market.


Fish meal, which has exceeded €1,265 per tonne this year, is up €790 from a year ago ($3000 AUD).


Price hikes and shortages are being blamed on an increasing Chinese demand for feed and problems in supply from South America.


It takes about 64 oz of ground up wild fish meal to generate 16 oz of farmed salmon.


Fish meal arrives in Australia, usually at the Port of Newcastle, in bulk tanker shipments. Fish meal appears as a dried and ground rough powder and is stored in huge harbour front warehouses. From there it is bulk loaded into tipper trucks and makes its way into the pet food industry, the chicken industry and the aquafarming industry.



zooplankton species cyclops

under the microscope



But first. What is Phytoplankton?

 Phytoplankton is the food source of zooplankton. Phytoplankton are very small aquatic plants.

To grow zooplankton you must grow phytoplankton.

The definition of phytoplankton is microscopic unicellular plants occurring in an aquatic environment. There are several differing classifications and a multitude of species.

It is the intention of this proposal to utilise and manipulate the culture of single species (axenic or pure) and multi species phytoplankton to stimulate zooplankton biomass production.


Phytoplankton are tiny, photosynthetic organisms. This means they can manufacture their own food using energy from sunlight, producing oxygen as a by-product. They are often referred to as tiny plants because of this ability to photosynthesize, but many species of phytoplankton are more closely related to protists and bacteria than true plants. Phytoplankton typically range in size from 0.002 mm to 1 mm and include diatoms, dinoflagellates, Radiolaria, Ciliata and Cyanobacteria (better known as blue-green algae).

Commercial Phytoplankton Species




So. What is Zooplankton? (The second stage of every aquatic food chain)

Zooplankton are small aquatic animals.

Zooplankton is the term for the multitude of microscopic and semi microscopic invertebrate animals that exist in both sea and freshwater. You can think of them as tiny prawns and crabs. Zooplankton also includes abundant larval stages of many organisms.


.............. ...............


Zooplankton is an essential component of all aquatic food chains.





Currently the development of zooplankton species, as a live food source for advanced fish hatchery research, is driving the successes with fish larval survival. The end result of such work is, an increase in the number of exotic species which can be reared successfully. Examples of zooplankton species that have become synonymous with hatchery culture are brine shrimp and rotifers. (artemia & brachionus)

Brine Shrimp




In Australia significant research into Zooplankton is evident however little has been done to quantify commercial potential as a sustainable aquatic protein.


However, there is considerable anecdotal evidence of research work carried out during the 90s which indicated significant quantities of zooplankton biomass could be continuously harvested. Amounts of over 2 tonnes per Ha per day of wet weight product were mentioned.


As well, supporting research studies were done on sewage effluent settling ponds in Victoria and those results indicated harvest rates approximating 2.5 tonnes per hectare per day.

Zooplankton grow in the last stage of water purification at the Werribee Sewage Treatment Lagoons (WSTL) and the resource is huge and unutilized. Daphnia carinata and Moina australiensis are the dominant species at the WSTL. The protein content of D. carinata and M. australiensis was 54.80% and 64.80%, respectively. Analysis of zooplankton showed that both essential and nonessential amino acids were present at a level that was higher than control diet. Silver perch fed on D. carinata exhibited better growth, better food conversion ratio (FCR), protein efficiency ratio (PER) and apparent net protein utilization (ANPU), which were not significantly different from the control diet (P > 0.05). Heavy metals concentrations were at very low levels in fish fed on wastewater-grown zooplankton.


Commercial trials carried out by the author confirm a potential significance for the development of several commercial applications. The basis of that work centered on hatchery and growout production of Australian freshwater species as well as survival trials of Barramundi larvae.


Although these two feeding trials were significantly different and, they identified two separate culture issues, the relative results showed a vast increase in the growth rates and overall health of the cohort when compared to identical trials of cohorts cultured on standard pellet diets. (cohort refers to the fingerlings of the one spawning)


And, although this process was not scientifically documented it did allow the hatchery to repeatedly double fingerling production from one crop to two crops per summer. In the authors opinion, a commercial result is far greater than a scientific publication.



For example, silver perch grown on (live) zooplankton reached an average of 100mm in 4 weeks, where as silver perch grown on a standard diet grew to 28mm. To achieve these results the author targeted specific water quality parameters to favour specific varieties of phytoplankton and zooplankton production. Those results yielded a consistent and significant increase in growth rate as well as a decrease mortality and other real costs of hatchery production.



Aquafarmer has also harvested considerable quantities of zooplankton over several years and has significant developments toward culture methods for the repetitive targeting of favourable zooplankton species.



Basically, all research work in the area of zooplankton, production trials and field results appears to indicate a high potential for commercial culture of certain species as a sustainable aquatic protein source.



The author suspects that combinations of targeted zooplankton, and a small combination of nutrients, binders and stabilizers have the potential to produce a sustainable, totally aquatic, totally organic, quality fish feed.

Aquafarmer is currently seeking Venture Capital and Partners to assist in product and protocol development.


 Please view Target Pond Dynamics Presentation




For further information contact Kel Gordon.

Contact Aquafarmer

In Australia Phone 0458 427520

special thanks to the various sites for their input & pics

K J Gordon Science Fiction

Kel Gordon Science and Science Fiction Author