Marine amphipods as a new live prey for ornamental aquaculture: exploring the potential of Parhyale hawaiensis and Elasmopus pectenicrus
Vargas-Abúndez, Jorge Arturo
López-Vázquez, Humberto Ivan
Martínez-Moreno, Gemma Leticia
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Marine amphipods are gaining attention in aquaculture as a natural live food alternative to traditional preys such as brine shrimps (Artemia spp.). The use of Artemia is convenient for the culture of many marine species, but often problematic for some others, such as seahorses and other marine ornamental species. Unlike Artemia, marine amphipods are consumed by fish in their natural environment and show biochemical profiles that better match the nutritional requirements of marine fish, particularly of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), including eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids. Despite their potentially easy culture, there are no established culture techniques and a deeper knowledge on the reproductive biology, nutritional profiles and culture methodologies is still needed to potentiate the optimization of mass production. The present study assessed, for the first time, the aquaculture potential of Parhyale hawaiensis and Elasmopus pectenicrus, two cosmopolitan marine gammarids (as per traditional schemes of classification) that naturally proliferate in the wild and in aquaculture facilities. For that purpose, aspects of the population and reproductive biology of the species were characterized and then a series of laboratory-scale experiments were conducted to determine amphipod productivity, the time needed to reach sexual maturity by hatchlings (generation time), cannibalism degree, the effects of sex ratio on fecundity and the effects of diet (shrimp diet, plant-based diet and commercial fish diet) on fecundity and juvenile growth. P. hawaiensis, unlike E. pectenicrus, was easily maintained and propagated in laboratory conditions. P. hawaiensis showed a higher total length (9.3 ± 1.3 mm), wet weight (14.4 ± 6.2 mg), dry weight (10.5 ± 4.4 mg), females/males sex ratio (2.24), fecundity (12.8 ± 5.7 embryos per female), and gross energy content (16.71 ± 0.67 kJ g-1) compared to E. pectenicrus (7.9 ± 1.2 mm total length; 8.4 ± 4.3 mg wet weight; 5.7 ± 3.2 mg dry weight; 1.34 females/males sex ratio; 6.5 ± 3.9 embryos per female; 12.86 ± 0.82 kJ g−1 gross energy content). P. hawaiensis juvenile growth showed a small, but significant, reduction by the use of a plant-based diet compared to a commercial shrimp and fish diet; however, fecundity was not affected, supporting the possible use of inexpensive diets to mass produce amphipods as live or frozen food. Possible limitations of P. hawaiensis could be their quite long generation times (50.9 ± 5.8 days) and relatively low fecundity levels (12.8 ± 5.7 embryos per female). With an observed productivity rate of 0.36 ± 0.08 juveniles per amphipod couple per day, P. hawaiensis could become a specialty feed for species that cannot easily transition to a formulated diet such as seahorses and other highly priced marine ornamental species.