Atlantic salmon require long-chain n-3 fatty acids for optimal growth throughout the seawater period

Journal of Nutritional Science

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Grethe Rosenlund*, Bente E. Torstensen, Ingunn Stubhaug, Nafiha Usman and Nini H. Sissener

  • Atlantic salmon
  • n-3 Fatty acids
  • Fish requirements
  • Growth performance in seawater


The nutritional requirement for n-3 long-chain PUFA in fast-growing Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) during grow out in the sea is not well documented. Diets
were formulated with levels of EPA (20 : 5n-3) and DHA (22 : 6n-3) ranging from 1·3 to 7·4 % of fatty acids (4–24 g/kg feed). Two long-term trials were
conducted through the seawater phase, the first at 6 and 12°C, and the second at 12°C. In the first trial, growth at both temperatures was significantly lower
in fish fed 1·4 % EPA+DHA of total fatty acids compared with the 5·2 % EPA+DHA group. In the second trial, growth was significantly lower in fish fed
1·3 and 2·7 % compared with 4·4 and 7·4 % EPA + DHA. Fatty acid composition in the fish reflected diet composition, but only after a 7-fold increase in
body weight did the fatty acid profile of the fish stabilise according to dietary fatty acids (shown for EPA and DHA). The retention efficiency of DHA
increased with decreasing dietary levels, and was 120–190 and 120–200 % in trials 1 and 2, respectively. The retention efficiency of EPA was lower (60–
200 %), and values >100 % were only achieved at the lowest dietary levels in both trials. Temperature did not affect fatty acid retention efficiency. These
results suggest that Atlantic salmon have a specific requirement for EPA + DHA >2·7 % of fatty acids for optimal long-term growth in seawater, and that
short-term growth trials with less weight increase would not show these effects.

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