Sponsor content from Alltech

Organic trace minerals: A game-changer for fish feed

From salmon to seabass, fish need the right minerals to reach their full potential. In addition to improved health and performance, trace mineral nutrition benefits the environment—and the bottom line.

Sponsor content from Alltech
Written by
John Sweetman, International Project Manager for Aquaculture, & Oystein Larsen, Aqua Division Manager Norway
April 27, 2019

Meeting the demands of today’s high-performing species of fish requires a precise approach to nutrition. To be considered nutritionally complete, feeds must include a carefully selected combination of proteins, vitamins, essential amino acids and minerals.

Essential trace minerals such as copper, zinc, iron, manganese and selenium are often added to aquafeeds in the form of inorganic mineral salts (e.g., sulphates, oxides, andchlorides). These metals form metalloenzyme complexes, which are essential for the hundreds of biochemical pathways that influence the metabolism, health and welfare of the fish.

Why organic trace minerals mater

In the drive for more sustainable aquafeeds, an increasing proportion of vegetable protein and energy sources are being used. The presence of phytic acid and fibres in these plant materials can result in reduced bioavailability of inorganic trace metals.

Over the last few years, the legal supplementation levels of these minerals in commercial salmon feeds have decreased, potentially jeopardizing both fish performance and welfare — not to mention the nutritional value transferred from the fish to the consumer. This reduction results in lower tissue levels of these minerals, which form the natural reserves on which the animal depends to maintain health and function optimally in times of stress.


Minerals presented in their natural, organic form help ensure optimal tissue reserves. When encountering a stressful situation, animals draw on these reserves to prevent cellular damage. The maintenance of a healthy gut helps ensure optimal nutrient uptake, leading to improved growth and performance. A healthy gut and mucosal barrier can also keep pathogens from passing through the damaged areas of the gut and into the blood stream, thus improving the animal’s natural immune defenses.

In an effort to avoid these negative interactions, Alltech has developed a way to mimic nature using a proprietary process through which trace minerals are chelated with amino acids and peptides. The trace minerals included are organic and neutral in form, and thus, more bioavailable to the fish.

Alltech has, following years of extensive research, proven that organic trace minerals — in the form of products like Bioplex and Sel-Plex — can be included at significantly lower levels than inorganic minerals while still improving fish performance. These lower levels help optimize fish mineral requirements while reducing any negative environmental impact. Alltech calls this innovation Total Replacement Technology (TRT).

Atlantic salmon in focus as trace mineral research continues

e6af0ce328abb68449afba09febf1795 Three salmon producers recently teamed up with Alltech and NOFIMA to study the effect of organic trace minerals on Atlantic salmon and the environment.

Going forward, Alltech and its commercial and research partners will continue to actively explore the organic trace mineral requirements of today’s commercial farming practices. Recently, six research licenses were granted to three salmon producers in Norway who, in collaboration with the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fishery and Aquaculture (NOFIMA) and Alltech, will study the effect of organic trace minerals on Atlantic salmon and the environment.

The results of this three-year project will give the industry a valuable new understanding of how to better formulate fish feed and, as a result, improve fish health while reducing the negative impact of the heavy metals traditionally used in fish farming.