he increasing development of aquafeed technologies embraces anew generation of feed ingredientsand additives leading to changes inthe specification of diet formulations.
This necessitates a new understanding of mineral nutrition and the need to redefine traceelement requirements in keeping with intensiveproduction whilst promotion of fish health.This short review gives a basic outline of the biological mechanisms involved in one of these trace elements, zinc and describes why it’s important to re-evaluate the mineral require-ments for salmonids.
Why is zinc important?
‘Micro-nutrients’ is a generic term for die- tary components required in small quantities.Minerals such as copper, zinc, iron, manganeseand selenium are all micronutrients although they are usually categorised as trace minerals,and are essential for the health of all animals,including fish.In aquaculture these dietary essentials areoften supplemented as part of a vitamin/mineral premix due to the inadequate supply obtained from many commercially used feedingredients.Zinc is the most abundant trace mineralfound in fish. It is essential for growth, thedevelopment and maintenance of healthy bones, and over 300 proteins require zinc aseither a structural of functional co-factor. Theseinclude approximately 20 metalloenzymes suchas alkaline phosphatase (required for bone min-eralisation/formation), alcohol dehydrogenase(required for fructose metabolism) and carbonicanhydrase (required to aid the removal of CO
from cell respiration).Fish deficient of zinc shows growthretardation, cataracts, fin and skin erosion,increased mortality rates and taste dysfunc- tion resulting in reduced appetite and feedconversion.
How does the fish obtain zinc?
Fish have two routes of zinc uptake, first from the diet and second from the surrounding water.There is the potential for waterborne zinc to beabsorbed in both the gut, from the swallowedexternal water, and also directly from the exter-nal aqueous environment via the gills.Salmonids “drink” very little, especially whenin freshwater; freshwater zinc levels are usu-ally less than 10µg/l and saltwater levels evenlower. This is considered too low to make any significant contribution to the whole body zinclevels even though the gills affinity for zinc isextremely high.However, even with this high affinity theuptake rate of zinc from the gill is three to four times lower than from the gut (Bury et al, 2003).The uptake mechanism in fish is described ashigh affinity low capacity in the gills and lowaffinity but high capacity in the gut.This supports the theory that despite thehigh affinity for zinc in the gill, dietary uptake is the major contributor to the body zinc status.Free zinc ions (i.e. not bound to other com-pounds) are potentially very toxic to many bio-logical processes, yet the incorporation of thesefree zinc ions in numerous proteins is vital for these very same biological processes to function.Thankfully, from a toxicological stance, only a very small fraction of the total zinc in theenvironment is in this “free” state.Unfortunately, from a nutritional stance, themajority of zinc in the environment is thereforeunavailable. For the zinc to become available these compounds need processing in some way.This processing occurs when the compoundis digested, freeing the potentially toxic zincion, which can now cross the intestinal barrier;or breaking the large compounds down into their smaller components, which can cross theintestine and take the zinc with it. Once inside the organism any free zinc is usually bound toanother compound generally termed a chap-erone, ready to be used or transferred around the body.
How and where is zinc used?
Zinc is very highly regulated in all aspects of the fish’s body: its uptake from the water or thediet; its excretion by the gills, the intestine, theurine or the integument; and also by its distribu- tion within the body.This regulation means that even a dietary level of 1700mg/kg ZnSO
is still non-toxic to the fish. The ability to regulate this appears tocome from the intestine, it is thought that excesszinc is simply not absorbed and passes through the fish in its faeces, however, it hasn’t beenproved that the high levels of zinc remaining in the faeces hasn’t been processed by the liver and excreted back into the faeces in the bile.Either way, excess zinc in the diet does notseem to present a problem. Low dietary zinclevels are however more serious and the regula- tory mechanism more complex.Every tissue of the fish can be broadly grouped into one of two categories; either functional or exchangeable. A functional zincpool, such as the liver, fins, eyes, gills and skin aregenerally considered metabolically important.It is these tissues, which maintain their zincconcentration regardless of the dietary levels.Exchangeable pools seem to be less importantmetabolically but it is in these tissues (bone,muscle, intestine) we see fluctuations in zinclevels corresponding to the dietary levels. When the dietary supply exceeds require-ment these tissues increase in zinc concentrationand act as a storage facility and when the diet isdeficient it is these pools that decrease quickly and allow the metabolically important tissues tomaintain their zinc levels. Regardless of the ability of the fish to regulate zinc within its body the turnover of zinc is relatively fast (~1% per day).This means that in order to avoid deficiency a continual supply of dietary zinc is essential(Davies et al., 2010)
Dietary zinc requirements
Research into mineral requirements, espe-cially trace minerals such as zinc is well defined
Redefining mineral requirements:
by Dan Leeming PhD Research Student, Aquaculture and Fish Nutrition Research Group, University of Plymouth, Uk