NACA/WP/86/45November 1986
Optimum Dietary Protein Requirement for Macrobrachium rosenbergii Juveniles

Research Conducted under Secondment of Young Scientists Programme


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Jocelyn L. Antiporda2


The dietary protein requirement of M. rosenbergii juveniles was determined in growth trials performed in indoor aquaria using rations based on fish meal and shrimp meal as the main sources of protein. Five protein levels from 20 – 40% at 5% interval were tested to assess the best growth. Mean body weights and lengths of 4 replicate treatments were subjected to analyses of variance in determining differences between protein levels. Results showed no significant differences in all variables considered. Under this laboratory feeding experiment, the prawns attained weights of 0.95 g (994% gain), 0.94 g (921% gain), 1.3 g (1417% gain), 0.95 g (996% gain) and 1.17 g (1263% gain) for 20%, 25%, 30%, 35% and 49% crude protein levels, respectively in 89 day-culture period.

1 Research sponsored by FAO/NACA under the Secondment for Young Scientists Program Bangkok, Thailand October 1985 - September 1986.

2 Research Associate - Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC - AQD), Binangonan Research Station, Binangonan, Rizal Philippines 3106.


One of the major factors limiting the economic success in any commercial culture of a species is the food requirement. Shang and Fujimura (1977) estimated feed cost to account for about 13 – 27% of the total annual cost of production. Protein, being an important dietary constituent among animals, directly influence the formulation of diets and consequently affect the cost of production. Accumulated knowledge on the nutrient requirements of the prawn is limited and the lack of standard techniques among researches resulted to wide variations of findings thereby making direct comparisons difficult. Most of the available data relating prawn growth and dietary protein levels have been reviewed by Forster (1976), New (1976) and Wickens (1976). Data on the nutritional requirements of M. rosenbergii are scarce. Several workers have tried to develop artificial diets capable of sustaining good growth using a variety of foodstuffs (Kanazawa, et al., 1970; Cowey and Forster, 1971; Deshimaru and Shegino, 1972; Sick et al., 1972; Andrews et al., 1972; Forster, 1972; Balazs et al., 1973). Studies by Weidenbach (1982) confirmed that prawns ingest commercial pellets when available and that prawns also utilize available vegetation regardless of the presence of commercial pellets. Among the foodstuffs used, flesh of molluscs and crustaceans were found the most acceptable, producing the best growth especially among the marine prawns (Deshimaru and Shegino, 1972; Forster and Beard, 1973). Deshimaru and Shegino (1972) stated that marine prawn growth correlates with the amount of crude protein in the diet and that diets having crude protein above 60% showed high feed efficiency as a rule. This high feed efficiency conducted. Twenty aquaria measuring 92 cm × 47 cm × 47 cm were stocked with 50 juveniles each with an average weight of 0.09 g. Four aquaria were assigned randomly for each test diet and provided with old polyethylene nets as shelters. Moderate aeration was supplied to all tanks and daily water temperatures were recorded. Water was changed twice a week.

The juveniles were weighed and measured initially and thereafter at 2-week intervals. Random samples of 20 animals per aquarium were sampled during the 8-week experiment. The weight was recorded after removal of excess water using tissue paper as absorbent. The length was measured to the nearest mm from the tip of the telson to the eye orbit. The increase in weights and lengths were used as measures of growth.

Five diets were formulated at 5 protein levels (20%, 25%, 30% and 40% CP) using the same feed ingredients throughout (Table 1), maintaining fat content at 10% and calorie values ranging from 306 – 316 cal/100 g diet. Cellulose powder was added to balance weight on the assumption that it contribute negligible nutritional value. Vitamin and mineral premixes were incorporated in all diets at 1% level by weight.

The dry ingredients were analyzed individually for % crude protein, fat, moisture, crude fiber and ash using Kjeldahl method, ether extraction, 6-h drying at 100°C, gravimetric method for crude fiber and 6-h combustion at 600°C, respectively. All dry ingredients were then mixed thoroughly through a vertical mixer, after which oil was added and finally 20 –30% water and mixed thoroughly again. The resulting moist diet mixture was extruded through a 3.5 mm diameter was attibuted to the similarity of the amino acid distribution between the main protein source and the prawn. Dishemaru and Shegino (1972) mentioned that the admixture of certain protein sources together with additives will provide the special pattern of amino acid distribution similar to that of the prawn. A number of admixtures of different protein sources and varying protein levels were tried either solely or both on marine and freshwater prawns (Kanazawa et al., 1970; Deshimaru and Shegino, 1972; Sick et al., 1973; Balazs et al., 1974; Venkataramiah et al., 1975; Balazs and Ross, 1976; AQUACOP, 1976; Zein-eldin and Corliss, 1976; Sedgwick, 1979; Boonyaratpalin and New, 1980; Bartlett and Enkerlin, 1983). Incorporation of vegetable materials was also tried with the possible view of lowering the production costs as most of the protein sources used (squid meal, clam or mussel, shrimp meal, etc.) are far beyond the reach of the average fishfarmer.

While it is imperative to search for cheap protein sources, it is corollarily important to determine the optimum dietary protein requirement of the cultured animal in question. The determination of the optimum protein level for growth of any cultured organism will greatly streamline the expense of fishfarmers in terms of the amount and type of feed given, the culture period and utilization of manpower.


M. rosenbergii juveniles were obtained from Chachoengsao Fisheries Station, Bang Pakong, Chachoengsao, Thailand. The juveniles were acclimated for more than a week in aquaria at the National Inland Fisheries Institute (NIFI) Hatchery Building where the experiment was die of a 5 HP meat chopper, airdried for 24 h and stored in plastic bags for refrigeration. The diets thus prepared maintained a consistency in water up to 24 hours. Feeding was done ad libitum.

Body weights and lengths for replicate treatments in these groups were subjected to analyses of variance using IBM PC Computer (Epistat and Microstat Programs) to determine if significant differences existed between the protein levels.


A summary of the response of M. rosenbergii juveniles as affected by dietary protein levels is given in Table 2. The mean body weights of prawns after 89 days were 0.95 (994% gain), 0.94 (921 % gain), 1.29 g (1417% gain), 0.95 g (995% gain) and 1.17 g (1167% gain) for 20%, 25%, 30%, 35% and 40% protein levels, respectively (Table 3 and 5). The final mean body lengths (mm) of the juveniles were 34.9 (95% gain), 36.7 (107% gain), 39.9 (123% gain), 37.9 (108% gain) and 38.9 (114% gain) as shown in Table 7 and 9 for the respective protein diets. Growth in terms of weights and lengths is highest at 30% CP diet followed by 40% CP diet, however, analyses of variance showed no significant differences in both weights and lengths measurements (P ≥ 0.05) as shown in Tables 4,6,8 and 10. Likewise, percent gain in both body weights and lengths are not significantly different in all treatments (Table 6 and 10). Survival in all treatments are low ranging from 48% – 61% where the 25% protein level has the highest survival followed by 30% CP.

Weekly water temperature means ranged from 25 – 28°C with an average of 26.6°C.


Protein utilization experiments on prawns/shrimps are characterized by their scarcity and wide variations in the experimental conditions. Optimum dietary protein levels for crustaceans have been proposed using diets of varying protein sources: Lee (1971) suggested 45.8% for Penaeus monodon using casein and defatted fish meal as protein source; Andrews et al. (1972) proposed 30% for P. setiferus using menhaden meal; Sick and Andrews (1973) proposed 28 – 30% for P. duorarum using soy bean meal; Forster and Beard (1973) proposed 30 – 40% for Palaemon serratus using cod fish meal and shrimp; Zein-Eldin and Corliss (1976) proposed 51.5% for P. aztecus; Balazs et al. (1973) proposed more than 35% for M. rosenbergii; Millikin et al. (1980) reported that growth performance for M. rosenbergii post larvae was equally good from diets with 40% or 49% protein while those with 23% or 32% showed depressed growth rates, however, after 10 weeks when the animals averaged 1.15 g, the 40% protein level diet gave better cummulative weight gain than 48% protein. Fujimura and Okamoto (1970) conducted a study on M. rosenbergii juveniles using 4 commercial diets (pig starter, poultry starter, gamebird feed and trout chow) containing 18%, 24%, 24% and 49% protein respectively, and found no significant difference between the treatments and the average daily increase in length ranged from 0.13 to 0.17 mm for 123 days. In the experiment conducted by Balazs and Ross (1976), daily increase ranged from 0.16 to 0.27 mm for 110 days. Soy bean-tuna diet gave the best growth followed by soy - tuna - shrimp diet both at 35% protein level. Balazs et al. (1974) used so bean, tuna, shrimp, soy bean - tuna and soy bean - tuna - shrimp as protein sources at 3 protein levels (15%, 25% and 35%), and found that each protein source gave greater growth with increasing levels of protein, except for the soy bean - tuna and shrimp diet where growth decreased with higher protein level. Growth ranged from 0.14 to 0.19 mm/day. However, these results were not substantiated in the experiment conducted by Balazs and Ross (1976). Boonyaratpalin and New (1980) conducted an experiment in concrete ponds using 15%, 25% and 35% protein diets and broiler starter and found no significant differences in growth, production, survival and feed conversion. Protein efficiency ratio of the prawns fed 25% protein diet appeared better than the other diets. In another experiment in earthen ponds, New et al. (1980) suggested that protein level of 25% or possibly less, produce acceptable results for M. rosenbergii culture. Bartlett and Enkerlin (1983) conducted a study in asbestos asphalt bottom using hard water (1 000 ppm) and 14% protein diet of the granulated chicken feed and found that comparable growth and survival with other studies.

In the present paper, reduction in protein content of the diet from 40% to 20% while maintaining the total energy level, resulted in a non-significant change in growth in all the treatments. Growth ranged from 0.19mm to 0.25 mm/day higher than the values of Fujimura and Okamoto (1970) and comparable with that of Balazs and Ross (1976). The relatively poor survival in this experiment maybe due to insufficient shelter provided in the tanks and also stress during sampling.

In grow-out ponds, where high rates of natural production occur providing large choices of protein sources for the prawn, the prepared diet will serve as a supplementary food, in which case, the use of lower protein diets can sufficiently be recommended. However, the sources of protein and some other nutritional and environmental variables may as well pose a different problem.


I am indebted to the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) Aquaculture Department for providing me the opportunity to participate in the FAO/NACA Secondment for Young Scientists Program in Bangkok, Thailand. I wish to thank Ms. Wipa Chaiwisitkul and Mr. Chetphong Butthep for their generous cooperation and also to other staff at NIFI and NACA for their invaluable help and support. To Mr. Chen Foo Yan and Dr. Mali Boonyaratpalin and friends who made my stay in Thailand worthwhile and pleasant, my sincere thanks.


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Table 1. Percent composition of the experimental diet.

Feed ingredientsCalculated Protein Levels (%)
Fish Meal (55.27% CP)21.131.741.752.162.6
Shrimp head (28.85% CP)  5.2  7.810.212.815.4
Rice bran (10.5% CP)64.750.038.123.8  9.5
Vit. Mix*    .5    .5    .5    .5    .5
Mineral Mix**    .5    .5    .5    .5    .5
ellulose    .6  3.0  3.4  5.5 7.6
Oil  6.3  5.5  4.6  3.8 2.9

* Vitamin mix provided the following in mg or units per kg of feed : Vit. A 8, 818; Vit. D3 2,205 ICU; Riboflavin 20; d-Ca pantothenic acid 50; choline chloride 600; niacin 100; Vit. E 50; Vit B12 20 ug; Vit. C 100; folic acid 5; pyridoxine 20; thiamine 20; Vit. K 10; Inositol 100; biotin 1. (Modified from other sources).

** Mineral mix provided the following : Fe 19.8; Mn 60; I 1.2; Zn 44.1; Cu 2; Co 0.2; dicalcium phosphate 32% calcium, 18% phosphorus. (From : Balazs, G. & E. Ross. 1976. Effect of Protein Source and Level on Growth and Performance of the Captive Freshwater prawn M. rosenbergii. Aquaculture 7:299–313.

Table 2. Summary of the response of M. rosenbergii juveniles as affected by the dietary protein levels. (All values are means of 4 replicates).

 Protein levels (%)
Initial weight (g).0870.0924.0855.0898.0924
Final weight.9519.94321.2974   .94741.1711   
Weight gain.8649.85081.2119   .85761.0787  
Percent weight gain99492114179551167
Initial length (mm)17.9          17.7         17.9           18.2          18.2         
Final length34.98        36.7         39.9           37.9         38.9       
Length gain17.1         19.0         22.0          19.7         20.7        
Percent length gain95107123108114
Percent Survival4861554847

Table 3 . Mean body weight (g) of prawns fed varying protein levels.

(% CP)
Days on experiment
20.0870.1446.2018.2810.5941  .9519
25.0924.1535.2359.3569.5609  .9432
35.0864.1584.2616.4794.7693  .9474

Table 4 . Analysis of variance for mean body weight of the juveniles.

Between  .041

Table 5 . Percent gain of M. rosenbergii juveniles based on weight measured every two weeks.

Protein levels (%)
Total % Gain99492114179951167

Table 6 . Analysis of variance for percent gain of juveniles based on weight.

Between  1087.910 4271.977.412.7977

Table 7 . Mean body lengths (mm) of prawns fed varying protein levels.

(% CP)
Days on experiment

Table 8 . Analysis of variance for mean body length of the juveniles.

Between    28.692 4

Table 9 . Percent gain of M. rosenbergii juveniles based on length measured every two weeks.

Protein levels (%)
Total % Gain95  107   123  108   114  

Table 10 . Analysis of variance for percent gain of juveniles based on length.

Between  107.740 426.935.440.7780

Fig. 1.

Fig. 1. Growth of M. rosenbergii juveniles fed different protein levels expressed in weight (g).

Fig. 2.

Fig. 2. Growth of M. rosenbergii juveniles fed different protein levels expressed in length (mm).


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