First, the Probiotics
By definition, Probiotics are selective strains of live bacteria (or yeast) that can be supplemented in food to benefit the host (human, chicken, fish, etc.), by residing in or passing through the digestive tract to aid in digestion, boost the immune system, and out-compete other pathogenic or harmful bacteria for available space and nutrients.
A well-established intestinal microflora (bacteria) is crucial for the growth and health of the animal since the microflora has impacts on:
- Nutrition; nutrients are absorbed more efficiently when the feed is supplemented with probiotics.
- prevention of pathogenic infections through the production of inhibitory compounds.
- integrity and function of digestive organs.
- development and enhancement of the immune system.
- the proper function of the reproductive system.
- tolerance to stress.
Probiotics are essential not only for proper nutrition but also for disease prevention. Remarkably, in large-scale aquaculture of fish where control of disease organisms is extremely critical, probiotics are now being used as anti-microbial compounds - in other words, they do the job of antibiotics. This is a huge bonus and significant advancement in husbandry techniques since treatments with antibiotics are known to have a number of harmful effects – both short-term and long-term.
Probiotics are known to fight colonization of other microbes that try to inhabit the same available spaces and thus reduce the chances of the host animal being attacked by other germs. They enhance the immune system and fight diseases naturally.
Probiotics are widely used in aquaculture not only to control bacterial infections but also to improve water quality and clean up the pond or aquarium environment. Certain selected strains of probiotic bacteria will consume and digest the excess harmful bacteria, organic particulates, detritus, and dissolved organics. Depending on the strain, they can even reduce the phosphates and nitrates.
“NO FAKE PROBIOTICS”…. Substantial evidence over the last few decades tells us that probiotics-supplemented in feed (for nutrition) and water (for reduction of organic detritus) are effective in fish and shellfish aquaculture operations. However, the degree of success of can varies, depending on the bacteria strains used, their concentrations, their storage conditions, and the management of the feed production and operations. Poor results are many times related to low-quality and/or inadequate probiotics.
In other words, prebiotics cannot be faked. They have to be managed and used correctly.
Now the Prebiotics…
By definition, Prebiotics are specifically designed to change and improve the composition and activity of the intestinal microbiota in order to enhance the overall health and immune response of the host animal. Prebiotics can actually nurture a selected group of microorganisms living in the gut – they can favor the growth of beneficial anaerobic bacteria over that of harmful, pathogenic, or toxic species.
Over the past two decades, the study of prebiotics in fish and shellfish aquaculture has investigated many parameters including their effect on growth, feed conversion, gut microbiota, and resistance against pathogenic bacteria. Of course, all agree that more research is needed, but already the application of prebiotics and supplementary enzymes in fish feed is now steadily gaining status in importance.
At V2O Foods, we have carefully selected pre-biotic ingredients for their potential benefit for aquarium fish species. This research and selection process must be well thought out and needs to be coordinated with the selection of corresponding bacteria and yeast strains to be used as Probiotics. In other words, probiotics cannot be faked either.