In issue 25 our ‘In The Spotlight’ article, written by guest author, Dr. David Pool, founder of FishScience, focussed on fish food technology and his belief that over the next few years one of the major changes he expects to see is that there will be an increasing use of insects as a key ingredient for Koi food and all fish foods in general.
In this blog we introduce the start of that article. If you’re not yet a magazine subscriber and would like to read more on this fascinating topic then order your copy of Koi Talk issue 25. It’s available in the back issues section of our website.
Introducing insect meal as a Koi food
The range of foods for Koi and other pond fish has never been larger. Fish food technology is moving forward at a pace, with novel ingredients and formats being used to provide new and innovative foods for our Koi. The choice used to be between pellets and sticks, floating or sinking! Now soft pellets, temperature-specific diets, probiotics, prebiotics, and vegetarian foods, to name but a few, are all regulars on the shelves of Koi stores.
Developments are ongoing and are sure to result in improvements, or at least alternatives, of our Koi. One of the major changes that I believe will happen over the next few years is the increasing use of insects as a key ingredient for Koi and all fish foods. It makes sense in so many ways – after all, it is what Koi and their ancestors have been eating for millions of years.
But what insects, and why?
Reducing the use of fish meal
Koi are not fish eaters (or at least they are not designed to be fish eaters) – and yet most of the foods that are available to feed them are based on fish meal.
Fish meal has been used as a key ingredient and source of protein in fish foods because it was (and still is) readily available, is relatively inexpensive, and has a good nutritional profile. It is a good ingredient. Originally the fish meal was produced from low-value wild caught fish or from fish that were not suitable for human consumption (often called trash fish). In the past they were caught and processed in vast numbers, even being scattered on the ground as a fertilizer.
However, the reduction in fish populations and our increasing awareness of the need for sustainability and to be environmentally friendly has resulted in a dramatic fall in fish meal production. It more than halved in the twenty-year period from 1994 – 2014 (from 34 million tonnes to 16 million tonnes), and that trend is continuing. Wild caught fish are still used in fish meal production, but they are increasingly from sustainably harvested populations of anchovies, capelin, and herring. The official figures vary, but it is thought that 25 – 33% of fish meal is now produced from fish by-products – that is the heads, tails, bones, etc, that are left after the fish have been processed for human consumption.
Fish meal is in the headlines at present due to the campaign by the Royal Society of Great Britain to protect sand eels which are a major part of the diet of bird species including puffins which are in dramatic decline. Much of the sand eel catch is either fed to farmed fish or made into fertilizer to improve crop production.
Frighteningly we still use an estimated 10% of the world’s fish catches to feed other fish.
Obviously, as the production and availability of fish meal reduces, the cost of this ingredient increases. Not surprisingly, significant research is being focused on identifying less costly and more sustainable alternatives. The use of insect meal appears to offer one of the better alternatives.
Insects as food
The use of protein sourced from insects goes far beyond the need to protect fish stocks. It is seen as a long-term solution to providing high-quality protein for human food. In many parts of the world insects are already eaten in huge numbers, and more than two billion people are estimated to eat caterpillars, beetles, and larvae as part of their everyday diet. In South Africa over 9.5 billion mopane caterpillars are harvested every year for human consumption. In Uganda a kilo of grasshoppers is more valuable than a kilo of beef. It is only in Europe and North America that we find the idea of eating insects distasteful. Leading authorities believe this is about to change and that we will all be eating insects within 20 years.
What are the benefits of feeding insects to our fish?
Insect meal is a fantastic new ingredient that is being cultured at sites across the world. Many of these are still prototype factories, which are finding novel methods to culture different insect species in commercial quantities.
To read more of this fascinating article, order your copy of issue 25 today!
It’s available in the back issues section of our website.
About the author
Dr. David Pool is the original founder of FishScience. He has been involved in the world of fish for over 45 years, initially as a fish keeper, but then evolving his hobby into a career. David has a vast wealth of knowledge and expertise, and we are pleased to welcome him as a Koi Talk guest author.