Feeding of marine fish larvae is, in most cases, limited to the administration of two species of live prey. This reduction in the range of food available for the cultured larvae may occasionally lead to nutritional imbalances or deficiencies. A large amount of research has been recently devoted to the study of the essential fatty acid requirements of marine fish larvae. Studies on the biochemical composition of developing eggs and larvae, as well as the comparison of the patterns of loss and conservation during starvation, pointed out the importance of n-3 HUFA and arachidonic acid as essential fatty acids for larvae of marine fish. The biochemical composition of marine fish larvae, in terms of lipid content and fatty acid composition of total and polar lipids, is modified by dietary levels of essential fatty acids. Larval growth, survival and activity have also been reported to be affected by dietary levels of essential fatty acids. In addition, some pathological signs, such as hydrops or abnormal pigmentation, have been related to essential fatty acid deficiency in these fish. Based on these effects, the essential fatty acid requirements of marine larval fish have been reported to range between 0.3 and 55 g kg(-1) n-3 HUFA on a dry weight basis, suggesting that quantitative requirements of fish larvae may differ from those of juveniles or adults. But quantitative requirements for larvae of the same species reported by various authors are often contradictory. These differences are discussed in relation to the dietary lipid content, ratio 20:5n-3/22:6n-3 and culture conditions used.
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