Phenol-rich fulvic acid as a water additive enhances growth, reduces stress, and stimulates the immune system of fish in aquaculture

Lieke Thora, Steinberg Christian E.W., Pan Bo, Perminova Irina V., Meinelt Thomas, Knopf Klaus, Kloas Werner

Scientific reports, 2021, 11, 1, 174, doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-80449-0


Aquaculture has become imperative to cover the demands for dietary animal protein. Simultaneously, it has to overcome prejudices from excessive use of antibiotics and environmental impacts. Natural supplements are traditionally applied orally. In this study, we demonstrated another pathway: the gills. Humic substances are immunostimulants and a natural part of every aquatic ecosystem, making them ideal to be used as bath stimulants. Five and 50 mg C/L of a fulvic acid-rich humic substance was added for 28 days to the water of juvenile rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). This fulvic acid is characterized by a high content of phenolic moieties with persistent free radicals and a high electron exchange capacity. The high concentration of the fulvic acid significantly increased growth and reduced the food conversion ratio and the response to a handling-stressor. Phagocytosis and potential killing activity of head kidney leukocytes were increased, as well as the total oxyradical scavenging capacity (TOSC) and lysozyme activity in the gills. In conclusion, immunostimulation via gills is possible with our fulvic acid, and the high phenolic content improved overall health and stress resistance of fish.