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Properties Of Carotenoids In Fish Fitness: A Review

Toshiki Nakano, Geert Wiegertjes

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Carotenoids, one of the most common types of natural pigments, can influence the colors of living organisms. More than 750 kinds of carotenoids have been identified. Generally, carotenoids occur in organisms at low levels. However, the total amount of carotenoids in nature has been estimated to be more than 100 million tons. There are two major types of carotenoids: carotene (solely hydrocarbons that contain no oxygen) and xanthophyll (contains oxygen). Carotenoids are lipid-soluble pigments with conjugated double bonds that exhibit robust antioxidant activity. Many carotenoids, particularly astaxanthin (ASX), are known to improve the antioxidative state and immune system, resulting in providing disease resistance, growth performance, survival, and improved egg quality in farmed fish without exhibiting any cytotoxicity or side effects. ASX cooperatively and synergistically interacts with other antioxidants such as α-tocopherol, ascorbic acid, and glutathione located in the lipophilic hydrophobic compartments of fish tissue. Moreover, ASX can modulate gene expression accompanying alterations in signal transduction by regulating reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Hence, carotenoids could be used as chemotherapeutic supplements for farmed fish. Carotenoids are regarded as ecologically friendly functional feed additives in the aquaculture industry.