Growing Insects as Alternative Protein Source For Fish Food

Last Updated on December 14, 2018

Insects are natural food sources for many fish and other animals. For example, you can see chickens picking worms and larvae from the topsoil and litter where they walk. There is a reason, too, why maggots are used as fish bait in recreational fishing. Given insects’ natural role as food for a number of farmed livestock species, it is worth reconsidering their role as feed for specific poultry and fish species.

Fish eating insect

There is a reason, too, why maggots are used as fish bait in recreational fishing. Given insects’ natural role as food for a number of farmed livestock species, it is worth reconsidering their role as feed for specific poultry and fish species.

Protein in Fish diet

Currently, that protein comes from a variety of plant sources. The green plants and grasses cattle graze and forage on have ample amounts of protein. The major source of protein in prepared feed comes from soybean meal. Chickens get their protein from ground grain and soybean meal.

Protein for fish comes in the form of fishmeal. There has been a move away from aquatic sources of protein for farmed fish. This has taken the form of including plant-based proteins such as soy, along with additional Amino acids, for feeding fish.

The advantage of insect protein in animal feed is that it would drastically reduce the need for soybean. This not only frees up soybean uses. It reduces the amount of land, water, and labor required to grow soybean.

Benefits of Using insects as fish Food

  • Insects Are Plentiful and Sustainable!
  • Growing insects requires a negligible investment of capital or land. The time-consuming part is loading the trays, switching the trays, moving the trays to where the larvae can be dried out, transferring the dried insects to the pulverizing machine, and turning the insects into flour.
  • Fortunately, each of these labor-intensive steps can easily be automated. By introducing accuracy and tracking capabilities to the process along with lower production costs.
  • Insects are a replenishing, sustainable source of food. By setting aside some larvae from each generation, there will be new flies to lay new eggs and produce new flies.

Insects have a healthy composition and over 2 billion people occasionally cook caterpillars, boil beetles, or marinate maggots as part of their traditional diet. Read More here

  • Using insect protein instead of traditional ingredients – such as grain and soybeans or fishmeal for fish – will reduce the environmental impact of farming.

Insects as Fish Feed

Research suggests that many animals do just fine on insects which after all are a natural staple for creatures from chicken to trout. Insects are rich in protein, energy, and lipids, but unlike plant ingredients, are poor in fiber and anti-nutritional factors. Insect meal could replace between 25% and 100% of soy meal or fishmeal in the animals’ diets with no adverse effects. Most insect meals were deficient in calcium and the amino acids methionine and lysine, but you can add these cheaply. This does not have any harmful effect on aroma and texture of fish.

Check out our SlideShare E-book about Key insects species used as Feed for Fish 

Feeding trials on certain fish species revealed that diets in which 25 percent and 50 percent of fishmeal was replaced with acridid meal produced results as good as the control diet comprising 100 percent fishmeal. All growth parameters measured for the selected fish were higher for the formulated feed containing acridid meal than for those fed with market-available diets. This indicates that acridids could prove a successful meal replacement for conventional fishmeal.

Insects as sources of fish feed remain underappreciated in most parts of the world.

  • In Uganda, a vast array of ingredients is used as fish feed, including vegetables, grass, cereals, oil seed cakes, industrial and kitchen wastes, and fishmeal, as well as insects. The availability of most of these ingredients is seasonal.
  • In Southeast Asia, it is very common to hang fluorescent lights above fish ponds. The light attracts the insects, which because of its reflection in the water, fall into the pond where fish eat them. Wingless grasshoppers and crickets (which cannot float) are also used as fish bait, as are ant larvae and pupae.
  • Five percent of farmers use termites for feeding fish – either collecting the termites directly or purchasing them from collectors at a cost of US$0.27/kg – from March to April and from August to September. The quantity available depends largely on the number and size of termite hills on the farm, moonlight intensity, and termite species. On average, a termite hill yields approximately 50kg per year.

Do fish benefit from the windfall of insects on the water surface?

Fish eating insects on surface of water
Fish eating insects on surface of water

Billions of insects every year are fatally attracted to rivers and lakes. Often, they may breed there and spend the early part of their lives underwater. but while water provides a nursery, it also claims huge numbers of adults. Should an insect blunder onto the water, the surface tension is often sufficient to overcome their feeble struggles. Huge numbers of flying insects die in this way, but bad news for the flies is good news for the fish.

They represent a rich food resource for fish and a number of species specialize in feeding at the water surface. Typically, these species have upturned — so-called “superior” — mouths sited towards the top of their heads. In addition, they tend to have fairly flat backs — ideal for cruising just below the water surface. The African butterflyfish is one such fish, lurking among floating vegetation, waiting to pounce on any insect unfortunate enough to drop onto the water surface.

Do fish ever leave the water to feed?

Fish jumped out of water to eat an insect
Fish jumping out of water to eat an insect

Almost all species of fish live their lives underwater. Those that do emerge, usually do so only for short spells and in these cases, it is often to escape unforgiving conditions. For example, Clarias catfish escape from pools where the water level is dropping and both oxygen and food are scarce.

Despite this, many fish feed on terrestrial animals, especially flying insects, either picking them from the surface or leaping out to catch them — even shooting them down as they rest on overhanging leaves and branches.

In fact, most surface-feeders are capable of jumping from the water to take the prey. Large individuals, measuring up to 3 feet (1 m) long can jump considerable distances out of the water to snatch unwary insects and even small birds from overhanging vegetation in their Amazonian home. They accelerate from deeper water, only opening their mouths fully after clearing the surface, thereby reducing drag. The comparatively large mouths of arowanas allow them to take a variety of prey in this way. There are even claims of small monkeys being on the menu.

So what are you waiting for? collect live food for fish (read here) or attract them to your fish place.

Using light to attract insects

Everyone knows that night-time lights attract nocturnal insects and that some fish species eat flying insects.

Is there some way that we could employ this peculiarity of insects to provide fish with additional high-protein, low-cost food?

Lights Attract Insects + Fish Eat Insects = Using Lights to Attract Nocturnal Fish Food?

If your fish are mature, insects should not pose a problem, just be sure you don’t electrocute your fish with a UV light at night.

You can play the game of looking for UV LED’s, most are 390 to 405 Angstrom wavelength, that is the blue-black spectrum. Good UV lamps are 365 to 380 angstroms in wavelength.

The most economical choice remains a good UV-B Blacklight fluorescent lamp. It’s the light of choice for bug hunters in Thailand. The UV lamps are 3 to 4 times the price of regular fluorescent tubes.

What Light is Attractive to Insects?

Humans can see light wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum from 400-800 nanometers (nm), which range from violet to red in color. However, this does not include ultraviolet (UV) light at 350 nm.

Insects can perceive light in the 300-650 nm range. but prefer light that is between 300-420 nm which includes UV light.

A light’s UV output is probably the most important factor in its attractiveness to insects. Since most insects are attracted to UV light. This is why most Insect Light Traps and bug zappers utilize UV/blacklight bulbs as their source of attraction.

Insects generally see 3 colors of light

  • Ultraviolet (UV)
  • blue
  • green

Bright white or bluish lights (mercury vapor, white incandescent, and white fluorescent) are the most attractive to insects.

The least attractive to most insects include yellowish, pinkish, or orange (sodium vapor, halogen, dichroic yellow).

Yellow and “warm white” bulbs tend to be more like sunlight and are less attractive to insects than “cool white” bulbs that have a more bluish tone.

Red bulbs are even less attractive to insects than yellow, but red provides little visible light to humans and it carries an “undesirable” social stigma from decades ago.

In addition to the color or wavelength of light, insects are also attracted to the brightness and to the heat from lights.

The greater the bulb’s wattage rating, the brighter the light and the greater the drawing distance. Also, the greater the wattage, lights that use glowing filaments (incandescent, halogen, etc.), generate an increasing amount of heat. Cool lights that generate light from flowing gas (LED, sodium vapor, mercury vapor, fluorescent, etc.) generate less heat.

Characteristics of LED Light

LED bulbs can range in color from UV (350 nm) to infrared (700 nm).

The light pattern emitted (angle of dispersion) can range from very narrow, like a laser pointer, to broadly diffuse like a flood/spot light.

How bright a LED light depends on the amount of current passing through the bulb. Unfortunately, while a higher current level will produce a brighter light, it also means the bulb won’t last as long.

LED lights are

  • Much more energy-efficient when compared to incandescent bulbs, using only 1/5 to 1/10 the power.
  • They last at least 10 times longer.
  • Also smaller and stronger, have no filament, and usually have no glass to break.

Most LEDs don’t emit much or any UV light, but there are exceptions. LED lights use a mixture of various light colors to produce their “white” light rather than producing white light. Some LEDs will show more of one color than the other colors. LED lights that are “cool white” or are more bluish may be more attractive to insects than the warmer or more yellowish lights.

Can LED lights Attract Insects or Not?

Most LED lights don’t emit UV light and generate little heat, they tend to have little attraction to insects.

However, some insects may be attracted to one or more of the light colors used in the color mix used to produce the LED’s “white” light.

While insects are attracted to light, LED lights give off little heat, and also emit the wrong colors of the visible light spectrum for most insects, resulting in that minimal numbers of insects are attracted to them.

Some LEDs are specifically manufactured to produce UV light, such as those used in mosquito light traps and as plant grow lights. Then there are those that are used for disinfection, sterilization, and curing of certain industrial coatings (e.g., dental tooth-colored fillings, also called composite resins).

Not all LED spotlights are invisible to insects.

UV LED spotlights, cool white LED’s, and neutral colored LED’s may attract insects to the same degree as fluorescent or halogen bulbs. A better choice is a warm white or off-white for LED spotlights.

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