Livestock Research for Rural Development 22 (12) 2010 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Effect of formulated feeds on the growth and water quality of fresh water prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) farming: A case study from Gangetic Delta

R Ghosh, K Banerjee, S Homechaudhuri* and A Mitra

Department of Marine Science, University of Calcutta, 35 Ballygunge Circular Road, Kolkata-700019
* Department of Zoology, University of Calcutta, 35 Ballygunge Circular Road, Kolkata- 700019


Freshwater prawns, Macrobrachium rosenbergii were reared in four ponds selected in the Gangetic delta (2210'21.74''N; 8853'55.18''E) at a density of 2 individuals m-2 for 180 days. The average initial weight of the seed was 0.080.01 gm and post larvae were given measured amount of feed (considering their age and biomass) as per the standard protocol usually followed in the present geographical locale. The prawns of the selected ponds were fed with four different types of feed. The conventional diet was provided by feeding the prawns with a commercial feed having animal origin ingredients (like trash fish dust, shrimp head dust etc.). Three experimental diets (PC10, PC20 and PC30) were prepared by mixing the dust of Porteresia coarctata (salt marsh grass) in different percentages (10%, 20% and 30% respectively) with the normal soybean based meal of plant origin.


Significant difference was observed in the production of the harvested prawns due to different diets. The highest production was recorded from culture pond where the prawns were fed with formulated feed having 30% salt marsh grass (Porteresia coarctata) dust (PC30). Duncan’s multiple range test showed significantly higher (p<0.05) daily growth rate (0.330.20 gm day-1), specific growth rate (3.750.01), survival rate (79.01.00%) and lower FCR (1.120.02) in prawns fed with PC30. The overall health of the culture pond (pond water and pond bottom soil) in terms of nutrients, chlorophyll a and soil organic carbon speaks in favour of the efficacy of the herbal additives that were added to the feed in case of experimental ponds. The highest production (in terms of yield area-1) from pond also supports the above statement.

Keywords: Feed Conversion Ratio, Porteresia coarctata, protein


The giant freshwater prawn, Macrobrachium rosenbergii, known as scampi in commercial parlance, is a highly valued delicious food and commands very good demand in both domestic and export market. Macrobrachium rosenbergii culture is gradually gaining momentum in the present era owing to its price, taste, fast growth rate, less susceptibility to diseases and its compatibility to grow with carps. Reddy (1997) reported that scampi can be cultured as an alternative to tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) in low saline water areas and coastal saline soils as scampi can grow comfortably in waters having salinity up to 10 g L-1. In India, 36,640 ha. are under scampi culture with an annual production of about 39,000 tons from monoculture and as one of the components in polyculture (Lokare and Anis 2000). The Gangetic delta at the apex of Bay of Bengal offers a congenial environment in terms of salinity and other hydrological parameters for the growth and culture of scampi (Mitra et al 2006).


Under natural condition, Macrobrachium rosenbergii is an omnivore, feeding on various plant and animal materials (Balazs and Ross 1976). The scampi are fed with farm-made or commercial feeds in order to boost up the production volume. While prawns can receive substantial nutritional benefit from natural foods at relatively low biomass densities (< 1,000 kg/ha) (Tidwell et al 1997), at higher stocking densities individuals may be more dependent on prepared diets (Tidwell et al 1999). An appropriate feeding is a major factor behind the success in aquaculture. Shang and Fujimura (1977) and FAO (1986) estimated feed cost to account for about 13 - 27% of the total annual cost of production in Macrobrachium rosenbergii. Protein, being an important dietary constituent among animals, directly influences the formulation of diet and consequently affects the cost of production. The quality and quantity of dietary protein strongly influence growth rate in fishes (Love 1980; Wilson and Halver 1986). Data on the nutritional requirements of Macrobrachium rosenbergii are scarce. Several workers have tried to develop artificial diets capable of sustaining good growth using a variety of foodstuffs (Kanazawa et al 1970; Cowey and Forster 1971; Deshimaru and Shegino 1972; Sick et al 1972; Andrews et al 1972; Balazs et al 1973, Venkataramiah et al 1975; Balazs and Ross 1976; AQUACOP 1976; Zein-eldin and Corliss 1976; Sedgwick 1979; Boonyaratpalin and New 1980; Bartlett and Enkerlin 1983; Das et al 1996; Venkataramani et al 2002; Anh et al 2009). Experimentally, the use of ingredients of vegetable materials was also tried with the aim to lower the production costs as most of the protein sources used (squid meal, clam or mussel, shrimp meal, etc.) are far beyond the reach of the average fish farmer in terms of costing (Watanabe et al 1993; Kaushik et al 1995; Nyirenda et al 2000; Boonyaratpalin et al 1998; Krishnankutty and Sujatha 2003; Krishnankutty 2005).


In the present study, an attempt was made to replace the ingredients of animal origin of conventional prawn feed with a salt marsh grass, Porteresia coarctata (Family: Poaceae) dust. The plant is one of the cheapest source of protein (18%), widely available in the intertidal mudflats of Sundarban (Mitra and Banerjee 2006). Moreover, its growth rate is very fast and the species is highly adapted to stressful environmental conditions. The species can thrive well within a salinity range of 2 psu to 28 psu and has a scope to boost up the protein content in feed of Macrobrachium rosenbergii.


Materials and methods 

Three different feeds (PC10, PC20 and PC30) were formulated using different percentages of Porteresia coarctata dust (Table 1). The ingredients used in the feeds were accurately weighed and the feeds were prepared following the method described by Jayaram and Shetty (1981). Biochemical analyses were done for both conventional and experimental diets (PC10, PC20 and PC30). Protein and fat were estimated by adopting standard procedures (Lowry et al 1951 and Folch et al 1956). Ingredients in each diet were adjusted so as to provide crude protein in the diet around 40% as the diets with this crude protein level result in better growth of post-larvae of Macrobrachium rosenbergii (Indulkar and Belsare 2001). The PC10 had 45.7 % protein, the PC20 had 48.7 % protein and the PC30 had 49.3 % protein. The level of protein in the conventional feed was 47.2% (Table 1).

Table 1.  Ingredients content (%) and proximate composition (% dry weight basis) of experimental diets (PC10, PC20 and PC30) and conventional diet.


Conventional diet

Experimental diets




Soybean meal





Rice bran





Wheat bran





Fish meal





Shrimp meal





Mustard oil cake





Vitamin + Mineral mixture





Salt marsh grass

(Porteresia coarctata)






Proximate analysis, %

Crude protein





Crude Fat















Juveniles of the freshwater prawn with the size range 1.000.10 cm and body weight 0.080.01 gm were stocked in the experimental ponds. The length was measured to the nearest cm from the eye orbit to the tip of telson. Weight was recorded after removing the excess water using tissue paper as absorbent. The mean stocking weight was determined from a sample of 100 prawn seeds that were blotted to free from water. The stocking density was 2 individuals m-2. Before stocking all the prawn seeds were well acclimatized to avoid temperature and pH shocks (Sarver et al 1982). Fish juveniles were fed daily in the morning (between 08 am and 09 am) and the feed amount was provided as per the standard protocol (Mitra et al 2006) followed in the present study area (Table 2).

Table 2.  Feed chart

First month

20% of biomass

Second month

15% of biomass

Third month

10% of biomass

Fourth month

5% of biomass

Fifth month

2 % of biomass

Sixth month

0 % of biomass

Seventh month till harvesting

0 % of biomass

Water quality parameters such as temperature, pH, salinity, dissolved oxygen (DO), transparency, nitrate, phosphate, silicate, and chlorophyll a. Soil organic carbon (OC) for all the ponds were estimated by taking soil sample core of 1cm3 from the pond bottom and were recorded fortnightly as per standard method given in Table 3.

Table 3.  Protocol followed to measure different parameters


Protocol followed

Surface water temperature, C

Monitored by Celsius thermometer.

Surface water salinity, S‰

Checked in the field by Refractometer and cross-checked in the laboratory by argentometric method 

Surface water pH

Checked in the field by portable pH meter (Sensitivity = 0.01).

Dissolved oxygen, mg l-1

Checked in the field by DO meter and cross-checked in the laboratory by Winkler’s method.

Nutrient (nitrate, phosphate and silicate) concentration, gat l-1

Spectrophotometrically measured as per APHA (1995).

Phytopigment (Chl a) concentration, mg m-3

Spectrophotometrically measured after acetone extraction as per APHA (1995).

Organic carbon, %

Standard titration method (Strickland and Parsons 1972).

Prawns were harvested at the end of 180 days. One day prior to harvest, the water levels in each pond were lowered to approximately 0.5 m at the drain end. On the following day, water was removed completely and each pond was seined three times with a 1.3 cm square mesh seine (3.5 m long-1.0 m deep) and then completely drained. Remaining prawns were manually harvested from the pond bottom, and all prawns were purged of mud by holding in tanks with flowing water. Total body length, weight and number of prawns from each pond were recorded. The increase in length and weight were used as measures of growth. Survival rate, daily growth rate (DGR), specific growth rate (SGR), feed conversion ratio (FCR) and production of the cultured species were determined as per the method outlined by Cuvin-Aralar et al 2007.


The Duncan’s Multiple Range Test was used to determine the differences between the treatment means. The alphabetical notation was used to mark the differences at significant level of an alpha 0.05 (Gomez and Gomez 1984).



Growth performance and feed utilization efficiency


The protein level in the different diets ranged between 45.69 – 49.25 %, lipid level ranged between 6.89-7.49%, ash content varied between 13.50 – 15.00 % and moisture content varied between 8.49-10.50 % (Table 1).


Results on growth and survival of prawn fed on different formulated diets for 180 days are given in table 4. The results showed that the daily growth rate (DGR) were 0.31, 0.27, 0.29, 0.33 gm day -1 in prawns fed with conventional diet, PC10, PC20 and PC30 respectively.

Table 4.  Growth and Survival of post larvae of Macrobrachium rosenbergii fed with formulated diets


Conventional diet




Initial average weight, gm





Initial average length, cm





Final average weight, gm





Final average length, cm





Gain in Weight, gm





Gain in Length, cm





Daily growth rate, gm day–1





Specific growth rate, % day–1





Survival rate, %





Feed Conversion Ratio





Quantity of prawn harvested, kg





Total yield, kg m-2





The results are means S.D (standard deviation) and the figures with same superscripts in the same row are not significantly different (P < 0.05).

The specific growth rate (SGR) (% day-1) of prawns fed for 180 days on different diets was observed to be 3.57, 3.55, 3.66 and 3.75 for conventional diet, PC10, PC20 and PC30 respectively.


The monthly average growth recorded for prawns fed with different types of feeds is given in figure 1. It is clearly observed that the growth increment was highest in PC30 compared to other diets. The dissimilarity could be attributed to the difference in feed ingredients and their nutritive value and crude protein level in the diet ( Md. Hasanuzzaman et al 2009).

Figure 1.  Fortnightly average growth recorded for Macrobrachium rosenbergii fed with different formulated diets

The average survival rate ranged between 63.92-79.00% and the highest survival percentage was found in prawns fed with PC30 and lowest in case of conventional diet. Better FCR (1.12) was also found in PC30 as compared to other diets.


Duncan’s Multiple Range Test (Table 4) indicates that growth parameters and feed utilization efficiency were significantly different amongst the four diets (p<0.05). DGR, SGR, FCR and survival percentage were best in cultured species fed with PC30.


Physico-chemical characteristics of pond water


The physico-chemical characteristics of pond waters are given in table 5. During the experimental period, temperature varied in the range 32.70 to 32.760C, pH varied in the range of 6.49 to 7.01 and DO in the range 4.32 - 5.35 mg L-1. All the water parameters were found to be in the range of tolerance limit of Macrobrachium rosenbergii (New and Singholka 1985). No significant difference (p<0.05) was found in case of temperature and salinity. In case of pond fed with conventional diet, pH was significantly higher than the ponds fed with formulated diet.


In general, nutrients (nitrate, phosphate and silicate) decreased with an increase in the percentage of salt marsh grass dust in the diet. Significantly (p<0.05) highest nutrients were observed in pond where the prawns were fed with conventional diet (that had animal ingredients). Similarly, indicator of primary productivity viz. chlorophyll a also increased with the increase in % salt marsh grass dust and protein contents of the diets and thus significantly highest value was observed in pond where PC30 was used. Organic carbon of pond soil also decreased with an increase in the protein content. Duncan’s Multiple Range Test indicates significant high organic carbon in the pond where conventional diet was used. The pond water of PC20 and PC30 types were relatively more transparent than the pond water of PC10 and conventional diet.



In the present study, the differences observed with respect to performance of diets were quite significant. The formulated diets (PC10, PC20and PC30) with plant protein, performed better than the conventional diet, which has animal ingredients. The performance of formulated diet increased with the increase % of dust of Porteresia coarctata. Requirement of protein has been studied in post-larval and juvenile scampi. Like other crustaceans, under controlled laboratory conditions the optimum dietary crude protein level ranges from 30-45% (Rangacharyulu 1999). The utilization of dietary protein is mainly affected by its amino acid composition, level of protein intake, calorie content of the diet, digestibility of the protein, physiological state of the species, water temperature, and size of prawn. Various protein sources have been used in experimental and practical diet formulations in freshwater prawn (Mukhopadhyay et al 2003).


The present study reflects the best growth performance in prawns fed with PC30 (49.25 % rotein). The diet was prepared with 30% Porteresia coarctata dust. Plant proteins have been found to be relatively poorly-utilized in crustaceans in terms of growth in comparison to protein of animal origin. However, digestibility studies in freshwater prawn have indicated that the species can efficiently digest both plant and animal protein sources (Ashmore et al1985). The omnivory of freshwater prawn permits the use of a wide variety of locally available feedstuffs including commercial by-products as ingredients in formulated diets. To create a balanced diet, it is necessary to establish the minimum protein level to provide essential amino acids (Guillaume 1997; Tacon and Akiyama 1997). However, in the present study, the amino acids for Porteresia coarctatadiet have not been determined. Hence, the protein level of the salt marsh grass may be the factor responsible for acceleration of growth and survival percentage. Millikin et al (1980) indicated that Macrobrachium rosenbergii species attains best growth at 40% protein level in feed. Castell et al (1989) have concluded that protein level ranging between 30 and 38% resulted in the best growth of the species.


Comparison of the results of present experiments with the results of other studies (e.g. Sandifer and Smith 1975, 1977; Willis et al 1976; Smith and Sandifer 1979; Smith et al 1983; Hilton et al 1984; Behanan et al 1992) is rather difficult due to varying experimental designs in different regions, differences in stocking size, density, temperature and innumerable possible combinations of ingredients used. Tidwell et al (1993) indicated that animal ingredients like fish could be partially or totally replaced by soybean meal and distillers by-products in diets for the pond production of freshwater prawns. Studies in which soybean meal was successfully used as partial or complete replacer for fish meal were reported for Tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus (Mazid et al 1994), Rohu, Labeo rohita (Khan and Jafri 1994), blue catfish, Ictalurus furcatus (Webster et al 1995), common carp, Cyprinus carpio (Kim et al 1995 a, b), Cirrhinus mrigala (Garg 1998, 1999) and Mugil cephalus (Kalla et al 2003).


The present study confirms significant differences in survival rate, DGR, FCR and SGR between the selected ponds, which may be attributed to differences in the component and proportions of feed ingredients. The growth pattern of Macrobrachium rosenbergii shows a continuous growth uptil 75 days. After day 75, there is an exponential growth in the species, in case of all the diets. This indicates that it is the normal trend in the growth pattern of the species as also documented by FAO 1986, Hossain and Paul 2007 and Md.Hasanuzzaman et al 2009. Apart from this, an interesting observation was documented in terms of ecological conditions of the experimental ponds. The three experimental ponds showed better aquatic environment in comparison to the conventional diet pond. The better aquatic environment was reflected through lowering of nutrient level and subsequent increment of phytopigment (Chl a) level.  Transparency and DO values exhibited an increasing trend with time in the experimental ponds (Table 5) indicating their positive role for the growth of phytoplankton. The organic carbon generation at the pond bottom soil was also less with time in case of experimental ponds in comparison to the conventional diet pond. The overall health of the ambient media (pond water and pond bottom soil) in the experimental ponds speaks in favour of the efficacy of the herbal additives in upgrading the ecological conditions of the ponds.

Table 5.   Effect of supplementary diets (I-III) on physico-chemical characteristics of pond water



Conventional Diet




Temperature, C





Salinity, S‰










DO, mg l-1





Nitrate, gat l-1





Phosphate, gat l-1





Silicate, gat l-1





Chl a, mg m-3





Transparency, cm





Organic carbon, %





The results are means S.D. (standard deviation) and the figures with same superscripts in the same row are not significantly different (P < 0.05).

The benefit of any aquacultural venture is reflected through the ultimate production figure, which showed significant variation amongst the selected ponds. In conventional feed used pond the production was 0.012 kg m-2. However the productions were 0.022 kg m-2, 0.032 kg m-2 and 0.045 kg m-2 in PC10, PC20 and PC30 based ponds respectively (Table 4). The variation may be attributed to the specially formulated plant based feed that not only boosted up the growth of prawns, but also upgraded the ambient aquatic health (in terms of nutrient load, DO, transparency, organic carbon etc.). The highest production in PC30 confirms the positive influence of Porteresia coarctata based protein on prawn growth in the present geographical locale. 



The present study indicates that, animal protein can easily be replaced by plant protein, which will minimize the toxicity of water, production cost and maximize the production per unit area and growth of prawns. The present programme is a humble approach for standardization of the feed from mangrove associate in the aquaculture sector, which can not only result in the economic upliftment of the island dwellers of Gangetic delta through sustainable prawn culture, but also may open up an avenue of alternative livelihood, through development of small scale endemic plant based fish feed industry.



This research received the infrastructural facilities by Department of Marine Science and Department of Zoology, University of Calcutta.



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Received 20 July 2010; Accepted 30 August 2010; Published 9 December 2010

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