Growth and survival of Hippocampus erectus (Perry, 1810) juveniles fed on Artemia with different HUFA levels
Survival during first months after birth is one of the bottlenecks for consolidating the seahorse farming industry. In this work, Artemia metanauplii enriched with two highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA) rich commercial emulsions with different docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) levels (63% and 14% of total lipids), a vegetable oil with no DHA, and non-enriched Artemia as control, were used to feed 5-day-old juvenile Hippocampus erectus for 60 days. Enriched Artemia had similar levels of DHA (13% and 9%), despite great differences of DHA in the emulsions, with traces of DHA in non-enriched and vegetable oil enriched Artemia. More than 20% of DHA was found in 24 h starved juveniles fed both DHA-enriched treatments, similar to values in newly born juveniles, but those fed vegetable oil enriched Artemia or non-enriched Artemia had 5% of DHA. Total lipid and protein levels were similar in juveniles from the four treatments. The n-3/n-6 ratio was almost four-fold higher in seahorses fed DHA-enriched treatments compared to juveniles fed the nonenriched treatments. Survival of seahorses only partially reflected the DHA levels: it was lower in the vegetable oil treatment, similar in the seahorses fed Artemia with higher DHA and in the control treatment, and higher in seahorses fed the HUFA-enriched Artemia with lower DHA levels, although growth was similar in the two DHA-enriched Artemia treatments. Juvenile H. erectus seahorses perform better when they have at least 20% of DHA in their tissues, and these levels can be attained with no more than 14% of DHA in emulsions, eliminating the need for more expensive emulsions with higher DHA levels.