Under intensive culture conditions, fish are subject to increased stress owing to environmental (water quality and hypoxia) and health conditions (parasites and infectious diseases). All these factors have negative impacts on fish well-being and overall performance, with consequent economic losses. Though good management practices contribute to reduce stressor effects, stress susceptibility is always high under crowded conditions. Adequate nutrition is essential to avoid deficiency signs, maintain adequate animal performance and sustain normal health. Further, it is becoming evident that diets overfortified with specific nutrients [amino acids, essential fatty acids (FAs), vitamins or minerals] at levels above requirement may improve health condition and disease resistance. Diet supplements are also being evaluated for their antioxidant potential, as fish are potentially at risk of peroxidative attack because of the large quantities of highly unsaturated FAs in both fish tissues and diets. Functional constituents other than essential nutrients (such as probiotics, prebiotics and immunostimulants) are also currently being considered in fish nutrition aiming to improve fish growth and/or feed efficiency, health status, stress tolerance and resistance to diseases. Such products are becoming more and more important for reducing antibiotic utilization in aquafarms, as these have environmental impacts, may accumulate in animal tissues and increase bacterial resistance. This study reviews knowledge of the effect of diet nutrients on health, welfare and improvement of disease resistance in fish.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.