A feeding trial was conducted to determine the optimum dietary protein level of sea cucumber Apostichopus japonicus juvenile focusing on growth performance and non-specific immune response. Diets with seven crude protein levels (42.0, 108.9, 155.2, 216.7, 258.0, 313.3 and 357.5 g kg−1) were fed to sea cucumber juveniles (1.05 ±0.01 g) once a day for 100 days. More than 70% survival was observed, and there was no significant difference among all treatments. The sea cucumbers fed diets containing 108.9 g kg−1 crude protein showed significantly (P < 0.05) higher body weight gain than those of the sea cucumbers fed diets containing 42.0, 216.7, 258.0, 313.3 and 357.5 g kg−1 crude protein. No significantly differences (P > 0.05) were observed in moisture, crude protein, crude lipid, ash and carbohydrate content of the body wall among all treatments. The coelomic fluid catalase activity of the sea cucumbers generally increased with increasing dietary protein levels. Therefore, the acid phosphatase, superoxide dismutase and lysozyme activity increased with increasing dietary protein levels at first and decreased subsequently.
The relationship between dietary protein levels and body weight gain was analysed by a second-order polynomial regression analysis model. The result indicates that the optimum dietary protein level for sea cucumber juveniles is 135.4 g kg−1.