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Application of phytochemicals as growth-promoters and endocrine modulators in fish culture



There is a constant need to increase productivity in aquaculture, particularly to improve growth rate, feed utilization as well as stress resistance of fish. Because of consumer concerns and strict regulations in many countries, the use of synthetic chemicals, hormones and antibiotics is becoming unviable and natural compounds are more acceptable to the public. A wide variety of chemical compounds are found in plants, and many of them have been shown to have beneficial effects on appetite, growth and the immune status of fish acting through different mechanisms. Phytochemicals contained in herbs may enhance the innate immune system, possess antimicrobial capabilities, and are redox active molecules with antioxidant characteristics that may help to improve the general physiological condition of fish. Many studies have discussed the values of phytochemicals as feed additives. Another paramount concern related to phytochemicals is their endocrine modulator effect that can be applied both in aquaculture targeting the production of table fish and the growing sector of ornamental fish production. Different mechanisms such as the effects at the steroid receptor level, effects on steroid synthesis, distribution and excretion, actions on the hypothalamus–pituitary–gonad axis, as well as indirect mechanisms including thyroid and growth hormone disruption have been postulated for the reproductive endocrine disruption in fish populations by phytochemicals. This paper reviews the results of a great number of studies focusing on phytochemicals such as essential oils, saponins, flavonoids and phytosterols discussing their effects on productive traits and the putative mechanism of action.