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SRAC Publication No.

223

May 1999 VI
PR
Revision

Trout Production
Feeds and Feeding Methods
Jeffrey M. Hinshaw*

In trout farming, the amount and Feed quality protein that trout can not digest
suitability of feed used determines easily. Feeds with lower ratios
the profitability of production. Trout feeds have been greatly may contain excess fat, and could
Trout and other salmonids can improved in the past decade. Fish affect flesh quality and dress-out
efficiently digest foods that con- meal is still the primary source of percentages. However, specific
tain primarily protein (mostly protein, but protein digestibility diet formulations may vary con-
from fish), and can obtain some of has been improved and ash con- siderably from this ratio and still
their energy from fats and, to a tent has been reduced by using be highly efficient if properly for-
lesser extent, from carbohydrates. fish meal processed at lower tem- mulated.
Fry and fingerling trout require a peratures (“low-temp” fish meal).
higher protein and energy content Also, diets now have higher ener-
gy levels that help fish use protein
Feeding practices
in their diets than larger fish. Fry
and fingerling feed should contain more efficiently. Trout producers usually try to
approximately 50 percent protein Increasing the energy level in the grow the fish as quickly and effi-
and 15 to 20 percent fat. Feeds for diet limits the fish’s use of protein ciently as possible while main-
larger fish typically contain 38 to as an energy source. Trout are taining uniformity of growth and
45 percent protein and 10 to 18 being grown efficiently with degrading water quality as little
percent fat. The switch to lower dietary fat levels (mostly from fish as possible. To accomplish these
protein formulations usually oils) as high as 18 to 28 percent, goals it is important to feed the
occurs at the transition from a provided the ratio of digestible correct amount. The amount of
“crumble” feed to a pelleted protein to energy remains in the feed trout require depends on
ration, called a “growout” or correct range. This ratio is water temperature and fish size.
“production” diet. High energy expressed as grams digestible pro- Smaller fish have faster metabolic
diets may contain 45 to 50 percent tein per megajoule of digestible rates and need more feed relative
protein and 18 to 24 percent fat. energy. to their body weight than do larg-
Several brands of high quality er fish. Because fish are poikilo-
Ask your feed manufacturer to thermic (cold-blooded), their body
commercial trout diets are avail- tell you the ratio of protein to
able, and although a farm could temperatures and metabolic rates
energy in your fish feed, especial- vary with water temperature. Fish
produce its own fish food, it is not ly if you plan to use high energy
usually economical to do so. in warmer water need more feed
diets. For typical high energy than fish in cooler water.
diets the ratio should be about
20:1. Feeds with ratios significant- The minimum temperature for
*Department of Zoology, North Carolina ly higher than 20 may contain growth in trout is about 38o F. At
State University
excess protein or large amounts of this temperature and below,
Table 1. Examples of feeding rates for rainbow trout. All values are in percent of body weight to be fed
each day. A grower should obtain a feeding chart from the feed supplier that is tailored to that feed
formulation.
Temperature in Degrees Fahrenheit
Number/pound 38-41 42-45 46-48 49-51 52-54 55-57 58-60 61-63 64-67
1500 4.0 4.1 4.4 4.7 5.0 5.5 6.1 6.6 6.9
1200 3.6 4.2 4.5 4.8 5.2 5.9 6.5 6.9 7.1
600 3.5 4.0 4.3 4.7 5.1 5.8 6.2 6.5 6.8
300 3.4 3.9 4.2 4.6 5.0 5.6 5.8 6.1 6.3
200 3.2 3.7 4.1 4.5 4.8 5.2 5.4 5.7 5.8
100 2.9 3.4 3.9 4.3 4.6 4.8 5.0 5.4 5.5
80 2.7 3.1 3.5 4.0 4.3 4.5 4.8 5.0 5.1
60 2.6 3.0 3.3 3.8 4.0 4.2 4.4 4.6 4.7
40 2.5 2.7 3.0 3.5 3.6 3.9 4.1 4.3 4.4
30 1.8 2.4 2.7 3.1 3.3 3.5 3.8 4.0 4.0
20 1.6 2.0 2.4 2.7 3.0 3.1 3.3 3.7 3.6
15 1.4 1.7 2.1 2.4 2.7 2.8 2.9 3.2 3.2
12 1.3 1.6 1.9 2.0 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.9 2.8
9 1.2 1.4 1.7 1.8 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.5 2.4
7 1.1 1.2 1.5 1.6 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.2
6 1.0 1.1 1.3 1.5 1.8 1.9 2.0 2.1 2.0
5 0.9 1.0 1.2 1.3 1.6 1.7 1.9 2.0 1.8
3 0.7 0.8 1.0 1.2 1.4 1.5 1.7 1.8 1.7
1 0.5 0.7 0.8 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.4 1.5 1.4
<1 0.4 0.5 0.7 0.8 0.9 0.9 1.0 1.2 1.1

Table 2. Sample feed sizes and number of daily digested before provided by the feed manufactur-
being eliminated. er. These charts are useful guides,
feedings for rainbow trout.
This nutrient but you may need to make adjust-
Fish size Feed Feedings/ loading of the ments to fit specific conditions on
(number/pound) sizes day water, coupled your farm. Under most circum-
with the general- stances, fish need to be fed less
2500 - 2000 “Starter” 8 - 10
ly lower oxygen than they will eat. Overfeeding
2000 - 800 #1 Granule 8 levels in warm will cause the fish to use the feed
800 - 250 #2 Granule 6 water, can easily less efficiently and will not
250 - 100 #3 Granule 4 lead to respirato- increase growth rates significantly.
100 - 30 #4 Granule 3 ry distress. In To determine the appropriate
30 - 15 3/32 Pellet 3 warm water, amount of feed, know the number
feeding rates and size of the fish on your farm.
15 - 9 1/8 Pellet 2-3 should be At water temperatures above 55o
9-3 5/32 Pellet 1-2 reduced enough F, make a sample count of the fish
3-1 3/16 Pellet 1 to maintain good at least monthly and adjust feed-
<1 3/16 Pellet 1 water quality and ing percentages accordingly. In
avoid wasting cooler waters, a sample count
feed. every 1 to 2 months usually is
appetites are suppressed, diges- adequate. Good growth records
tive systems operate very slowly, The optimum temperatures for
growing trout are 55 F to 65o F. At for trout on your farm will help
and trout require only a mainte- you predict seasonal growth rates.
nance diet (0.5 to 1.8 percent of this temperature range feeding
rates should be at maximum lev- Do not overfeed. Once feed settles
body weight per day, depending to the bottom of the tank, small
upon fish size). Feeding more els (1.5 to 6.0+ percent of body
weight per day). trout will ignore it. Excess feed
than this wastes feed. reduces water quality and pro-
In warm water (above 68o F), a The best way to determine the motes disease. Remove any excess
trout’s digestive system does not correct amount and size of feed feed promptly.
use nutrients well and more of the for trout production is to use a
consumed feed is only partially published feeding chart, usually
How to feed trout compressed air to blow feed out days’ feed can be loaded, but for
over the water surface at pre-set best feeding efficiency it should
Once a high quality feed has been intervals, and truck or trailer not be replaced until the feeding
selected and the correct amount of mounted units that have hydrauli- period has passed. Adjust the
feed determined, the next consid- cally operated blower feeders. The feeder so that the feed is removed
eration is how to feed the fish. type of feeder most commonly over the entire time for which the
The best method depends on the used on commercial trout farms in feeder is loaded. Even if demand
size of the fish. Trout will begin to the south is the demand feeder feeders are used, feeding accord-
consume prepared diets within 7 (Fig. 1). It consists of a hopper for ing to a feed chart is recommend-
to 10 days after hatching. At first, holding the feed pellets and, ed for best performance.
fry should be fed a small amount below the hopper opening, a mov-
by hand eight to ten times per day Whether feeding by hand or with
able disc attached to a pendulum a mechanical distribution system,
until all the fish are actively feed- extending into the water. Trout
ing. A large kitchen strainer feed should be distributed
longer than 5 inches can easily be throughout the pond and should
makes an excellent tool for distrib- trained to feed themselves.
uting the finely ground starter not accumulate on the bottom. In
feeds used for trout. After the ini- With careful adjustment of concrete tanks, trout will feed on
tial feed training, an automatic demand feeders, rapid weight some pellets that fall to the bot-
feeder is most practical, with two gain and efficient feed utilization tom, but trout will rarely pick up
or three hand feedings daily so can be attained. The use of pellets from the bottom of earthen
that you can observe the fish. demand feeders can eliminate the ponds.
sharp oxygen decline that occurs A good way to ensure that all the
As the fry grow, the frequency of when fish are fed by hand or
feeding can be gradually trout in a tank have access to the
machine a few times each day. feed when hand feeding or using
decreased to about five times per Demand feeders also reduce the
day. When fed nearly to satiation, automatic feeders is to distribute
labor cost associated with daily twice as many feed pellets as fish
trout will consume roughly 1 to 2 hand feeding. Disadvantages
percent of their body weight in throughout the tank in a 5- to 10-
include the tendency to overfeed minute period. Repeat this
dry feed at each feeding. The because of improper feeder
feeding frequency should be process at 10-minute intervals
adjustment, and food release only until all the ration for that feeding
adjusted to obtain the desired in a small section of the pond or
feeding percentage. Fry gain has been distributed or until the
tank. Overfeeding with demand feeding activity declines.
weight rapidly and should be feeders can be a problem with
sample counted weekly for the larger trout. Feeding should be restricted when
first 4 to 6 weeks. The daily feed water temperatures drops below
ration should be adjusted accord- Demand feeders should be locat- 40o F or rises above 68o F. Feeding
ing to their weight. Feed should ed at intervals of about 25 to 30 rates also should be reduced or
be distributed over at least two- feet along the tank walls. Several feed withheld entirely when fish
thirds of the water surface when are sick. Fish should always be
fry are less than 2 inches long. kept off feed for a while before
This gives them easy access to the handling or transporting. For rou-
feed and helps to keep a uniform tine handling, such as grading or
size within the population. vaccinating, 24 hours without
After fingerlings are moved out to food is sufficient. If fish are to be
tanks or earthen ponds, there are transported off the farm or are to
several feeding alternatives. Hand be processed, they should be kept
feeding each day until the fishes’ off feed for at least 3 to 4 days, or
appetites are suppressed usually longer if the water temperature is
produces the best combination of low. Trout producers do not usu-
feed conversion efficiency and ally use finishing diets before pro-
growth rate. However, hand feed- cessing, but feed may be withheld
ing is labor intensive and may not for several weeks if the fat content
be practical on a large commercial of fillets needs to be reduced.
farm. Hand feeding is the best
way to train fish to use demand Special purpose feeding
feeders or to administer medicat- There are specialty trout feeds for
ed feed to sick fish. specific production goals.
Several types of automatic and Phosphorus levels in some feeds
mechanical feeders are available have been reduced to 0.7 to 0.9
for trout farming, including elec- percent by weight in order to
tric, water powered, and solar reduce the amount of phosphorus
powered feeders with variable Figure 1. Demand feeder used in released to the environment from
timers. There are feeders that use trout production. trout culture. Highly digestible or
“nutrient-dense” diets are avail- yeast derivatives or other com- pigments impart a pink or red
able for use where reducing solid pounds), or carotenoid pigments color to the flesh and do not affect
waste is a concern. Nutrient-dense (canthaxanthin or astaxanthin). fish health or growth rate. Pig-
diets are typically high in fish They are more expensive than reg- mentation can be achieved in
meal protein and lipids and low ular diets and should be used about 3 months when fish are
in carbohydrates, especially only when appropriate. Feeds actively growing, and in about 6
uncooked starches and fibrous containing antibiotics should be months in cold water. Other spe-
materials. used only after the diagnosis of a cialty diets include an enriched
There are also specialty feeds con- bacterial condition susceptible to diet for broodfish and a high-fat
taining antibiotics (tetracycline treatment. Immune stimulants diet (16 to 24 percent fat) for pro-
hydrochloride or potentiated have only recently become avail- ducing an oilier fish used for
sufadimethoxine), immune stimu- able and are not yet in wide- smoking or for specialty markets.
lants (beta-glucans and other spread use. Feeds with carotenoid

This publication was supported in part by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, Number 9638500 2630, sponssored jointly by
the Cooperative State Research Service and the Extension Service.