How nanotechnology can make a splash in aquaculture

Selenium (Se) is an essential element found in aquatic food that promotes the proper development, well-being and fitness of marine animals. Selenium can be converted using nanotechnology into nanomaterials that are more easily accessible, absorbed and consumed by aquatic species.

Study: Embracing nanotechnology for the application of selenium in aquafeeds. Image credit: leo w kowal/

An article recently published in the magazine Reviews in Aquaculture provides a full assessment of the effects of Se and Se nanoparticles (Se NPs) in aquafeeds on marine animals. The study shows that nanoparticles can stimulate the utilization and retention of Se in aquafeeds while reducing its toxicity.

Nanotechnology in the aquaculture industry

The human population is expected to grow significantly, reaching approximately nine billion individuals by 2050. This is expected to put additional pressure on the food industry as it responds to rising demand. Aquaculture, the fastest growing food production sector, has made a substantial contribution to global food and nutrition sustainability.

However, the long-term viability of the sector is being jeopardized by rising feed prices as traditional feed materials become scarce and expensive. To meet the objectives of the blue economy, efforts have been made to improve the accessibility and use of current components.

The use of nanotechnology is a new but very promising technical innovation in the aquaculture sector. Nanomaterials and emulsion-based methods can be used in aquafeed development, disease management and water filtration.

Nanomaterials can significantly improve the use of resources in aquaculture, including drugs, vaccines, powdered nutrition and even gene transfer.

Selenium (Se): a vital micro-element in aquatic animals

Selenium (Se) is an essential microelement in marine animals with both nutritional and cytotoxic effects. Compared to organic components, the inorganic species Se travels rapidly through the gut of fish and has poor absorption and digestion. As a result, organic Se is proposed as the primary type of Se supplement in the diet of aquatic animals.

Selenium nanoparticles (Se-NPs) have recently shown several applications in aquafeeds due to their high absorption and anti-oxidation capacity in marine animals. Se-NPs have been extensively studied in aquafeeds, with documented benefits including improved growth efficiency, nutrient uptake, antioxidant effectiveness, immune response and infection resistance.

Disadvantages of Selenium Nanoparticles (Se-NPs) as Aquafeeds

Despite the many potential benefits of Se-NPs in aquaculture, their use may be hampered by a lack of understanding of the dose-response effects on fish quality and product safety.

Se-NPs have a limited range of consumption in fish food because larger amounts can be toxic. At the same time, a lack of these important components can impair fish health by causing tissue damage and reducing physiological activities.

Limitations of previous studies

Studies on the effects of Se consumption and its nanoparticles in aquaculture have mainly focused on fish populations, with little focus on other marine animals. As a result, significant gaps remain in the current understanding, particularly regarding shrimp and crustacean responsiveness to diets supplemented with Se and Se NPs.

Some economically important species and development stages have also been overlooked in previous research, limiting the use of nanomaterials in aquafeed synthesis and production.

Highlights of current work

Selenium is an essential nutrient needed by aquatic animals for appropriate development and physiological activities. It has shown significant benefits including increased feed efficiency, nutritional digestion, blood circulation, gut morphology, antioxidant properties, immunology and tolerance to infections and environmental pollutants.

However, the required amounts in the diet vary depending on the aquatic species, and any deviation from the acceptable range has negative consequences due to the high toxicity of Se.

The positive benefits of Se can be enhanced by nanotechnology by converting it into the form of nanoparticles (Se-NPs), which are better absorbed by animals and have a wider uptake range. Since aquatic animals digest Se-NPs easily, they can meet nutritional needs in aquafeeds at low inclusion concentrations.

Future prospects and opportunities for further research

In the future, researchers should study all development periods of both fish and crustaceans to identify key aquaculture species in domestic and foreign markets. Molecular techniques should be used to gain a thorough understanding of the regulatory mechanisms that Se-NPs use to stimulate the antioxidant activities and immunology of marine animals.

This would be essential information for the industrialization of nanoscale materials in aquaculture. Future studies on incorporating Se-NPs into aquaculture diets could lead to significant gains in fish productivity, environmental sustainability and disease management across the aquaculture industry.


Khalil, HS et al. (2022). Embracing nanotechnology for the application of selenium in aquafeeds. Reviews in Aquaculture† Available at:

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