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Masculinization protocol for Nile tilapia in Biofloc technology.pdf

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Aquaculture 547 (2022) 737470
Available online 10 September 2021
0044-8486/© 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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Aquaculture 547 (2022) 737470
2
“supermales” requires a set of laborious steps and several progeny tests,
which can take a...
Aquaculture 547 (2022) 737470
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The experiment was designed in a factorial arrangement (5 × 2) with
five hormonal concentr...
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Masculinization protocol for Nile tilapia in Biofloc technology.pdf

  1. 1. Aquaculture 547 (2022) 737470 Available online 10 September 2021 0044-8486/© 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Short communication Masculinization protocol for Nile tilapia (O. niloticus) in Biofloc technology using 17-α-methyltestosterone in the diet Rodrigo Zhouri Costa e Silva a , Érika Ramos Alvarenga a , Sylvia Velloso Matta a , Gabriel Francisco de Oliveira Alves a , Ludson Guimarães Manduca a , Marcos Antônio Silva a , Thomás Toshio Yoshinaga a , Arthur Francisco Araújo Fernandes b , Eduardo Maldonado Turra a,* a Escola de Veterinária da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Av. Antônio Carlos, n◦ 6627, Caixa Postal 567, Campus da UFMG, CEP 30123-970 Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil b Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, University of Wisconsin – Madison, 472 Animal Science Building 1675, Observatory Dr., Madison, WI 53706, USA A R T I C L E I N F O Key-words: BFT Masculinization Sex control Uniformity of fingerlings Fish A B S T R A C T Sexual control through hormone treatments is widely used in Nile tilapia due to its simplicity and high efficiency. However, possible impacts of hormone residues introduction on the environment are still a topic of concern. One way to minimize the environmental impact of hormonal treatments is to use close aquaculture systems, such as the Biofloc Technology (BFT). However, BFT system can provide constant additional feed and there is the possibility that the feed with masculinization hormone offered would not be fully ingested, resulting in a lower ratio of males in relation to the traditional hormonal inversion protocols. Hence, different feeding frequencies and hormonal concentrations, superior to conventional protocols of masculinization, should be tested. Thus, our goal was to elaborate a masculinization protocol that would allow better growth and higher masculinization percentages for Nile tilapia (O. niloticus) in BFT. Nile tilapia fry were raised in BFT and submitted to different concentrations of 17α-methyltestosterone (60, 90, 120, 150 and 180 mg ⋅ kg− 1 ) which was offered five or eight times a day. The control group consisted of fry raised in clear water tanks fed with 60 mg ⋅ kg− 1 hormone diet provided five times a day. The experimental design was a factorial arrangement (5 × 2), plus control, on two random blocks, each block having two replicates per treatment. Stocking density applied was of 2 fry⋅ L− 1 (300 fry⋅ tank− 1 ). Water quality variables did not diverge between BFT systems and control group, except for settable solids, a result already expected. Animals submitted to BFT systems presented higher survival (%) and uniformity when compared to the clear water group. Higher hormone concentration treatments presented less proportion of males in contrast to 60 mg ⋅ kg− 1 groups and no differences were found between feed frequencies tested. In conclusion, it was possible to achieve ≥94% masculinization rates in tilapia using 17α-methyltestosterone at 60 mg ⋅ kg− 1 on BFT systems, under a five times per day feeding regime. 1. Introduction In Aquaculture, many strategies have been used for sex control, such as production of monosex populations through the induction of sex reversal by using hormonal treatment (Wassermann and Afonso, 2003; El-Sayed, 2006; Baroiller and Cotta, 2018), chromosomal manipulation for the production of triploid individuals (Arai and Fujimoto, 2018; Alvarenga et al., 2020), hybridization, and selection, or a combination of these (El-Sayed, 2006; Baroiller and Cotta, 2018; Wang and Shen, 2018). From the sex control strategies, the production of male monosex popu­ lation has many other advantages in Nile tilapia (O. niloticus) production, such as: faster growth reaching a larger harvest size, and greater uniformity; better flesh quality and appearance, and reducing the energy cost of gonad development (Hines and Watts, 1995; Beard­ more et al., 2001; El-Sayed, 2006; Singh, 2013; Wang and Shen, 2018). Two different approaches for all-male offspring deserve particular attention as they are environmentally friendly an follow the legislation of several countries, mainly European: the production of all-male offspring (a) from YY-male × XX-female mating, and (b) from the treatment of fries by high temperatures. YY males (“supermales”) can be produced from the mating of XY males and XY phenotypic females (feminized larvae). The production of * Corresponding author. E-mail address: eduturra@ufmg.br (E.M. Turra). Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Aquaculture journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/aquaculture https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aquaculture.2021.737470 Received 17 May 2021; Received in revised form 16 August 2021; Accepted 8 September 2021
  2. 2. Aquaculture 547 (2022) 737470 2 “supermales” requires a set of laborious steps and several progeny tests, which can take almost 5 years to complete the entire process (Baroiller and Cotta, 2018). Furthermore, the effects of genes with minor effects on sex determination can significantly interfere in the proportion of 100% male progeny (Mair et al., 1995). To guarantee a high percentage of males in progeny of YY parents, Beardmore et al. (2001) suggested the need for a selection program that increases the allelic frequency in the population of genes with minor effects that contribute to the determi­ nation of male sex. Fortunately, recent techniques developed for the identification of sex by genotypic markers (Baroiller and Cotta, 2018) can ensure a reduction of the time spent in steps that require progeny testing. However, the effort and time spent to form a YY strain can lead to an increase in costs and a genetic gap, in addition to a great difficulty to avoid high inbreeding rate. The production of lots of fingerlings with high proportions of males is also achieved with heat treatment (around 36 ◦ C) for a period of 10 to 30 days of 10 dpf age larvae (days after fertilization). Since thermo­ sensitivity has genetic components, it is possible to increase the pro­ portion of males with this type of treatment by selecting more thermosensitive families. However, the difficulties of this type of method lies mainly in its realization on a large scale, and technical so­ lutions for that are still in its beginning (Baroiller and DttaCotta, 2018). Most farmers use hormonal treatments, especially 17α-methyl­ testosterone (MT), for obtaining male monosex populations of Nile tilapia. MT is preferentially chosen because it is a simple, highly effi­ cient, reliable, and cheap approach (El-Sayed, 2006; Baroiller and Cotta, 2018), and this will probably continue to be the most important method to obtain all male offspring for a long time in the most important tilapia producing countries. The 17 α-methyltestosterone androgen has been tested in over 25 species within the Salmonidae, Cichlidae, Cyprinidiae, Anabantida, Poecilidae and Cyprinodontidae. Generally, the Cichlidae require lower doses of androgen compared to other families (Beardmore et al., 2001). Immersion protocols for this hormone administration have been applied but have not been successful in sex reversal of tilapias as in temperate species (Beardmore et al., 2001). Besides that, the mascu­ linization rate of immersion protocols is lower than those via dietary supplementation (Phelps and Popma, 2000). Moreover, the use of this technique in a large scale, mainly in pond systems, seems to be pro­ hibitive. The administration by feed has been the most important and used method in many countries (Popma and Green, 1990; Phelps and Popma, 2000; Beardmore et al., 2001; Baroiller and Cotta, 2018). The androgen is spread in the feed using ethanol as vehicle and during 28 days the most conservative and common length period, this mixture is offered (around 20% of feeding rate) to fries under 11 mm length or with 10 dpf of age (Baroiller and Cotta, 2018). It is important to note that MT dosages will depend upon the farming conditions. If the fry are treated directly in systems where plankton and/or microorganisms develop, and with possible loss of part of the feed, high dosages are often suggested (60 mg ⋅ Kg− 1 of feed), whereas, in indoor systems, lower dosages (30–45 mg ⋅ Kg− 1 of feed) can have the same efficiency (Baroiller and Cotta, 2018). Due to its rapid degradation, it is likely that MT does not accumulate in treated fish or the environment. It is important, however, that there is a regular management of sediments from production systems such as ponds, ensuring aerobic conditions to increase the speed of its degra­ dation. Meanwhile, it is still possible to consider a risk in this type of system, especially with the accumulation of MT in the adipose tissue of tilapias around hapas that can escape, or even wild fish in water bodies that receive effluent from tilapia farms, where they frequently consume leftover feed with MT, serving as biotransporters of the hormone and promoting effects on the physiology of local predators (Baroiller and Cotta, 2018). Thus, the production of masculinized fingerlings by MT in systems such as ponds, which have a regular discharge of effluent to the environment and have less control over fish escapes, is potentially less environmentally friendly. Recirculating aquaculture systems and Biofloc technology (BFT), as (like) closed systems, can be an alternative for tilapia hatcheries that use MT treatments. The BFT emerged as an alternative, sustainable method to produce aquatic animals (Avnimelech, 2009; Crab et al., 2012; Ahmad et al., 2017). This technology enables the reduction of water and land use for aquaculture due to its features, such as minimal water changes, higher stocking densities (in comparison to ponds), and recycling of the nu­ trients present in the water resulting in less emission of pollutants (Naylor et al., 2000; Avnimelech, 2009; Crab et al., 2012; FAO, 2016; Ahmad et al., 2017). The best growth out indexes for the production of tilapia in BFT have been under study. It is possible to produce tilapia with more than 500 g body weight with 15 to 75 fish ⋅ m− 3 (Rakocy et al., 2004; Green et al., 2019; Manduca et al., 2021) and to harvest Nile tilapia from a breeding program in BFT (Turra et al., 2012a; Turra et al., 2012b; Fernandes et al., 2015; Turra et al., 2016; Turra et al., 2018) with an average body weight of 750 g in less than 200 days of culture (initial body weight of 6 g) and with feed conversion ratio below 1.3 (Cavatti Neto et al., data yet to be published). Tilapia juveniles (about 20 g body weight) can be produced at stocking densities of 400 individuals ⋅ m− 3 , in moderately saline environments (4 to 8 mg ⋅ L− 1 ) by controlling the toxicity of nitrite peaks (Alvarenga et al., 2018), although this indication is not suitable for the masculinization phase (Valle et al., data yet to be published). Despite the recent increase in the interest on the use of BFT for Nile tilapia culture, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, an efficient masculinization protocol for tilapia using this system has not yet been developed. The use of BFT for the production of all male Nile tilapia juvenile could enhance the fingerling production, since tilapia can use the biofloc as an additional nutritional source, and with minimal envi­ ronmental impact, due to its capacity to recycle nutrients (Azim and Little, 2008; Avnimelech, 2009). Nevertheless, based on the initial hy­ pothesis that the BFT system can provide constant additional feed (Ekasari et al., 2014; Silva et al., 2018), there is the possibility that the feed with masculinization hormone offered would not be fully ingested. Therefore, less feed consumed by the fish could mean less hormone ingested, resulting in a lower ratio of males in relation to the traditional hormonal inversion protocols. Hence, different feeding frequencies and hormonal concentrations, superior to conventional protocols of mascu­ linization should be tested. Corroborating this hypothesis, David-Ruales et al. (2019) compared the sexual inversion of red tilapia induced by 17-α-methyltestosterone (60 mg ⋅kg− 1 of feed) in Recirculating Aqua­ culture System (RAS) and BFT and found a proportion of males of 91% and 64%, respectively. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the concen­ tration of MT in the diet and daily feeding frequency to determinate a protocol for masculinization of Nile tilapia in BFT systems. 2. Materials and methods 2.1. Animals and experimental design The experiment was conducted in a greenhouse under natural light at the Aquaculture Laboratory of Veterinary School of the Federal Uni­ versity of Minas Gerais (Laboratório de Aquacultura - LAQUA, Escola de Veterinária/Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais - UFMG), Brazil. Experimental procedures were carried out in compliance with animal welfare laws, policies, and guidelines. All procedures were previously reviewed and approved by the Counsel of ethical practices in animals of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (CEUA) under protocol number 75/2018. For fry production, 24 females and 16 males of Nile tilapias (average body weight of 600 g) from Chitralada line were selected for repro­ duction in clear water per week (different breeders per week), during two non-consecutive weeks (two blocks). In each block, 6600 post yolk sac absorption larvae were randomly collected (from at least 10 spawnings) and distributed equally on 22 tanks with a storage volume of 150 L, resulting in 300 fry ⋅ tank− 1 (stocking density = 2 fry ⋅ L − 1 ), as described by Lara-Flores and Olvera-Novoa (2013). R.Z. Costa e Silva et al.
  3. 3. Aquaculture 547 (2022) 737470 3 The experiment was designed in a factorial arrangement (5 × 2) with five hormonal concentration and two feeding frequencies (described below), plus control, in random blocks. Therefore, the experiment was composed by 11 treatments, and each treatment (control and combi­ nation of dose and feeding frequency) had four replicates with a total of 44 experimental units. Because of the limited number of tanks, the experiment was divided into two blocks of time, each containing 22 tanks, therefore, 11 treatments and two replicates per block. During the first 28 days of post yolk sac absorption, the Nile tilapia fry were fed with a commercial ration (Propescado-Nutriave Foods) containing 55% crude protein enriched with MT. Five different con­ centrations of hormone were tested, 60, 90, 120, 150 and 180 mg ⋅ kg− 1 on the fish feed. The lower dose of 60 mg ⋅ kg− 1 was chosen considering that it is often used in outdoor systems (Baroiller and Cotta, 2018). Also, since David-Ruales et al. (2019) used MT in a concentration of 60 mg ⋅ kg− 1 of feed in BFT and found a proportion of males of only 64% in red tilapia, we hypothesized the higher doses could be necessary. Therefore, we evaluated if 60 mg ⋅ kg− 1 of feed and four doses above it could be effective for the masculinization of Nile tilapia in BFT. We also tested two feeding frequencies - five or eight times a day - with the same total amount of feed per day. As positive control, we used MT at 60 mg ⋅ kg− 1 of feed in clear water with a frequency of five times a day, which is the protocol often used in outdoor systems. Results of different masculinization rates between Nile tilapia fam­ ilies have already been obtained and presented in the literature (Beardmore et al., 2001; Baroiller and Cotta, 2018). To avoid a family × treatment interaction effect, more than 20 females that spawned for larvae harvest came from a large genetic basis broodstock, a large number of founders being of four different origins of Chitralada line in Brazil (>400 males and females of each line), with an inbreeding rate of less than 1.3%. Since the evaluation of seven generations of this breeding line presented an average female/male proportion of 45/55% (in a breeding program in BFT), a negative control was not necessary (feed without hormone). The specific quantity of hormone for each treatment was measured in a precision balance (©Marte Científica, Brazil) and dissolved in 200 mL of absolute alcohol, then sprinkled to the fish feed during a mixing process. The feed was then stocked in a dark room for alcohol evapo­ ration and hormone fixation, and after 24 h the fish feeds were stored in dim white buckets and properly tagged for each treatment. The buckets were stored in a freezer under − 20 ◦ C, to keep hormone levels throughout the trial according to Barry et al. (2007). The feeding rate applied was 30% of the fish weight for the first week, 25% for the second, 20% for the third, and 15% for the fourth week. The percentage was adjusted to lower levels each passing week, as described by Luthada and Jerling (2013), Daudpota et al. (2016), and recommendations of Phelps and Popma (2000) and El-Sayed (2006). The amount of feed offered was based on the same average body weight of fry for each experimental unit at the beginning of each week (week 1 = 0.01 g, week 2 = 0.15 g, week 3 = 0.4 g and week 4 = 0.8 g), according to results of previous experiments. An expected mortality of 2% from one week to another was also considered. Thus, in the first week, 3 mg of feed / day, containing 180 ng of MT (1260 ng for the first week) were offered for each fry; in the second week 37 mg of feed / day, containing 2220 ng of MT (15,540 ng for the second week), were offered; in the third week 60 mg of feed / day, containing 3600 ng of MT (25,200 ng for the third week) were offered, and in the fourth week 120 mg of feed / day, containing 7200 ng of MT (50,400 ng for the fourth week) were offered for each fry. 2.2. Water quality The 20 fish tanks were filled to 150 L in the beginning of the experimental essay with biofloc previously developed in our laboratory. The initial biofloc total ammonia nitrogen (TAN) and nitrite (NO2 − ) concentrations were of 0 mg ⋅ L− 1 . Temperature, salinity, pH, and dissolved oxygen (DO) were measured three times per week using the YSI 6920 V2 (Yellow Springs Incorporated - YSI, OH, USA) multipa­ rameter probe. TAN and N-NO2 − were also analyzed three times per week using spectrophotometry (Biochrom Libra S22), according to UNESCO (1983) and Bendschneider and Robinson (1952), respectively. Settable solids (SS) were collected and measured once a week through the ImHoff cone (Avnimelech, 2009). Alkalinity and total suspended solids (TSS) were monitored once a week through protocols adapted from APHA, 1998 and Strickland and Parsons (1972), respectively. During the experiment, when ammonia exceeded 0.5 mg ⋅ L− 1 , molasses (estimated with 50% carbon) was added to the system in order to maintain the proportion of 6:1 (C:N), according to Ebeling et al. (2006). Also, sodium chloride was added until a 1.5 g ⋅ L− 1 concentration was reached to reduce nitrite toxicity in all the tanks (adapted from Yanbo et al., 2006). The control treatment (clear water system) of water quality was maintained with a water renewal rate of 50% per day. To avoid differ­ ence in temperatures between treatments, the water renewal was made with water that was previously heated (27–28 ◦ C). 2.3. Larval biometry and sexing At the beginning of each block of the experiment, a batch of more than 100 randomly selected post yolk sac absorption larvae was dried in paper towel and weighted together for the initial body weight deter­ mination. In two moments of the experiment (15 and 21 days), approximately 50 fish were randomly selected from each tank and weighed together. These fish were then euthanized and submitted to Hematoxylin-Eosin (HE) histology analyses for early sex determination. At the end of the 28 days of experiment, 75 fingerlings were indi­ vidually weighed and 60 were randomly chosen for microscopic ana­ lyses of gonads and sex determination. These fish were stored in Bouin liquid for 24 h and then transferred to an alcohol solution at 70%. We used the classification method to define males, females and undiffer­ entiated fish using aceto-carmin squash technic as described by Guerrero and Shelton (1974), validated by Wassermann and Afonso (2003) and reviewed by Makino et al. (2008). Fish were classified as intersex when they presented both spermatogonia and oocytes. We used a precision balance (©Marte Científica, Brazil) to weigh the batch of post yolk sac absorption larvae and the fries on day 15, 21, and at the end of the experiment. 2.4. Growth performance and survival Growth performance was evaluated based on the final body weight (BWf), final biomass (BMf), final stocking density (SDf), daily weight gain (DWG), specific growth rate (SGR) and survival. BWf was the average measure of weight acquired on the 28th day of experiment from 75 fingerlings per tank. BMf was acquired by BMf = (BW15 × N15) + (BW21 × N21) + (BWf × Nf). BW15 is the body weight and N15 is the number of fish weighed on the 15th day, BW21 and N21 on the 21st day, and Nf represented the final number of remaining fish. SDf was acquired by SDf = BWf / useful tank volume (i.e., 0.15 m3 ). DWG calculation was DWG = (BWf - BWi)/t, where BWi represents the initial weight and BWf is the final weight and t is the duration of the trial (days). Survival (S) was calculated as S = 100 × [(Nf + N15 + N21)/Ni], where Ni represents the initial number of fish per tank. SGR was ob­ tained as described by Ekasari et al. (2015) by [(BWf /BWi)1/t − 1] × 100. 2.5. Statistical analyses Water variables were submitted to the analysis of variance (ANOVA). Then, the residuals were tested by Shapiro-Wilk and Bartlett test. When residuals were normally distributed and the variances were R.Z. Costa e Silva et al.
  4. 4. Aquaculture 547 (2022) 737470 4 homogeneous, the results were analyzed by ANOVA and post-tested depending on CV, < 10% by Tukey, > 10% and < 20% by SNK and above 20% by Duncan test. The values that presented p < .05 in Shapiro- Wilk or Bartlett test were submitted to Kruskal-Wallis test. The performance variables were analyzed using two statistical stra­ tegies. First, all treatments were compared using the mean, since the control group is a qualitative treatment. In this comparison, if the re­ siduals of the response variable presented normal distribution with zero mean, they would be evaluated by ANOVA and post test, as described above. In a second statistical strategy, we considered only BFT treat­ ments and analyzed the data by factorial ANOVA, including the effect of block, concentration, frequency, and its interactions. When the effect of concentration or frequency or its interactions was not significant it was removed from the final model. Regression models were also fitted for all growth performance variables. In order to compare body size uniformity between control and BFT, an individual measurement of weight was made in 75 individuals per tank (150 individuals per treatment in each block) and the homogeneity of variance was tested by Bartlett and F-test to compare the two vari­ ances. Since the Bartlett and F tests do not consider the effect from blocks, the entire procedure was performed using results from each block. Masculinization data was transformed in arcsine of the square root to properly normalize the values and then submitted to ANOVA and Tukey tests. A linear regression model was fitted. For a better evaluation of the treatment effects over masculinization, an analysis of different scenarios was established: we assumed a first scenario where 50% of undifferen­ tiated fish obtained would turn into females and 50% into males, and a second scenario where the same proportion of masculinization obtained for differentiated fish would repeat itself with the remaining undiffer­ entiated individuals. The results considering the scenarios were then transformed in arcsine square root and then submitted to linear regression analyses. Infostat (Di Rienzo et al., 2015) and R (R Core Team, 2016) software were used for the analysis. 3. Results and discussion Sexual control by hormone treatments is used in Nile tilapia because this species can reproduce before reaching market size, which generates many problems to tilapia farmers, such as overpopulation, reduced growth, and die-off (Baroiller and Cotta, 2018; Brämick et al., 1995; Farahmand et al., 2007; Hussain et al., 1995). Despite the environmental issues related to hormone use, it remains widely used due to its simplicity and high efficiency (Baroiller et al., 2009; Baroiller and Cotta, 2018; Joshi et al., 2019). Since BFT is an aquaculture system with minimal to zero water discharge to the environment, it could minimize the possible environmental problems generated by hormones. However, before assessing whether BFT would be a solution for reducing hormone residues, it is necessary to establish an efficient masculinization protocol in this system, once its high concentration and availability of live food in the water, above a traditional larvae culture system in ponds (and well above a clear water system), could interfere with the ingestion of food containing the daily amount of androgen necessary for the masculini­ zation process. Since the percentage of male tilapia obtained after a masculinization protocol using MT in BFT was insufficient in a previous study (David-Ruales et al., 2019), the present study investigated more treatment possibilities, based on higher levels of MT on feed than used pond and clear water systems, and established a protocol for mascu­ linization of Nile tilapia in BFT. Water quality parameters were within the recommended range for the development of tilapia (Table 1). As expected, TSS and SS were different between treatments, with higher values found in BFT in com­ parison to the control group. However, these differences did not result in negative effects on fingerlings growth and survival in BFT. The control group presented an inferior survival rate in comparison to most BFT treatments, similar results were described by Ekasari et al. (2015) and Table 1 Water quality variables (mean or median) and their coefficients of variation (CV) or minimum and maximum data (between brackets) for Nile tilapia larvae reared in clear water (control) or biofloc technology (BFT), during 28 days of masculinization under different 17 α -methyltestosterone (MT) concentration in the diet and two different feeding strategies (5 × ⋅ day − 1 and 8 × ⋅ day − 1 ). Variables Control (Clear water) BFT CV 5× ⋅ day − 1 5× ⋅ day − 1 MT concentration (mg ⋅ Kg − 1 feed) 8× ⋅ day − 1 MT concentration (mg ⋅ Kg − 1 feed) 60 60 90 120 150 180 60 90 120 150 180 Temperature ( ◦ C)* 26.58 26.54 26.59 26.83 26.76 26.71 26.44 26.78 26.73 26.82 26.45 1.79 DO (mg ⋅ L − 1 )* 6.57 6.48 6.48 6.50 6.47 6.37 6.49 6.45 6.46 6.41 6.47 2.13 pH** 8.08 (8.01–8.18) 7.53 (7.17–7.83) 7.42 (7.10–7.91) 7.56 (7.07–8.03) 7.52 (7.06–7.99) 7.52 (7.06–7.91) 7.45 (7.03–7.84) 7.52 (7.10–7.93) 7.56 (7.05–8.06) 7.51 (7.18–7.95) 7.39 (7.02–8.06) – TAN (mg ⋅ L − 1 )** 0.26 (0.18–0.32) 0.22 (0.12–0.23) 0.22 (0.14–0.38) 0.19 (0.15–0.22) 0.17 (0.15–0.18) 0.21 (0.14–0.22) 0.23 (0.11–0.25) 0.18 (0.12–0.23) 0.19 (0.14–0.25) 0.18 (0.14–0.27) 0.17 (0.15–0.37) – Nitrite (mg ⋅ L − 1 )** 0.08 (0.05–0.10) 0.07 (0.02–0.15) 0.05 (0.03–0.14) 0.06 (0.03–0.10) 0.07 (0.03–0.10) 0.09 (0.04–0.16) 0.07 (0.03–0.18) 0.06 (0.04–0.12) 0.07 (0.05–0.10) 0.07 (0.04–0.16) 0.07 (0.03–0.11) – SS (ml ⋅ L − 1 )*** 0.26 a 10.83 bc 12.83 b 9.75 bc 9.03 bc 8.09 c 10.01 bc 9.98 bc 9.61 bc 10.03 bc 11.55 bc 26.4 TSS (mg ⋅L − 1 )*** 109.75 a 366.56 b 351.79 b 361.50 b 303.94 b 285.88 b 322.63 b 430.00 b 383.63 b 322.13 b 337.88 b 31.0 Alkalinity(mg of CaCO 3 ⋅ L − 1 )** 101.42 (65.7–127.6) 56.57 (49.5–99.2) 71.44 (52.5–90.4) 76.99 (54.2–87.8) 62.40 (52.7–82.2) 72.27 (57.5–83.6) 70.40 (57.3–88.8) 56.09 (53.2–80.2) 78.07 (57.5–83.6) 78.60 (45.0–95.7) 70.65 (66.2–89.8) – Salinity (g ⋅ L − 1 )** 1.49 (1.29–1.92) 1.86 (1.59–2.00) 1.88 (1.67–1.94) 1.70 (1.62–1.77) 1.61 (1.57–1.65) 1.81 (1.64–1.96) 1.79 (1.57–1.95) 1.90 (1.65–1.96) 1.65 (1.59–1.82) 1.72 (1.65–1.91) 1.92 (1.53–1.96) – Reference values for tilapia culture: Temperature = 27–32 ◦ C (El-Sayed, 2006); nitrite <8 mg ⋅ L − 1 (El-Sayed, 2006); DO (dissolved oxygen) > 4 mg ⋅ L − 1 (Wedemeyer, 1996); pH = 5.5–9 (Rebouças et al., 2016); TAN (total ammonia nitrogen) < 1 mg ⋅ L − 1 (El-Sayed, 2006); alkalinity >50 mg of CaCO 3 ⋅ L − 1 (Boyd et al., 2016); SS (Settleable solids) < 100 ml ⋅ L − 1 (Avnimelech, 2009); TSS (Total suspended solid) < 1000 mg ⋅ L − 1 (Avnimelech, 2009); salinity ≤ 8 g ⋅ L − 1 (Alvarenga et al., 2018) *Means in the same line did not differ according to ANOVA and Tukey test (p > .05). **Median in the same line did not differ according to Kruskal-Wallis test (p > .05). ***Means with different letters in the same line differ according to ANOVA and Duncan test (p < .05). R.Z. Costa e Silva et al.
  5. 5. Aquaculture 547 (2022) 737470 5 Pérez-Fuentes et al. (2016). We did not find differences in the growth performance variables evaluated between animals from BFT and control group. However, an interesting higher uniformity of animals reared in BFT was observed in comparison to those of fish in control. The weight distributions of all BFT treatments differed from control according to Bartlett and F tests, p < .05. For example, we compared the body weight of animals from the same dose (60 mg ⋅ kg− 1 of feed) in different systems and feed fre­ quencies (Fig. 1). For control, five and eight times of daily feed fre­ quencies in BFT, we did not found differences between the body weight averages. On the other hand, the variances of body weight in control system were higher than those in BFT (p < .001), being their values 0.09 g2 , 0.03 g2 , 0.03 g2 in block 1, and 0.33 g2 , 0.18 g2 , 0.19 g2 in block 2, respectively. This result can be attributed to the availability of natural food in BFT, accessible 24 h (Avnimelech, 1999; Hargreaves, 2013). This could imply reduced cost and time to select equally sized fingerlings for sales in BFT. In the second statistical strategy, results from the control group were not included (qualitative treatment), and linear regression was used to evaluate the effects of treatments in BFT over several performance variables. The effects of interactions and feeding frequency were not significant for growth performance variables and a higher feeding fre­ quency tested did not improve the growth nor survival of the animals. Therefore, the linear models presented were composed only by the ef­ fects of block and hormone concentration. All the performance vari­ ables, except survival, were negatively affected by the increase of hormone concentration, that is, when submitted to higher hormone concentration the fingerling growth was lower (Table 2). A histological analysis of fish sections stained by Hematoxylin-Eosin (HE) applied on the individuals harvested at 15 and 21 days after yolk sac absorption was tested as an attempt on earlier quantification on the success of the masculinization protocol. However, it proved to be inef­ ficient since there was a high proportion of undifferentiated individuals. This analysis is also more laborious than the aceto-carmin squash with higher processing time, thus these results indicate that this procedure should not be applied for commercial purposes. Therefore, this is the reason the masculinization analysis in this work was only made in the individuals of 28 days post yolk sac absorption through the aceto-carmin squash technic. When we compared the results between masculinization obtained from treatments under BFT with the result from the clear water group (Fig. 2), we did not find differences in the masculinization rate between Fig. 1. The weight distributions of all BFT treatments differed from control (clear water) according to Bartlett and F tests. We plotted, as an example, the weight distributions of treatments where 60 mg of 17-α-methyltestosterone were used as hormone concentration per kg of feed: five times of daily feed frequency in BFT (green), eight times of daily feed frequency in BFT (red), and five times of daily feed frequency in control (blue). Data were analyzed and plotted per block due its significant effect. Observe the higher variation of weigh in clear water. (For interpretation of the references to colour in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.) R.Z. Costa e Silva et al.
  6. 6. Aquaculture 547 (2022) 737470 6 the groups. Several masculinization protocols, including the use of MT in diet, have been tested in the past decades. Literature extensively men­ tions that, in order to achieve successful masculinization, the feeding frequency must be at least four times a day (Meurer et al., 2012; Luthada and Jerling, 2013; Baroiller and Cotta, 2018). Based on the initial hy­ pothesis that the BFT systems provide constant additional feed (the biofloc) to the fish, there was the possibility that the diet containing MT would not be fully ingested, resulting in less consumption of hormone. During the oral masculinization treatment, it is possible that by increasing the feeding frequency higher concentrations of hormone in the blood are obtained due to the short half-life of MT. This could potentially assure higher masculinization, therefore resulting in less quantity of females and intersex fish (Meurer et al., 2012). However, this was not the case for our study, where both frequencies tested, five and eight times a day, presented similar results, indicating that a feeding frequency of five times a day is enough for the masculinization of Nile tilapia in BFT. In fact, we obtained no difference between masculinization rate from fish reared in clear water and from BFT with the same feed frequency and concentration, thus the initial assumption based on less hormone consumption was not proved. David-Ruales et al. (2019) found lower masculinization induced by MT (60 mg ⋅ kg− 1 of feed) in red tilapia reared in BFT (male proportion of 64%) as compared to animals reared in RAS (male proportion of 91%). However, it is worth to note these authors did not describe the feed frequency applied in their experiments and they used a constant feeding rate of 10%, which could be insuffi­ cient to induce an efficient masculinization of tilapias reared in BFT. Baroiller and Cotta (2018), for instance, recommended feeding rates of Table 2 Growth performance and survival for Nile tilapia larvae reared in clear water (control) or biofloc system (BFT), during 28 days of masculinization under different 17α- methyltestosterone (MT) concentration in the ration. Variables Control (Clear water) BFT CV 5×/day 5× ⋅ day− 1 MT concentration (mg ⋅ Kg− 1 feed) 8× ⋅ day− 1 MT concentration (mg ⋅ Kg− 1 feed) 60 60 90 120 150 180 60 90 120 150 180 BWf (g)**(1) 0.76 0.90 0.83 0.74 0.80 0.85 0.90 0.87 0.86 0.77 0.68 16.46 BMf (g)**(2) 110.19 155.59 158.58 139.10 150.33 156.37 171.16 158.40 160.52 138.13 121.59 18.43 SDf (Kg ⋅ m− 3 )**(3) 0.73 1.04 1.06 0.93 1.00 1.04 1.14 1.06 1.07 0.92 0.81 18.43 DWG (mg ⋅ day− 1 )**(4) 26.58 31.82 29.09 26.06 28.34 30.07 31.90 30.68 30.35 27.18 23.87 16.69 SGR (%⋅ day− 1 )* (5) 14.68 15.29 14.92 14.57 14.99 15.09 15.13 15.09 15.23 14.83 14.39 3.70 Survival (%)*(6) 77b 88ab 97a 95a 94a 93a 95a 93a 94a 91a 91a 6.29 BWf = Final body mean weight; BMf = Final mean biomass; SDf = Final stocking density; DWG = Daily weight gain; SGR = Specific growth rate (%/day). *Means in the same line did not differ according to ANOVA and Tukey test (p > .05). **Means with different letters in the same line differ according to ANOVA and SNK test (p < .05). x1 = block (1 or 2, corresponding 0 or 1 in the model, respectively) and x2 = 17α-methyltestosterone concentration in the ration. (1)Final body mean weight: y = 0.67 + 0.57 × 1–0.0011 × 2; R2 = 0.85. (2)Final mean biomass: y = 128.66 + 95.09 × 1–0.21 × 2; R2 = 0.80. (3)Final stocking density: y = 0.86 + 0.63 × 1–0.0014 × 2; R2 = 0.80. (4)Daily weight gain: y = 23.55 + 20.28 × 1–0.04 × 2; R2 = 0.85. (5)Specific growth rate: y = 14.15 + 2.47 × 1–0.0036 × 2; R2 = 0.88. (6)Survival: The regression model was not significant (p > .05). Fig. 2. Percentage of male, female, intersex, and undifferentiated animals of Nile tilapia submitted to different concentration of 17-α-methyltestosterone on the fish food and feed frequency in control and BFT systems. The linear regression estimated by the transformed results from BFT treatments (y = 1.48–0.22 × 1–0.00098 × 2; R2 = 0.45; where x1 = block (1 or 2, corresponding 0 or 1 in the model) and x2 = 17α-methyltestosterone concentration) presented a p-value = .051 for the coefficient that describes the effect of dose treatments over the distribution of masculinization results. R.Z. Costa e Silva et al.
  7. 7. Aquaculture 547 (2022) 737470 7 20% of biomass per day for the first week, 18% for the second, 16% for the third week, and 15% for the fourth week. These feeding rates are lower than those used in this study (30% of the fish weight for the first week, 25% for the second, 20% for the third, and 15% for the fourth week) and their effectiveness could also be tested in BFT. The second strategy for statistical analysis was adopted to evaluate the results only between BFT treatments, and access whether there are differences in masculinization rate among the feeding frequency and hormone concentration evaluated. Once again, there were no statistical differences between the possible interactions. Also, the feeding fre­ quencies tested did not present a significant statistical effect. According to the estimated regression, the increase in hormone concentration reduced the percentage of males. However, the b regressor, which rep­ resents the effect of hormone concentration on the variation of mascu­ linization results was not significant (p = .0511) (Fig. 2). In our study, we found an average of 5% of undifferentiated finger­ lings. For a better evaluation of our results, two different scenarios were defined to describe the future of undifferentiated animals. In the first scenario, the proportion of males from the undifferentiated fish was inputted to be 50%; whereas in the second scenario, the proportion of undifferentiated would be the same result obtained in the masculiniza­ tion of each corresponded treatment (e.g., in an experimental unit with 98% male, the count was: total male = male +0.98 × undifferentiated animals). In both scenarios (Fig. 3), the regressors were significant and similar to the regressor estimated from non-simulated data (− 0.00098 for non-inputted, − 0.00084 for situation 1, and − 0.00082 for situation 2). Therefore, the results suggest a reduction of masculinization due to the increase in hormone concentration in the fish food. As in clear water protocols, the hormone concentration treatments in BFT led to a paradox sex reversal when the concentration exceeds a limit. Excessive hormone concentration may promote the formation of females and intersex in­ dividuals and decrease in the growth of O. niloticus (Guerrero, 1975; Cruz and Mair, 1994; Pandian and Sheela, 1995; Beardmore et al., 2001; El-Sayed, 2006). In our study, as the hormone concentration increased fewer male individuals were obtained, most likely due to the paradox sex reversal effect (Fig. 2). In fact, as 60 mg ⋅ kg− 1 promoted the higher masculinization rate, lower levels of MT concentration (Baroiller and Cotta, 2018) should be tested for BFT in a further study to find out the optimal MT concentration. In conclusion, high concentrations of hormone in masculinization protocols are not recommended due to the paradox sex reversal, even in BFT systems. However, it is possible to achieve high masculinization rates in Nile tilapia reared in BFT using MT from post yolk sac absorption to 28 days of age, in a feeding rate of 30% for the first week, 25% for the second one, 20% for the third and 15% for the fourth week. The results of this study indicate that a masculinization rate equal or superior to 94% can be achieved, using fish feed enriched with MT in the concen­ tration of 60 mg ⋅ kg− 1 , the lowest concentration evaluated, with feeding frequency of five times a day, therefore the cheapest and most effective protocol. Data availability The data that support the findings of this study is available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request. Author contributions statement Rodrigo Z. C. Silva - data collection, data analysis, interpretation of data and article preparation. Érika R. Alvarenga - contributed to the experimental design, data analysis, interpretation of data and article preparation. Sylvia V. Matta - contributed to the data analysis and interpretation of data. Gabriel F. O. Alves - contributed to the experimental design and article preparation. Ludson G. Manduca - contributed to the data collection and article preparation. Marcos A. Silva - contributed to the data analysis, interpretation of data and article preparation. Thomás T. Yoshinaga - contributed to the data analysis and inter­ pretation of data. Arthur Francisco Araújo Fernandes - contributed to the data analysis and article preparation. Eduardo M. Turra - experimental design, data analysis, interpreta­ tion of data, article preparation and coordination. Fig. 3. Two different scenarios of masculinization. In scenario 1, we estimated 50% of undifferentiated animals as female. In scenario 2, we expect to find the same masculinization proportion identified in this work (for example, in an experimental unit with 98% of male, the count was: total male = male + (0.98 × undif­ ferentiated animals). In these estimations, the masculinization proportion data was arcsine transformed and a linear regression model was obtained: y scenario 1 = 1.51–0.22 × 1–0.00084 × 2; R2 = 0.55; y scenario 2 = 1.55–0.22 × 1–0.00082 × 2; R2 = 0.60, where x1 = block (1 or 2, corresponding 0 or 1 in the model) and x2 = 17α-methyltestosterone concentration. R.Z. Costa e Silva et al.
  8. 8. Aquaculture 547 (2022) 737470 8 Declaration of Competing Interest The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper. Rodrigo Zhouri Costa e Silva reports financial support (scholarship) was provided by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico. Acknowledgments This research received support from CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico). References Ahmad, I., Rani, B.A.M., Verma, A.K., Maqsood, M., 2017. Biofloc technology: an emerging avenue in aquatic animal healthcare and nutrition. Aquac. Int. 25, 1215–1226. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10499-016-0108-8. Alvarenga, É.R., Alves, G.F.O., Fernandes, A.F.A., Costa, G.R., Silva, M.A., Teixeira, E.A., Turra, E.M., 2018. Moderate salinities enhance growth performance of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) fingerlings in the biofloc system. Aquac. 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