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Probiotics General Information

Research has determined that beneficial bacteria can stave off destructive bacteria. Good bacteria now eat and excrete their way into dominating the microbe world in shrimp aquaculture ponds. As an important consequence, these minuscule aggressors also benefit shrimp and improve the entire health and quality of the pond medium. Microbiologists call the good bacteria probiotics. The counterinsurgency effect they produce is bioremediation, or the restoration of environments through living (biological) systems rather than mechanical or toxic means. By definition, bioremediation restores health to a troubled ecosystem.

What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are relatively new. Scientists first coined the term in 1992 and have tried probiotics therapy in humans, animals and environments. As used in shrimp aquaculture, probiotics are a single or mixed culture of live microorganisms (bacteria), naturally occurring in wild shrimp habitat, that have a positive effect when introduced to the pond medium.

To best determine which bacteria would make good probiotics, scientists scoop up quantities of water from healthy shrimp habitat where species are performing at peek capacity in the ocean. They analyze the water's makeup and culture bacteria they find there to use as probiotics. Popular probiotics bacteria are Nirosomonas, Cellulomonas, Bacillus subtilis, and Nitrobacter. Their culture does not involve any sort of chemicals or toxins. Hence, probiotics application meets the constraints of eco-sensitive environments.

Probiotics seeding is presently gaining immense popularity in shrimp pond management, with no ill effect to the shrimp, shrimp consumers, or the environment.

What Led To Probiotics Development?
The term probiotics suggests the opposite of antibiotics, and for good reason. Living systems require good bacteria to break down nutrients for digestion and decompose waste. Antibiotic therapy kills bacteria, both good and bad, thus compromising living systems. Also, continued use of antibiotics increasingly fail to combat bad bacteria, leaving some deadly diseases untreatable, in animals and humans alike. Many scientists believe the scenario is not just grim; it is dire along the lines of the Andromeda strain.
In closed systems like shrimp ponds, antibiotic therapy has been a prescription for disaster. The drawbacks of antibiotic therapy have resulted and continue to result first in enormous crop loss, and second, in water heavily polluted with ammonia and other toxic substances. Farmers can lose as much as 80% of their shrimp harvest. Sometimes ponds become so contaminated they are unusable. The cost to farmers, suppliers and consumers is huge, but the resultant cost to the ecosystem is even greater. Nonetheless, shrimp are very sensitive to disease. So clearly some other control therapy had to replace the antibiotic overload. For non-antibiotic disease prevention, microbiologists turned to "competitive exclusion," a process where beneficial bacteria edge out detrimental bacteria in their natural quest for pond dominance. They called this competitive exclusion probiotics because good bacteria crowd out bad bacteria rather than kill them as an antibiotic would.

What Do Probiotics Do For Shrimp And The Medium They Grow In?
Farmers add probiotics to condition the water for baby shrimp, both before and during the cultivation process. This renders shrimp aquaculture truly "sustainable" in the following ways:
Probiotics compete for food with dangerous disease-causing bacteria, diminishing their presence in ponds. Customarily, ponds have indigenous bad bacteria that leisurely snack on an abundance of undigested shrimp food, shrimp fecal mater, and dead algae. When farmers suddenly introduce a large quantity of these good bacteria -- probiotics -- into the water, it is like unloading several busloads of hungry tourists at an all you-can-eat buffet. In their haste to chow down, the newcomers bump the slothful pro-existing bad bacteria out of the nutrient queue. The old bacteria, often bad bacteria such as Vibrio and Aeromonas, have not had to compete for food and therefore cannot keep pace with the aggressive probiotics. Probiotics excretions put bad bacteria at a further disadvantage. Not only do they have terrific appetites; probiotics bacteria excrete enzymes -- exoenzymes -- as a natural byproduct of their metabolic activity, just as humans perspire. The enzyme excretions infuse the pond medium, changing the overall chemistry of the environment. Conditions become even less copacetic for the bad bacteria, already weakend from losing out at the trough. Probiotics, by limiting or excluding bad bacteria, reduce the level of infection and mortality in shrimp. Probiotics speed the breakdown of organic waste fragments (dissolved proteins and unused feed), thus lessening sludge build-up. If sludge is not removed or does not decompose, dangerous concentrations of sulfide, nitrite, ammmonia and various organic acids can occur. While the bacteria are busy gobbling up the pond's smaller flotsam, their exoenzymes go to work on larger waste particles, breaking them down through chemical reaction. As a result, there are fewer harmful chemicals in the medium. This can reduce the loading of the biofiltration system.

Probiotics balance algae growth. Since dead algae are one of the bacteria's favorite foods, the bacteria act like a pruning and weeding system within the pond. Also probiotics diminish nutrients normally consumed by algae. Result? Less sludge.

Probiotics make better shrimp habitat. With less accumulation of organic matter on the pond bottom, more oxygen can penetrate the sediment. Shrimp characteristically burrow in the sediment. By loosening the sediment, probiotics make this burrowing easier. Moreover, they diminish the toxin level in the sediment itself as already explained.

Probiotics maximize shrimp nutrition. In addition to the feed administered by farmers shrimp graze on tiny zooplankton that is present in the water supply. Zooplankton eat bacteria. Providing more feed for existing zooplankton in the pond medium, probiotics build up the zooplankton population, and thus beef up the food supply.

Probiotics optimize shrimp immune systems, increasing their resistance to disease. By upgrading their pond environment, augmenting the food supply, and making habitat more comfortable, probiotics fortify shrimp immune systems. As an edible product, these shrimp do not pass antibiotic resistance to humans through the food chain.

Probiotics use greatly improves water quality. Thus, probiotics reduce the pollution level of the effluent before its release into the environment and effectively bioremediate said water.

Different Forms For Probiotics Application

Often, farmers enhance small tanks of probiotics with some yeast for fermentation and sucrose as a nutrient. In this "brew" live bacteria multiply fast. After about 20 hours of incubation, farmers inundate the pond medium with the bacteria brew.

Another French-patented method is time-release and uses fossil-like algae called coccolith. The coccolith, which looks like coral, functions as a probiotics habitat once manufacturers affix beneficial bacteria to this porous structure. Farmers put the probiotics-colonized coccolith on the pond bottom before stocking baby shrimp. Since this substrate is so porous, it easily absorbs organic waste on which the probiotics go to work.

Farmers who employ probiotics support a positive evolutionary course that protects our well being on many levels, as consumers and as inhabitants of our planet.

Text courtesy of Contessa Shrimp