Over the last few years there has been much debate over color enhancers for tropical fish, whether they should be used at all and if they are safe, ethical or otherwise. It is the general consensus today that they are fine providing they are hormone free but what is a concern is that many people believe that Astaxanthin is Astaxanthin, no matter where it comes from. With all the research now available that belief couldn’t be further from the truth. They are like chalk and cheese and two totally different compounds.
A great many commercial fish foods today contain Astaxanthin but there are only a handful that use Natural Astaxanthin. It’s unfortunate but many of the manufacturers are missing the point. A compound such as Astaxanthin is not just about colour, in fact, colour should come at the bottom of your list as far as Natural Astaxatanthin is concerned, it should be much more about increased breeding, fundicity, accelerated fry growth, improved immunity and the general health and well being of your tropical fish. It is also unfortunate that Synthetic Astaxanthin does not offer anywhere near the health benefits of the natural source from Haematoccus Pluvialis, a natural micro algae.
Synthetic Astaxanthin is made from Petro chemicals, that’s right, oil! The same stuff you put in your car. The synthetic Astaxanthin molecule is very different to natural forms as there are no fatty acids attached to the ends of them which makes a huge difference, in fact, it makes them two totally different products. Fatty acids make the Astaxanthin esterified as opposed to free which means the natural form is much better at getting to every part of the fish including its organs thereby providing it with far more health benefits.
Until recently many Aquaculture companies used synthetic Astaxanthin because of cost constraints but they are now turning to the natural source in droves because of the excellent health benefits it offers in a sometimes not so healthy environment. The feed trials they have held have shown enormous health benefits in Japanese Sea Bream and quite a few other species.
Natural Astaxanthin has been approved as a human supplement for the last 10 years and has been heralded the “best thing to hit the supplement market in 30 years”. Synthetic Astaxanthin is not allowed to be sold for human consumption and is never likely to be.
Most of the health benefits of natural Astaxanthin come from the fact that it is the most powerful antioxidant on the planet and 20 times stronger than synthetic forms.
The great additional advantage that Natural Astaxanthin from microalgae has over Phaffia and synthetic is that it comes in a natural, synergistic complex. The complex includes three different types of Astaxanthin, 70% that is monoesterified (with a fatty acid molecule attached to one end), 10% that is diesterified (with fatty acid molecules attached to both ends), and 5% that is the free Astaxanthin found predominantly in the Phaffia and synthetic varieties. The remaining 15% is a wonderful blend of supporting carotenoids that make this a truly natural, synergistic product: 6% beta carotene, 5% canthaxanthin and 4% lutein.
There is a world of difference between the natural and synthetic forms of Astaxanthin, which one are you feeding to your tropical fish?