Menthol essential oil is a practical choice for intensifying the production of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus): Effects on the growth and health performances

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Increasing the stocking density of aquatic organisms becomes an urgent procedure in the current aquaculture practices. Concurrently, this study investigated the possibility of growing Nile tilapia under high stocking density while fortifying their feed with menthol essential oil (EO). Fish with the initial average weight of 17.19 ± 0.051 g/fish were allotted in eighteen tanks (80-L), representing six groups. The first and fourth groups stocked with 10 fish/tank (low density, LD), the second and fifth groups stocked with 20 fish/tank (medium density, MD), and the third and sixth groups stocked with 30 fish/tank (high density, HD). The first three groups received the basal diet without menthol EO, while the remaining groups received a menthol EO mixed diet. The values of water total ammonia nitrogen (TAN), ammonia‑nitrogen (NH3−N), and ammonium‑nitrogen (NH4+-N) increased in the HD group, followed by MD, and the lowest levels were seen in the LD group either with or without dietary menthol EO. There is a marked effect of stocking density and menthol EO on the final weight, weight gain, specific growth rate traits, and feed efficiency ratio (p < 0.05). Further, the stocking density and menthol EO were significant factors (p < 0.05) on the serum triglycerides, alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, total protein, albumin, globulin, uric acid, urea, and creatinine levels. The cortisol levels were markedly (p < 0.05) increased in fish fed the basal diet and reared in HD but decreased in fish fed menthol EO and grown in LD and MD conditions. Nevertheless, the glucose level is sharply increased with increasing the stocking density in a linear trend (p < 0.05). The antioxidative-related factors (SOD, CAT, and GPx) were markedly impacted by menthol EO and stocking density and showed the highest activities by menthol EO. The histological study showed inflammatory features in the gills and liver of fish under HD conditions, while dietary menthol EO relieved the inflammation induced by high malonaldehyde concentration. Altogether, dietary menthol EO resulted in enhanced growth rate, health status, and antioxidative capacity in LD, MD, and HD conditions, referring to high immune status and well-being of Nile tilapia.

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