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Himanshu S. Swaina, S. Ratnamanjari Senapatib

a College of Fisheries, Mangalore, KVAFSU

b Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Versova, Mumbai


Minerals are non-organic substances that don't fall into the category of plant or animal but that come from the soil. Minerals perform several vital functions which are absolutely essential for the very existence of the organism. Fish require minerals which are the constituents of certain tissues (mainly skeletal structures) or molecules that serve as enzyme co-factors and participate in intra- and extra- cellular ionic balance as well as regulation of endocrine functions. It has the ability to absorb some inroganic elements not only from their diets but also from their external environment in both fresh water and seawater.

The concentration of minerals in the body of an aquatic organism depends on the food source, environment, species, stage of development and physiological status of the animal. Most organisms accumulate and retain minerals from the environment; however, their incorporation is highly selective. Seven macro- minerals and 15 trace minerals are known to have a definite physiological role in most animals.


Macrominerals are essential in relative quantity. So also called as "bulk minerals". Some are structural but many play a role as electrolytes. Seven principal elements constitute 60 – 80 % of the body’s inorganic matter. These are Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Chlorine and Sulphur.

Trace minerals

Many elements are required in trace amounts, usually because they play a catalytic role in enzymes. So, microminerals are also called traced minerals. These are: Iron, Copper, Manganese, Iodine, Zinc, Molybdenum, Cobalt, Fluorine, Selenium, Chromium etc.



About 70% of iron occurs in erythrocytes of blood as a constituent of haemoglobin. At least 5% of body iron is present in myoglobin of muscle. Heme is the most predominant iron-containin g substance. It is a constituent of several proteins/ enzymes (hemopoteins) – haemoglobin, myoglobin, cytochromes, xanthine oxidase, catalase, tryptophan pyrrolase, peroxidase. Certain otherproteins contain non-heme iron e.g. transferrin, ferritin, hemosidein.

Crustaceans which don’t have haemoglobin have much lower requirements than fin fish and are more sensitive to excess amount.

Biochemical functions

  • Iron mainly exerts its functions through the compounds in which it is present. Hemoglobin and myoglobin are required for the transport of O2 and Co2.

  • Cytochromes and certain non-heme proteins are necessary for electron transport chain and oxidative phosphorylation.

  • Peroxidase, the lysosomal enzyme is required for phagocytosis and killing of bacteria by neutrophils.

  • Iron is associated with effective immuno-competence of the body.


In crustaceans, copper constitutes the main element of proteins such as haemocyanin or cyanodin which play a role similar to haemoglobin in oxygen transport requirement is appear as higher than fish.The body contains about 100 mg copper distributed in different organs. It is involved in several important functions.

Biochemical functions

  • Copper is an essential constituent of several enzymes. These include cytochrome oxidase, catalase, tyrosinase, superoxide dismutase (SOD), monoamine oxidase, ascorbic acid oxidase, ALA synthase, phenol oxidase and uricase. Due to its presence in a wide variety of enzymes, copper is involved in many metabolic reactions.

  • Copper is necessary for the synthesis of haemoglobin (Cu is a constituent of ALA synthase, needed for heme synthesis).

  • Lysyl oxidase (a copper containing enzyme) is required for the conversion of certain lysine residues of collagen and elastin to allysine which are necessary for cross linking these structural proteins.

  • Ceruloplasmin serves as ferroxidase and is involved in the conversion of iron from Fe 2+ to Fe 3+ in which form iron (transferin) is transported in plasma.

  • Copper is necessary for the synthesis of melanin and phospholipids.

  • Copper also facilitates the absorption of other trace elements such as iron.

  • Development of skeletal system and nervous system ( myelin) requires Cu.

  • Certain copper containing non-enzymatic proteins have been identified, although their functions are not clearly known. These include hepatocuprein ( storage form in liver), cerebrocuprein ( in brain) and hemocuprein ( in RBC).

  • Hemocyanin, a copper protein complex in shell fishes (invertebrates) functions like haemoglonin for oxygen transport.


The liver and kidney are rich in Manganese. Within the cells, Mn is mainly found in the nuclei in association with nucleic acids.

Biochemical functions

  • 1. Mn serves as a cofactor for several enzymes.These include arginase, pyruvate carboxylase, isocitrate dehydrogenase, superoxide dismutase (mitochondrial) and peptidase.

  • 2. Mn is required for the formation of skeleton, proper reproduction and normal functioning of nervous system.

  • 3. Mn is necessary for the synthesis of mucopolysaccharides ang glycoproteins.

  • 4. Haemoglobin synthesis involves Mn.

  • 5. Mn is necessary for cholesterol biosynthesis.


Most of the body iodine ( 80% ) is present in the thyroid gland. Muscle, salivary glands and ovaries also contain some amount of iodine.

Biochemical functions

  • 1.The only known function of iodine is its requirement for synthesis of thyroid hormones namely, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyroxine (T3).


Zinc is mainly an intracellular element.

Biochemical functions

  • Zn is an essential component of several enzymes e.g. carbonic anhydrase, alcohol dehydrogenase, alkaline phosphatase, carboxypeptidase, superoxide dismutase (cytosolic).

  • Zinc may be regarded as an antioxidant since the enzyme wuper oxide dismutase protects the body against free radical damage.

  • zinc is necessary to maintain the normal levels of vitamin A in serum. It promotes the synthesis of retinol binding protein.

  • It is required for wound healing. It enhances cell growth and division, besides stabilizing biomembranes.

  • Gusten, a zinc containing protein of saliva is important for taste sensation.

  • It is essential for proper reproduction.


Molybdenum is a constituent of the enzymes xanthine oxidase, aldehyde oxidase and sulphite oxidase.


Cobalt is only important as a constituent of Vitamin B12. administration of cobalt stimulates the production of hormone erythropoietin which promotes erythropoiesis.


Fluoride is mostly found in bones and teeth. The beneficial effect of fluoride in trace amounts are overshadowed by its harmful effects caused by excess consumption

Biochemical functions

  • Fluoride prvents the dental caries. It forms a protective layer of acid resistant fluoroapatite with hydroxyapatite of enamel and prevents the tooth decay by bacterial acids. Further, fluoride inhibits the bacterial enzymes and reduces the production of acids.

  • Fluoride is necessary for the proper development of skeleton

  • It inhibits the activities of certain enzymes. Sodium fluoride inhibits enolase (of glycolysis) while fluoroacetate inhibits aconitase ( of citric acid cycle).


Biochemical functions

  • Selenium along with vitamin E prevents the development of hepatic necrosis and muscular dystrophy.

  • Se is involved in maintaining structural integrity of biological membranes.

  • Se as selenocysteine is an essential component of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase. This enzyme protects the cells against the damage caused by H2O2. It appears from recent studies that selenocysteine is directly incorporated during protein biosynthesis. Therefore, selenocysteine is considered as a separate (21st) aminoacid.

  • It prevents lipid peroxidation and protects the cells against the free radicals including superoxide (O-2 ).

  • Se protects animals from carcinogenic chemicals.

  • Se binds with certain heavy metals (Hg,Cd) and protects the body from their toxic effects.

  • A selenium containing enzyme 5’- deiodinase converts thyroxine (T4) to triiodo thyroxin in the thyroid gland.

  • Thioredoxin reductase involved in purine nucleotide metabolism is also a selenoprotein


Biochemical functions

  • In association with insulin, chromium promotes the utilization of glucose. Cr is a component of a protein namely Chromodulin which facilitated the binding of insulin to cell receptor sites.

  • Cr lowers the total serum cholesterol level.

  • It is involved in lipoprotein metabolism. It decreases serum low density lipoproteins (LDL) and increase high density lipoproteins (HDL) and thus promotes health.

  • It is believed that Cr participated in the transport of amino acids into the cells (heart and liver).


COWEY, C.B.; SARGENT, J.R., 1979: Nutrition. In: Fish Physiology (Hoar, W.S and Randall, J. eds.) vol. III, pp 1 – 69. Academic press, New York, NY.

NOSE,T.; ARAAI, S., 1979: Recent advances in studies on mineral nutrition in Japan. In T.V.R. Pillay and A. Dill (Eds., Advances in Aquaculture, pp. 584 – 590). Faraham, England: Fishing News Books.

HARDY, R.W., AND SULLIVAN, C.V., AND KZIOL, A.M (1987), Fish physiol, Biochem. 3, 133.

CHAVEZ-SANCHEZ, C.; MARTINEZ-PALACIOS, C.A.; MARTINEZ-PEREZ, G.; ROSS, L.G., 2000: Phosphorus and calcium requirements in the diet of the American cichlid Cichlasoma urophthalmus (Gunter). Aquaculture Nutrition, 6: 1-9.

PAUL, B.N., SARKAAR, S., GIRI, S.S., MOHANTY, S.N. AND KHOPADHYAY, P.K. (2006) Dietary phosphorus and calcium requirements of Rohu, Labeo rohita fry. Animal Nutrition and Feed Technology, 6(2): 257 – 263.

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