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October 21, 2015

United States

Alabama—Research—Using Sea Urchins to Feed Shrimp


Researchers at the University of Alabama in Birmingham appear to have found a new, less expensive way to feed shrimp: Grow them in polyculture with sea urchins.  The shrimp feed on the urchins’ waste products and don’t need any additional feed!


Dr. Stephen Watts, who began this research says, “In some cases, we had our shrimp together with our sea urchins, and they did very well, and we noticed that the shrimp had a tendency to congregate by the sea urchins and consume the waste pellets from the urchins...  It looked like there might be some kind of synergy there.”


In Watts’s lab, the sea urchins support the shrimp through dropping their waste pellets through to the shrimp that live beneath them, allowing them to consume the pellets and grow without the need for traditional feed.


The sea urchin pellets are full of nutrients and healthy bacteria and, according to Watts’s research, help shrimp grow faster and larger than they do when consuming shrimp feed alone.


“When you have urchins present, you won’t need the shrimp feed,” Watts said.  “What we’ve found is that the shrimp do very well when just consuming the urchin pellets alone—they grow large fast and stay healthy.  In many cases, they exceeded the growth rate of shrimp fed... expensive feed.”


Shrimp News:I contacted Dr. Watts, who is not a shrimp guy, but has been working on sea urchin feeds for years.  He said he’s collaborating with Dr. Allen Davis at the Auburn University for information on shrimp feeds and expects to publish information on the shrimp/urchin polyculture in the near future.  Stay tuned.  Shrimp News will closely follow Dr. Watts’s research.


Video: For a three-and-a-half-minute video on the shrimp and sea urchin research, click on the link in the source below:


Information: Stephen A. Watts, Ph.D., Department of Biology, 1300 University Boulevard, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35294-1170, United States (phone 1-205-934-2045, lab 1-205-934-8313, email, webpage


Sources: 1.  The University of Alabama at Birmingham.  Shrimp May Grow Faster, Bigger, Healthier and Tastier on Sea Urchin Droppings Diet.  Katherine Shonesy (phone 1-205-975-3997, email  October 19, 2015.  2. Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International.  Telephone conversation with Dr. Watts on October 21, 2015.

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