The black soldier fly (BSF) Hermetia illucens is receiving increasing attention as a sustainable fishmeal alternative protein source for aquaculture. To date, no studies have explored the effects of fishmeal replacement with BSF V instar larvae or prepupae meals due to their peculiar nutritional properties on fish performances. This study investigated the effects of 100% replacement of fishmeal (control diet) with defatted BSF meals (V instar larvae and prepupae meals, treatments) on growth performance and welfare of zebrafish (Danio rerio), from larvae to adults, in a 60-day feeding trial. Following the inclusion of BSF meals, the expression of key genes involved in growth (igf1, igf2, mstnb, myod1, myog, myf5), hydrolysis of chitin (chia.2, chia.3, chia.5), immune-(il1b, il6, tnfα), and stress-(hsp70 and nr3c1) responses, as assessed by qPCR, was modulated in all of the molecular pathways, except for the stress response. Overall, our findings showed that both BSF meals can totally replace fishmeal without adverse impacts on adult zebrafish growth parameters (final total and standard length, final body weight, weight gain, daily growth rate, specific growth rate) and welfare, with BSF prepupae meal inducing the most beneficial effects, thus suggesting their potential application to meet fish requirements in aquaculture.
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