Cobia is one of the most promising warm water aquaculture species. In Brazil, cobia farming began in 2008 in the state of Rio de Janeiro from experimental scale facilities to regular near-shore farms based on fresh/frozen fish diets composed mostly of Sardinella sp. Despite the encouraging results achieved in the promotion of sustainable cobia farming, we advocate the replacement of fresh/frozen fish by a practical formulated feed. This experiment evaluated the zootechnical performance and environmental efficiency of moist and practical formulated feeds in early grow-out phases in the cycle of cobia nearshore cage culture. Four hundred and twenty juvenile cobia (151 ± 7 g) were fed with moist feed and practical formulated feed for 56 days. Biometrics were taken every two weeks and diets were analyzed for proximate composition, fatty acid composition and pellet quality. Although growth performance was equivalent between treatments, feed consumption and feed conversion ratios (FCR) were different (p < 0.05) and varied according to water temperature. Cobia fed moist feed exhibited an FCR two times higher than those fed formulated feed. Elevated settling speed and low floatability contributed to higher heterogeneity and lower efficiency of fish fed moist diet. Nitrogen excretion rate was reduced (64 %) and protein efficiency ratio elevated (27 %) within formulated diet groups in comparison to those fed moist diet (79 % and 15 %, respectively). The fatty acid profile of cobia muscle was similar across the groups. With no negative effects of diet substitution on production performance and improvement of environmental efficiency, this approach can be applied and advocated globally and contribute to the responsible intensification of sustainable marine fish culture.
aquaculture; environmental efficiency; protein efficiency ratio; nitrogen discharge; marine fish farming