In an organism’s life cycle, the stage of reproduction (i.e. when a whole new being is procreated, nurtured, and brought to life) is perhaps one of the most critical stages. Although reproduction is part of natural evolution, successful reproduction can be, at times, pretty challenging. Salmons, for example, swim hundreds of miles against strong currents to their home stream in order to lay eggs. Sadly, many salmons find themselves exhausted from the journey and die soon afterwards. Considered Astaxanthin’s reputation as the “red elixir for life”, what roles can Astaxanthin play in this heroic mission for reproduction? And even beyond when a new life grows and matures?


 Let’s find out together in Part I of this Astaxanthin chapter.


With the pressure to feed an estimated global population of nearly 10 billion people by 2050, tackling depleting natural resources and optimizing aquaculture and animal breeding is more critical than ever. We are firm believers that no one person or organization has all the answers, but rather, we must come together to play our part for the planet we call home.

From VNF, our natural Astaxanthin can play an immense role to turn this into ‘mission possible! Armed with unique superpowers, Astaxanthin (by itself or as a Provitamin A precursor) can be involved in almost every reproduction step: sexual maturation, spawning & fertilization, embryo development, and larvae growth [1]. And we’ll explain how and why as we take you on a journey through a Salmon’s reproduction (a.k.a. ‘SALMON SEX ED CLASS 101’):

Figure 1: Astaxanthin’s mechanisms through a Salmon’s reproduction cycle
  1. Sexual maturation

    As adult salmon approach the stage of sexual maturation (meaning their bodies are ready to reproduce), Astaxanthin starts the first part of its voyage: from muscle to skin and reproductive glands (ovary & testis). The aim: to promote salmon’s sexual maturation INSIDE AND OUT. (Can’t judge a book by its cover, right!)

    1. Outside – A Vibrant ‘outfit’ for Mating selection

      During the mating season, sexually mature male salmons redistribute their carotenoids (a.k.a. their colour) to the skin to shine bright (cue: Rihanna “Shine bright like a Diamond) and colourful to boost mate choice. This is COOL FACT #1: Aquatic animals liken color vibrancy to mate quality – their belief that the stronger the vibrant color, the better the mate. [1]. (Without clothes to choose from, you have to work with you’ve got to get a date and a mate!)

    2. Inside – Boosting Reproductive capability

      Deposited in the ovary & testis, Astaxanthin continues in its travels to promote these organs’ development – thereby increasing overall reproductive performance  multiple ways [1] [2]:

      • Promote the production of sperms & eggs
      • Improve the nutrient content in eggs (such as lipids, proteins, and even Astaxanthin itself)
      • Improve sperm activities (for example, the spermatocrit value (a.k.a. sperm concentration), mobility, viability)

With better quantity and quality of eggs and sperms, salmon parents stand a better chance to create more baby salmons. 

  1. Spawning & fertilization

    COOL FACT #2: Fertilization for Salmons (and many other fish species) happens outside their body. Female salmons spawn eggs over their nest for males to then discharge their sperms over the eggs – happening all in open water! Thus before the embryo is formed, there are two major obstacles:

    1. Sperms need to find their way to the egg destination in a vulnerable, open space. (Talk about the pressure on the man!)
    2. Sperms and eggs (and later the embryo) need to survive the environmental factors that could risk successful fertilization, such as ultraviolet light and physiological stress (increasing ammonia levels and water temperatures).

    And just like every other challenge we’ve presented, Astaxanthin can help!

    1. Astaxanthin acts as a fertilization hormone in salmon eggs; in other words, eggs send out the fertilization signal to attract the sperm and increase the chances of finding each other [2]!
    2. With its potent antioxidant activity (as illustrated in previous VNF Astaxanthin chapters on Linkedin), Astaxanthin protects the eggs and sperms from possible environmental damages, thereby enhances the fertilization and slowing down quality deterioration [1].
  1. Embryo development

    Eggs and Sperms meet, and voilà: the SALMON EMBRYO. But there’s no ‘taking it easy’ just yet. The embryo’s life is challenging from the start: growing up in an open space (instead of a mommy tummy’s protection and warmth like many other animals). Luckily, the embryo inherits the nutrients, particularly the Astaxanthin, from the maternal eggs [3] – another leg in Astaxanthin’s journey. Thus the embryo boosts its chance of survival with Astaxanthin lovingly passed on from the mother.

    Then, the salmon larvae hatch and once again, the Astaxanthin superpowers inherited from maternal eggs carry on – Astaxanthin still on the move!
    And again and again, the cycle of life repeats to continue replenishing aquaculture, with Astaxanthin skillfully making its way to the parts that could do with a ‘bit of help’. 

    Now onto Part II of this Astaxanthin chapter to explore Immunity enhancement.


Baby animals and humans are highly vulnerable to diseases as their immune defences are not yet fully developed. As life persists, their health conditions improve. But before you know it, health starts to deteriorate due to ageing. At every stage from young to old, especially vulnerable stages, Astaxanthin can lend a helping hand owing to its potent antioxidant and immuno-stimulant functions.
The former, we’ve discussed in previous chapters. Let’s now dive into the latter – Immuno-stimulant function!

So, after ‘SALMON SEX ED CLASS 101’, let’s now open our textbooks and minds to the next class: ‘IMMUNITY ENHANCEMENT CLASS 101’ (School may be out for the holidays, so consider this Summer school run by VNF!)

Every living organism’s immune system comprises a network of cells, tissues, and organs to protect us from invading pathogens and fight off any that manage to enter. The immune cells and antibodies – the body’s loyal warriors – work in sync to eliminate the invaders. So, for example, when a virus (such as the much-hated Covid-19) invades the host, it will attack the host cells to survive and then replicate. (The bad guys aim to set up camp in their new home/host and expand their family). But these invaders are unwelcome, so the host’s immune system activates in two ways to provide multilayered protection:

  1. Certain immune cells are mobilized to the already infected cells to directly kill off these cells (and the virus within),
  2. Other immune cells (B-cells) will produce antibodies to neutralize the virus (an indirect mechanism). As a result, the virus becomes incapable of infecting the host cell.

Powerful as they might seem, the immune cells can be, at the same time, fragile and in need of protection. (Tough guys need help too!) This is because immune cells contain a high composition of unsaturated fatty acids in the cell membrane and hence are susceptible to oxidative damage[1], [4], [5].

Figure 2: Astaxanthin’s mechanisms for the immune system

Speaking of oxidative damage, “Astaxanthin” – King of Antioxidants – should hopefully be the first thing that comes up in your mind now (if you’ve been following us this far). But, even more impressive, Astaxanthin’s benefits extend beyond that of an antioxidant to provide two extra layers of support:

  • Stronger Shield: Astaxanthin protects the immune cells from oxidative stress to help the immune system’s ‘warriors’ complete their jobs as best as possible.
  • More Warriors: Astaxanthin increases the production of immune cells and antibodies – a larger army during times of invasion!

So, with Astaxanthin, your body, your pets’ body, and animals everywhere can be offered a stronger and more reinforced immune shield. It is even more critical to give our bodies the best fighting chance during these challenging times of Covid-19 and higher chronic disease onsets (cancer, cardiovascular diseases, etc.). Tough times need a tough nutrient!


In early 2021, VNF conducted our first trial using natural shrimp-derived Astaxanthin on laying hens. The results were promising and confirmed Natural Astaxanthin’s efficacy in reproduction performance and immunity.

  • Reproduction performance: The treatments with Astaxanthin supplementation recorded higher egg quantity (up to 10% higher than the control group) and better quality (more vibrantly colored egg yolks)
  • Immuno-stimulant activity: During the third week of the experiment, the laying hens encountered avian influenza and needed to be vaccinated. Interestingly, laying hens treated with Astaxanthin did not show a significant difference in egg productivity during the first few weeks of treatment compared with the control. Moreover, after vaccination, the Astaxanthin treatment group demonstrated better recovery with stronger health performance and egg production.

Figure 3: Experiment result


So far, in VNF’s Astaxanthin Series, we have uncovered and explored many of Astaxanthin’s most famous superpowers, including pigmentation, antioxidant activity, reproduction, and immunity. But we are far from finished. After all, Astaxanthin has to live up to its reputation as KING and MOST POWERFUL ANTIOXIDANT KNOWN TO SCIENTISTS. What’s even crazier is that Astaxanthin has a lot more to offer: gut health support, anti-inflammation, anti-obesity, etc. (But in the interests of avoiding a never-ending series, we’re going to take a pause on benefits and address what a lot of our audience have been demanding: ASTAXANTHIN’S APPLICATIONS FOR INDUSTRIES).

In the next chapter, we’ve decided to focus on (wo)man’s best friends: ASTAXANTHIN on PETS. A word of advice, it might be time to purchase some natural Astaxanthin for your pets. After all, pets are probably the most spoilt members in the family.


[1]      K. C. Lim, F. M. Yusoff, M. Shariff, and M. S. Kamarudin, “Astaxanthin as feed supplement in aquatic animals,” Rev. Aquac., vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 738–773, 2018, doi: 10.1111/raq.12200.

[2]      M. R. Ahmadi, A. A. Bazyar, S. Safi, T. Ytrestøyl, and B. Bjerkeng, “Effects of dietary astaxanthin supplementation on reproductive characteristics of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss),” J. Appl. Ichthyol., vol. 22, no. 5, pp. 388–394, 2006, doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0426.2006.00770.x.

[3]      A. A. Bazyar Lakeh, M. R. Ahmadi, S. Safi, T. Ytrestøyl, and B. Bjerkeng, “Growth performance, mortality and carotenoid pigmentation of fry offspring as affected by dietary supplementation of astaxanthin to female rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) broodstock,” J. Appl. Ichthyol., vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 35–39, 2010, doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0426.2009.01349.x.

[4]      S. H. A. Raza et al., “Beneficial effects and health benefits of Astaxanthin molecules on animal production: A review,” Res. Vet. Sci., vol. 138, no. May, pp. 69–78, 2021, doi: 10.1016/j.rvsc.2021.05.023.

[5]      J. S. Park, B. D. Mathison, M. G. Hayek, J. Zhang, G. A. Reinhart, and B. P. Chew, “Astaxanthin modulates age-associated mitochondrial dysfunction in healthy dogs,” J. Anim. Sci., vol. 91, no. 1, pp. 268–275, 2013, doi: 10.2527/jas.2012-5341.