A healthy lumpfish. Photo: Terje Aamodt/Nofima.

Fish health

It is important that farmed fish have good health. Prevention is the best method to achieve this.

Nofima offers:

  • In vivo and in vitro challenge models for bacteria, viruses and parasites
  • Physiological tests for the measurement of robustness
  • Identification of biological markers
  • Knowledge about the interactions between bacteria, viruses, parasites and the defence systems of the fish
  • Practical experimental design for the testing of the effects of feed components, different farming conditions and disease resistance
  • Bioinformatics

Diseases remains one of the greatest challenges for the aquaculture industry.

The research at Nofima into preventative fish health is based on many years of expertise related to the various bacteria, viruses and parasites that causes disease in fish, and how the fish resist these diseases.

The scientists in the department work with several topics, including the robustness of fish, interactions between bacteria/viruses and the fish immune defence, and the relationships between health, nutrition and other environmental factors.


A robust fish shows an effective defence against bacteria, viruses and parasites. It can cope with stress and its organs develop normally, allthough the fish grows rapidly.

Robustness is related to health, genetics, production conditions and nutrition. It is for this reason important to control these factors in the production that influence and determine robustness.

We are working to establish methods to monitor, measure and understand what leads to robustness, by using techniques such as challenge models, physiological tests and molecular biology.

Many factors

Knowledge about the virus or bacterium itself is extremely important to be able to prevent disease. There is, however, a growing consciousness in the aquaculture industry that diseases are not solely about bacteria and viruses: it is about the overall life situation of the fish, and how environmentally related factors influence the ability of the fish to resist disease.

Many changes that take place in the aquaculture industry, whether it is a matter of operational procedures, temperatures, recirculation of water, the ingredients in feed or the management of fish, can affect the general resistance of the fish to disease.

Our strength is that we have expertise in fish responses and how it reacts when it is infected by bacteria, viruses or parasites, or when it is subject to other factors that create stress.

Our department studies physiological, immunological and molecular mechanism that are important for the ability of the fish to defend itself against disease, and we develop tools to measure, monitor and control this.

In addition, we obtain knowledge about how changes in operational routines can contribute to a more robust fish.

Multidisciplinary work

One priority area for Nofima is reduction of the loss of fish in the sea water phase. We have united scientists in Nofima with expertise in such fields as fish health, production biology, nutrition and breeding, in order to solve this challenge. This way of working gives us the best prospects of solving many of the challenges that the industry is facing with respect to fish health and welfare.

The objective of our work is to obtain knowledge about how the resistance of farmed fish to disease, stress and handling can best be preserved and monitored. We aim also to contribute to new knowledge being implemented by the industry in its working methods.

Some of our achievements

Challenge models:

Vaccination of fish is an important preventative measure used in the aquaculture industry. Our challenge models have been important in documenting the efficacy of several of the vaccines currently in use.

Functional feed:

There is an undisputed correlation between feed and health. This is receiving an ever-greater degree of attention from feed producers, who are striving to offer feed that has both general and specific effects on health. Our scientists have the expertise needed to understand the immunology and physiology behind the effects of the various feed components, and we have several test systems in which we can measure these effects. It is for this reason that we have been important in the work to develop new concepts for functional feed.

Read more about:

Creating Value

Some results from scientific projects in fish health

Zinc and omega-3 enhance skin


The skin’s barrier function deteriorates when salmon are stressed. Zinc and omega-3 in feed can enhance barrier properties in salmon skin.


Safer transfer to the sea


More knowledge about barrier functions in post-smolt salmon can improve fish health and save the aquaculture industry millions.


Salmon skin – a living sensor


Nature can often outperform the most sophisticated man-made systems – if we look closely enough. Salmon skin is a case in point.


Swimming for dear life!


Mortality after transfer to the sea can be prevented at the pre-stocking stage, if fish farmers make a few simple changes.


See more examples of Creating Value

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