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How Yucca Helps Reduce Ammonia Levels

The Summary The yucca family of plants and trees has been utilized as a natural ingredient for a variety of animal health applications. In aquaculture, yucca schidigera specifically has been shown to be a powerful, cost-effective tool for ammonia control. Read more below on why yucca is an ideal ammonia control product for fish and shrimp farmers practicing sustainable aquaculture. What is yucca? Yucca is a genus of perennial shrubs and trees in the family Asparagaceae. The nearly 50 species in this family are notable for tough, sword-shaped leaves and large whitish flowers. They are native to the hot and dry (mostly arid) regions of the Americas and the Caribbean and are also widely grown as ornamental plants in these areas. Yucca is often confused with the root vegetable Manihot esculenta, which is commonly referred to as yuca (or cassava, manioc, mogo, or mandioca) in North America and some parts of Latin America, where it is a staple food. For identification purposes, yucca plants rarely produce edible roots, which stands in marked contrast to the botanically unrelated, yuca. Yucca has been utilized for a wide variety of applications, including:
  • As a shampoo in Native American rituals (yucca elata)
  • As a fire-starter, due to its low ignition temperature
  • To treat arthritis pain, due to its anti-inflammatory properties
Yucca’s Benefits for Shrimp and Fish In addition to these uses, yucca has increasingly been utilized as a natural, organic  animal health ingredient. Yucca schidigera, commonly known as Mojave yucca, is one of the most utilized plants in the Asparagaceae family. Widely grown in the deserts of North and South America, it is rich in saponins and phenolic compounds that have antioxidant effects, with high levels of steroidal and antioxidant compounds in its branches and leaves. These properties make it a great food supplement for livestock and aquaculture fish populations. Extracts from yucca alleviate the effects of environmental stressors on fish, triggering growth and improving physiological parameters. The active components, mainly the steroidal saponins and polyphenolics, have shown that anti-inflammatory impacts are associated with their anti-protozoal activity. The phenolics of yucca inhibits the nuclear transcription factor, which stimulates the synthesis of nitric oxide synthase causing the formation of the inflammatory agent nitric oxide. Yucca phenolics also are antioxidants and free-radical hunters that may aid in suppressing the reactive oxygen free-radicles, which stimulate inflammatory responses. Further benefits on the circulatory systems of fish and shrimp were shown to occur with increased yucca extract levels in aquaculture. Both red and white blood cells, critical for immune responses, were shown to increase in tandem with the amount of yucca extract added to water. Yucca as an Ammonia Control Agent Yucca extract also contains high levels of saponins, which have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunostimulatory, growth promoter, hypocholesterolemic, and hypoglycemic effects. According to Chauhan (1992), “With regard to health-promoting effects, saponins are anti-carcinogenic, anti-microbial, cholesterol decreasing, immune modulating, as well as anti-inflammatory.” Critically, studies show that it is the saponins which are responsible for ammonia control in water. Since yucca can be grown and processed with a wide range of saponin levels, saponin concentration (not yucca content) is the most important factor in determining a yucca-based ammonia control agent’s quality. Studies involving animals and aquaculture species Early experiments first indicated that extracts from the Yucca Schidigera plant were able to reduce the levels of atmospheric ammonia inside horse stables. In aquaculture, a detailed study was conducted with a total of 180 European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) juveniles, which were allocated randomly in twelve glass aquaria with 15 fish per aquarium. Three yucca liquid extract levels were added to the water, in concentrations of 0.25, 0.5 and 0.75 mg L−1, to examine the potential for reduction of ammonia levels, as well as to determine the survival rate and physiological parameters of these fish. The results indicated that the yucca liquid extract significantly reduced the total ammonia nitrogen levels derived from fish excreta and uneaten feed and diminished the mortality of seabass. Furthermore, haematological and physiological parameters were improved significantly with increasing yucca liquid extract levels. This study conclusively showed that the use of liquid yucca extract at a concentration of 0.75 mg L−1 effectively reduced the ammonia concentration in ground-well-derived rearing water — and was also beneficial to fish growth, improved the physiological responses, and decreased the mortality rates of European seabass juveniles. In another study, yucca extract used in shrimp ponds led to significantly decreased ammonia concentrations and increased shrimp growth rate and survival. In yet another study, the significant increase in WBC count, lymphocyte count and neutrophil percentage was directly proportional to the increase in yucca extract level in the rearing water of European sea bass. Formulating Yucca + Probiotics for Maximum Effect After consistently hearing customer requests for an ammonia control agent, we at permeva  launched YUCCA WATER™; this natural ammonia control solution leverages the organic saponin’s abilities identified earlier, along with a specially-selected set of Bacillus beneficial bacteria strains to both reduce present ammonia levels as well as proactively rebalance the microbial ecosystem of the pond so that the sources of ammonia are reduced.