What’s new(s) in Aquaponics? (2014-05-21) – Modular Aquaponics Systems and more

TEDxMileHigh (Colorado) has a talk on aquaponics on its website. Quote:

Most people who are just learning about aquaponics are surprised that aquaponics is different than hydroponics. Both methods use soil as the media for growing food, but hydroponics uses chemical nutrients to feed plants while aquaponics uses the organic waste from fish in the system to feed plants.

Cold Weather Aquaponics – aquaculture for all climates!

Cold Weather Aquaponics brings “… those who live in zone five or colder to grow plants and fish together with a minimum of cost and energy use.”

Urban Organics uses aquaponics to grow tilapia and vegetables in an old industrial space:

The “secret sauce” for growing that electric-green kale, chard, and leafy herbs is the nutrient-rich wastewater pumped from four 3,500-gallons tanks of tilapia, which flows through a system of pipes and filters to irrigate and fertilize the plants before returning, clean, to the fish.

9 futuristic jobs we could see by 2030 has this to say as number 9:

9. Aquaponic fish farmer: In 2030, populations of wild fish are disappearing — so new production methods like aquaponics will step in to replace fish that we can no longer catch in the wild.

A Berlin start up looks into aquaponics:

The ancient Aztecs and Chinese did it millennia ago, and now a German start-up hopes it will feed 21st-century city dwellers using aquaponics, a combination of rearing fish and growing vegetables. … Efficient City Farming is using an age-old technique to grow tomatoes, peppers and greens in a miniature container farm, fertilized with fish excretions.

A modular aquaponics system for restaurants

And Look inside Portland’s first in-restaurant aquaponics system:

Möbius Microfarms, the winner of last year’s Cleantech Challenge, has installed its modular aquaponics system at Northeast Portland’s Tabla Bistro.

Well then, fish farming and Tilapa Breeding are clearly on the rise!

Aquaponics Resources – A comprehensive List of Websites on Aquaponic Fish Farming – Part I

Most of you will probably have a fair idea of what aquaponics is but just to make sure, let’s recap some definitions of this concept of aquaculture:

Aquaponics – Definitions and Concepts

Aquaponics…, is a food production system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In normal aquaculture, excretions from the animals being raised can accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity. In an aquaponic system, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down by nitrogen-fixing bacteria into nitrates and nitrites, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients. The water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system.

Wikipedia – Aquaponics

There are a lot more links in Wikipedia’s Aquaponics article which we will not repeat here, so have a look for yourself.

The Aquaponics Source has this to say on the question what is Aquaponics?

The most simple definition is that it is the marriage of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants) that grows fish and plants together in one integrated system. The fish waste provides an organic food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in. The third participants are the microbes (nitrifying bacteria) and composting red worms that thrive in the growing media. They do the job of converting the ammonia from the fish waste first into nitrites, then into nitrates and the solids into vermicompost that that are food for the plants. Man with bad back In combining both systems aquaponics capitalizes on the benefits and eliminates the drawbacks of each.

See about some controversies also in their article The Definition of Aquaponics.

And last but not least Farmer Brown’s Aquaponics has this to say about What is Aquaponics? A Primer for Newcomers

Aquaponics is a food production system based upon mother-nature’s own method of recycling fish waste by feeding it to plants. In a nutshell, that’s the bare-bones definition. It is highly adaptable to home-based use, is low maintenance, produces very high amount of food/area (food density), and requires very little external inputs.

He also has a blogroll with more resources we won’t replicate here, so hop over to his blog and take a look.

Of course, like with all things Internet, there are innumerable resources on aquaponics, aquaculture or hydroculture and fish farming “out there”. No need to list them all (or any for that matter) as you can simply perform a search on aquaponics and get them (garbage and all).

This Part I of our resource pages on aquaponics and aquaculture has been put together to get you access to the more pertinent links faster.

Online Aquaponics Resources (including Aquaculture/Hydroculture) in general

The Aquaculture Journal from Science Direct is a worthy read if you need to keep up with the latest developments in aquaponics and related fields.

The essence of aquaponics is also a good place to start (Swedish site with English section).

The US NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a subsection dedicated to aquaponics and aquaculture (NOAA) , most notably the Aquaculture Library .

The Aquaponics Journal is another magazine, established 1997, probably the first on the market.

Another is Aquaculture Research by John Wiley & Sons, a publisher that also has other resources on Aquaculture, Fisheries & Fish Science .

The Australian government have their own Department of Agriculture’s section on Aquaculture who also supply the following definition of aquaculture:

There are various stages of aquaculture operations including: – a hatchery operation which produces fertilized eggs, larvae or fingerlings, – a nursery operation which nurses small larvae to fingerlings or juveniles, – a grow-out operation which farms fingerlings or juveniles to marketable sizes. Depending on the species being farmed, aquaculture can be carried out in freshwater, brackish water or marine water.

And the European Union’s Fisheries cum Aquaculture department has this to say about the importance of aquaculture:

Farming finfish, shellfish and aquatic plants is one of the world’s fastest growing food sectors, it already provides the planet with about half of all the fish we eat.

And the WWF – Worldwide Fund for Nature has this to say about Sustainable Seafood – Farmed Seafood :

Eighty-five percent of the world’s marine stocks are either fully exploited or overfished, driving accelerated growth in the farmed seafood industry. … The rapid expansion of the aquaculture industry has not come without impacts. As a conservation organization, WWF is concerned about the negative effects the industry has had— and could continue to have—on the environment and society. We know that when done responsibly, aquaculture’s impact on wild fish populations, marine habitats, water quality and society can be significantly and measurably reduced.

Aquaponics and Aquaculture Organizations worldwide

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) (co-founded by the above-mentioned WWF) aims to be the world’s leading certification and labelling programme for responsibly farmed seafood.

You can search for ASC certified suppliers or browse their aquaculture/aquaponics download center .

The Aquaponics Association wants to “promote the benefits of aquaponic growing”.

Their definition of aquaponics:

Aquaponics is a synergistic growing technique in which fish and plants are grown together in the same systems. The fish waste feeds the growing plants using organic hydroponic techniques. The plants, in turn, clean and filter the water that returns to the fish environment.

Then there’s the World Aquaculture Society with many regional or national chapters and affiliated member societies.

There are many regional and national aquaponics-related associations, so let’s finish off with the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA).

And for Europe, visit the European Aquaculture Society.

The US Congress resp. the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) have established several Regional Aquaculture Centers like e.g. the Southern Regional Aquaculture Center (SRAC).

The University of Hawaii has an online outreach college (costs USD100 to register) that you can visit through the Aquaculture Hub .

The FDA – US Food and Drug Administration also has its own department dealing with Aquaculture and is e.g. concerned with drugs used in the fish industry.

Let’s wrap up for today with the Global Aquaculture Alliance which (in its own words)

… is an international, non-profit trade association dedicated to advancing environmentally and socially responsible aquaculture. GAA recognizes that aquaculture is the only sustainable means of increasing seafood supply to meet the food needs of the world’s growing population.

This article will be followed up with a Part II soon, as well as a tabular aquaponics resources list. Stay tuned, or better still, subscribe to our blog resp. RSS feed.

Three sources of poison that could ruin your fish farm

So you have a successful fish farm or aquaponics installation. Congratulations, you are at the forefront of feeding a hungry world with protein. But did you know there are some chemicals that could easily decimate or wipe out your fish stock? Some of these are harmless for humans which is why you might inadvertently use them.

The three common sources of harmful toxins in an aquatic environment

Let’s start with the one you might probably have used without thinking. You almost certainly use some in your household as a matter of course:

Pyrethroids – the silent fish and crustacean killers

Pyrethroids are substances that are derived from chemicals that plants use to control insects. Today we use synthetic pyrethroids against bugs around the house. These toxins not only kill insects, they are also extremely toxic for many water organisms. And pet owners beware: while pyrethroids can be used on dogs they are not only harmful for fish.  Pyrethroids can kill your cat too! Because we use so many of them, toxic levels can even be found in sewer sediments by now. While some kinds decay faster, other pyrethroid compounds stay around in the environment for quite some time, as a study by the chemical industry’s Pyrethroid Working Group shows.

How to protect your aquatic inventory against pyrethroids

  • Pyrethroids can be stored in sediments, even if the water levels are not toxic. So avoid stirring up sediment if you can.
  • If you spray your dog, horses or other animals with pyrethroids, don’t let them get near your fish basin. And they shouldn’t swim in it! Same applies if you use spot-on solutions or crèmes as they are e.g. used to fight scabies in horses and dogs.
  • Also switch off air pumps and cover basins and aquariums if you need to use pyrethroid sprays. Air out well before you switch back on.

Ornamental and other plants may be toxic for fish and crustaceans

We can’t go into all the plants that can cause fish or other aquatic species to suffer or even die – there’s just too many. Instead check out resources like these research notes on Ornamental plants that cause stress or are toxic to fish. You’ll also find a comprehensive list of Poisonous/Toxic Plants at the Koi and Water Garden Society of Central New York’s website. One of the typical culprits is e.g. the Buckeye (Aesculus, Horse Chestnut).

Sediment, gravel and rocks

Some gravel and some rocks have poisonous minerals.

… says aquariumfish.net :

In most aquariums the pH is slowly dropping everyday. Changing 20% of the water brings the pH back up. But if the pH drops to a certain level, some minerals in the gravel or rocks may become much more soluble and quickly poison the fish.

Precautions against poisoning from mineral sources

Depending on where you set up your fish farm or what you put into your aquaponics tanks, you need to monitor pH levels. You might also get your basin water analyzed to be on the safe side.

More resources on piscicides (fish toxins) and accidental poisoning of aquatic organisms

The scientific term for chemical fish killers is piscicides. You can find a short introduction on aquatic toxicology in Wikipedia. A more thorough treatment of the subject is from the US Environmental Protection Agency (Toxic Chemicals). Or see the Piscicides flyer by the U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS. See also Ichthyotoxic algae and their effects on fish by Nikolaj Gedsted Andersen (University of Copenhagen). Or consult Towards Safe and Effective Use of Chemicals in Coastal Aquaculture (Google Books – online). If you are into the fast-growing tilapia farming industry then you might also want to consider EVALUATION OF BOTANICAL PISCICIDES ON NILE TILAPIA by Arsenia G. Cagauan, Marjorie C. Galaites and Lorenz J. Fajardo to learn more about the interaction between poisonous plants and tilapia species.