INTRODUCTION Aquaponics is the combined culture of fish and plants in recirculating systems. Nutrients, which are excreted directly by the fish or generated by the microbial breakdown of organic wastes, are absorbed by plants cultured hydroponically (without soil). Fish feed provides most of the nutrients required for plant growth. As the aquaculture effluent flows through the hydroponic component of the recirculating system, fish waste metabolites are removed by nitrification and direct uptake by the plants, thereby treating the water, which flows back to the fish-rearing component for reuse.
Aquaponics has several advantages over other recirculating aquaculture systems and hydroponic systems that use inorganic nutrient solutions. The hydroponic component serves as a biofilter, and therefore a separate biofilter is not needed as in other recirculating systems. Aquaponic systems have the only biofilter that generates income, which is obtained from the sale of hydroponic produce such as vegetables, herbs and flowers. In the UVI system, which employs raft hydroponics, only calcium, potassium and iron are supplemented. The nutrients provided by the fish would normally be discharged and could contribute to pollution. Removal of nutrients by plants prolongs water use and minimizes discharge. Aquaponic systems require less water quality monitoring than individual recirculating systems for fish or hydroponic plant production. Aquaponics increases profit potential due to free nutrients for plants, lower water requirements, elimination of a separate biofilter, less water quality monitoring and shared costs for operation and infrastructure.