Evaluation of a Commercial-Scale Aquaponic Unit for the Production of Tilapia and Lettuce

James E. Rakocy, Donald S. Bailey, Kurt A. Shultz and William M. Cole

University of the Virgin Islands, Agricultural Experiment Station St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Abstract An outdoor, commercial-scale aquaponic unit for the production of red tilapia and leaf lettuce was in continuous operation at the University of the Virgin Islands for 2.5 years. The unit consisted of four fish 3 3 rearing tanks (4.4 m each, water volume), two cylindro-conical clarifiers (1.8 m each), four rectangular filter tanks (0.7 m3 each) containing orchard netting, six hydro- ponic tanks (11.5 m3 each) and a sump (0.6 m3). The hydroponic tanks were 29.6 m long by 1.3 m wide by 0.4 m deep and had a combined surface area of 214 m2. Total water volume was 91.6 m3. A 1/2-hp in-line pump moved water at an average rate of 378 L/min from the sump to the rearing tanks (mean retention time, 0.8 h), from which effluent flowed by gravity through the solids-removal and hydroponic subsystems. The fish rearing tanks and hydroponic tanks were aerated by air diffusers. A 1/20-hp vertical lift pump was used to supply additional aeration to the fish rearing tanks in the last 12 weeks of each production cycle. Production of red tilapia was staggered so that one tank of fish was harvested every 6 weeks. The final stocking rate was 182 male fingerlings/m3. The fish were fed for 24 weeks with a nutritionallycomplete, floating ration (32% protein) delivered by belt feeders. In the last 11 out of 19 harvests, total harvest weight, net gain, mean weight, growth rate (male fish), survival and feed conversion ratio averaged 81.1 kg/m3, 73.2 kg/m3, 487.2 g, 2.85 g/day, 91.6%, and 1.76, respectively. Mortality in the last 11 harvests resulted primarily from minor episodes of an unidentified bacterial disease.

1

The unit was placed in operation from January 26. employing mainly small “bench-top” systems. Total ammonia-nitrogen and nitrite-nitrogen values averaged 1.7 m3 each) containing orchard netting. 1993). aquaponic unit was constructed on the St. four filter tanks (0. Additional savings are realized by sharing operating and infrastructural costs. Materials and Methods A commercial-scale.4 m3 each. A secondary crop of vegetables improves the system’s profit potential. Production was interrupted for 9 weeks by two hurricanes and 3 weeks by transplant loss in the greenhouse. Commercial evaluation requires that a production unit be relatively large in size and operated over a long time period to demonstrate its sustainability. A large portion of the waste nutrients generated by the fish are recovered by the vegetables rather than being discharged to the environment. marketable production averaged 27 cases per week and ranged from 13 to 38 cases (24-30 heads/cs). a large number of experiments. wind damage.52 mg/L. The vegetable component receives most of the required nutrients at no cost. Nevada. two cylindro-conical clarifiers (1.Lettuce plants were grown in net pots supported by floating polystyrene sheets. reliable and produced commercial levels of tilapia and lettuce on a continuous basis.47 and 0. purifies the culture water. 1995 through June 30.8 m3 each). have demonstrated the technical feasibility of aquaponics.5% of system volume. six hydroponic tanks 2 . Jerhico and Parris Island) and two planting densities (16 and 20 plants/m2) were used. but the commercial feasibility has not been addressed (Rakocy and Hargreaves. Five varieties (Sierra. respectively. 1997. herbs and other plants in recirculating systems. Production was staggered so that one fourth of the lettuce in the unit was harvested every week. Three-week old transplants grew to marketable size in 4 weeks. Montello. root damage (caused by zooplankton) and root disease (pythium). The unit consisted of four fish rearing tanks (4. The aquaponic unit was simple to operate. water volume). extends water use and eliminates the need for separate and expensive biofilters. Croix campus of the University of the Virgin Islands in 1994. The objective of this study was to evaluate the long-term performance of a commercial-scale aquaponic unit for the production of tilapia and lettuce and to modify the unit as needed to improve its performance. tip burn. Linking fish and vegetable culture offers several advantages over separate production systems. The hydroponic tanks maintained good water quality through direct ammonia uptake by lettuce roots and nitrification on the tank surface area. Introduction Aquaponics is a new technology that involves the combined culture of fish and hydroponic vegetables. During the last 20 years. Total water consumption and average daily makeup water were 1.444 m3 and 1. Losses occurred as a result of caterpillar and aphid damage. In 112 harvests.

In July. The mean weight of fingerlings per batch was 38.6 cm x 2. The fish were kept slightly hungry to avoid feed wastage.8 h). A water meter recorded the daily additions. from which effluent flowed by gravity through the solids-removal and hydroponic subsystems and returned to the sump.8 h). After 3 weeks in the 3 .000 zebra danios (Brachydanio rerio) were stocked into separate hydroponic tanks. 500 highfin black tetras and 1. The next 13 batches used male fingerlings that were manually selected. A 1/5-hp in-line pump was used initially to move water at an average rate of 163 L/min from the sump to the fish rearing tanks (mean retention time. 1996 with a 1/2-hp in-line pump. Mixed-sex fingerlings were used in the first four batches of fish. 1996.2% by the time of harvest. three varieties (red and green loose leaf and romaine) were cultured simultaneously.1 g. An initial feeding rate of 6% of body weight per day was gradually decreased to 1. Each batch of fish was fed for 24 weeks with a nutritionally-complete. Each fish rearing and hydroponic tank was aerated by 10 (22.9 g and ranged from 25. 1995. counted and weighed.4 m deep and had a combined surface area of 214 m2. the fish were sorted by sex. 0. Upon harvest.) were stocked into separate hydroponic tanks. and the rearing tank was immediately restocked with fingerlings. each of which flowed through a set of two hydroponic tanks and returned to the sump. 1996 and thereafter by 12-hour belt feeders. Five varieties of lettuce were cultured during the trial.8 cm) and 24 (7.9 to 106. romaine (Parris Island and Jerhico) and crisphead (Montello). 1995. A 1/20-hp vertical lift pump was used to supply additional aeration to the rearing tank in the last 12 weeks of the production cycle. The final two batches used male fingerlings that were produced by sex reversal with 17á-methyltestosterone according to INAD (Investigations in New Animal Drugs) protocol. The feed was delivered by demand feeders through the harvest on September 3. floating ration (32% protein). the swordtails were removed.6 m3. In June. An initial stocking rate of 227 fish/m3 was reduced to 182 fish/m3 beginning with those fish harvested on March 18. which moved water at an average rate of 378 L/min from the sump to the rearing tanks (mean retention time.(11. green leaf (Nevada).8 cm x 3. 1. The hydroponic tanks were 29. Rainwater was the sole source of water used in the unit. Lettuce transplants were produced from seed in a greenhouse in flats containing peat-based growing media. 400 highfin black tetras (Gymnocorymbus sp.5 cm) air diffusers. 1996 (Table 1). 100 fantail guppies (Lebistes reticulatus) were stocked into two hydroponic tanks. Makup water was added by a float valve in the sump. In July.6 m long by 1. In general.5 m3 each) and a sump (0. The pump was replaced on December 18. They included red leaf (Sierra). 1996. Effluent from the filter tanks was divided into three streams.9 cm x 3.5 cm x 2.) and 400 tuxedo swordtails (Xiphophorus sp. In June. Total water volume was 91. respectively. Production of lettuce was staggered so that one fourth of the lettuce being cultured was harvested every week.6 m3) (Figure 1).3 m wide by 0. Production of red tilapia was staggered so that one fish tank was harvested every 6 weeks.

A drain line was opened twice a day to remove sludge from the clarifier. the lettuce in two cases of each variety were weighed en masse to obtain a mean weight. 1995) and the heat of dilution technique (Boyd and Tucker. respectively (Boyd and Tucker. 1996. a bacterial pathogen that controls caterpillars. The transplants were placed in net pots (5 cm-diameter and height) that were inserted into holes in floating polystyrene sheets at a density of either 16 or 20 plants/m2. pH. Each hydroponic tank contained 12 sheets. the transplants were transferred to the aquaponic unit for a four-week growout period. the clarifiers were removed so that effluent from the rearing tanks flowed through the drum filter to the hydroponic tanks. 1996. 1996. Water temperature was measured biweekly in the rearing tanks and sump. respectively. If the lettuce was small. 1996. Every Wednesday 18 sheets of lettuce were harvested at 0600 hours and the marketable plants were packed in cases at a rate of 24 heads/cs. Beginning October. 1995. Dissolved oxygen (DO) was measured biweekly with a model 51B Yellow Springs Instruments polarographic DO meter at the same locations and at five locations in each set of two hydroponic tanks.22 m wide by 3. Once a week the netting was washed with a pressure sprayer and the entire water volume in the filter tank was discharged. Total suspended solids (TSS) and turbidity were measured biweekly at the same locations using the methods described by Boyd and Tucker (1992) and Hach (1990). 1992). TDS) was measured biweekly in the sump and the effluent from the filter tanks with a model DP4 Myron L Company DS meter. The sheets were 2. On May 30. The solids removal subsystem initially consisted of two clarifiers and two filter tanks containing orchard netting. pH was also measured several times weekly in the sump. On July 27.44 m long by 1. The effluent from two rearing tanks flowed through one clarifier and one filter tank. the filter tanks were reinstalled so that effluent from the drum filter flowed through the filter tanks before entering the hydroponic tanks. sump and effluent from the clarifiers and second filter tanks using the indophenol and diazotizing methods. Fine particulate solids in the effluent from the clarifier adhered to the orchard netting mesh in the filter tank.8 cm thick. two additional filter tanks were installed in series with the initial filter tanks. Effluent from the clarifiers flowed through the drum filter to the hydroponic tanks. respectively. The plants were sprayed twice weekly with Bacillus thuriniensis. the drum filter was removed and the clarifiers were reinstalled. titration with bromcresol green indicator (American Public Health Association et al. On June 26. which were continuously aerated with diffused air. Total ammonia-nitrogen (TAN) and nitrite-nitrogen (NO2-N) were measured biweekly in the rearing tanks. 1996. as many as 30 heads were packed in a case. As one pond was being filled over a 2 to 4-week period. All solids were discharged through drain lines into two lined 16-m3 ponds. a microscreen drum filter with 60 micron mesh was installed and the filter tanks were removed from the system. Conductivity (as total dissolved solids. On July 26..greenhouse. Nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) and dissolved orthophosphate (PO4-P) were measured biweekly in the sump using the phenoldisulfonic acid 4 . total alkalinity and chemical oxygen demand (COD) were measured biweekly in the sump and the effluent from one clarifier and filter tank using a model 340 Corning pH meter. 1992). Thirty male tilapia fingerlings were placed in each clarifier to graze settleable solids from the sides of the cone and concentrate them at the base. On November 11. water from the other pond was used to irrigate and fertilize field crops.

zinc (Zn). manganese (Mn).0 g of ammonium mo. iron (Fe). 1992).0 to 91. Potassium and calcium bases were added alternately in equal amounts.method (Boyd. 1993a).6 by frequently adding quantities (generally ranging from 300 to 1. 1992) methods.29 g/day). Total harvest weight and net gain in the last 11 harvests averaged 81. A reduction in the stocking rate to 182 fish/m3.8 to 81.85 g/day (range = 2. 5 ..8 g of copper sulfate (CuSO4⋅5H2O) and 9.nese sulfate (MnSO4⋅4H2O). Calcium (Ca). 1995) and mercuric nitrate (Boyd and Tucker. which compares favorably with a range of results reported by Losordo (1997). Sulfate (SO4-S) and chloride (Cl) were measured monthly in the sump using the turbidimetric (American Public Health Association et al. calcium oxide (CaO).55 to 3. and the use of male populations significantly increased the harvest weight. respectively. 161. 1995 and thereafter at a rate of 1.832 g. copper (Cu). The use of sex-reversal in the last two batches produced excellent results (mean = 99.000 g per addition) of potassium hydroxide (KOH). was 3.lybdate [(NH4)6Mo7O24] on August 29. boron (B) and molybdenum (Mo) were m easured monthly in the sump using the inductively coupled plasma (ICP) method (American Public Health Association et al. 1979) and the ascorbic acid method (Boyd and Tucker. Calcium oxide was replaced with calcium hydroxide beginning August 22.3 to 98%).8 kg/m3) and 73. pH was maintained in the range of 6.360 g through July 17. Manual selection of males fingerlings produced variable and unsatisfactory results.4 to 7.500 g of dipotassium phosphate (K 2HPO4) on August 13.1 kg/m3 (range = 61. There was an addition of 2. 10. It was difficult to distinguish sexual characteristics in this strain of red tilapia. 1996. Iron chelate (10% Fe) was added to the unit every 3 to 4 weeks at a rate of 1. 1996. magnesium (Mg). 1996. which was obtained from Sunfish Hatcheries in Jamaica in 1986 (Rakocy et al. Annual production. 1995. sodium (Na). potassium (K).4 kg/m3). starting with the harvest on March 18.2% males).. Production was substantially greater than the general production range (30 to 40 kg/m3) for tilapia using diffused aeration (Losordo. Female red tilapia were only half as large as males at harvest and the mean weight during the first four harvests was 314 g/fish. 1995).2% (range = 63. The average growth rate during the final 11 harvests was 2.096 kg. respectively. or calcium hydroxide [Ca(OH)2] to the unit. 1997) due to the high aeration rates in relatively small water volumes and the high quality of incoming water. which averaged 487 g/fish in the last 11 harvests. the average number of male fish in the manually-sexed populations was 87. 1996 and 265. Based on the sex distribution at harvest.0 g of manga.2 kg/m3 (range = 53. respectively. The entire water volume of the unit was exchanged once on August 12-13. Results and Discussion Fish Production The initial stocking rate of 227 fish/m3 and the use of a mixed-sex population did not produce sufficient numbers of marketable-sized fish (454 g) (Table 1). based on the last 11 harvests.0 g of boric acid (H3BO3).

Survival was low for the harvests on October 2.81 05/13/97 182 90.78 69.7 1.7 364 96.4 2.96 94.1 2.8 2.6 81.35 11/13/95 227 49.92 07/10/95 227 75. during which time mortality of more than 40% occurred in the two tanks with the largest fish.73 07/23/96 182 82.2 2.29 85. b Male fish.7 2.54 12/26/95 227 46.8 291 63.24 10/02/95 227 30.5 2.6 to 99.5 42.51 78.75 _____________________________________________________________________________ a Rearing tank water volume was 4.0 1.7 2.0 2.82 91.9 483 90.19 94.8 2.4 m3.3 498 99. 1996 due to Hurricane Marilyn. _____________________________________________________________________________ Stocking Harvest Net Final Growth a Rate Weight Gain Weight Males Rateb Survival 3 3 3 Date (#/m ) (kg/m ) (kg/m ) (g/fish) (%) (g/day ) (%) FCRc _____________________________________________________________________________ 05/24/95 227 74. c Feed conversion ratio.1 1.4 2.8 79.55 97.4 248 39.8 427 88.99 89. 1995 through March 18.3 1.November) when water temperatures were above 280C.76 11/26/96 182 82.3 72.75 06/24/97 182 81.1 50.4 460 96.92 08/21/95 227 49.2 2.2%).71 06/10/96 182 81. Mortality generally occurred during the warmer months (June .0 3.80 09/03/96 182 75.6 42.8 1.0 36.65 01/07/97 182 61.2 1.34 58.5 1.6 1.2 2.0 326 51. Survival in the last 11 harvests averaged 91.5 74.27 97. Production characteristics of red tilapia over 2.4 1.1 22.52 45.2 1.7 2.1 2. fish died at a rate of one or two per day while the majority of the fish in the tank fed vigorously and was not affected.1 2.75 99.5 1.7 3.7 340 52.76 10/14/96 182 78.4 1.3 534 83.7 453 86.94 02/18/97 182 80. During disease episodes.4 1.2 478 80.7 2.0 39. Additional mortality occurred due to periodic generator failure in the three months after the hurricane.66 91.0 341 57.0 3.6 63.5 1.8 1.2 417 95. The primary cause of mortality was an unidentified bacterial disease.6 534 92.1 436 94.4 551 98.0 37.68 02/05/96 227 45.2 482 68.05 04/30/96 182 88.8 2.0 71.55 97. Often fish died in just one of the four rearing tanks.3 459 99.05 03/18/96 182 44.82 95.12 88.0 81.3 66.0 53.97 53.02 59.5 years in a commercial-scale aquaponic system.5 4. The system was without power for 12 hours.8 2.2 71. which indicates that the disease was transmitted by direct contact.6% (range = 78.40 66.73 04/01/97 182 91. 6 .7 76.0 2.8 76. Table 1.

694 cases. marketable production averaged 27 cases per week and ranged from 13 to 38 cases. Plant growth was normal in areas near diffuser-induced currents. which dispelled the zooplankton. In 112 lettuce harvests. Often clumps of feed would partially block the flow of feed or strong winds would trigger the release of too much feed. 1997) when water temperature averaged 27. Using improved production levels during the last six months (Figure 2).50C and peak daytime canopy temperatures often reached 390C.248 cases. However. Production was interrupted for 9 weeks by two hurricanes.10C. projected annual production would increase to 1. net gain (73. Production was greater in the cooler months (February-March. March-November. based on the last 11 harvests. comprised mainly of cladacera and ostracods. During these periods. March.25 times/h) did not improve total weight (81. Three weeks of production were lost in December. 72.9 kg/m3 vs.72 g/day). 1996. it was also easier to assess feeding response.77 with manual feeders (seven harvests).030 cases of romaine (Parris Island and Jerhico). and was stunted in quiescent areas 7 . 1996 was 269 g for Sierra (range = 182 to 340 g). 1995. A reduction in density may be necessary to attain a substantial improvement in production characteristics. after a new pump (1/2 hp) was installed on December 18. which seldom occurred. Hurricane Marilyn (100 mph winds) stopped production for 8 weeks (Figure 2). Demand feeders were discontinued because they were less reliable.55 times/h) in the rearing tank appeared to be too low to achieve optimum production characteristics. During the September through November period in 1995.3%) or feed conversion ratio (1.9 kg/m3 after). Production of lettuce. January-February. With the initial pump (1/5 hp).97 g/day vs.80). 80. a heat tolerant variety. Of the 3. the flow rate (163 L/min) and the water exchange rate (0. Belt feeders provided a steady release of feed over 12 hours and any failure. Lettuce Production Total annual lettuce production averaged 1. The average weekly harvest weight of marketable plants since October. growth rate (2.4 kg/m3). a higher flow rate (378 L/min) and exchange rate (1. High production in June. 1997 was due in part to the good performance of Nevada.4 kg/m3 before vs. which is a cool season crop. 2. 1.75 with demand feeders (four harvests) and 1. decreased during the warmer periods (AprilAugust. January-April.044 cases of lettuce harvested during the trial. production also declined due to root damage caused by zooplankton blooms. 1996 and replaced with Nevada.Based on data from the last 11 harvests. the average feed conversion ratio was 1. Montello was discontinued on July 31. survival (91% vs 92. 314 g for Jerhico (267 to 344 g) and 265 g for Nevada (149 to 360 g).552 cases of Sierra. 1995. 1996. there were 1. 1. With belt feeders. 327 g for Parris Island (181 to 446 g). was quickly detected. water temperature averaged 25.74 vs. One week of production was lost to Hurricane Hortense in September. 410 cases of Nevada and 71 cases of Montello. 1996. 1996. During the April-August period of 1995. 1996 when rodents destroyed the lettuce transplants in the greenhouse. 1997) (Figure 2).

With the introduction of ornament fish (tetras. dissoticum) caused production to decline noticeably from March through November of 1996 (Figure 2). more frequent spraying was sometimes required. There was evidence that microbes in the system were antagonistic to plant root pathogens. The plants were affected by intense solar radiation and air temperature during the warmer months. During wet periods (September-November). The problem with Pythium may have been aggravated by the use of a microscreen drum filter to remove suspended solids from May 30 through November 11. Ca and Fe provided sufficient amounts of the essential nutrients for normal plant growth. P. zebra danios). beginning in June of 1995. swordtails. Unfortunately. As the swordtail population increased.and micronutrients) gave erroneous results during this period. Direct excretion by the fish. The rapid removal of particulate organic matter from the system may have reduced mineralization and the accumulation of micronutrients. However. mineralization of organic waste and supplementation with K. Since the lettuce plants were grown outdoors in an unprotected environment. Fungus never occurred on the leaves. Efficient removal of solids by the drum filter may have reduced levels of microbes associated with organic decomposition. Wilting often occurred between 1000 and 1600 hours. After removal of the drum filter in November. they caused some minor root damage and were removed in June. the ICP method for metal analysis (macro. Although nutrient deficiences were not detected. The use of resistant varieties and antagonstic organisms offer the best potential for Pythium control in aquaponic systems.where the zooplankton flourished.000 ostracods were dislodged from the roots of just one medium-sized lettuce plant. Pythium was still present as the plants were relatively small at harvest (265 to 327 g) compared to previous unpublished data (>500 g). The Pythium infection was worse in four of the hydroponic tanks after removal of organic matter from the tank bottom. The drum filter was more efficient at removing solids quickly (the wash cycle occurred every two minutes) than the clarifier (twice a day) and filter tanks (once or twice a week). they were hardened and were not affected by heavy rainfall (less than hurricane strength) or extended periods of wetting. One complete water exchange and one minor 8 . Caterpillars were controlled by twice-weekly sprays with Bacillus thuriniensis. More than 23. Nutrient Dynamics There were no observable nutient deficiences during the 2. 1996 and return to the original setup of clarifiers and filter tanks. Two species of pathogenic root fungi (Pythium myriotylum and P. Red aphids affected only a few plants for very limited periods. 1996. the problem gradually dissipated and the plants grew uniformly in size. myriotylum causes root rot while P. suboptimal nutrient levels could have increased susceptibility to fungal infection. Minor losses of lettuce were caused by caterpillar (fall armyworm and corn earworm) and aphid damage. which clung to roots as they ate detritus and root hairs. dissoticum causes general retardation in the marturation rate of the plant. 1996. guppies.5-year trial. Most damage was caused by ostracods. production was consistently high in 1997.

8 mg/L in May. There was no problem with nutrient accumulation in the commercial-scale unit as found in earlier studies with experimental systems (Rakocy et al. Therefore. the NO3-N concentration increased to 11. 9 . B and Mo in August. 1995. In addition.7 and 6. 1997. with the exception of NO3-N. 168. 1997). 13. During the trial. 1996 and a partial accidental water loss (50%) in March. The average feed input was equivalent to 56 g/m2 of plant growing area/day. 1996.9 mg/L in June. 1996. A complete water exchange in August.9 kg of Ca(OH)2 and 62. 1996. nutrient levels decreased due to a major reduction in fish biomass and feeding rate. Cu and Zn.0 g. There was a decrease in clarifier retention time from 22 to 9. Manganese levels were often quite low compared to hydroponic levels while Zn concentrations were substantially higher. Cu. Nutrient levels generally increased during the first 8 months of the trial (Tables 2 and 3). B and Mo increased. the drum filter was removed in November. Mn. When the frequency of solids removal from the first filter tank was increased to twice a week.2%. for every kilogram of feed added to the system. which increased. which significantly altered solids removal and nutrient levels. 1993b). an indication of increased mineralization.1. a process that generates nutrients. After the poststorm period. The use of CaO was discontinued because it was too expensive. 1996. the overall average for the trial. The addition of the drum filter reduced nutrient levels as indicated by the conductivity (as TDS). Levels of K and Fe were variable and reflected supplementation rates. 142. which was equivalent to the addition of 16. After installation of a larger pump on December 18. K and Mn levels decreased while concentations of Mg. Nitrate-nitrogen levels decreased dramatically to a low of 1. As a consequence. 34. After the system was impacted by Hurricane Marilyn in September.5 minutes. 1997 caused only a moderate reduction in nutrient levels. which increased rates of denitrification and mineralization.668 kg of iron chelate (10% Fe) were added to the system..0 kg.3. very close to the design ratio of 57 g/m2/day. With the faster flow rate. which are high because nutrients are steadily depleted in hydroponics unlike aquaponics where nutrients are constantly regenerated. SO4-S. 1996.48 kg of CaO. to 3. Mn.5% of system volume. Zn. The drum filter increased daily makeup water from 1. Total feed application during the trial was 10. which was determined to be optimum for lettuce production (Rakocy. Furthermore. 1996 was based on erroneous water quality data.440 kg and the daily feed input averaged 12. respectively. PO4-P. which decreased from 677 in May to 482 in July. SO4-S.48 kg of KOH. two failures of the drum filter float switch led to massive water loss (78% of system volume) in October. The levels of most nutrients remained well below the initial concentrations of nutrients in hydroponic formulations. the flow rate increased by 132%. 3. rapid removal of solids from the system reduced mineralization. Conductivity (as TDS) and Ca remained realtively constant. the concentration of several nutrients remained relatively constant until a drum filter was added in May. less solids were removed by the clarifier and significantly more solids accumulated in the filter tanks. Cu.supplementation with P.

9 11.0 15.2 8.0 10/95 532 49.7 0.8 11.2 09/96 304 19.6 0.7 192.2 8.1 2.2 1.4 0.2 0.0 8.7 18.0 10.6 10.4 06/96 610 58.7 90.8 98.6 1.2 5.3 3.7 16.8 51.9 5.7 13.6 1.6 0.7 13.8 101.2 54.5 108.6 5.5 9.3 12/95 645 58.5 11/95 674 58.3 7.8 10.4 10.1 59.9 mg/L in the effluent from the hydroponic tanks.1 08/95 706 66.7 8.9 14.9 31.9 46.4 76.1 64.3 05/96 677 59.6 80.9 49.0 9.6 7.7 12.0 0.7 2.9 14.3 9.1 55.4 5.8 08/96 287 21.8 10.6 01/96 598 48.7 6.8 110.9 10.2 10.2 2.3 12.5 16.2 07/95 779 81.9 5.7 0.3 11/96 178 12.0 02/95 74 13.1 12.1 12. TAN Table 2.0 0.4 to 8.5 years in a commercial-scale aquaponic unit.6 03/96 725 69.2 2.0 6.3 2.Water Quality The aeration.8 58.7 1.6 3.7 0.7 33.9 42.0 20. DO levels averaged 6.7 0.4 0.0 10 . solids removal and hydroponic components maintained good water quality.2 2.1 01/97 374 26.1 104.1 1.5 12/96 300 24.3 02/97 354 27.8 9.2 mg/L in the rearing tanks (range = 2.6 82.0 26.0 0.0 mg/L in the effluent from the filter tanks and 6.2 05/95 554 64.6 15.8 12.8 1.1 8.7 139.1 13.9 9.3 7.2 04/96 704 64.7 13.2 03/97 300 23.9 0.6 07/96 482 50. 4. Conductivity (as TDS) and concentrations (mg/L) of macronutrients over 2.8 65.7 23.9 5.0 2. ____________________________________________________________________________ Macronutrient _______________________________________________________ a Date Conductivity Ca Mg K NO3-N PO4-P SO4-S _____________________________________________________________________________ 01/95 62 10.6 0.0 6.4 79.8 09/95 687 66.6 mg/L).0 0.8 02/96 682 56.7 06/95 701 82.4 0.8 5.8 2.2 14.1 04/95 218 33.4 10/96 308 43.9 9.1 03/95 134 20.8 51.2 2.

02 0.02 0.02 0.0 1.01 01/17/96 3.14 0. b Hydroponic nutrient formulation for lettuce grown in the tropics.19 0.08 0.09 0.40 0.05 0.46 0.05 0.03 0.03 0.07 0.02 0.17 0.01 04/11/97 4.07 0. Concentrations (mg/L) of micronutrients over 2.01 0.05 _____________________________________________________________________________ a Initial water sample before fish were stocked.02 0.03 0.02 HNFd 5.10 0.05 0. 11 .17 06/03/97 1.8 11.04/97 279 22.5 0.00 01/02/96 2.02 12/18/96 3.35 0.33 0.9 4.75 0.00 04/18/95 0.07 0.01 02/23/95 0.15 0.01 08/22/95 1. wet season (Resh.18 0.01 0.23 0.00 09/12/95 0.09 0.09 0.10 0.06 0.07 02/17/97 3.04 0.46 0.16 0.01 0.98 0.78 0.08 0.3 16.05 0.6 22.75 0.77 0.19 0.08 0.13 0.01 0.24 0.02 0.12 0.07 0.00 10/09/96b 0.06 0. c Hydroponic nutrient formulation for lettuce grown in the tropics.08 0.64 0.0 b HNF 1900 250 36 200 177 60 129 c HNF 1200 150 50 150 115 50 52 _____________________________________________________________________________ a Monthly values are the average of two or three biweekly samples for conductivity.04 0.39 0.54 0.5 0.01 0.00 05/16/95 0.5 0.74 0.1 0.01 06/14/95 0.13 0.0 0.04 0.3 12.05 0.30 0.46 0.03 0.00 11/07/95 2.00 01/30/96 3.05 0.01 0.11 0.34 0.08 0.1 0.62 0.03 0.11 0.11 0.3 14.35 0.06 0.01 03/11/97 3.07 0.05 0.17 0.07 0.00 12/05/95 2.17 0.60 0.3 23.07 0.06 0. b Water quality results between 01/30/96 and 10/09/96 are not given due to an analytical error.03 0.00 03/22/95 0.26 0.23 0.21 0.44 0.01 0.4 9.5 years in a commercial-scale aquaponic unit.05 0.11 0.4 06/97 390 24.26 0.03 c HNF 5.45 0. ____________________________________________________________________________ Micronutrient ________________________________________________________________ Date Fe Mn Cu Zn B Mo ____________________________________________________________________________ 01/13/95a 1.31 0. 1995).80 0.8 10. N and P.9 15.26 0.4 7. 1995).01 07/25/95 1.05 0.10 0.37 0.10 0. dry season (Resh.0 0.48 0.07 0. Table 3.05 0.5 0.01 10/10/95 0.01 0.4 05/97 353 2.03 0.

Nitrite-nitrogen averaged 0.4 mg/L (a 24% reduction) in the effluent from the hydroponic tanks. Tipburn has occurred during the warmer months. which is three times higher than the average feeding rate (56 g/m2/day) in this trial (Gloger et al.0 because nitrification efficiency decreases at lower pH values and nutrient solubility decreases at higher pH values.0 to 34. 7. provides adequate and sustainable waste treatment up to a feeding rate of 180 g/m2 of hydroponic growing area/day. 8.6 mg/L) and the average Cl level was 55.6 mg/L on passage through the hydroponic tanks indicates the occurance of nitrification. 1. It is important to maintain pH near 7. and whenever pH decreased to less than 7. and through sedimentation and filtration (by the roots) of solids. 1995).c d Hydroponic nutrient formulation for lettuce grown in the tropics (Resh.6 to 62.0.52 mg/L in the rearing tanks (0. In response to nitrification.0 to 193.68 mg/L in the effluent from the filter tanks and 0. 1995).61 mg/L (a 51% reduction) in the effluent from the hydroponic tanks.0 mg/L).2 mg/L (a 9% reduction) in the effluent from the clarifers. High Na levels will interfere with the uptake of K and Ca (Douglas. pH was monitored several times weekly. using lettuce. partial dilutions may be necessary to reduce Na levels. base was added. nitrification on the tank surface area. 1995).07 to 1. Total alkalinity averaged 56. Special feed formulations with reduced salt levels are needed for aquaponics.51 mg/L). Only one Na value during the trial was greater than 50 mg/L. Therefore.0 mg/L) in the effluent from the hydroponic tanks.3 mg/L (8. resulting in an unmarketable plant (Collier and Tibbitts. 1982). The maximum Na concentration should not exceed 50 mg/L (Verwer and Wellman. averaged 1.08 to 4. TSS averaged 9. 30. COD averaged 48.25 mg/L). Hydroponic nutrient formulation for lettuce grown in Florida and California (Resh. The average Na concentration was 36.5 mg/L in the effluent from one filter tank and 51.25 mg/L in the effluent from the filter tanks and 0.8 mg/L in the effluent from one clarifier (28.6% reduction) in the effluent from the hydroponic tanks.2 to 69. In lettuce.0 mg/L in the rearing tanks (2. associated particularly with the fish meal fraction.3) in the effluent from the hydroponic tanks.3 to 8. 48. Croix 12 . pH and total alkalinity constantly declined. 1980).00C). Turbidity averaged 31.5 FTU in the effluent from the clarifiers and the filter tanks and 27 FTU in the effluent from the hydroponic tanks. The hydroponic tanks treated the water through direct ammonia uptake by the lettuce roots. Rainwater was used in this trial because the groundwater of semiarid islands such as St.1 in the effluent from one filter tank (the second tank) and 7.0 mg/L in the effluent from one filter tank (the second one) and 45.0 mg/L (5.3 mg/L (a 5. 56. pH averaged 7.2 formazin turbidity units (FTU) in the rearing tanks (6 to 55 FTU).8 to 29..42 mg/L (a 38% reduction) in the effluent from the hydroponic tanks.2 (6. 4. an acid-producing process that reduces alkalinity.2 in the effluent from one clarifier. A decrease in total alkalinity by 4. Until low-salt diets are developed.60C (23. The average water temperature was 26. Soluble salt (NaCl) levels in fish feed. A previous study showed that raft hydroponics. 1995). are relatively high. The accumulation of Na is a concern in aquaponic systems because high Na levels in the presence of Cl are toxic to plants (Resh. 1985). reduced Ca uptake leads to tipburn.5 mg/L as CaCO3 in the effluent from one clarifier.5 to 102.2 mg/L).5 mg/L (a 45% reduction) in the effluent from the filter tanks and 3.47 mg/L in the rearing tanks (0. 0. there was a wide margin of safety in regards to water quality.9 mg/L (6.4 mg/L).

and in the last 10 months of trial. In the last month.1 cases of lettuce or approximately 50 heads. With an average daily feeding rate of 12.000 kg of tilapia and 13 . simple to operate and very productive. each cubic meter of water produced 2. it forms a layer on the tank bottom. Now it appears that through manipulation of organic matter in the filter tanks (i.8 mg/L/day) in the commercialscale unit. A hectare of units (25) would produce 77. Accumulation of nitrates is a concern with aquaponic systems. has much less contact with the overlying water and mediates less denitrification. evaporation and evapotranspiration accounted for the remaining water loss. In other areas of the system where organic matter accumulates. 1993). Denitrification most likely occurred in anaerobic pockets that developed in the sludge. Water use was 0.25 m3/kg of total tilapia production and 0.1 mg/L/day..contains too much salt for aquaponics.444 m3.. Water Consumption Total water consumption during the trial was 1.29 m3/kg of net production. sludge removal accounted for 24% of the water loss from the system. adjusting the cleaning frequency) nitrate levels can be controlled and excessive buildup can be avoided.8 kg of total inorganic nitrogen (approximately 0.8 kg dry weight). 1994). the filter tanks adjacent to the clarifiers were cleaned twice per week. was only 1. This aquaponic unit ranks among the top systems for water use efficiency (Cole et al. NO3-N concentrations generally declined. However.04 ha of land. In addition. In an experiment with bibb lettuce.9 g/kg of feed (dry weight) input at the same design ratio (57 g/m2/day) used in this trial (Rakocy et al. NO3-N accumulated at a rate of 14. When all the filter tanks were cleaned once per week.0 kg (10. Rakocy (1995) calculated a hypothetical mass balance for this unit and determined that optimally-growing plants were expected to remove no more than 37% of the inorganic nitrogen entering the water. the highest accumulation rate during the trial. 1997). such as the clarifier and hydroponic tanks. NO3-N should have accumulated at a rate of 161 g/day (1. The main difference between the experimental system and the commercial unit was the presence of filter tanks in the commercial unit.6 kg on nitrogen was added to the system daily in the feed). Average daily makeup water was 1. It can be con-figured to occupy as little as 0. thereby reducing the environmental impact of water discharged from the system. average water loss from the filter tanks was 301 L/day. Therefore. which provided good contact between nitrate ions and the denitrifying bacteria. In the last 6 months of the trial. Conclusion This aquaponic unit proved to be reliable.e. Splashing. The discharge from one experimental system contained 180 mg/L of NO3-N (Rakocy.4 m3 or 1. On the final sampling day the unit contained only 1..5% of the system volume. 1995. as in the experimental unit. The entire water column moved through the accumulated sludge. between April 3 and May 30. Large quantities of organic matter accumulated on the orchard netting between cleanings. Losordo. this publication. which brought average water loss from the filter tanks to 468 L/day. water loss through sludge removal from the clarifiers averaged 36 L/day.

M. London. DR/2000 Spectrophotometer Instrument Manual and Procedures. Aquaculture. USA. ed. Alabama. 1992. eds.C.S. Cotner.. J. Alabama. and T. Inst. Water Quality in Warmwater Fish Ponds. Cole and K.E. Rakocy.A. W rd ol Aquaculture Society. Auburn University. Book of Abstracts. Rakocy.M. Res..E.A.S. C. 19th ed. HACH Company.Pierce and J. Integrating tilapia culture with vegetable hydroponics in recirculating systems. Pelham Books.E.W. Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. Agricultural Experiment Station. USA. Water Quality and Pond Soil Analysis for Aquaculture. Costa. D. Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service. Loveland.Baton Rouge. and with some minor alterations and additional management experience.B. USA. APHA. G. Natl. 1995. Bull. J. Rakocy. further gains in efficiency and productivity are expected. 1990. USA. Aquacultural Engineering and Waste Management.. USA. 1997. 1995. eds. Abr uun Boyd. Colorado. Rakocy. J. Tucker. Baton Rouge. T. University. Louisiana. Suppl.A. Shultz.E. In press in B. Costa-Pierce and J.G. New York. W. 1982. References American Public Health Association.E. J.E. C. Modifications to the unit improved its performance. Rakocy. World Aquaculture Society. Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater. Losordo. World Aquaculture Society. Gloger. 1: 75-80. USA. D.E. 1997. Washington.F. England. Louisiana.000 cases of lettuce annually in the tropics. American Water Works Association and Water Pollution C nr l o to Federation. Timmons.B. 1995. Boyd. J. The role of plant crop production in aquacultural waste management.E. Bailey. HACH. 1994. Baton Rouge. In press in B. and C. 1985. 14 . 1979. Waste management in integrated recirculating systems. Collier. J. Rakocy. USA. USA. Advanced guide to hydroponics. 4:49-65.42. Louisiana. Horticultural Reviews. Tibbitts. K. Douglas. Tipburn of lettuce. Tilapia culture in intensive recirculating systems. Ithaca. Pages 349-364 in M.S. Tilapia Aquaculture in the Americas. Tilapia Aquaculture in the Americas. Waste treatment capacity of raft hydroponics in a closed recirculating fish culture system.

Techniques for Modern Aquaculture. St. 1995. ed. ed.E. Pages 112-136 in J. Integration of vegetable hydroponics with fish culture: a review. Wellman.S. J. Resh. Verwer F..A.S.A. Nutrient accumulation in a recirculating aquaculture system integrated with vegetable hydroponic production. USA. American Society of Agricultural Engineers. 1980. Joseph. Bailey. J. Joseph. Hydroponic food production: a definitive guidebook of soilless food-growing methods.Rakocy.-K..-K. International Congress on Soilless Culture. USA. Comparison of tilapia species for cage culture in the Virgin Islands. Pages 148-158 in J. St. 5: 13-17. American Society of Agricultural Engineers. USA. Hargreaves. Hargreaves and D. 1993. Santa Barbara.M.L. Wang. Michigan. UVI Research. Woodbridge Press Publishing Company. Hargreaves and D. and J. H. The possibilities of Grodan rockwool in horticulture.J. 15 . J. Bailey. Rakocy.C. Techniques for Modern Aquaculture. Wang.A. 5:263-278. J. 1993b. 1993a. J.E. California. and J. Rakocy. Michigan.E.

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