What plants and fish are adapted to aquaculture?

Answer: Aquaponics is a bio-integrated system that links recirculating aquaculture with hydroponic vegetable, flower, and/or herb production. Advances by researchers and growers alike have turned aquaponics into a working model of sustainable food production.

The selection of plant species adapted to hydroponic culture in aquaponic greenhouses is related to stocking density of fish tanks and subsequent nutrient concentration of aquacultural effluent. Lettuce, herbs, and specialty greens (spinach, chives, basil, and watercress) have low to medium nutritional requirements and are well adapted to aquaponic systems. Plants yielding fruit (tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers) have a higher nutritional demand and perform better in a heavily stocked, well-established aquaponic system. Greenhouse varieties of tomatoes are better adapted to low-light, high-humidity conditions in greenhouses than field varieties are.

Several warm-water and cold-water fish species are adapted to recirculating aquaculture systems, including tilapia, salmon, trout, perch, Arctic char, and bass. However, most commercial aquaponic systems in North America are based on tilapia. Tilapia is a warm-water species that grows well in a recirculating tank culture. Furthermore, tilapia is tolerant of fluctuating water conditions such as pH, temperature, oxygen, and dissolved solids. Tilapia produces a white-fleshed meat suitable to local and wholesale markets. The literature on tilapia contains extensive technical documentation and cultural procedures. In Australia, Barramundi and Murray cod fish species are raised in recirculating aquaponic systems.

You’ll benefit from reading the ATTRA publication Aquaponics—Multitrophic Systems for Sustainable Food Production. It introduces aquaponic systems, discusses economics and getting started, and includes an extensive list of resources that will point you to print and online educational materials for further technical assistance.