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    Erica Flannagan
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    Choosing the correct number and species of fish is an important step on the road to perfecting your aquaponics system. The type of fish you should use will vary, depending on the temperature of the water in the specific system and the size of the tank, as well as whether or not you are growing for pleasure or growing for food production.  The ratio of fish to plants must be balanced as well for optimal results. Keep in mind that the fish you select for an aquaponic system should always be freshwater fish.

    Fish are absolutely crucial in the aquaponics process due to the simple fact that they fortify the water, giving nutrients to the plants. The plants, in turn, detoxify the water by  absorbing the nitrates (created by the fish waste) in order to make the environment more livable for both the fish and plants alike. This symbiotic relationship is what makes aquaponics sustainable. The ammonia in the fish waste is converted to nitrates by the system’s biofilter. Nitrates are necessary and beneficial for plants, yet too much of a good thing can be detrimental. An excess of nitrates in the water is poisonous to the fish and will actually cause the plants to lose their appetite.

    In aquaponic systems, it is important to note the aquarist’s rule of thumb which is 1 inch of fish for every gallon of water. Follow this guideline, for both indoor and outdoor aquaponic systems, to prevent overcrowding your tank. Many people choose to use tilapia for outdoor aquaponic systems because they are able to live in a high-density environment with several other fish. This allows for maximum growth output for the plants. However, tilapia thrive best in water above 75 degrees fahrenheit. The koi fish, also known as the japanese carp, can easily function in water ranging from 35 degrees to 85 degrees fahrenheit. This adaptability makes koi ideal for any large aquaponics system. Koi are also known for consuming algae as well, which will make your job of maintaining a clean environment even easier.

    Small, indoor aquaponic systems can use a variety of different fish. Choose hardy fish from your local pet store such as goldfish, guppies, or angelfish. Refrain from adding too many fish to your aquaponic system, as this will result in an excess amount of waste!

    Bottom feeders such as shrimp and crayfish, and even mollusks such as oysters and clams, are helpful in providing support for environments with excess waste. The removal of hard waste can be aided by the addition of earthworms to the substrate as well. Bottom feeders break down hard waste to allow it to be easily removed by the pump and expelled into the growbed.

    Our new Shrimp Jar System is powered by shrimp and snails and is easily maintainable, giving an excellent introduction to the aquaponics process! This system comes with everything you need to get started. Just add dwarf shrimp such as red cherry, blue velvet or ghost shrimp. These are all available at your local pet store!

     

    Since fish are the powerhouse in aquaponics, it is absolutely key that you consider these factors as you select the fish for your system. Be sure to share your questions, comments and concerns below in order to provide important feedback for your aquaponics community!

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