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Maintaining healthy fish tank ecosystems is arguably the most important element in an aquaponics environment. Setting up fish tanks the right way can provide a suitable environment for any type of fish and can consequently contribute a sustainable, and even profitable, method of growing crops. However, things such as bacteria, pH imbalances, or other factors can quickly lead to widespread disease or the sudden deaths of fish if not remediated in time. With so many things that could potentially go wrong, many people ask themselves the question, “is aquaponics safe for fish?”
The answer is yes, aquaponics is safe for fish but only if the fish are raised responsibly and with care. A healthy aquaponics ecosystem allows fish to live in a controlled environment conducive to their growth and survival. An unhealthy system will cause the fish to be under stress, which could easily lead to disease, and ultimately, deaths.
In this article, you will learn how to make aquaponics safe for fish, the environmental factors that cause stress in fish, and some maintenance tips that can help you better manage your setup.
Ecosystem in Aquaponics
One of the best things about aquaponics that makes it safe for fish is that it mimics an ecosystem. It shows the intricate symbiotic relationship shared between aquatic life, plant life, bacteria, water, and minerals. Fish are fed food, which will turn into waste by-products that will feed the bacteria. These bacteria will then convert the waste into nitrates – the perfect food for plants. In turn, the plants will clear the water of toxic substances and return it to the fish tank.
Most types of edible freshwater fish will thrive in aquaponics, given you properly establish environmental parameters like water temperature, pH, and water oxygenation. Each fish species has a unique set of requirements (check out the best fish species to use) that will allow you to raise them successfully. In addition to this, constant monitoring of your system is critical to ensure that everything is running smoothly.
Contributing Factors Of Stress In Aquaponics Fish
Many aquaponics fish are hardy species that can tolerate a variety of water conditions, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get affected once water quality declines. What may seem like a minor problem to you can be a big issue for fish. Stress in fish is common in aquaponics, and this usually results from improper tank conditions. And when they become stressed, fish are more susceptible to diseases and are less likely to recover from them.
There are three factors that cause stress in fish, namely:
- Physical – includes environmental conditions that you can control, such as water temperature and pH, or exposure to direct sunlight (in some species)
- Chemical – pertaining to the ammonia and nitrite levels in your tank. An increase in ammonia and nitrate stresses out the fish. For this reason, there is a need to wait for bacteria and microbes to be established before adding fish into your system.
- Biological – this category of stressors refers to viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites that can affect your fish. These organisms may already be present, but they will only affect aquatic life when conditions are right. Usually, this happens when the abovementioned stress factors are also present.
How to Make A Safe Environment For Aquaponics Fish
Whether you’re new to aquaponics and doing a DIY backyard setup or going for a larger commercial venture, here are guidelines to always keep in mind so your fish can thrive:
Quality of fish tank
Fish tank quality is an essential component of an aquaponics setup. You can go for any fish tank, but those that have flat or conical bottoms are preferable since they’re typically easier to clean and sanitize. In regards to material, fiberglass tanks or ones made of inert plastic are ideal for their durability.
Good Water Quality
Maintaining good water quality is one of the first steps to take to ensure a healthy aquaponics setup. It is not only where your fish will live, but it also transports the nutrients to your plants. Monitor your system from time to time to ensure that pH and temperature are balanced.
Aeration and Water Circulation
For your fish tank, water and air pumps are also required to make sure your fish receive the proper dissolved oxygen levels. High-quality pumps ensure adequate water circulation to keep the water healthy for the entire ecosystem. Having these pumps also means increased electricity costs, so choose pumps wisely.
Keep a low stocking density as much as possible to avoid overcrowding tanks. Overcrowding can also be another stressor for fish. While higher stocking densities can produce more nutrients for plant life, over time, the benefits could be quickly offset by a deterioration of tank health.
Feeding frequency varies depending on the fish, but generally, it is acceptable to feed fish every day, as long as you scoop out uneaten food. If left to sink to the bottom, it can accumulate and ruin water quality.
Conclusion: So, Is Aquaponics Safe For Fish?
Maintaining a good aquaponics setup is key to keeping fish safe in this artificial environment you created. When under stress, fish become more vulnerable to a host of diseases. But by addressing the important elements of your aquaponics system, you can be more vigilant about meeting the fish’s growth requirements. As a result, you’ll be creating a healthy, safe, and stress-free environment for your fish to thrive in.