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If you are an experienced aquaponics gardener, then you know there are a lot of factors involved in caring for your system. In fact, it is not enough that you solely monitor the technical parameters of the water pH level, or assess the behavior of your fish. If you want your aquaponics set up to flourish for many years to come, the topic of preventing fish disease in Aquaponics gardens should always be a concern.
Because your system’s fish tanks serve as organic fertilizer for your plants, it is critical to maintain a vibrant and healthy stock of fish so that your crops absorb nutrient-rich water. In this article, you will learn more about fish disease and the steps you can take to prevent these problems from occurring in your Aquaponics setup.
What is Fish Disease?
Fish disease typically occurs when there is an abnormality or unbalance between your aquaponics system’s environment, pathogen agents, and the fish in your tanks. Pathogens refer to bacteria, parasites, and fungus that can propagate rapidly within a water source. These three major agents can swiftly enter an aquaculture environment by the introduction of fish, water, or expansion of organisms that existed previously in the tank system.
For these reasons and more, it is essential to retain good water quality plus stable routine management activities to ensure your stock’s normal immune system can ward off disease and guarantee you a harvest of healthy crops.
Causes of Fish Disease
Fish disease is often a result of Abiotic and Biotic factors. Abiotic components are non-living chemical factors that affect toxicity or water quality. On the other hand, Biotic components are living pathogens or organisms that can indirectly or directly affect their environment. Here are a few examples of disease commonly caused by these two factors:
Ammonia is hazardous to fish. When the pH levels of the fish tank increase and set off a hazardous nitrogen cycle, it can result in Ammonia poisoning. Visible symptoms of this condition include unusual fish swimming, fish not feeding, large and darker gills, plus redness in the eyes and fins.
Here are some traditional causes of aquaponics fish Ammonia poisoning:
- Biofilter failure
- New tank syndrome
- Low oxygen in the water
- Overcrowding of fish in tanks
- Excessive rationing of feed
- Too much protein in fish feed
- Minimal water flow
As an aquaponics operator, you can remedy these problems often by doing things such as replacing the water tanks, modifying water the temperature to proper levels, recalibrating fish feeding practices, or intensifying oxygenation.
Nitrite poisoning occurs when there is a high level of Nitrite in your fish tank. The condition is also known as “brown blood disease” because the fish blood transforms into color brown as a result of an increase in Methemoglobin. Symptoms of Nitrite poisoning include trouble breathing, lethargy, brown gills, and redness along the fins and eyes.
Here are some traditional causes of aquaponics fish Nitrate poisoning:
- Fish overcrowding in the tank
- Oversupply of fish feed
- Low oxygen in water
- Minimal water flow
- Variations in water temperature (specifically dramatic decreases)
To resolve these issues, you can recalibrate the tank’s fish population density, recalibrate fish feeding activities, modify the tank’s water temperature to proper levels, and replace tank water.
Aquaponics fish can experience stress when there is a rapid change in temperature or when the temperature is not in its normal range. Signs of this condition include lethargy, hypothermia, hyperthermia (yes there is a difference), and dyspnea, or shortness of breath.
Here are some traditional causes of aquaponics fish Temperature stress:
- Breakdown of the thermostat
- Inadequate insulation
- Faulty system management
You can address the issue by insulating your fish tank, installing a new water heater, or installing a cooling mechanism in your setup.
Fin rot is a condition brought on by bacteria. Signs of this disease are loss of color and damage in the fish fins. Its causes include abysmal water conditions and bacterial infection. When you notice these symptoms in your stock, see to it that you isolate and treat the infected fish in a different tank. You can either give medicated feed or dilute the medication straight in the water.
White Cotton Saprolegnia
The triggering factor of this condition is typically a fungus. Some of its symptoms are white, red, or brown cottony growth on its gills, fins, and eyes. You can treat this condition by giving extended formalin or salt bath to the infected fish. If there are lesions, you can often cure it with povidone-iodine.
Anchor worm, lice
Though its name is Anchor worm, this parasite is actually a crustacean from the Lernaea species. Signs of this condition are red spots and traces of parasites on the mouth, skin, and gills of the fish. Similar to White Cotton disease, you can provide an extended salt bath to fish infected with anchor worm. Aside from this, you can apply a formalin or hydrogen peroxide solution to help treat.
Given these circumstances, you must stay alert and monitor the behavior and physical appearance of your fish every day. On the one hand, it is vital too that you take proactive measures to prevent such issues from affecting your system in the first place. Below are ways you can prevent fish diseases in your Aquaponics gardens.
Preventing Fish Disease in Your Aquaponics Gardens
Caring for the health of your fish is necessary to ensure you have a harvest of winning crops. One way to do this is to follow routine management practices that will help you build a healthy stock. And to get you started on your list, here are few key actions you can work on to prevent diseases from affecting your Aquaponics setup.
- Feed your fish with a healthy and nutritious diet
- Purchase fish only from a reliable and professional facility
- Observe key parameters and maintain at ideal levels all the time
- Take out uneaten fish feed or any element that is a source of pollution
- Assess new fish for symptoms of any disease. Consider a quarantine of new fish for 45 days before adding them in your primary system
- Remember to place fish feed in a cool and dry place to avoid molding
- Maintain sufficient aeration to retain optimum dissolved oxygen levels
- Keep fish tanks away from direct sun exposure but not in full darkness
- Keep off snails, amphibians, birds, and rodents which can be sources of parasites or pathogens
- As a precaution, provide a salt bath for new fishes to eliminate parasites or cure some initial stage of infections