An Aquaponics system is an ecosystem made up of fish, plants, and bacteria, and each part of the system must be healthy for everything to work and run smoothly. A fully established aquaponics system requires minimal supervision and is easy to maintain. However, keeping the three main components of aquaponics healthy is essential for the success of your system.
It requires a healthy fish to produce ammonia that is converted into plants’ food. If your fish are not healthy and waste production slows, that will result in fewer bacteria and poor plant growth. Understanding the needs of your fish will go along way in keeping your aquaponics system healthy.
Fish Nutrition Considerations
Proper nutrition of the fish is very important. Fish food needs to fulfill both the fish’s and plant’s nutritional needs in an aquaponics system as the fish provides most of the nutrients required by the plants. To optimize your system’s performance, fish nutrition and feeding schedule should be designed to provide the right level of nutrients to the fish, bacteria, and plants.
Without proper nutrition, your fish will have slower growth, reduced breeding success, and a higher risk of disease. The amount of food you provide will depend on the number of fish in your tank. If you see leftover food after feeding, reduce the amount fed to your fish. If you see that the fish seem to eat everything quickly, increase the amount of feed slowly until your fish eat slightly less rapidly. (1)
- What do you feed fish in aquaponics?
Usually fish get their proteins by eating other fish, but feeding them the right food like fish food will keep your fish healthy. Fish waste is where you get the nutrients for your plants to grow, so make sure to feed your fish food that provides 30-40% proteins and a good source for other essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
You can also feed your fish with organic fish food to ensure that your system is organic. You can buy organic fish food or you can make homemade organic fish food as some fish eat algae, duckweeds, and other plants. (1)
- Set a scheduled time for feeding
Set a feeding time for your fish. Ideally, you feed your fish once or twice a day, usually once in the morning and once in the afternoon. You can also use an automatic fish feeder to feed your fish.
Fish Health and Diseases
Fish stress is one of the main fish killers. A small amount of stress can be harmless to the fish, but if these following conditions are present in your system, they could cause health problems to your fish.
- Poor Water Quality: To eliminate poor water quality, you need good filtration. Water change may be necessary if the levels of water impurities are too high and your water is murky or cloudy color. Water impurities are often caused by overfeeding your fish. It is important to remove excess fish food from the bottom of the tank as it will cause ammonia build up in your system.(2)
- Water Temperature: Different species of fish require different temperatures. Your water temperature should be the right temperature for the fish in your fish tank. To prevent sudden temperature shifts from occurring in your fish tank, have some thermal mass such as a concrete slab or some shade cloth cover above your fish tank. (2)
- Transportation: Transporting fish can have an effect on their slime coat, which could weaken their immune system. When introducing a new fish to your tank, make sure to gradually introduce the fish until they are fully adjusted to the water temperature and pH condition of their new environment. (2)
- Fish Handling: Leave the fish undisturbed in the fish and allow them to feel safe in their fish tank. Limit fish stress by putting them in the net only when necessary. (2)
- High Ammonia: Ammonia comes from fish urine, uneaten solid fish food and it is also excreted through their gills. High ammonia levels are toxic to the fish, so the ammonia should be closely monitored. (2)
- Harassment From Other Fish: Be careful in adding different fish species in your system. Mixing your fish with different fish species can harm your fish, as some fish are predatory and territorial in nature. It is preferable to stock your fish tank with one fish species for ease of management. (2)
- Overstocking Of Tank: Overstocking your fish tank will cause poor water quality. As the fish grow, they will require more oxygen and space. Balance the number of your fish to the size of your fish tank. Failure to keep your system in balance will cause problems. (2)
- Lack of Fish In The Fish Tank: Fish feel happier in a larger group and they love the company of their own species for schooling. To make fish feel safe and comfortable, make sure you have enough fish in your fish. (2)
Warning Signs of Fish Stress or Disease
- Changes in skin, scale, and fin – Parasitic and fungal infections will give visible changes to the body, skin, fins or scales of the fish. Check your fish regularly for any changes or signs of diseases in their appearance. (1)
- Changes of Behavior – Behavioral changes in your fish could be a sign of stress or disease. If your fish refuse to eat, become lethargic or stop swimming, this could show a serious problem and this problem is often caused by high levels of ammonia or nitrites and too low oxygen level. (1)
- Bloating or Raised Scales – If your fish look bloated or their scales are raised, other serious health problems could cause this.(1)
- Difficulty of breathing, darker gills, lethargy, swimming near the surface and redness around eyes and fins – These could be signs of Nitrite poisoning. (3)
- Hyperactivity, difficulty breathing, increased mucus, and even death – This is the signs of low pH in your system. You can add potassium bicarbonate or replace the water in your system to raise water pH. (3)
- Opacity in skin and gills – Signs of high pH. Water replacement or using phosphoric acid can be used to lower water pH in the aquaponics system. (3)
Just like any other pet you care for in your home, fish thrive best when their needs are met. Give your fish a home that they will enjoy, grow in, and that provides healthy nutrients for the bacteria and plants in your aquaponics system. Knowing how to keep your fish healthy and understanding how certain chemicals and temperatures can benefit or hurt them can help you have success in your aquaponics system.