Aquaponics, the combined culture of fish and plants in recirculating systems, has become increasingly popular. Now a news group ([email protected] townsqr.com — type subscribe) on the Internet discusses many aspects of aquaponics on a daily basis. Since 1997, a quarterly periodical (Aquaponics Journal) has published informative articles, conference announcements and product advertisements. At least two large suppliers of aquaculture and/or hydroponic equipment have introduced aquaponic systems to their catalogs. Hundreds of school districts are including aquaponics as a learning tool in their science curricula. At least two short courses on aquaponics have been introduced, and the number of commercial aquaponic operations, though small, is increasing. Learn More
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Aquaponic systems are recirculating aquaculture systems that incorporate the production of plants without soil. Recirculating systems are designed to raise large quantities of fish in relatively small volumes of water by treating the water to remove toxic waste products and then reusing it. In the process of reusing the water many times, non-toxic nutrients and organic matter accumulate. These metabolic by-products need not be wasted if they are channeled into secondary crops that have economic value or in some way benefit the primary fish production system. Systems that grow additional crops by utilizing by-products from the production of the primary species are referred to as integrated systems. If the secondary crops are aquatic or terrestrial plants grown in conjunction with fish, this integrated system is referred to as an aquaponic system (Figure 1).
Plants grow rapidly with dissolved nutrients that are excreted directly by fish or generated from the microbial breakdown of fish wastes. In closed recirculating systems with very little daily water exchange (less than 2 percent), dissolved nutrients accumulate in concentrations similar to those in hydroponic nutrient solutions. Dissolved nitrogen, in particular, can occur at very high levels in recirculating systems. Fish excrete waste nitrogen, in the form of ammonia, directly into the water through their gills. Bacteria convert ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate (see SRAC Publication No. 451, “Recirculating Aquaculture Tank Production Systems: An Overview of Critical Considerations”). Ammonia and nitrite are toxic to fish, but nitrate is relatively harmless and is the preferred form of nitrogen for growing higher plants such as fruiting vegetables.
Aquaponic systems offer several benefits. Dissolved waste nutrients are recovered by the plants, reducing discharge to the environment and extending water use (i.e., by removing dissolved nutrients through plant uptake, the water exchange rate can be reduced). Minimizing water exchange reduces the costs of operating aquaponic systems in arid climates and heated greenhouses where water or heated water is a significant expense. Having a secondary plant crop that receives most of its required nutrients at no cost improves a system’s profit potential. The daily application of fish feed provides a steady supply of nutrients to plants and thereby eliminates the need to discharge and replace depleted nutrient solutions or adjust nutrient solutions as in hydroponics. The plants remove nutrients from the culture water and eliminate the need for separate and expensive biofilters. Aquaponic systems require substantially less water quality monitoring than separate hydroponic or recirculating aquaculture systems. Savings are also realized by sharing operational and infrastructural costs such as pumps, reservoirs, heaters and alarm systems. In addition, the intensive, integrated production of fish and plants requires less land than ponds and gardens. Aquaponic systems do require a large capital investment, moderate energy inputs and skilled management. Niche markets may be required for profitability.
The design of aquaponic systems closely mirrors that of recirculating systems in general, with the addition of a hydroponic component and the possible elimination of a separate biofilter and devices (foam fractionators) for removing fine and dissolved solids. Fine solids and dissolved organic matter generally do not reach levels that require foam fractionation if aquaponic systems have the recommended design ratio. The essential elements of an aquaponic system are the fish-rearing tank, a settleable and suspended solids removal component, a biofilter, a hydroponic component, and a sump (Figure 2).
Effluent from the fish-rearing tank is treated first to reduce organic matter in the form of settleable and suspended solids. Next, the culture water is treated to remove ammonia and nitrate in a biofilter. Then, water flows through the hydroponic unit where some dissolved nutrients are taken up by plants and additional ammonia and nitrite are removed by bacteria growing on the sides of the tank and the underside of the polystyrene sheets (i.e., fixed-film nitrification). Finally, water collects in a reservoir (sump) and is returned to the rearing tank. The location of the sump may vary. If elevated hydroponic troughs are used, the sump can be located after the biofilter and water would be pumped up to the troughs and returned by gravity to the fish-rearing tank.
Artificial sand, also called crushed sand or mechanical sand (m sand), refers to rocks, mine tailings or industrial waste granules with a particle size of less than 4.75 mm. It is processed by mechanical crushing and sieving.
In China, the artificial sand was mainly used in the construction of hydropower systems. For example, the Three Gorges Project and the Yellow River Xiaolangdi Project used artificial sand to prepare concrete. Due to the remote environment of the hydropower project and the high quality of sand and gravel, the projects have taken the materials locally.
Many Indian states have decreed the use of crushed sand in infrastructure construction because of its high compressive strength and cohesion and the adverse environmental effects of river sand mining, which will greatly boost the demand for artificial sand.
There are both natural and human factors in the increasing demand for artificial sand. The former is that the natural sand is about to run out, while human factors include people's requirements for environmental protection and the need for high-quality concrete.
With the development of infrastructure, the natural sand resources formed by hundreds of thousands of years in many countries and regions have been almost exhausted, which has affected the further development of construction projects.
Driven by huge interests, natural sand has been indiscriminately mining, which changes the river course, affects the safety of river embankments, destroys the living environment of fish and contaminates the groundwater. The crushed stone sand is an important alternative resource to change this phenomenon.
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