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Aquaponics (/ˈækwəˈpɒnɪks/) refers to any system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In normal aquaculture, excretions from the animals being raised can accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity. In an aquaponic system, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down by nitrifying bacteria initially into nitrites and subsequently into nitrates that are utilized by the plants as nutrients. The water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system.

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Results of a project I did with biofilm at 3 different layers at the different parts of the aquaponics tank.

Contributed by Jessica Kalmazu Stimely

Nitrifying Bacteria is an integral part of any environmental system involving water and aquatic life. However, many owners of such systems for commercial or domestic use misuse them, resulting in over 60% of fish dying in the first 30 days of ownership (Fritz Industries, 2010). Nitrifying bacteria help promote the health of the aquatic environment by converting ammonia into nitrite; a less-toxic chemical for fish. Without a tank that allows and encourages nitrifying bacteria growth, fish can receive ammonia burns, become lethargic, stop eating, and ultimately, die (Seyffarth, 2009). Thus, understanding them and where they are most prevalent is important in a tank system, and could connect to their place in the environmental system in natural settings. A deeper understanding could lead to healthier fish that had the potential to grow faster, larger, and produce stronger offspring. Many factors can decide the amount of nitrifying bacteria, including pH, dissolved oxygen, sunlight, and surface area. In a study on the effects of aeration on nitrifying bacteria (Mota, 2005), it was determined that an increased amount of aeration (thus, dissolved oxygen) produces positive responses in nitrifying bacteria.

Contributed by Jessica Kalmazu Stimely

Nitrifying bacteria is an integral part of the aquaponic tank system. Nitrifying bacteria such as nitrobacter and nitrosomonas take ammonia, which is toxic to fish, and turn it into nitrate, which is not. Nitrobacter and Nitrosomonas both are rod-shaped cells that are gram-negative and tend to form long chains. Without these bacteria, commercial and recreational fish tanks would be susceptible to adverse side effects such as burns and even death of fish. An aquaponics tank is used to recirculate and refresh water in a tank system. There is the sump, which collects dirty water, the biofilter, which cleanses it, and the tank, which houses the fish.

Contributed by Jessica Kalmazu Stimely

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