Monthly Archives: September 2011

What is a Koi ? by CCRES

What is a Koi ? by CCRES

Koi or nishikigoi , literally carp, are ornamental domesticated varieties of the common carp that are commonly kept for ornamental reasons in outdoor ponds and water gardens. They are sometimes also referred to as Japanese carp.

They were developed from ordinary carp in Japan during the 1820s, and are still extremely popular there as they are a representation of love and friendship. Many diverse colors and color patterns and have since been introduced; common colors include black, white, red, yellow, blue, and cream. The foremost popular category of koi is the Gosanke, which is composed of the Kohaku, Taisho Sanshoku, and Showa Sanshoku varieties.

Koi Origins

A carp is a group of fish formerly found in Asia and Central Europe. Different carp species were domesticated in East Asia, where they were used as food. The capacity of carp to endure and settle in to many climates and water conditions permitted the domesticated species to be spread to many new places including Japan. Natural color changes of these carp would have taken place across all populations. Carp were first bred for color changes in China more than a thousand years ago, where careful reproduction of the Prussian carp led to the goldfish.

Today carp are known as koi in Japan. Of the different domesticated carp types, the common carp is one of the more frequently used in aquaculture. It is thought that common carp were first brought into Japan via China 400 to 600 years ago. The carp were first raised for color in Japan in the 1820s, in the town of Ojiya in the Niigata region on the north eastern coast of Honshu island. In the 20th century, color patterns had been begun, particularly the red-and-white Kohaku. Beyond Japan the world was not knowledgeable of the progress of color variations in this fish until 1914, when the Niigata koi were revealed in the annual exposition in Tokyo, Japan. The notice in koi then grew throughout Japan. The hobby of keeping koi ultimately expanded worldwide. They are now sold in most pet stores, higher-quality specimens accessible from expert dealers.

Koi Varieties

The variations are unlimited; hence, breeders have identified and named a few specific categories. The most well-liked category is Gosanke, which consisit of the Kohaku, Taisho Sanshoku, and Showa Sanshoku assortments.

The main varieties include:

kohaku koi
Taisho Sanshoku koi
showa koi
Kohaku – white-skinned, having large red marks on the top. The name means “red and white;” The kohaku was the first patterned variety to be established in Japan in the 19th century.
Taisho Sanshoku or Taisho Sanke, is comparable to the Kohaku, where they differ, this fish has small black markings called sumi. This selection was first revealed in 1914 by Gonzo Hiroi, breeder, during the reign of Emperor Taisho. In the United States it is abbreviated to just “Sanke”.
Showa Sanshoku or Showa Sanke, black with red and white markings. The first Showa Sanke was revealed in 1927, during the reign of Emperor Showa. In the United States the name is abbreviated to just Showa. The extent of shiroji on Showa Sanke has improved, to the point where it can be difficult to tell it apart from Taisho Sanke.
tancho koi
Asagi koi
Utsuri koi
Tancho – with a solitary red patch on top of its head. May be a Tancho Showa, Tancho Sanke, or even Tancho Goshiki. Named after the Japanese crane which also bares a red spot on its head.
Asagi – light blue above and red below. The name means “light blue” in Japanese.
Utsurimono – black with a white, red, or yellow markings. Renamed Ki Utsuri by Elizaburo Hoshino, a 20th century breeder. Red and white versions are called Hi Utsuri and Shiro Utsuri. The utsuri means to print.
Bekko koi
Goshiki koi
Shusui koi
Bekko White, red, or yellow, skinned with small black markings sumi. The name means “tortoise shell,”. The white red and yellow varieties are called Shiro Bekko, Aka Bekko and Ki Bekko respectively. Sometimes confused with the Utsuri.
Goshiki Black with red, white, brown, and blue accents.
Shusui Created in 1910 by Yoshigoro Akiyama, crossed a Japanese Asagi with a German mirror carp. The name means “Autumn jade” in Japanese. The fish has no scales, excluding a single line of large mirror scales dorsally, going from head to tail.
Kinginrin koi
Kawarimono koi
Ogon koi
Kinginrin Translates as “gold and silver scales.” A metallic scaled fish. Often abbreviated to Ginrin.
Kawarimono A competition category (you cannot purchase a “kawarigoi” from a pet shop). This is a “catch-all” term that cannot be placed into one of the other categories. Also known as kawarigoi
Ogon Most commonly seen colors are gold, platinum, and orange. Cream specimens exist but are very rare. A one color, but with metallic scales or hikarimono. Japanese name means “Gold.” Variety was created by Sawata Aoki in 1946 from wild carp he caught in 1921.
Kumonryu koi
Doitsu-goi koi
Ochiba koi
Kumonryu – changes color with the seasons. Kumonryu is black with curling white markings. The patterns are thought to be suggestive of Japanese ink paintings of dragons.
Doitsu-goi German mirror carp with a single line of large mirror-like scales along the top.
Ochiba Japanese name means “fallen leaves.” It is light blue with yellow patches, reminiscent of autumn leaves on water.
Koromo koi
Hikari moyomono koi
Butterfly koi
Koromo – patches of blue or black edged scales. This fish first arose in the 1950s as a cross between a Kohaku and Asagi.
Hikari-moyomono – with colored markings over a metallic base, or in two metallic colors.
Butterfly – Not considered Nishikigoi. It has long fins, a version of all others. It was bred in the United States and introduced back into Japan.
Tagged , , , , , , ,

Aquatic pond plants by CCRES

Aquatic pond plants by CCRES

water lilies

water lilies
Any of various cosmopolitan aquatic herbs of the genus Nymphaea, having floating leaves and showy, variously colored flowers, especially N. odorata, with fragrant many-petaled white or pinkish flowers. Also called pond lily.
parrot feather

parrot feather
A perennial plant. As the water warms in the spring, parrot feather begins to flourish. Most plants flower in the spring; however, some also flower in the fall.

The hollow stems of watercress are floating and the leaves are pinnately compound. Watercresses produce small white and green flowers in clusters.

water celery
This plant thrive in soil, as well as growing in pea rock, or just tucked into any location that allows its roots to be submersed in water. Water celery tolerates a wide range of light conditions, from shade to full sun. It can grow in water up to 6 inches above the soil level, in a bog area, and you will frequently find that this plant will spread.
water iris

water iris
An assortment of perennials for naturalizing a wet area and to give an early to late spring color to a water garden. The narrow blades emerge in spring before the flowers appear. They prefer shallow water on or over their roots.
pickerel rush

pickerel rush
The flower spikes grow from leaf bracts at the top of stems. The plant adapts from very shallow water to depths of up to 18″. Grows 24 to 30 inches in height and consistently attracts butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies.
water clover

water clover
A plant with four lobed leaves that are a patterned bi-color and make a wonderful display on the water surface. If the plant is in shallow water, it will hold its leaves above the water up to 3 inches.
water canna

water canna
The plant flowers on tall stalks in summer. Once the stalk starts to emerge, it grows quickly. Heights vary from 2 to 6 feet and colors range from pinks to yellows to reds.
dwarf bamboo

dwarf bamboo
A slender stalks of this plant grow 18 to 24-inches high with hollow, jointed, leafy stems. The plant does not have flowers, instead it has small brown tassels along the top third of each stem. This plant can be grown in moist conditions, up to 4-inches of water over the soil level, in full to partial sun.

Cold tolerant, survives winter at the pond edge. They will spread in the spring. Hollow green stems with black band give this marginal a horse’s tail appearance. Grows in dry and moist soil but, not under the waterline.


elephant ear

elephant ear
Use elephant ears as the focal point for your feature, in the center of a large patio pot or as an accent on the edge of your water garden. Broad green leaves of this tropical plant are what gave it its name.
lizard's tail

lizard’s tail
A bottlebrush spike of white flowers, typically six to eight inches long but can be longer. The plant blooms from June through September. Flowers emerge from the tops of the stems and form long and tapering drooping clusters.

Provides protective cover and nesting areas for small animals and birds. In ponds, cattails are useful for framing the water garden.
star grass

star grass
A small native perennial plant consists of a rosette of slender basal leaves and shorter flowering stems. They have scattered white hairs. The flowering stems are up to 8″ tall, and have scattered white hairs as well. Each of these stems terminates in a rather loose umbel of two or more yellow flowers.
water hyacinth

water hyacinth
The leafstalk is spongy and inflated, and the upper lobes of its purple flowers have blue and yellow markings. It reproduces quickly, It is used as an ornamental in outdoor ponds.
water lettuce

water lettuce
Floats on the surface of the water its roots hanging submersed beneath floating leaves. It is a perennial with thick, soft leaves that form a rosette. The leaves can be up to 14 cm long and have no stem. They are light green, with parallel veins, wavy margins and are covered in short hairs which form basket-like structures which trap air bubbles, increasing the plant’s buoyancy.
Tagged , , , , , , ,



Japanese koi
Japanese koi
(kuchi beni)
Japanese koi
Japanese koi
Japanese koi
Japanese koi
Gin Rin
Japanese koi
Japanese koi
Japanese koi
Doit Showa
Japanese koi
Japanese koi
Shiro Utsuri
Japanese koi
Japanese koi
Shiro Utsuri
Japanese koi
Japanese koi
Gin Rin
Japanese koi
Lemon Hariwaki
Japanese koi
Gin Rin
Japanese koi
Japanese koi
Doit Sanke
Japanese koi
Beni Kiko
Japanese koi
Gin Rin
Hi Utsuri
budo goromo koi
budo goromo
gin rin shiro utsuri gin rin shiro utsuri ai goromo (male)
ai goromo
ochiba (male)
sanke (male)
gin rin goshiki
gin rin goshiki
tancho ochiba (male)
tancho ochiba
showa (female)
ochiba (male)
shiro utsuri (male)
shiro utsuri
marudo kohaku female
marudo kohaku
maruten kohaku male
maruten kohaku
goshiki 4-step male
goshiki 4-step
showa female
sanke female
Tagged , , , , , , ,

Methods of Aquaponics by CCRES

Methods of Aquaponics by CCRES

The Raft System

Lettuce in raft aquaponics

As aquaponic technology continues to develop, there are two primary methods that have evolved. The media-filled bed system, which many backyard enthusiasts use, and the raft system, which most commercial growers use. NFT (nutrient film technique) is a third, less popular method of aquaponics.

In a raft system (also known as float, deep channel and deep flow) the plants are grown in floating Polystyrene boards that float on top of water. The raft system uses filtration components that allow higher stocking densities of fish and, therefore, a higher production of plants.

A media-filled bed system uses a tank or container that is filled with gravel, perlite or another media for the plant bed. This bed is periodically flooded with water from the fish tank. The water then drains back to the fish tank. A media-filled bed system will produce a nice variety of crops. On a large scale, though, raft systems will produce more fish and produce due to the filtration components and the layout of the raft tanks.

In this article, I will discuss the raft method, the advantages and the way it works. In an aquaponic raft system, all of the water is continually recirculated from the fish tanks through filters and large, water-filled, shallow tanks. Plants sit on rafts in these tanks, with their roots dangling down into the water. The solid waste from the fish tanks is removed using a clarifier or other solids removal device.

The Research Scientists at the University of the Virgin Islands-Ag Experiment Station have developed a commercially viable raft aquaponic system that many growers have adopted because it has proven to be viable and it has the greatest base of use, data and research.

One of the unique advantages of the raft system is the high volume of water in the system. This acts as a buffer for the fish. In a typical recirculating aquaculture system (RAS), fish are stocked at a density of up to 1/2 lb of fish per gallon of water. This high stocking rate makes managing the water quality and health of the fish very challenging. In raft aquaponics, all of the water is recirculating all of the time so, even though your fish tanks are a set size, you have 5-8 times more water that is contained in the filter and raft tanks. This means that in a properly designed raft aquaponic system, even when your fish tanks are fully stocked, you are only at about 1/16th lb fish per gallon of system water.

Commercial aquaponics, Guadalajara

Initially, a raft system takes a fairly large volume of water to fill but, it is one of the most efficient models of water usage in all of food production. Since the largest surface area (the raft tanks) is covered by the rafts, evaporation is minimal. Every day you replace the water that has been used in transpiration by the plants, a small amount used in cleaning the filter tanks and what is lost to evaporation. There is no water lost to weeds because there are no weeds.

The ratios of fish to plants, of fish tanks sizes to filter tank sizes and water volumes have been determined by the research scientists over a nearly 30 year period.

All of these factors contribute to raft aquaponics being the choice for many aquaponic growers. I believe raft aquaponics is currently the most efficient, dependable and developed method of aquaponic food production.

System Components

A raft system is typically comprised of fish tanks, filter tanks and the raft tank.

Fish Tanks

Tilapia raised in raft aquaponics

The fish are cultured in tanks that are plumbed to the other components in the system. Often, multiple fish tanks are used so that you can have various sizes of fish in the different tanks. In this case, young fish are stocked in a tank and then raised to harvest size in that same tank. A given period of time later (depending on what fish species you are raising), the next tank is stocked. This pattern is continued until the first tank that was stocked is ready to harvest. Once the fish are harvested from that tank, it is restocked with fingerlings. The provides regular harvests of fish and a steady nutrient supply to the plants. Your system should be sized to function properly at an even bio-mass, which will be the average weight of all of the fish in all of the tanks.

Filter tanks

Removing the solids in raft culture allows a grower to stock the fish tanks more densely, resulting in higher production of both fish and vegetables. The solids that have been removed can be composted or dried and utilized to fertilize soil in traditional farming.

Solids capture is one of the most important processes in a raft aquaponic system. If solids are not effectively removed, you will have problems with waste build-up which will cause toxicities in the water, the plumbing will become clogged with waste and the plant roots will become coated with fine solids, which reduces the plant’s ability to uptake the nutrients.

These same factors are an issue in media-filled bed aquaponics. The build-up of organic material, coating of plant roots and fouling of the media result in reduced plant growth. In media filled bed aquaponics, after the system has been operational for a period of time, eventually the media and plants have to be removed and cleaned, causing a disruption in the plant and microbial growth.

The filtration components in raft aquaponics prevent these problems and a complete system clean-out is not required in raft aquaponics. In fact, it is discouraged because it reduces the population of beneficial bacteria and disrupts the planting cycle.

One of the most critical factors in designing a clarifier for your system is the size and required rate of water flow. The flow rate has to be fast enough to meet circulation requirements of the system and yet slow enough to allow the solids to settle out.

A bio-filter is simply a place for the beneficial bacteria to colonize. These bacteria convert ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate. In raft aquaponic systems, a separate bio-filter is not usually used because the rafts, tank walls and all other surfaces in the system provide sufficient area for the bacteria.

Degassing Tank

A degassing tank is a tank which allows the release of gasses into the air.

pH Adjustment Tank

In any aquaponic system, it is sometimes necessary to adjust the pH of the water. This needs to be done slowly so the fish or plants are not shocked by a rapid change in pH. In lager systems, there is usually a separate tank where the base or acid is added in small amounts, slowly diluted and then enters the system water stream.

In smaller systems, one of the other tanks, such as the degassing tanks or the raft tanks, can be used for pH adjustment as long as accommodations are made for the slow addition of pH changing additives.

Water Pump(s) and Sump

A water pump is used to continually move the water throughout the system. In many systems, there is also a sump tank. This is the lowest point in the system. The water gravity-flows into the sump from the raft tanks. The water pump, located in or adjacent to the sump, pumps the water into the fish tanks and throughout the rest of the system. The size of the pump you use will be directly related to the size of your system.

Air Blower(s) and Aeration System

Adequate aeration is required in an aquaponic system for the fish, the plants and the beneficial bacteria. Aeration is also critical to the biological filtration and off-gassing processes.

Raft Tanks

The raft tanks are usually rectangular in shape and are formed from cement blocks, poured cement, metal or wooden frames.

Toomatoes in raft aquaponics, CDCS, Alberta

Fish and Vegetable Crops

Plants with low nutrient needs, such as lettuce and some herbs will do fine at the lower amount. Fruiting plants such as tomatoes and melons need to be at the higher feed level.

On a commercial scale, it is essential to maximize production and utilize all of the space in a greenhouse. In this scenario, the raft tanks can be butted together, making one giant lettuce or herb bed.


The raft method of aquaponics has been refined over a 25+ year period and there is more data, baseline info, hands-on operation and overall experience with this system than other methods of aquaponics. In addition, many universities, educators, researchers, commercial growers and hobbyists have adopted this method of aquaponics and the technique continues to be refined.More info at:


Tagged , , , , , , ,

Raft, NFT, Media-filled bed by CCRES

Raft, NFT, Media-filled bed by CCRES

Methods of Aquaponics

There are many different configurations of aquaponic systems. The components common to every aquaponic system are the fish tank and a plant bed. The variables include filtration components, plumbing components, the type of plant bed and the amount and frequency of water circulation and aeration. Generally speaking, systems that utilize some filtration to remove the solid fish waste will have higher production of fish and plants than those that don’t use filtration.

There are three primary aquaponic methods emerging in the industry. Each if these methods is based on a hydroponic system design, with accommodations for fish and filtration.


In a raft system (also known as float, deep channel and deep flow) the plants are grown on Styrofoam boards (rafts) that float on top of water. Most often, this is in a tank separate from the fish tank. Water flows continuously from the fish tank, through filtration components, through the raft tank where the plants are grown and then back to the fish tank.

The beneficial bacteria live in the raft tank and throughout the system. The extra volume of water in the raft tank provides a buffer for the fish, reducing stress and potential water quality problems. This is one of the greatest benefits of the raft system. In addition, the University of the Virgin Islands and other research programs have worked to develop and refine this method for over 25 years. The raft system is a well developed method with very high production per square foot.

In a commercial system, the raft tanks can cover large areas, best utilizing the floor space in a greenhouse. Plant seedlings are transplanted on one end of the raft tank. The rafts are pushed forward on the surface of the water over time and then the mature plants are harvested at the other end of the raft. Once a raft is harvested, it can be replanted with seedlings and set into place on the opposite end. The optimizes floor space, which is especially important in a commercial greenhouse setting.


NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) is a method in which the plants are grown in long narrow channels. A thin film of water continuously flows down each channel, providing the plant roots with water, nutrients and oxygen. As with the raft system, water flows continuously from the fish tank, through filtration components, through the NFT channels where the plants are grown and then back to the fish tank. In NFT, a separate bio filter is required, however, because there is not a large amount of water or surface for the beneficial bacteria to live. In addition, the plumbing used in a hydroponic NFT system is usually not large enough to be used in aquaponcis because the organic nature of the system and “living” water will cause clogging of small pipes and tubes. NFT aquaponics shows potential but, at this time, it is used less than the other two methods discussed here.

Media-filled bed

A media-filled bed system uses a tank or container that is filled with gravel, perlite or another media for the plant bed. This bed is periodically flooded with water from the fish tank. The water then drains back to the fish tank. All waste, including the solids, is broken down within the plant bed. Sometimes worms are added to the gravel-filled plant bed to enhance the break-down of the waste. This method uses the fewest components and no additional filtration, making it simple to operate. The production is, however, much lower than the two methods described above. The media-filled bed is often used for hobby applications where maximizing production is not a goal.More info at:


Tagged , , , , , , ,

Aquaponics Operation by CCRES

Aquaponics Operation by CCRES

An aquaponic system isn’t difficult to maintain but there are daily and periodic tasks that must be done to ensure a healthy system.

Fish Feeding

The availability of dry, species-specific fish food is quite new and is the result of the rapidly growing aquaculture industry. Today’s specialized fish feeds provide precise amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. In a hobby or ornamental system it is fine to feed your fish only once a day. If food production is your goal, you’ll want to maximize your efforts and feed more frequently. Feeding by hand gives you the opportunity to observe the fish and their feeding habits. Many commercial growers will feed every couple of hours using a timed mechanical feeder or use an on-demand feeder so the fish can eat whenever they are hungry.

Plant Seeding, Rotation and Harvesting

When growing leafy crops that quickly mature, such as lettuce and herbs, you should plant frequently so you are assured of a continual harvest. Indeterminate varieties of many long term crops, tomatoes and melons, can produce for many months.

Seeds for an aquaponic system are usually germinated in a small rockwool cube or in a container of loose perlite, vermiculite, a seedling mix or coco coir. Germination can be done within the aquaponic system or in a separate area designed to provide proper environmental conditions for germination. Once the seed has germinated and a seedling has developed, the small plant is transplanted into the plant bed.

Observation and Monitoring

Every day you should visually inspect the fish and the system. Make sure the water is flowing properly, the aeration system is working and the drains are free of debris. Watch to see that the fish eat vigorously and swim normally. Look for problems such as fungus, open soars, torn fins or discoloration and check the temperature and pH of the water. Observe the plants for pests and insects. Remove any dead plant matter.

Fish Harvesting

In a home food production system, you will most likely harvest fish as you want them, once they’ve matured. Commercial operations will harvest based on market demand and production. Farm raised fish always taste the best if they’ve been purged for several days prior to harvesting. Ideally, the fish should be removed from the main system and held without feed for several days prior to harvest.

Water Quality Testing

Anyone serious about aquaponics should invest in a water test kit, which will enable you to measure and keep track of pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, dissolved oxygen, alkalinity and water hardness. Most kits sold are easy to use and are based on color changes in the sample being tested. Meters that measure dissolved oxygen, temperature and other factors are also available.

Cleaning Filters and System

The key to a healthy system is keeping it clean, removing any dead or unhealthy plants or fish, maintaining filters and emptying the clarifier if you are using one.More info at:


Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Definition of CCRES Aquaponics

The Definition of CCRES Aquaponics

The Definition

Aquaponics is based on productive systems as they are found in nature. It can be loosely described as the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics and this is where the name aqua-ponics originates.

Hydroponic systems rely heavily on the careful application of man-made nutrients for the optimum growth of plants. The nutrients are made from mixing together a concoction of chemicals, salts and trace elements to form the ‘perfect’ balance. Water in hydroponic systems needs to be discharged on periodically, as the salts and chemicals build up in the water which becomes toxic to the plants. Aquaculture systems focus on maximising growth of fish in tank or pond culture. fishlettuce

The fish are usually heavily stocked in the tanks often, 10kg in 100L of water. The high stocking rates often mean that the tank water becomes polluted with fish effluent which gives off high concentrations of Ammonia. Water has to be discharged at a rate of 10-20% of the total volume in the tank once a day, everyday. This water is often pumped into open streams where it pollutes and destroys waterways.

Aquaponics combines both systems, and in doing so cancels out the negative aspects of each. Instead of adding toxic chemical solutions to grow plants, aquaponics uses highly nutritious fish effluent that contains almost all the required nutrients for optimum growth. Instead of discharging water, aquaponics uses the plants and the media in which they grow to clean and purify the water, after which it is returned to the fish tank. This water can be reused indefinitely and will only need to be replaced when it is lost through transpiration and evaporation.



Is Aquaponics Complicated?

It’s as simple as it seems, pumping nutrient rich fish water past the roots of plants which extract the nutrient from the water. The principle method we deal with here is using grow beds filled with a medium, whether thats gravel, riverstone, crushed basalt, or expanded clay. Plants are grown in the media filled beds and water is pumped from a fish tank into the grow bed, draining through the gravel, and back into the fish tank.

Experimenting with aquaponics can be as simple or as complicated as you like, it could be as simple as an aquarium on a sunny windowsill with some goldfish, with water pumped into some gravel filled pots above it, draining through the gravel back into the aquarium. Once you have tried something simple you can progress up to a system with multiple grow beds and high stocking densities of fish.

There are three basic styles of aquaponic systems, which we discuss below in a little more detail.

Media filled beds

Media filled beds are the simplest form of aquaponics, they use containers filled with medium of expanded clay or similar. Water from a fish tank is pumped over the media filled beds, and plants grow in the rock media. This style of system can be run two different ways, with a continuous flow of water over the rocks, or by flooding and draining the grow bed, in a flood and drain or ebb and flow cycle.


NFT or Nutrient Film Technique

Nutrient Film Technique is a commonly used hydroponic method, but is not as common in aquaponic systems. In NFT systems, nutrient rich water is pumped down small enclosed gutters, the water flowing down the gutter is only a very thin film. Plants sit in small plastic cups allowing their roots to access the water and absorb the nutrients. NFT is only really suitable for certain types of plants, generally leafy green vegetables, larger plants will have root systems that are too big and invasive, or they become too heavy for the lightweight growing gutters.


DWC or Deep Water Culture

Deep Water Culture, works on the idea of floating plants on top of the water allowing the roots to hang down into the water. This can be done in a number of ways. This method is one of the more commonly practiced commercial methods. DWC can be done by floating a foam raft on top of the fish tank, however a more common method is to grow the fish in a fish tank and pump the water through a filtration system, and then into long channels where floating rafts filled with plants float on the water surface and extract the nutrients.


Which style is best for me?

So there are the basics of aquaponics, it really can be as simple or as complicated as you like, if you want to start off small and simple take a piece of polystyrene, cut some holes in it, stick some mint cuttings or water cress cuttings through the holes, and float it on the surface of an aquarium or pond, within no time you’ll end up with a mass of floating herbs, and you’ll have cleaner water for your fish. Through lots of experimenting over the years, and through the trials of members on the online discussion forum, the flood and drain media based system, has been found to be the most reliable and the simplest method of aquaponics, especially for beginners. It can be done very simply using a wide range of different containers. The flood and drain media bed system, also requires minimal maintenance.

The Nitrogen Cycle

nitro One essential unseen element to an aquaponic system is the benefitial bacteria. The bacteria flourish in the dark moist gravel filled grow beds, and break down elements in the water into a form which the plants can absorb and use. An aquaponic system is organic due to it’s very own nature. Synthetic fertilisers can’t be fed to the plants or it will adversely affect the fish and the beneficial bacteria, the system has to be kept natural.

There are two different bacteria that break down wastes from the fish, the first is Nitrosomonas, which converts Ammonia into Nitrites. These Nitrites are then converted into Nitrates by Nitrobacter bacteria, the plants can then consume the nitrates to grow.



One interesting aspect of aquaponics is that it’s a self balancing system to a great extent. As more nutrient becomes available through increased feeding of the fish, plant growth rates will increase to consume the extra nutrient. When fish are smaller or if the fish aren’t being fed as much feed growth rates of the plants will slow down accordingly.

Recycled materials

Recycled containers like IBC International Bulk Containers, as well as second hand plastic drums and other similar equipment are commonly used by people to build aquaponic systems. This is done for many reasons, recycled materials can generally be found around the home, or sourced from salvage outlets fairly cheap, so you can build quite a large system for very little initial cost. Just be careful when using second hand materials, it’s useful to know what has been stored in containers before you decide to use them.

But really, there’s no excuse not to give aquaponics a go, if you feel a little unsure about starting and you want to make sure you get the best head start, then you can look at starting off with a kit system.


If you’re a handy person who prefers trying to build something from scratch, then keep your eyes peeled on refuge collections and at salvage retailers, bathtubs are ideal for aquaponic growbeds, and they have drain fittings preinstalled.More info at:


Tagged , , , , , ,





Many aquaponic styles are possible, it can be as simple as a pond with floating vegetation, through to incredibly complex systems with very high stocking densities of fish.

Here we discuss the different designs of aquaponic systems based on media filled grow beds. There are a few basic styles that have been adopted and trialled by many different people around the world, each of these styles has their own unique advantages and disadvantages associated with them.

Continuous Flow

Firstly there’s two methods of applying water to the grow beds where the plants grow, firstly the continuous flow method, where water is pumped from the fish tank up to the surface of the grow bed. It then trickles down through the media and back into the fish tank. This is one of the simplest methods of aquaponics, however it does have a few disadvantages. The irrigated water tends to flow straight down through the media and then along the base of the grow bed to the outlet, without depositing all of the nutrients into the grow bed. To counter this a grid of irrigation pipes arcoss the surface of the grow bed should be used, so that more of the media gets wet and plant roots can make the most of the water and nutrients. If there is no irrigation grid them most of the media will remain dry and will neither function as a biofilter or growing area for plants.


One of the means of overcoming this problem is to have the outlet back to the fish tank at a higher point and to keep the grow bed permanently flooded to a certain level. This improves the situation but it’s still not ideal, plant roots can become waterlogged, areas of the grow bed can become stagnant and anaerobic, as the flow of fresh water through the bed moves around any blockages. Ideal the media filled grow beds should be moist 90% of the time to take advantage of greater biofilter properties, which enables a stronger bacteria colony, as well as greater growing area for plants, while also keeping as much of the media filled bed flowing as freely as possible without any blockages.

Flood and Drain (Ebb and Flow)

By mimicking the natural cycle similar to waves or tidal surges, we can gain the benefits of having the media filled beds flood and drain completely, allowing oxygen into the root zones of the plants, while also limiting the build up of solids within the grow bed, because of the constant surging action of the water as it floods and drains within the media beds. With the beds flooding regularly, it has more potential for plant growth throughout the entire bed, while reducing the requirement for extensive irrigation grids across the surface of the grow bed.

During trials of numerous systems by many enthusiasts, including various people across the world it has been found that, the advantages of flood and drain aquaponic systems, outweigh any advantages of a continuous flow system. This doesn’t mean that continuous flow systems don’t work. Joel Malcolms oldest system is a continuous flow system, at the time of doing this website the system is about 7-8 years old and still working very well.



Constant Height In Fish Tank – Pump In Sump Tank

This style of system uses a pump in the sump tank that pumps water into the fish tank, the overflow pipe causes the water to flow out of the fish tank, when it exceeds a certain height, and into a grow bed where it drains back into the sump tank. A simple version of this system can be seen on the left, the black pipe pumps water into the fish tank, while water flows out of the white PVC pipe into the the grow bed before draining back into the sump. This system was run with a timer on the pump and a restricted outlet on the drain, this allowed for a flooding and draining action in the grow bed.

CHIFT PIST systems have many advantages over other methods, and they have a few disadvantages. The main advantage of a CHIFT PIST system, is that it means there is no pump in the fish tank, the fish tank stays at a fairly constant height, and if there’s ever a pump failure or blackout the fish tank will stay full. Disadvantages are that you need a sump tank with a large volume and a short height, to hold the water and you also need a tall or raised fish tank.


Simple Flood and Drain

This is possibly the most simple method of setting up a flood and drain system. The grow bed sits above the fish tank, water is pumped from the fish tank into the grow bed, then the water drains straight back into the fish tank below. The ultimate in simplicity. If there’s a problem with the pump or power supply the water drains straight back into the fish tank. This style of system is compact and has very few disadvantages, the only minor disadvantage is that the water level in the fish tank fluctuates when flooding the beds. Also the pump is in the fish tank so if it’s only a small pump with limited solid pumping capacity, solid wastes may clog up the pump, requiring periodic maintenance.


Sump Tank Two Pump

A two pump sump tank system works by pumping water from the fish tank into the grow beds, the water then drains from the grow beds into a sump tank. Within the sump tank is a pump operated by a float valve, as the water level in the sump tank rises the pump switches on, pumping water back into the main fish tank. The float valve switches the pump within the sump tank on and off, the hieght that it turns on can be set so that the sump tank retains a good volume of water, allowing a second species of fish, or young fingerlings to be stocked in the sump tank.

There are some disadvantages and advantages of having a sump tank incorporated in an aquaponic system. Generally having a sump tank means that water is pumped back numerous times per hour to the fish tank supplying freshly oxygenated water to the fish. It allows quite a large system to be built without having to dig or bury any tanks into the ground, and it allows for the

stocking of fingerlings or other species within the sump tank. The disadvantages of this system is that it requires two pumps and, if there’s a power failure, and the grow beds all happen to be full then there’s a chance that the sump tank may overflow, losing water from the system.

There are a few of simple ways to flood and drain an aquaponic system, firstly a timer can be used to regulate the pump that’s filling the grow beds. A simple way to do this is by using stand pipes, stand pipes set the maximum water level in a grow bed, and excess water that is pumped into the bed goes straight over the top of the stand pipe and down the drain. When the pump turns off water drains slowly from the bed through small holes in the base of the standpipe.

Another method of creating a flood and drain cycle within a grow bed, is by using an ‘autosiphon’. Autosiphons rely on a constant, relatively slow flow of water, into the grow bed. When the grow bed water level gets to a certain height it prompts the autosiphon to drain the bed, because of the change in pressure around the autosiphon. This drains the bed quickly of the water. Autosiphons can be a little fiddly and can be prone to failures on occasion but they are fun to experiment with.


Really there’s no end to the different ways that you can design an aquaponic system, it’s best to begin with a simple system, so that you can get a feel for aquaponics and how it works, before trying more complex methods. Flood and drain methods definitely hold more advantages than continuous flow methods, and the stand pipe / timer method is the most simple to start with as nothing major can go wrong. To see a wide range of BYAP system layouts click here.

Design your own Aquaponics System

Have you got a great idea for an aquaponic system? Want to design your own system or see how one of our BYAP systems will look in your area? We have designed 3D components of our systems so that you can easily design, modify and create your own personalised layout of a BYAP system to suit your specific area.


Google Sketchup is a fantastic tool to use for simple 3D design, and almost anyone can use it without after just a few minutes experimenting. Below are some links to tutorials that will get you started and familar with Google Sketchup.

Download Google Sketchup

After installing and running through a quick tutorial you can open the BYAP components link below and use the components to design your very own Backyard Aquaponics system to suit your own yard.More info at:


Tagged , , , , , ,

Choosing a fish species for CCRES AQUAPONICS

Choosing a fish species for CCRES AQUAPONICS

Importance of fish

Fish are the power house of an aquaponics system, they provide the nutrients for the plants and if your growing edible fish, then they also provide protein for yourself. Keeping fish may be a little daunting to some, especially those without any prior experience, however you shouldn’t be discouraged. Keeping fish in an aquaponic system is more simple than keeping aquarium fish, so long as you follow simple guidelines then growing fish from fingerling size, to ready to eat fish can be extremely simple.

Choosing a fish species

There are many different species of fish that can be used in an aquaponic system, depending on your local climates and available supplies. Our local climate in Perth, Western Australia, allows us to keep Rainbow Trout through winter, then a warmer species like Barramundi during summer. There are also a few choices for year round fish that we could grow, but they often take a longer time to mature. If you live in a cooler climate you might be looking at growing Trout all year round, or perhaps another locally produced fish species. In warmer areas of Australia people generally grow Barramundi, or Jade Perch year round, in most warm areas throughout the world Tilapia is the fish of choice.

In deciding what is the best species for you to grow, you should take a few factors into account, most importantly is what you want from your system. If you don’t want to eat your fish then you probably won’t want to grow edible fish, or you may want to grow an edible fish that can live year-round in your area, so that you’re not having to harvest fish out seasonally. The second most important factor is ‘What’s available?’ You need to be able to buy fish to stock your system, even with species such as Tilapia that breed readily, you need to get your broodstock in the first place.

Here’s a list of useful aquaponic species with a few details about each




Barramundi are often grown in aquaponic systems through the warmer months of the year. Most growers will buy fairly mature stock so that they can harvest larger fish, at the end of the growing season. Barramundi that is grown in an aquaponic system has an exceptionally clean, crisp taste. Growing your own Barramundi excites guests and is the envy of neighbours. They provide a decent harvest at the end of the season and are one of the more majestic species of edible fish.



There are many different species of catfish around the world that are well suited to aquaponics. Channel catfish are the most widely farmed aquaculture species in the United States, and they are available in many areas of Australia. Catfish don’t have scales so they need to be skinned, they are quick growing and have a good food conversion ratio.




There are many species of carp that could be very well suited to aquaponics, unfortunately because of their reproductive capabilities, their tough nature and ability to readily adapt in many areas of the world, carp have become noxious pests to native waterways and the environment, and as such they are not easily obtainable, and often there are high fines and fees for keeping them. In most western cultures carp also have a fairly poor reputation, as an eating fish, however, carp is still the most widely cultured fish in the world as it’s grown throughout most of Asia.



Although some people may group these with the carp, I’ve decided to cover these seperately as most people refer to them as goldfish, and this is what they will be sold as, at local pet shops or fish suppliers. Goldfish are generally pretty tough and make a great addition to an aquaponic system. In many areas they will breed in a tank, although they generally need plant cover within the tank to breed.


Jade Perch

This native Australian fish i’s worth a special mention here, as it has the highest levels of omega three oils of any fish species in the world. In fact it’s so high in omega three oils that growers are trying to breed the oil out of them, they are trying to breed a less oily fish because they’ve found people don’t like the high oil content.

They require warm water and consume an omnivorous diet. Very well suited to an aquaponic system, they grow quickly and fingerlings are readily available in warmer areas.




Once again, another species of carp, but better known as “Koi” rather than carp. Koi are very common within many Asian communities and they are often found in large ornamental ponds. For those who love Koi, an aquaponic system is a great proposition for stocking the fish.


Murray cod

Murray cod are a magnificent native Australian fish, known to grow to enormous sizes in their native habitats, their tank culture is still in reasonably early days. Murray cod are grown in recirculating aquaculture systems, and can also been grown in aquaponic systems, hopefully this fish will be utilised more over time because they are quick growing, and a great eating fish. One of the downfalls is that they must be kept at high stocking densities, and kept well fed otherwise they cannibalise each other.


Silver perch

Silver perch are a good allround native Australian fish that grow well under a variety of conditions. Perch are omnivorous and will happily eat green scraps as well as Duckweed and Azolla. They grow within a wide temperature range, though they’re not as fast growing as many other fish, taking 12-18 months for fingerlings to grow to plate size.



The second most cultured fish in the world, and extremely popular in Aquaponics systems. They are an ideal species for aquaponics for many reasons. They are easy to breed, fast growing, withstand very poor water conditions, consume an omnivorous diet and are good eating. The only downfall for some people will be that Tilapia require warm water. If you live in a cool area you are far better off growing a fish species that will grow well in your temperature range, rather than trying to heat the water. Tilapia are also a declared pest in many areas.



Trout are a great fish for aquaponic systems where water temperatures are a little cooler. Trout prefer water temperatures between 10°C and 20°C. They have extremely fast growth rates and excellent food conversion ratios.

Other Species

There are other fish species which are quite suitable for aquaponics, that might be available in your local area. In Europe many different species of carp are grown, within the United States such species as Bluegill are often available, while in Australia we also have a number of other native species like Sleepy cod which would be suitable.

yab1Other aquatic animals that can be incorporated into an aquaponic system are fresh water mussles, fresh water prawns, and fresh water crayfish. Mussles are a filter-feeder, and do a great job of helping to clean the water, they will happily grow in flooded grow beds, or can be incorporated into fish tanks. Crustaceans make a nice addition to an aquaponic system and there are a few different species available depending on your location and water temperatures.

For those in tropical areas there’s Redclaw, a fast growing native Australian species, and for those in cooler areas there’s Yabbies or Marron.

Yabbies breed readily, given the right environment and the correct water temperature, as well as long daylight hours. They also grow fairly quickly, but they can be prone to fighting and cannibalism when stocked very densely. The Yabby is also a attractive crustacean as seen from this picture to the left.



Numbers of Fish

This can be quite a hot topic of debate amongst people who practice aquaponics. Stocking levels of fish within a system can be as high as many intensive recirculating aquaculture systems, however the higher the stocking density the higher the likelihood of things going wrong. In very heavy stocking densities you need to keep a constant eye on all water parameters to be sure that conditions are kept at the optimum.

If you lower the stocking levels of fish then you lower your levels of risk and stress. Growth rates of plants in lightly stocked systems can still be very impressive, this eight bed system was stocked with only 70 fish, thats less than 9 fish per growbed.The fish tank is 5000L and there’s a 1000L sump on the system. The fish in the system at the time of taking this photo were trout and they were around 300 – 400g. The plant growth in the eight beds was fantastic. A wide mixture of plants were grown in the beds.


More info at:


Tagged , , , , , , ,

Plant for CCRES Aquaponics

Plant for CCRES Aquaponics

Plant species

We are often asked which plants grow well in an aquaponics system and it seems that most herbs and vegetables adapt well to aquaponics. Of course some plants won’t do as well when using different methods, media filled beds seem to be the most successful for growing a large range of plants, and you can grow just about anything.

We often hear people say “But isn’t aquaponics only good for leafy green plants?” This is a fallacy that has perpetuated for quite some time, but as you will see from the list at the bottom of this page, aquaponics will grow just about anything. This Habanero chilli plant on the right grew a fantastic crop of super hot chillies, and a single tomato plant in a nearby grow bed produced well over 30 kg of tomatoes. Some other fruiting varieties that perform well are; eggplant (aubergine), capsicum (bell peper), bean, peas and many more.


Root crops?

What about root crops? No problem, although you are probably better off growing potatoes in the ground, they will still grow successfully in an aquaponic grow bed. Carrots are another great root crop in media beds, carrots harvested from grow beds have no sand on them and although you might wonder, how they grow in a bed filled with gravel they do a surprisingly good job.

Beetroot are another winner, we grow a lot of fresh beetroot and they grow to a fantastic size if you let them go for long enough, the beetroot on the left was over 1kg.

What about deficiencies?

Just as with all gardening you may get some deficiencies in your plants, but generally this can be dealt with very simply. Seaweed extracts are a great way to supplement almost all minerals that might be lacking in an aquaponic system, seaweed extracts come in many different forms, and consideration towards harmful additives needs to be paramount as anything you add in the system will be passed on to both fish, bacteria, plants and you. You can also use powdered mineral substances. There are a number of different ones on the market, but once again, you must take care in their application if you haven’t used them before, remember, it’s not just the plants your caring for but also the fish and the bacteria population. The best way to stay on top of deficiencies, is to use a good quality aquaculture feed for your fish. Most good quality feeds have a percentage of ocean caught bi-product, this means that there’s a good range of minerals and trace elements within the fish feed. We have some systems that have not had any supplemental addition of minerals, for well over 12 months and plant growth is exceptional.


Can I plant seeds?

Definitely. In media filled beds we generally use a combination of seedlings and seeds. When first planting a grow bed in a new system, we recommend sprinkling a mixture of seeds over the grow bed, as well as planting seedlings in the bed. Planting seedlings is simple, we recommend that you use normal seedlings, but before you plant the seedlings, wash off the majority of the potting mix from the root ball in a small bucket of water, the potting mix should wash off fairly easily with just a gentle shake in the water.

While planting out the seedlings in the beds the media agitation causes the seeds that were sprinkled over the bed before, to fall down in between the media where it can absorb water and safely germinate. During planting trials I’ve found that this method has many benefits. As the seedlings grow and shelter the germinating seeds they tend to dominate the beds, and many of the germinating seeds can only grow very slowly, however, once the planted seedling matures and gets harvested, this opens up the canopy giving the small plants that germinated from seed a chance to take off. These plants now have a mature root system, and a great head start so they can grow very quickly. This mimics natural forest ecosystems, where young trees and other undergrowth grow quite slowly, until a large tree dies and the canopy opens up allowing light to get to the lower plants, which then stimulates their growth.

What are growth rates like?

Growth rates of plants in aquaponic systems can be quite phenomenal, in fact a trial by Dr Nick Savidov in Canada, found that aquaponic growth rates can exceed hydroponic plant growth by up to four times with some vegetables and herbs. The advantage of aquaponics over soil grown vegetables is that, during warm weather the plants get as much water as they need, due to the regular flooding of grow beds in an aquaponic system. Plants grown in the ground can use the water around their root system, very quickly in hot weather, leading to wilting from a lack of water very quickly, on a hot day. Plants in an aquaponic system get watered constantly, so they always have water, no matter how hot the weather is.

earlycont Here are some young plants in a grow bed, Joel Malcolm photographed these everyday to keep a record of the growth rates of the plants. The bed was planted with different varieties of basil, mizuna, cucumber and broccoli
midcont 13 days after the first photograph, all of the plants are growing quite well
latecont 25 days from the first picture. Joel has already harvested a couple of cucumbers and there are many more to come, with plenty of fresh herbs and salad greens also available.


CCRES Aquaponics grown chives that were over one metre in length in the same system as you see above..


Simpson’s Curled (Lettuce)
Oregon Sugar Pod (Peas)
Bloomsdale Savoy (Spinach)
White Bunching (Onion)
Tomato (Grosse Lisse)
Tomato (Beefsteak)
Cucumber (Lebanese)
Silver Beet (Giant Fordhook)
Lettuce (Cos)
Lettuce (All seasons)
Basil (Sweet green, purple, curly leaf and Thai)
Rainbow Chard
Parsley (Flat leaf and curly leaf)
Numerous tomato varieties (the only tomato variety that hasn’t grown well was pineapple)
Yugoslavian watercress (also known as Lebanese watercress or Bulgarian watercress)
Chives (normal and garlic variety)
Chillies, many varieties, haven’t found a variety that hasn’t grown well yet
Kohl Rabi (Purple vienna)
Cicoria Variegata
Snow peas
Egg plant (Black beauty)
Capsicum (Californian wonder, Yolo wonder, Long sweet yellow)
Bok Choy
Cucumber (Burpless, Armenian)
Dwarf beans (Butter beans)


Of course the plants you grow in your system may be limited by the type of aquaponics system you have, or more to the point, the type of plant growing system. If you have an NFT system you will not be growing carrots or large tomato plants because the small NFT pipes will not allow such growth. If designing your own aquaponic system you must put some thought into your plant growing method, and what you want to grow. This is one of the reason why we like deep media filled beds at CCRES Aquaponics, when you have deep media beds there are no limitations on growing different plants.


Tagged , , , , , , ,