Study Aquaponics and learn to grow fish and crop plants in the same system.
Aquaponic systems fall into two main groups – those that recirculate the water between fish rearing tanks and crop `grow out’ beds and those which simply use the fish waste water for crop production but do not recirculate the water back to the fish tanks. Both are considered `aquaponic’ systems and both are in use commercially for the production of fish and hydroponic plants.


Learn to grow fish and crop plants in the same system.

Ideal for:
  • City Farming
  • Self Sufficiency
  • Restaurants
  • Small Farms

ACS Student Comment: I am loving the course! I have learned so much and can't stop reading the material. My tutors give me great feedback.
I believe this has been one of the most rewarding and valuable learning experiences. Not only do I look forward to doing my classes everyday, I'm also learning great information for something I am truly passionate about. I believe the layout of each lesson is very helpful and I am surprised how much information I learn from just reading a few pages. I graduated from an online national high school and was so happy when I found this school. I am very satisfied with this type of education. The school has been so helpful and nice!
I am also very satisfied with the staff at this school. Any time I have a question they have been right there to help me along the way. The support is great and it makes my learning experiences even better.
Chloe Blumm, USA, Aquaponics Production course

Course Structure 

This is being developed as a 100 hour course, with ten lessons as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. Aquaponic System Options
  3. The Science of Animal and Plant Growth
  4. Nutrition and Controlling Growth
  5. Selecting and Managing Animal Production –Fish & Crustaceans
  6. Setting up and Aquaculture System
  7. Aquaponic Plant Culture
  8. Applications and Opportunities
  9. Managing an Aquaponics Venture -including a PBL
  10. Troubleshooting

Contents of the lessons

There are 10 lessons in this course:

1. Introduction
•What is aquaponics
•History of aquaponics
•Why aquaponics
•World food
•Urban farming
•Cost benefit analysis
•Is aquaponics organic
•The aquaponics system
•Can it be used with salt water
•Types of Systems:constant flow closed reciprocating, open, deep water, floating raft
•Outdoor or indoor systems
•Barrel ponics, wick, NFT, etc
•Advantages and disadvantages of aquaponics
•Scale of operation

2. Aquaponic System Options
•Recirculating systems
•Non recirculating (open loop systems or micropnics)
•Components of commercial fish rearing systems
•Aquaponic sub systems
•Deep water culture (DWC)
•Intermittent flow (Ebb and flow)
•Nutrient film technique (NFT)
•Gravel bed systems
•Barrel ponics systems
•Equipment: commercial and backyard
•System components
•Aeration devices
•Solids removal: clarifiers, solids tanks, filters,screens
•Sump and pH adjustment tank
•Water heaters and chillers
•Greenhouse houses and fish rearingfacilities
•Alarm and back up systems
•Hydroponic grow beds and types of media
•Maintenance, water monitoring and adjustment
•Organic vs non organic
•Combining worms with growing beds

3. The Science of Animal and Plant Growth
•Plant growth factors
•How plants grow
•Plant structure: roots, stems, leaves, reproductive parts
•Biochemistry and aquaponics
•Biochemical processes in a cell
•Mechanisms of nutrient uptake
•Plant nutrients
•Role of pH in plant growth
•Animal science
•Bony fish (Osteichthyes) and their biology
•Crustaceans: crabs, lobsters, shrimp and prawns

4. Nutrition and Controlling Growth
•Water soluble chemical compounds: ions
•Less water soluble chemicals
•Complex chemical compounds
•Understanding nutrient formulae
•Hydroponic nutrient formulae
•Atoms, elements and componds
•How are chemical names written
•What does a plant need
•Calculating formulae
•Mixing nutrients
•Case study
•Symptoms of nutrient deficiency
•Nutrients in aquaponics
•Variables in aquaponics: conductivity, ph control, oxygenation, beneficial bacteria in aquaponics

5. Selecting and Managing Animal Production: Fish and Crustaceans
•Choosing what to farm
•Scale of operation
•Other resources
•Availability of animals
•Risk considerations
•Overview of main species to grow: in Asia, South Africa, Australia, U.K., Europe, North America, South America
•Trout: Rainbow, Brown
•Other species: ornamental fish, crustaceans and molluscs, lgae
•Sourcing fish and crustaceans
•Fish food
•Which type of fish food to use: pellets, live food, daphnia, brine shrimp, tubifex worms, earthworms, oil meals
•Other food
•Fish food production: beef heart legumes, seafood and vegetable mix,
•Earthworms: setting up, adding worms
•Compost: understanding, making, conditions for compost production
•Fish health
•Common pests and diseases in aquaponics
•Penaeid shrimp diseases
•Fish diseases
•Salinity and system health

6. Setting up an Aquaculture System
•Choosing the right sized system
•Selecting the right components
•Setting up the system
•Getting started
•Threats to the system
•Using a greenhouse
•Greenhouses: passive systems, active systems
•Active solar heating
•Greenhouse management
•Controlling the growing environment
•Light control
•Air temperature control
•Root temperature control
•Relative humidity and vapour pressure deficit
•Controlling humidity
•Carbon dioxide and oxygen
•Computer controls

7. Aquaponic Plant Culture
•Selecting media for aquaponic plant culture
•Types of media Growing seedlings
•Seed sources
•Sowing seed
•Seed propagating media
•Sowing seed direct
•Vegetables in aquaponics
•Successional planting
•Flow charting a crop 
Controlling plant growth: stopping, spacing, disbudding, trimming, training
•Pest, disease and other crop problems: overview, identification
•Pest, disease and disorder control in aquaponics

8. Applications and Opportunities
•Aquaponics for profit
•Economic thresholds
•Harvest and post harvest management of fish
•Harvest and post harvest management of vegetables and herbs
•Harvested crop physiology: fruit ripening, respiration, when to harvest 
•How to prepare salad mixes from harvested vegetables: chlorine levels in water for washing produce, preventing bruising and rots, packaging
•CA and MA storage
•Chilling damage and storage temperature
•Harvesting and grading vegetables
•Fruit grading systems

9. Managing an Aquaponics Venture -including a PBL
•Case study: University of the Virgin Islands system
•Case study: North Carolina State University system
•Case study: Speraneo system
•What is an aquaponic trial?
•Running an aquaponic trial
•Research methodology
•PBL Project: Create and present a plan with specific strategies for improving the crop production of an aquaponics system in terms of amount and quality of produce harvested based on a clear understanding of the system’s requirements and its location (greenhouse or open air; temperate, subtropical, or tropical climate).

10. Troubleshooting
•Water supply problems
•pH problems
•Algae growth
•Dirty, cloudy water
•Water imbalances; high levels of ammonia or nitrite
•Imbalances in gases
•Fish troubleshooting
•Controlling salinity and nutrients without damaging fish
•Plant troubleshooting
•Pythium in aquaponics
•Environmental physiological disorders
•Nutrition problems in aquaponics
•Deficiency symptoms
•Correcting nutrient problems in aquaponics
•Fruit set management: pollination, floral initiation, fruit growth
•Flower and fruit development problems
•Fish eating plant roots
•Power losses
•Clogging with sediment
•Fish to plant imbalances
•Pathogenic contamination issues

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

There is scope for aquaponics to be a very profitable business, if that is your intention. We’ve seen hydroponic produce on supermarket shelves for some time now, and likewise, aquaponic produce is becoming recognised. Whilst aquaponic produce is grown in hydroponic-type systems, the inclusion of fish means that not only does the aquaponic grower not need to buy what are fast becoming expensive nutrients or nutrient solutions, but they also have the bonus of fish as produce. The other cost saving is in the use of chemical pesticides and fungicides which are not used in aquaponics. Therefore, aquaponics might be regarded as a more cost-efficient growing system compared to hydroponics and indeed aquaculture where effluent is removed from the system and often not made use of.  

In addition, the amount of water used in a recirculating aquaponics system is considerably less than that used in aquaculture and traditional farming techniques which means significant savings on water costs - and it makes good sense in countries which are prone to droughts and water shortages.

Obviously, your choice of crop and fish produce will also determine your profit margins in terms of the demand for your produce, market prices, source prices, and so on.  

Harvesting Fish

Different species of fish will take different lengths of time to reach an edible size. The time taken to reach maturity will also depend upon whether you raised the fish from fingerlings or eggs. Also, individual fish of the same species will grow at different rates which are good in home systems as they won’t all be of harvestable size at the same time, meaning you don’t have to remove them all at once. 

In a backyard aquaponics system, you may just harvest fish as you need them. In small and large-scale commercial operations, you may harvest them according to seasons or market demand. Larger scale operations will tend to have a number of fish tanks containing fish at different levels of maturity.

It is said that fish taste better if they are purged for a few days before harvesting. This can be done by moving them to a separate tank and not feeding them. 

There are a number of ways which growers kill their fish at harvest but not all methods are regarded as humane. The type of method used, and the degree of stress incurred on the fish can affect the quality of the fish meat. Ten popular methods were subject to an international review (Robb, 2000). Only four methods were deemed humane as follows:

Ike jime – a sharp spike is inserted into the fish’s brain and effectively kills the nervous system. Rigor mortis is slowed and fish quality is good.

AQUI-S – a product derived from clove oil is released into aerated water and the fish become sedated and can then be killed.

Percussive stunning – a strong, fast blow to the head is inflicted using a blunt instrument.

Electrical stunning – this can damage the fish’s vertebrae and cause haemorrhaging if not done properly.

These methods are regarded as humane because they either involve killing swiftly or they minimise stress on the fish if death is not sudden. Ike jime and electric stunning should only be carried out by experienced operators. The quality of the final produce with percussive stunning will depend upon the skill of the operator. AQUI-S should only be administered in accordance with instructions to avoid overdosing or under-dosing fish.

Other methods which have not been deemed humane include putting fish in ice, pumping CO2 into water, and leaving fish out of water. 

Harvesting Crops

It is critical to properly handle and store fruit, vegetables and berries at harvest, and after harvest. Poor harvest and post-harvest procedures can easily result in crop losses of 25%, and some experts suggest it is not uncommon to see crop losses of over 50%.

Hydroponic and aquaponic consultants often comment that poor harvest and post-harvest practices are one of the most common problems for growers. Issues such as how and when to harvest, how to wash produce, how to prevent bruising and post-harvest rots, what packaging to use for various produce, storage techniques, preventing chilling damage, and maximising the potential shelf life of different crops are very important for successful marketing.

With these things in mind, it only stands to reason that understanding and applying knowledge of harvest and post-harvest can be one of the most critical factors in achieving profitability in an aquaponic enterprise.