Aquaculture and Aquaponics are NOT the same!


Aquaculture and Aquaponics are NOT the Same Thing!
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis 

Aquaculture and Aquaponics are NOT the same! The main difference is that aquaculture farms fish and aquaponics farms fish AND uses the water as nutrients from the fish waste to use grow healthy vegetables.

  • Aquaculture is about the farming of fish for food.
  • Aquaponics is the growing of fish, or other water-based animals, along with land plants in a controlled environment, to maximize the use of the energy and nutrients in the system in order to harvest the greatest amount of vegetables and fish protein from the system.
  • The word aquaponics comes from words aquaculture, which is the cultivation of fish or other water-based animals, and the word hydroponics, where plants are grown in a sterile medium or completely in water.

California Aquaculture by California Farm Bureau Federation 

According to Wikipedia:
Aquaculture, also known as aquafarming, is the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic plants. Aquaculture involves cultivating freshwater and saltwater populations under controlled conditions, and can be contrasted with commercial fishing, which is the harvesting of wild fish. Mariculture refers to aquaculture practiced in marine environments.

The reported output from global aquaculture operations would supply one half of the fish and
shellfish that is directly consumed by humans, however there are issues about the reliability of the reported figures. Further, in current aquaculture practice, products from several pounds of wild fish are used to produce one pound of a piscivorous fish like salmon.

Particular kinds of aquaculture include fish farming, shrimp farming, oyster farming, aquaculture (such as seaweed farming), and the cultivation of ornamental fish. Particular methods include aquaponics, which integrates fish farming and plant farming.

With the U.S. government pushing for increased production (in order to erase a seafood trade deficit), estimates are that half the fish consumed worldwide will be farm-raised by the year 2025.

Raising fish in netted cages in coastal water is often promoted as a means of easing stress on overfished populations. But, just like large scale agriculture, it has its downsides.

The main concerns about aquaculture include:

  • Creating fish feed for farmed fish depletes other fish species and upsets the balance of the ecosystem.
  • Antibiotics and other drugs used in fish farming can seep into open waters.
  • Waste from fish farms can pollute and breed bacteria that are unhealthy to bottom-dwelling sea creatures.
  • Farmed fish are generally less nutritious than wild fish and can contain twice as much of the less-healthy omega 6 fats.
  • FDA studies have shown that wild salmon have a 20 percent higher protein
    content and 20 percent lower fat than farm-raised salmon.

Of course, wild fish often costs more than farmed fish due to the expense of harvesting. And environmental factors can make the availability of wild fish inconsistent.

But the health benefits are clear.


  1. khalid

    Thank you very much for your efforts and research in the industry and the information and service you provide your customers as well as the public.

    I would like to know if or how your system can be adapted to an already running aquaculture farm. The ponds are already producing tilapia, catfish and freshwater prawns.
    Would we be better using the ponds to feed greenhouses on the side or rather build a greenhouse over the ponds?
    Your system seems the most effective and I would love to hear about your experience in this conversion.

    Kind regards.

    1. portfarms


      Thank you for the kind words.

      The very short and only partially true answer is ‘yes’ you can convert some freshwater aquaculture systems to aquaponics. The problem is in the details, funding and how good your engineering team is at implementing the change.

      My learned answer is a bit different: We would need more information to give you a better idea of what would be involved. For instance, volume of fish ponds, projected markets, greenhouse size desired and a few other data points.

      This type of project has been presented to us on a variety of occasions and when the cost of the greenhouses is noted, those inquiring disappear. The Portable Farms Aquaponics System are not expensive, the greenhouses are the high cost items. If you are serious, have the funding available and a local market, we can have a conversation. Meantime please buy the book Commercial Aquaponics GOLD to familiarize yourself with the terms we need agree upon in our talks.

      We also suggest you start with a pilot project to train your people, allow for some interesting mistakes and to see if this is something you really want to go forward with in the near future.

      We trust this information is helpful.


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