Intensive aquaculture and aquaponics are 2 production techniques allowing to produce fish. In aquaponics we use the waste of the fish as the source of food of a whole ecosystem and we also produce plants.
From a fish production perspective there are some significative difference that we can generally observe between intensive fish farming and classic aquaponics.

The purpose:
The purpose of aquaculture is to produce fish protein and to generate a maximum of fish flesh in a minimum of time and using a minimum of resources in order to be financially profitable.
The aim of aquaponics is generally different. The fish are just one part of the ecosystem and the aim is to keep the whole ecosystem healthy while producing. The production in aquaponics is generally 10 times more vegetables than fish proteins.

In practice:
In intensive aquaculture the fish are kept in high density. Fish are stressed and often fall sick. They are pushed to their limits and are kept alive thanks to antibiotics and pesticides. The idea is to produce as much as possible.
In aquaponics the mindset is different. If the fish fall sick we don’t have as many options. We want to produce in a sustainable way. Even if we wanted, we couldn’t use pesticides or antibiotics in the tanks as it would affect the whole ecosystem and kill the bacteria. The idea is therefore not to fight against the disease once the fish are affected but to keep our fish in such good condition that they will not fall sick.
Here are the main point of difference in the day to day operation:
1. Density: the fish density in aquaponics is far lower than in aquaponics. Density affects the stress level and the disease transmission from fish to fish.
2. Stress level: In aquaculture the fish are frequently fished and sorted while in aquaponics the number of manipulation is very low.
3. Feed: In aquaculture the fish are fed all there life with fish pellet. In aquaponics we add a variety of live food. It makes things interesting and represents a good source of vitamins and other nutrients.
4. Water quality: In some fishfarms, the fish density is such that it generates a significative quantity of particles in suspension into the water and it can clog the fish gills.

The point to keep in mind is that those 2 techniques involve a completely different mindset. In intensive aquaculture we push the fish and deal with the disease thanks to antibiotics, chemicals and sometimes vaccines. In Aquaponics we tackle the problem from a different angle. We can’t directly use chemicals or antibiotics in our ecosystem or it would affect the bacteria population. We therefore work upstream and offer the best condition to our fish in order to avoid disease. This involves, excellent water quality, reasonable fish density and low stress.

If you are new, you will probably be interested to discover Jonathan’s six steps to build and manage an Aquaponics system. Click here to access for free! Thanks and good reading 🙂