Aquaponics Recirculation System: A Sustainable Food Source for the Future Water Conserves and Resources

  • Azizah Endut Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin
  • Fathurrahman Lananan Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin
  • Ahmad Jusoh Universiti Malaysia Terengganu
  • Wan Norsani Wan Cik Universiti Malaysia Terengganu
  • Nora’ aini Ali Universiti Malaysia Terengganu


The current and escalating extent of soil degradation, water scarcity and environmental concern plaguing agricultural productivity, demands re-assessing the direction of food production. Aquaponics is a concept relatively new to modern food production methods and can contribute to food security.  This study was conducted to establish sustainable aquaculture systems that maximize benefits and minimize the accumulation of detrimental compounds and other types of negative impacts on both natural and social environments. This study carried out at an average inflow rate of 1.28 m/day to evaluate the operation of the aquaponics recirculation system (ARS) on nutrients removal and growth and yield of African catfish as well as water spinach.  A special design of ARS was used to provide nitrification of fishery wastewater, where the combination of sands and gravels in hydroponics trough, providing both surfaces for biofuel development and cultivation area for plants.  Removal efficiencies of 5-day biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5),  total suspended solids (TSS), total ammonia nitrogen (TAN), nitrite-nitrogen (NO2-N), nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N), and orthophosphate  (PO43-) were 82%, 89%, 93%, 94%, 81%, and 80%, respectively.  The feed conversion ratio (FCR) and specific growth rate (SGR) of African catfish were 1.08 and 3.34% day-1, respectively. The average water spinach production was 3.56 kg per m2. This study showed that ARS is a method of producing crop along with a healthy protein source and among the best alternatives for achieving economic and environmental sustainability.


Keywords: African catfish; aquaponics recirculation system; food security; hydroponics; water spinach

Author Biographies

Azizah Endut, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin
East Coast Environmental Research Institute
Fathurrahman Lananan, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin
East Coast Environmental Research Institute
Ahmad Jusoh, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu
School of Ocean and Engineering
Wan Norsani Wan Cik, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu
School of Ocean and Engineering
Nora’ aini Ali, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu
School of Ocean and Engineering


APHA (2007). Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater, 21th ed. American Public Health Association, Washington DC, pp 1220.

Akinwole, A.O., Faturoti, E.O., (2007). Biological performance of African Catfish (Clarias gariepinus) cultured in recirculating system in Ibadan. Aquacultural Engineering, 35: 18–23.

Bouzoun, J.R., Diener, C.J., Butler, P.L., (1982). Pilot-scale evaluation of the nutrient film technique for wastewater treatment. US Army Corps of Engineers, Hanover, New Hampshire.

Brix, H., (1997). Do macrophytes play a role in constructed treatment wetlands? Water Sci. Technol., 35: 11–17.

Diver, S., (2006). Aquaponics – Integration of Hydroponics with aquaculture. National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, available at .

Eding, E., Kamstra, A., (2001). Design and performance of recirculation systems for European eel and African catfish, Proc. AES Workshop, Orlando, FL, pp. 18–28.

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), (2014). The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture: Opportunities and Challenges. FAO, Rome, Italy. ISBN: ISSN 1020-5489. Accessed on 12 November 2015.

Franco-Nava, M.A., Blancheton, J.P., Deviller, G., Charrier, A. Le-Gall, J.Y., (2004). Effect of fish size and hydraulic regime on particulate organic matter dynamics in a recirculating aquaculture system: elemental carbon and nitrogen approach. Aquaculture, 239: 179–198.

Hampwaye, G., Nel, E., & Ingombe, L. (2009). The role of urban agriculture in addressing household poverty and food security: the case of Zambia. India: Global Development Network.

Hu, Z., Lee, J.W., Chandran, K., Kim, S., Khanal, S.K., (2012). Nitrous oxide (N2O) emission from aquaculture: a review. Environ. Sci. Technol. 46 (12): 6470–6480.

Hu, Z., Lee, J.W., Chandran, K., Kim, S., Brotto, A.C., Khanal, S.K., (2015). Effect of plant species on nitrogen recovery in aquaponics. Bioresource Technol. 188: 92-98.

Islam, M.S., (2005). Nitrogen and phosphorus budget in coastal and marine cage aquaculture and impacts of effluent loading on ecosystem: review and analysis towards model development. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 50 (1): 48–61.

Jin, S.Q., Zhou, J.B., Zhu, X.L., Yao, Y.R., Cai, G.C., Chen, R.X., (2010). Comparison of nitrogen and phosphorus uptake and water purification ability of ten aquatic macrophytes. J. Agro-Environ. Sci. 29 (8), 1571–1575.

Jo, J.Y., Ma, J.S., Kim, I.B., (2002). Comparisons of four commonly used aquatic plants for removing nitrogen nutrients in the intensive bioproduction Korean (IBK) recirculating aquaculture system. Proceeding of 3rd International Conference on Recirculating Aquaculture, Roanoke, VA, 20-23 Jul 2000.

Kioussis, D.R., Wheaton, F.W., Kofinas, P., (2000). Reactive nitrogen and phosphorus removal from aquaculture wastewater effluents using polymer hydrogels. Aquacult. Engineering. 23: 315-332.

Lennard, W.A., Leonard, B.V., (2006). A comparison of three different hydroponic sub-systems (gravel bed, floating and nutrient film technique) in an Aquaponics test system. Aquaculture International, 14: 539-550.

Lin, Y.F., Jing, S.R., Lee, D.Y., (2005). Performance of a constructed wetland treating intensive shrimp aquaculture wastewater under high hydraulic loading rate, Environ. Poll., 134: 411–421.

Matsumoto, S., Ishikawa, D., Saeki, G., Aoi, Y., Tsuneda, S., (2010). Microbial population dynamics and community structure during the formation of nitrifying granules to treat ammonia-rich inorganic wastewater. Microbes Environ. 25 (3): 164–170.

Menegaki, A.N., Hanley, N. Tsagarakis, K.P., (2007). The social acceptability and valuation of recycled water in Crete; A study of consumers’ and farmers’ attitudes. Ecological Economics, 52: 7-18.

Nelson, R.L., (2004). Aquaponics Hydroponic Accessed on 7 November 2015.

Nelson, R.L., (2008). Aquaponics food production-raising fish and plants for food and profit. Montello, WI: Nelson and Pade, Inc.

Pagand, P., Blancheton, J.P., Claude, C., (2000). A model for predicting the quantities of dissolved inorganic nitrogen released in effluents from a sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) recirculating water system, Aquacultural Engineering, 22: 137-153.

Rakocy, J.E., Masser, M.P., Losordo, T.M., (2006, revision). Recirculating aquaculture tank production systems: aquaponics – integrating fish and plant culture. SRAC Publication No. 454.

Randall, D.J., Tsui, T.K.N., (2002). Ammonia toxicity in fish. Mar. Poll.Bull., 45: 17–23.

Ridha, M.T., Cruz, E.M., (2001). Effect of biofilter media on water quality and biological performance of the Nile Tilapia Oreochromis niloticus L. reared in a simple recirculating system. Aquacultural Engineering, 24: 57–166.

Schneider, O., Sereti, V., Eding, E.H., Verreth, J.A.J., (2005). Analysis of nutrient flows in integrated intensive aquaculture systems. Aquacultural Engineering 32: 379-401.

Schwitzguebel, J.P., Wang, H., (2007). Environmental impact of aquaculture and countermeasures to aquaculture pollution in China. Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res. 14 (7): 452–462.

Snow, A.M., Ghaly, A.E., (2008). Use of barley for the purification of aquaculture wastewater in a hydroponic system. American Journal of Environmental Sciences 4 (2): 89–102.

Tyson, R.V., Treadwell, D.D., Simonne, E.H., (2011). Opportunities and challenges to sustainability in aquaponics. Hort Technol. 21 (1): 6–13.

Valente, L.M.P., Linares, F., Villanueva, J.L.R., Silva, J.M.G., Espe, M., Escorcio, C., Pires, M.A., Saavedra, M.J., Borges, P., Medale, F., Alvarez-Blazquez, B., Peleteiro, J.B., (2011). Dietary protein source or energy levels have no major impact on growth performance, nutrient utilisation or flesh fatty acids composition of market sized Senegalese sole. Aquaculture 318 (1–2): 128–137.

Vaillant, N., Monnet, F., Sallanon, H., Coudret, A., Hitmi, A., (2003). Treatment of domestic wastewater by a hydroponic NFT system. Chemosphere, 50: 121-129.

Vaillant, N., Monnet, F., Sallanon, H., Coudret, A., Hitmi, A., (2004). Use of commercial plant species in a hydroponic system to treat domestic wastewaters. J. Environ. Qual., 33: 695–702.

Zweig, R. D., Morton, J. D., and Stewart, M. M., (1999). Source water quality for aquaculture: A guide for Assessment. the World Bank. Washington D.C

How to Cite
Endut, A., Lananan, F., Jusoh, A., Wan Cik, W. N., & Ali, N. aini. (2016). Aquaponics Recirculation System: A Sustainable Food Source for the Future Water Conserves and Resources. Malaysian Journal of Applied Sciences, 1(1), 1-12. Retrieved from
Research Articles