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A Comparison of Three Different Hydroponic Sub-systems (gravel bed, floating and nutrient film technique) in an Aquaponic Test System


Murray Cod, Maccullochella peelii peelii (Mitchell), and Green Oak lettuce, Lactuca sativa, were used to test for differences between three hydroponic subsystems, Gravel Bed, Floating Raft and Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), in a freshwater Aquaponic test system, where plant nutrients were supplied from fish wastes while plants stripped nutrients from the waste water before it was returned to the fish. The Murray Cod had FCR's and biomass gains that were statistically identical in all systems. Lettuce yields were good, and in terms of biomass gain and yield, followed the relationship Gravel bed > Floating > NFT, with significant differences seen between all treatments. The NFT treatment was significantly less efficient than the other two treatments in terms of nitrate removal (20% less efficient), whilst no significant difference was seen between any test treatments in terms of phosphate removal. In terms of dissolved oxygen, water replacement and conductivity, no significant differences were observed between any test treatments. Overall, results suggest that NFT hydroponic sub-systems are less efficient at both removing nutrients from fish culture water and producing plant biomass or yield than Gravel bed or Floating hydroponic sub-systems in an Aquaponic context. Aquaponic system designers need to take these differences into account when designing hydroponic components within aquaponic systems.

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This research was partially funded by the Australian Federal Governments Rural Industry Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC). The authors also wish to thank Boomaroo Nurseries (Lara, Victoria, Australia) for the provision of the many lettuce seedlings used to complete this study and Dr. Brett Ingram of the Victorian Institute of Marine and Freshwater Research for his invaluable knowledge of Murray Cod culture.

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Correspondence to Wilson A. Lennard.

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Lennard, W.A., Leonard, B.V. A Comparison of Three Different Hydroponic Sub-systems (gravel bed, floating and nutrient film technique) in an Aquaponic Test System. Aquacult Int 14, 539–550 (2006).

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  • Aquaponic
  • Hydroponic
  • NFT
  • Biological nutrient removal
  • Wastewater
  • Murray Cod
  • Nitrate
  • Phosphate