Study Aquaponics -learn to grow crops using fish or crayfish in the runoff waste water in this online course. Ideal for home or commercial applications.

Course Code: BHT319
Fee Code: S1
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Study Aquaponics

...learn to grow crops in hydroponics and fish in the same system

  • Nutrient solution grows vegetables or other plants in a hydroponic system
  • The runoff waste water from these plants, moves into a tank with fish. Being rich in nutrients, it grows algae, which the fish eat.
  • Any waste excreted by the fish, may be recycled to feed the plants.

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. Anytime 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 Course

Your Options - 2 courses:

We offer both a 20 hour Aquaponic short course as well as this more extensive course.

Clearly the longer course will teach you more. It has a broader and deeper scope, and is supported by more interaction between you and a tutor.

If you don't have the time or money to attempt the longer course; the shorter one will still give you a sound foundation which you can build on with experience and further learning as you go. It is excellent for a hobbyist or someone who is uncertain about how serious they might want to get.

If you are very serious about aquaponics and prepared to commit to deeper learning, take this 100 hour course.

Lesson Structure

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
    • Tanks
    • Aeration devices
    • Solids removal: clarifiers, solids tanks, filters,screens
    • Biofilters
    • 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
    • Photosynthesis
    • 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
    • Climate
    • Water
    • Finance
    • Scale of operation
    • Other resources
    • Market
    • 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
    • Bass
    • Tilapia
    • Catfish
    • Barramundi
    • Carp
    • Mullet
    • Sunfish
    • Eels
    • Marron
    • 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 heartlegumes, seafood and vegetable mix,
    • Earthworms: setting up, adding worms
    • Compost: understanding, making, conditions for compost production
    • Fish health
    • Common pests and diseasesin 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 solaqr 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
    • Herbs
    • Successional planting
    • Flow charting a cropControlling plant growth: stopping, spacing, disbudding, trimming, training
    • Pollination
    • 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 harvesy
    • 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
    • Marketing
  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
    • Diseases
    • Pythium in aquaponics
    • Pests
    • Environmental physiological disorders
    • Nutrition problems in aquaponics
    • Deficiency symptoms
    • Correcting nutrient problems in aquaponics
    • Fruit set management: pollinationfloral initiation, fruit growth
    • Flower and fruit development problems
    • Fish eating plant roots
    • Power losses
    • Clogging with sediment
    • Fish to plant imbalances
    • Pathogenic contamination issues

What is Possible with Aquaponics?

Freshwater fish that can be used in aquaponics will differ from one country to another. Some fish that are highly prized in one country have become an undesirable pest in another. It is important that you know what you can legally grow in the country where you operate. Farming methods are similar though from one type of fish to another. Once you learn the basics about fish farming; you will have a foundation that can be applied to different types of fish, in different aquaponic systems and in different countries.
In Australia, for instance, appropriate fish may include Silver Perch, Golden Perch, Jade Perch, Murray Cod, Barramundi and certain freshwater crayfish. Trout, eels and carp and catfish have been grown in aquaponics in a range of different countries. Tilapia has been very popular in a lot of places, but not Australia.


Silver Perch (Bidyanus bidyanus)

This is an Australian native fish.

  • Relatively easy to grow; fast growing.
  • Used widely in Australian aquaponics - adapts well to recirculation systems.
  • Needs a medium protein diet: Eats duckweed, pellets and yabbies.
  • Tolerates higher temperatures than trout (ideal 22 to 28°C.).
  • Does not tolerate above 35°C., won’t feed below 10°C.
  • Requires a water pH of 6.5 to 8.
  • Water hardness 50 to 200ppm.
  • Can be sensitive to noise and light.
  • Breeding is induced with HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). Once eggs hatch young feed on zooplankton and algae; then are weaned onto artificial feeds.
  • Can be bought as fingerlings in Australia (Narrandera Fisheries Research Station in NSW, began a hatchery in the 1970’s).
  • Fingerlings can grow to between 400 and 600gm in one year.
  • Murdoch University developed an effective closed system treating water from a silver perch tank, with a biofilter to convert ammonia to nitrate; then recirculating into NFT channels using the nitrates to feed plants.
  • Some have been known to reach as much as 6kg.
  • Subtle taste to eat –but flavour can vary - it can carry through the flavour of the pond in the fat in the flesh.


Golden Perch (Macquaria ambigua)

This is also known as Yellow Belly

  • Farmed in both dams and recirculating systems.
    Water temperature 15 to 25°C.
  • pH 6.5 to 8.
  • Water hardness 50 to 200 ppm.
  • They tolerate a broad salinity range, however, the higher the salinity levels, the less chances of spawning to occur.
  • Carnivore preferring live food; which can make feeding difficult. Needs a high protein diet. Main food sources include yabbies, shrimp, insect larvae and other fish
  • Particularly hardy in captive environments.
  • Not as aggressive as Murray cod or Barramundi.
  • Needs clear water.
  • During their breeding period, tanks should be kept dark. Eggs take between 1-2 days to hatch.
  • Larger ponds tend to be needed.
  • Their common weight is around 4-8kg but can weigh up to 20kg in captive environments.
  • Good demand for this fish in particular in Jewish and Asian communities.
  • Fast growth rate, reaching up to 500 gr in 18 months.


Systems Can Vary

The University of the Virgin Islands System

This is one of the most widely reviewed systems and was developed as a commercial system by James Rakocy and his colleagues. The fish tanks house different species and their effluent feeds into floating rafts in tanks which have been used to grow large yields of a variety of crops including basil, lettuce, and okra.

There are four fish tanks at 4800 litre capacities and six 400 foot square hydroponic grow troughs. Daily monitoring of pH levels is undertaken and calcium and potassium hydroxide are added alternately to a base tank to maintain pH between 7 and 7.5. Chelated iron is also added to supplement iron levels. Other than this, nothing else is added to the system.

The fish are cultured for 24 weeks and growth is staggered so that every 6 weeks one tank is harvested and then restocked straight away. Feeding takes place three times a day with fish pellets containing 32% protein. It was reported that this system could produce okra at 18 times production compared to field-grown crops, and basil at 3 times field rates. 


The North Carolina State University System

This was developed in the 1980’s by Mark McMurtry and Professor Doug Sanders who has since passed away. In this system, fish were reared in tanks housed below the floor of a greenhouse and their effluent fed hydroponic vegetable beds on sand at ground level.  These beds along with the roots of tomatoes and cucumbers acted as the biofilter. The water was then recirculated back into the fish tanks where the fish were fed with pellets containing 32% protein. Nothing else was added.

This system was ground-breaking and paved the way for aquaponics today since it demonstrated that compared to aquaculture systems, only 1% of water used in those systems was required to produce the same yield of fish. It also demonstrated how the flooding and draining of biofilters benefited both plant roots and aerobic nitrifying bacteria through aeration.


The Speraneo System

In this system devised by Tom and Paula Speraneo in the 1990’s, the North Carolina State University system was modified. Tilapias were grown in a 500 gallon tank and their effluent was passed to a single gravel grow bed where vegetables were produced. This bed was housed inside a solar greenhouse.  It was a very successful system and many commercial systems were later based upon it.

The system was later upgraded to include a 50 foot x 80 foot commercial scale greenhouse containing six above-ground 1200 gallon fish tanks which were each linked to six river gravel grow beds with media to one foot deep. Each system was called a “node” and was independent of the others. They fed the tilapias with Purina fish chow at 40% protein as well as tank cultured algae. Rock dust was later added to the gravel grow beds for trace elements.

Fish were harvested within 6-12 months and vegetables grown included basil, tomatoes, cucumber, and salad greens. Herbs and bedding plants were also produced. The systems component ratio was geared more towards crop production rather than fish.

Developing Your Own System
Farming Fish Appropriate to Your Circumstances
There are many other examples of successful commercial systems. They vary in where they are, what they grow and how they are configured. Each has been designed and developed to be appropriate to the situation it operates in.
When you undertake this course; and develop a better understanding of the fundamentals that underpin aquaponics, you will then have a greatly enhanced capacity to develop a system, and choose appropriate fish to grow; for wherever you find yourself operating.
How Many Fish?

Like the amount of plants you can harvest, the amount of fish you need, also depends on quite a number of factors including how often they are fed, the water flow, the oxygen levels, the pumping rates and also the number of plants you want to grow. You can grow quite an amazing array of plant produce with relatively few fish. For example: for every 250 litres of (25cm deep) bed media you use - you need about 10 fish. And in a 500litre tank you can very easily grow about 10 fish - in this system you can expect to harvest good sized table fish. Remember: if you want more grow beds then you need more tanks and more fish.



Your knowledge and awareness of the possibilities for aquaponics will be heightened considerably throughout this course. For some graduates, this may be used to grow produce at home, primarily for their own use, but for others, this may be an initial step toward a new or enhanced career.

Studying with ACS provides you with the ability to develop knowledge of aquaponics, but also fosters an "understanding", "awareness" and the right "attitude" that is a necessity to identify and act on opportunities to grow fish and plants commercially, on a small or large scale.

Some graduates may use what they learn to start a new enterprise. Aquaponics is an intensive form of farming that does not necessarily require a large space to be viable. It is ideally suited to urban farming; and there is no reason why an average home garden cannot provide sufficient space to start up an aquaponic enterprise.

Other graduates may enhance the work they are already involved in. Anyone working in an hydroponic shop, an aquarium supply or a fish farm, will be adding to their career possibilities by doing this course. Teachers, media professionals, horticultural and farming consultants and others will also be broadening their possibilities for work through these studies.

Member of the Future Farmers Network

UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

Our principal John Mason is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture

Alternative Technology Association Member

Accredited ACS Global Partner

Member of the Nursery and Garden Industry Association since 1993

ACS is a silver sponsor of the AIH. The principal, John Mason, is a fellow. ACS certificate students are offered a free membership for this leading professional body.Provider.

Member of the Permaculture Association

Member of Study Gold Coast

Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (UK)

Principal John Mason has been a member of the International Society of Horticultural Science, since 2003

Recognised since 1999 by IARC

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Barbara Seguel

Teacher and Researcher, Biologist, Aquaculture expert.
Barbara has a B.Sc. and M.Sc in Aquaculture Engineering.
Over the past decade, Barbara has worked in Hawaii, Mexico, Chile, New Zealand, and is now settled in Australia. She has co authored severa

John L. Mason

Auithor of "Commercial Hydroponics", one of the world's best selling hydroponic books for more than 20 years. John completed a Diploma in Horticultural Science at Australia's oldest horticulture college in 1971. In 1974 he was asked to create and teach a

Dr. Lynette Morgan (Crops)

Lyn has a broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. Her first job was on a mushroom farm, and at university she undertook a major project studying tomatoes. She has studied nursery production and written books on hydroponic production of herbs.

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