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Water is the lifeblood of an aquaponic system. Therefore proper monitoring and insights into water temperature is crucial to maintaining water quality, fish and plant health. Water attributes to monitor include ammonia levels, PH, dissolved oxygen (DO), and water temperature. Monitoring and regulating the temperatures outside of and within your system are key to running a successful aquaponic operation. Plants and fish in aquaponic systems must live within certain temperature thresholds for biological reasons, to optimize growth patterns, and to limit the spread of disease.

Factors Affecting Water Temperature in Aquaponic Systems

Maintaining a consistent environment for your plants and fish means knowing what impacts your water temperature and how to control those impacts. There are a variety of factors that can affect your system's water temperature and make it inconsistent. The Aquaponic Source reports that factors affecting your water temperature include the amount of water circulating within your system, tank placement, system materials, length and exposure of pipes, tank and component insulation, ambient air temperature, and power and dependability of a heat source.

Being aware of these impacts and how they affect your system will help you plan accordingly for future seasons, integrate passive energy-saving tactics and technologies into your system, and save money. The Aquaponic Source also suggests that simple exterior system fixes include insulating tanks, grow beds and pipes, keeping heated tanks close together, and monitoring and adjusting ambient air temperatures.

The Impact of Water Temperature on Water Parameters

Regulating water temperatures within your system is important for biological reasons. Fish are poikilotherms, which means that their body temperature adjusts to the outside environment. In addition to determining the temperature of the fish, water temperatures affect DO levels, ammonia and PH toxicity, plant choice, and biofilter performance.

Fish are classified into cold water and warm water species. Warmwater species include goldfish, bass, tilapia, and catfish. Coldwater species include trout and salmon. The species of fish raised will determine what the water quality and system parameters should be. For example, Rossana Sallenave from New Mexico State University found that tilapia prefer temperatures spanning 65-85℉ while optimal trout temperature is 55-65℉, which is reported in her paper entitled, Important Water Quality Parameters in Aquaponics Systems.

As water temperatures increase, the DO content decreases. Warmer water holds less oxygen than cooler water. Each species of fish requires different DO levels for optimized growth. Warmer temperatures also negatively affect total ammonia levels and can swing PH to dangerous and toxic levels. Sallenave also outlines that plants, specifically vegetables, thrive in the 70-75℉ range and that nitrifying bacteria biofilters require temperatures falling between 77-86℉ for optimal performance. Producers must strike a balance between fish, plant, and biofilter temperature needs to operate a successful aquaponic system.

The Impact of Water Temperature on Fish Health

Maintaining proper temperatures for these three components and creating a stable environment for the plants and fish leads to decreased disease incidents. Temperature fluctuations directly impact water quality and increase fish stress levels. Improper water quality equates to increased fish disease. Stressed fish do not have a robust immune system or immune response to bacterial, protozoan, fungal, and parasitic threats.

Stress allows fish to become vulnerable to opportunistic sources of disease that may not have previously been able to affect your fish. External signs and behaviors suggesting your fish are diseased include abnormal swimming patterns, infrequent feeding, discoloration, popeye, and fin rot, just to name a few common indicators. Fish thrive on and prefer consistency, specifically regarding water temperature. 

Maintaining an ideal water temperature contributes to optimized fish and plant growth. As the water temperature increases, the fish's metabolic rate increases. The fish will eat more frequently and grow quicker in warmer water. Producers must consider increased fish food and heating costs compared to fish growth rates to determine their system's optimal temperature range. It is also important for producers to find the sweet spot between production costs, fish growth, plant growth, and water temperature. 

How Aquaponics AI Can Help Improve Insights in Your System

Aquaponic AI offers notebooks that help producers track fish weight and lengths, plant growth, water quality parameters, and water temperature. Producers collect data and input the numbers into an online notebook or area where data is securely stored. If you have sensors in your grow space we can offer integration to our platform so you can automatically collect and record system data.

The notebooks outline what producers must collect and prompts producers to input the data in a user-friendly, easily organized manner. Producers can input the data via desktop computer, laptop, phone, or tablet. The software automatically generates graphs based on the collected data so producers can see real-time system trends. The automatic graphing feature allows producers to compare different measurements such as water temperature, fish weight, and plant growth to determine if their systems are operating at an optimal temperature range. This software keeps producers informed about their systems and takes the guesswork out of production; helping growers make informed decisions for their business.

Ultimately, maintaining an ideal water temperature will lead to running a successful aquaponic operation. Several external factors such as water circulating within your system, tank placement, ambient air temperature, etc., impact water temperature. Water temperatures should remain within a set threshold for biological purposes, disease prevention, and optimized fish and plant growth patterns. Let's help our fish and plants thrive in a consistent environment!

Julianne Grenn

M.S. Graduate Student

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