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A common question among small-scale and hobby aquaponic growers is if they can feed vegetable scraps, insects, or loose grains to their fish. These are known as supplemental diets and only meet part of the nutrient requirement of the fish. This is sometimes seen in traditional aquaculture practices in which fish are contained in large bodies of water where they can scavenge additional foods from the environment. Because aquaponics is a completely closed system, a complete diet must be fed. In addition, if fish must expend energy to scavenge for loose food or scraps, they are not growing at their full potential. Providing all their required nutrition in one, appropriately sized pellet allows the fish to convert more of that energy into growth, rather than using it to find food.
Source: Janelle Hager, Leigh Ann Bright, Josh Dusci, James Tidwell. 2021. Kentucky State University. Aquaponics Production Manual: A Practical Handbook for Growers.