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Chapter 8 Decoupled Aquaponics Systems

5 months ago

10 min read

Simon Goddek, Alyssa Joyce, Sven Wuertz, Oliver Körner, Ingo Bläser, Michael Reuter, and Karel J. Keesman

Abstract Traditional aquaponics systems were arranged in a single process loop that directs nutrient-rich water from fish to the plants and back. Given the differing specific nutrient and environmental requirements of plants and fish, such systems presented a compromise to the ideal conditions for rearing of both, thus reducing the efficiency and productivity of such coupled systems. More recently, designs that allow for decoupling of units provide for a more finely tuned regulation of the process water in each of the respective units while also allowing for better recycling of nutrients from sludge. Suspended solids from the fish (e.g. faeces and uneaten feed) need to be removed from the process water before water can be directed to plants in order to prevent clogging of hydroponic systems, a step that represents a significant loss of total nutrients, most importantly phosphorus. The reuse of sludge and mobilization of nutrients contained within that sludge present a number of engineering challenges that, if addressed creatively, can dramatically increase the efficiency and sustainability of aquaponics systems. One solution is to separate, or when there are pathogens or production problems, to isolate components of the system, thus maximizing overall control and efficiency of each component, while reducing compromises between the conditions and species-specific requirements of each subsystem. Another potential innovation that is made possible by the decoupling of units involves introducing additional loops wherein bioreactors can be used to treat sludge. An additional distillation loop can ensure increased nutrient concentrations to the hydroponics unit while, at the same time, reducing adverse effects on fish health from high nutrient levels in the RAS unit. Several studies have documented the aerobic and anaerobic digestion performance of bioreactors for treating sludge, but the benefits of the digestate on plant growth are not wellresearched. Both remineralization and distillation components consequently have a high unexplored potential to improve decoupled aquaponics systems.

Keywords Decoupled aquaponics · Multi-loop aquaponics · System dynamics · System design · Anaerobic digestion · Desalination


S. Goddek · K. J. Keesman

Mathematical and Statistical Methods (Biometris), Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

A. Joyce

Department of Marine Science, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

S. Wuertz

Department Ecophysiology and Aquaculture, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Biology and Inland Fisheries, Berlin, Germany

O. Körner

Leibniz-Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops (IGZ), Grossbeeren, Germany

I. Bläser · M. Reuter

aquaponik manufaktur GmbH, Issum, Germany

© The Author(s) 2019 201

S. Goddek et al. (eds.), Aquaponics Food Production Systems, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-15943-6_8


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