Effect of Support Medium, Hydraulic Loading Rate and Plant Density on Water Quality and Growth of Halophytes in Marine Aquaponic Systems

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aquaponics, saline agriculture, hydroponic, integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, RAS, coconut fibre

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The development of marine intensive land-based aquaculture systems has been limited due to the absence of methods to manage saline wastewater. Aquaponic systems, although commonly applied to freshwater aquaculture, can potentially manage nutrient wastes while providing a secondary product. The aim of this study was to evaluate both the capacity for water treatment and the production requirements of two saltwater-tolerant plant species (Sesuvium portulacastrum and Batis maritima) when grown hydroponically in a marine aquaponic system. The presence of plants was found to significantly contribute to nitrate removal, such that mean nitrate concentrations were 10.1 ± 5.4 and 12.1 ± 6.1 mg/L NO3-N in planted and unplanted treatments respectively. The use of coconut fibre as a planting medium also significantly contributed to nitrate removal, such that mean nitrate concentrations were 9.78 ± 5.4 and 12.4 ± 6.0 mg/L NO3-N in coconut fibre and expanded clay treatments respectively. Daily nitrogen removal was greatest in the coconut fibre/plants treatment, ranging from −18% to 67%. Hydraulic loading rate, plant species and plant density did not significantly affect water quality or plant growth. The low flow/saltwort/low density treatment had the greatest mean daily nitrogen removal, ranging from 25% to 172%. The results indicate that the main nitrogen removal mechanisms were simultaneous nitrification–denitrification in the hydroponic plant beds and nitrogen removal through plant growth. This study demonstrates that marine aquaponics could be an effective way to manage nutrient removal in marine land-based aquaculture systems.

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Aquaculture Research, v. 48, issue 5, p. 2463-2477