Integrated rice field aquaculture, a practice normally used by rural small-scale farmers, is not only supporting farms and livelihoods but is also reducing poverty and is playing a more and more important role in China. It is also becoming one of the main freshwater aquaculture systems, in addition to ponds, lakes, reservoirs, streams, and other aquaculture systems. During the past 40 years, both the production and areas of integrated rice field aquaculture in China have significantly increased from 0.13 million t and 0.74 million ha in 1990 to 3.25 million t and 2.56 million ha in 2020, respectively. Advances in ecology research on integrated rice–fish aquaculture were one of the main contributors to this achievement. In this paper, we systematically reviewed the advances in ecology research on three major integrated rice field aquaculture systems in China, namely rice–fish, rice–crab, and rice–crayfish coculture systems, the contribution of the research, and future prospects. We found that progress in ecology research on theories, biological studies, models, and eco-engineering techniques, coupled with policy support promoted the development of the rice field aquaculture industries. This review could assist individual small-scale farmers to make better use of rice field space to produce safer aquatic and rice products at a lower cost and help aquaculture scientists to further study the ecology of integrated rice field aquaculture systems.
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