Aquaponic systems are becoming more prevalent and have led to accurate mass and energy balance models that allow nutrient utilization to be maximized and plant and fish systems to be coupled or complimentary. Such models still do not address the potential of using the plant side as both the primary nitrification system and as a sink for the nitrate being produced from the fish system. However, using the plants as the nitrification system for the fish waste requires a better understanding and quantification of the nitrification capacity of the plant system. A series of experiments were conducted using butterhead lettuce (Lactuca sativa
, cv. Flandria) in deep water culture rafts. Plants were grown under two growing conditions and were evaluated based upon harvestable weight. Treatment 1 (H5) consisted of a standard hydroponic nutrient solution maintained at pH 5.8, while treatment 2 (A7) consisted of an aquaponic waste solution maintained at pH 7.0. The aquaponic conditions were created from a fish rearing system using koi (Cyprinus carpio
) that was continuously recirculated between the designated plant tubs and the fish tank with an in-line bead filter to capture and mineralize fish solids. The total root surface area was not significantly different between treatments, but the ratio of root surface area to root fresh weight was different, suggesting that aquaponic roots are finer than hydroponic roots. Predictive equations were developed to correlate root surface area to shoot or root fresh weight, which can be used to design the nitrification component for a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS), as part of an integrated aquaponic system.
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