Towards commercial aquaponics: a review of systems, designs, scales and nomenclature

Harry W. Palm, Ulrich Knaus, Samuel Appelbaum, Simon Goddek, Sebastian M. Strauch, Tycho Vermeulen, M. Haїssam Jijakli, Benz Kotzen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


Aquaponics is rapidly developing as the need for sustainable food production increases and freshwater and phosphorous reserves shrink. Starting from small-scale operations, aquaponics is at the brink of commercialization, attracting investment. Arising from integrated freshwater aquaculture, a variety of methods and system designs has developed that focus either on fish or plant production. Public interest in aquaponics has increased dramatically in recent years, in line with the trend towards more integrated value chains, greater productivity and less harmful environmental impact compared to other production systems. New business models are opening up, with new customers and markets, and with this expansion comes the potential for confusion, misunderstanding and deception. New stakeholders require guidelines and detail concerning the different system designs and their potentials. We provide a definitive definition of aquaponics, where the majority (> 50%) of nutrients sustaining the optimal plant growth derives from waste originating from feeding aquatic organisms, classify the available integrated aquaculture and aquaponics (open, domestic, demonstration, commercial) systems and designs, distinguish four different scales of production (≤ 50, > 50–≤ 100 m2, > 100–≤ 500 m2, > 500 m2) and present a definite nomenclature for aquaponics and aquaponic farming allowing distinctions between the technologies that are in use. This enables authorities, customers, producers and all other stakeholders to distinguish between the various systems, to better understand their potentials and constraints and to set priorities for business and regulations in order to transition RAS or already integrated aquaculture into commercial aquaponic systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-842
Number of pages30
JournalAquaculture International
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • Aquaponic farming
  • Aquaponic systems
  • Circular economy
  • Definition
  • Integrated aquaculture systems
  • Nomenclature
  • Scale of operation
  • System design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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