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Aquaponic Shrimp

T he process of growing seafood in a man made environment is known as aquaculture. Recently aquaculture has been expanded for use in the farming community for a process known as aquaponics. Aquaponics uses the basis of aquaculture with the growing methods of hydroponics to produce a double crop of both fish and plants at the same time. Though many easily recognize the concept of shrimp farming there is a difference between shrimp and prawns, and it is not just a matter of geographical linguistics.

A shrimp is an entirely different species than a prawn, they are usually found in saltwater and their size is dictated by how warm their environment is – the hotter the water, the larger the shrimp. Shrimp are usually marketed according to size and how many make up 1 lb which can range from 100 to just 10 depending on the size and weight of the shrimp. A prawn is a completely different kind of crustacean that is actually closer to a small lobster. The meat from a prawn is sweeter in taste than its shrimp cousin but either can be substituted in a recipe. Recognizing a shrimp is simple because it has the shape of a prawn but has a thinner body and longer legs, including the longest two protruding front ones. Though at one time these were both found in abundance in the oceans the majority of shrimp and prawns are now farm raised. Both types require very specific breeding cycles and conditions so it is often hard to breed either at home and the new stock will have to come from a hatchery once harvested.

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The most productive form of aquaculture farming still produces severely polluting ammonia run off from the fish tanks. With commercial farming so obsessed with producing as much fish per gallon as possible there is significant overcrowding, this is turn causes excessive waste products from the fish. Normally this waste water is released into the environment which pollutes natural water ecosystems, however in an aquaponic environment this water is cycled over plant beds, or waterways where the plants take up the waste and ammonia from the water as their food source so the water can be returned to the fish tank as it is safe for the fish again.

This cycle will continue indefinitely as long as ammonia levels are kept appropriate in the fish tank and the fish are properly fed.

Aquaponic shrimp can be added to an existing system as a companion species as long as they are not overcrowded, since they have cannibalistic tendencies, and as long as the other fish in the tank do not prefer them as their food of choice. It is important when trying to raise fish and shrimp together to keep the fish separated by horizontal netting to prevent this. They survive by eating small plants and bacteria in their natural environment so it is important to insure that they have the right food available if there are no other fish in the tank. Though shrimp are actually more comfortable eating waste products so in an established aquaponics system adding shrimp will help to lower debris and other solid wastes that may accumulate in the tank. Usually they act as a “free” crop since they will keep the tank clean without being provided their own food in an aquaponic system. The number of shrimp per system is wholly defendant on the surface area of the pond because of their territorial nature an their size is dependent on water temperature so consider this before adding them to an outside system unless you are ok with small shrimp.

Aquaponic shrimp are a great addition to your existing aquaponics system or as the primary species, though there is little difference between aquaponic prawns and aquaponic shrimp. They can be considered a house guest who does the laundry and cleans up!. Aquaponic shrimp can add additional value to your existing system by providing benefits without adding additional cost in most cases. For some there is no other choice but aquaponic shrimp if raising shrimp is the end goal.