Small scale aquaculture systems have a number of applications. They are popular for production and storage of live bait, live market fish-shellfish, soft crabs, hatchery-stock, pet trades, and other businesses.
The size, cost, and complexity of aquaculture systems can vary considerably. Before designing aquaculture systems for fish or shellfish, considerable research is usually necessary.
A number of questions may be useful before starting an aquaculture-related project.
What species will be contained?
What are the specific requirements for the species to be contained?
Where will fish or shellfish stocks originate from?
How long will populations be maintained?
How much loss can be expected during holding or growout phases.
How will waste be disposed of?
How much water will be required?
How much water loss will occur during daily operations?
Will lighting, temperature, feed, oxygen, or other factors need to be controlled?
Will backup systems be required for electrical power, water flow, or other tasks?
How much maintenance will the system require?
What is the life expectancy of each component?
What regulations apply to a given operation?
Most small scale aquaculture systems rely on electrical service for lighting, water flow, filtration, temperature control, and other operations. When choosing power systems, owners must consider cost, reliability, safety, and other factors. When systems require complete reliability of electrical service, backup generators may be required.
Small scale aquaculture systems utilize a variety of containment methods, fed by either open or closed water systems. In some situations, aquaculture systems can make use of public resources, such as tidal estuaries, rivers, or natural waterways. Although less common, artesian wells or other natural water sources are sometimes available for freshwater aquaculture projects.
Regardless of the system, containment is accomplished by the use of netting, cages, tanks, or other infrastructure. When natural water resources are not available, tanks or other containers are used for containment.
Pumps – Flow Control
In most small scale systems, water flow is critical for proper operation. Depending on the design, water management processes may include transportation, aeration, circulation, and filtration. For closed systems, it is imperative to maintain water quality at minimum cost.
Most small scale aquaculture systems require some level of water filtration. Filtration systems require frequent attention and maintenance. The most basic filtering requirement is the containment of trash and debris which can restrict or damage pumps, plumbing, and other equipment. Screens, filters, or other barriers may also be needed to protect fish or shellfish from equipment. Filtration is also important for maintaining water quality. Filters help remove excrement, excess food, and other pollutants from water supplies.
In some systems, a single unit may perform several filtering tasks. Although man-made components dominate the industry, a number of natural materials are popular in filtration systems. For example, gravel, shells, or other products are sometimes used to purify water.
Controls – Monitoring
Control systems can have a tremendous impact on any aquaculture setup. In most cases, owners are faced with a dilemma as weigh factors such as cost, complexity, reliability, and efficiency when designing a system. Depending on the application, a number of electronic or mechanical systems may be implemented to monitor or control electrical power, lighting, feeding, water flow, filtration, or other components.
Even the simplest aquaculture systems usually involve the use of chemicals. In some cases, operations only require the use of common chemicals such as salt or bleach. More complex operations sometimes involve the use of antibiotics, fungicides, algacides, or other special chemicals.