This technical paper published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) begins by introducing the concept of aquaponics, including a brief history of its development and its place within the larger category of soil-less culture and modern agriculture. It discusses the main theoretical concepts of aquaponics, including the nitrogen cycle and the nitrification process, the role of bacteria, and the concept of balancing an aquaponic unit. It then moves on to cover important considerations of water quality parameters, water testing, and water sourcing for aquaponics, as well as methods and theories of unit design, including the three main methods of aquaponic systems: media beds, nutrient film technique, and deep water culture.
The publication discusses in detail the three groups of living organisms (bacteria, plants and fish) that make up the aquaponic ecosystem. It also presents management strategies and troubleshooting practices, as well as related topics, specifically highlighting local and sustainable sources of aquaponic inputs.
The publication also includes nine appendixes that present other key topics: ideal conditions for common plants grown in aquaponics; chemical and biological controls of common pests and diseases, including a compatible planting guide; common fish diseases and related symptoms, causes and remedies; tools to calculate the ammonia produced and biofiltration media required for a certain fish stocking density and amount of fish feed added; production of homemade fish feed; guidelines and considerations for establishing aquaponic units; a cost–benefit analysis of a small-scale, media bed aquaponic unit; and a comprehensive guide to building small-scale versions of each of the three aquaponic methods.