Growing Tilapia and Vegetables with Aquaponics

     Aquaponics is the combination of hydroponics – growing plants
     in water – and aquaculture – fish farming – in a mutually
     beneficial and sustainable way. Pictured here is Fred Lau of
     Mari's Garden in Mililani
     Photos: David Croxford

Clyde Tamaru, an aquaculture specialist at UH Manoa's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, is on a mission: putting marginal land to good agricultural use with aquaponics. Along the way, Tamaru helps enhance the reputation of tilapia, a fish that many locals avoid because it tends to live in dirty water – the “Ala Wai fish,” he calls it.

Tamaru explains that aquaponics is a combination of hydroponics, growing plants in water without soil, and aquaculture, the farming of marine animals.

The waste from the fish – including ammonia and nitrate – helps fertilize the plants; then the water is purified before being recirculated back to the fish tank. But not just any fish can be raised in these tanks. “Tilapia is the main fish used in Hawaii, because they can tolerate these levels of ammonia and nitrate,” he says.

Small aquaponic systems let you grow plants and fish in your backyard, but Tamaru wants to see more commercial aquaponics. “We don’t want to compete against good agriculture land. We want places that are marginal or not even used.”

Mari’s Garden in Mililani has dedicated one of its 18 acres to aquaponics, making it Hawaii’s largest aquaponic farm. Owner Fred Lau says he reuses water from his nursery to produce 150 pounds of cucumbers a day and 14,000 heads of lettuce a month, using five tanks with 2,500 to 3,000 fish in each.

“It is a sustainable method of farming, but economically it could take awhile to be beneficial,” Lau says. “The startup costs can be quite expensive.”

Most tilapia now sold in Hawaii supermarkets and restaurants are imported, but Tamaru wants to see more local-grown sales. Restaurants such as Sansei, Alan Wong and Town in Kaimuki are already serving local, farm-raised tilapia, which doesn’t have the bad reputation of its Ala Wai cousin.

Clyde S. Tamaru

[A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Fred Lau in the photo. Hawaii Business regrets the error.]




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Old to new | New to old
Aug 9, 2011 03:44 am
 Posted by  crapola

Big boo boo.
That photo caption is wrongo.
That is Fred Lau of Mari's Garden in Mililani.
Clyde is not shown anywhere?!

This has been flagged
Aug 9, 2011 02:19 pm
 Posted by  Jason U.

Thank you @crapola for the catch. The correction has been made. - The Hawaii Business staff

Jul 6, 2012 07:19 am
 Posted by  Anthony Brown

Aquaponics and Cloning are the latest techniques in hydro world. Growers can create miracles with these techniques. Look at the below article, how it deliver results -

Sep 10, 2012 06:04 pm
 Posted by  jean2278

Hi, I'm really interested to be in this business, because i think it is sound very good, but i don't know how much d i need to get in please send me more detail and I will take this business to Haiti.

Best Regards,
Jean B Innocent

This has been flagged
Sep 17, 2012 03:42 pm
 Posted by  awesomealli1211

I am working on an aquaponics project for school. The project is working with reviewing good websites for reference uses. Would you mind if i used this site for my project?
Thanks and keep up the good work!

Nov 13, 2012 11:53 pm
 Posted by  monikaborua

Very nice and informative blog posting. Among all the fish, tilapia fish is Awesome! Farming this fish is very profitable and easy. I like this fish very much for it's unique taste and value. Thanks for the great posting.
Tilapia Fish Farming

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