The effects of periphyton, fish and fertilizer dose on biological processes affecting water quality in earthen fish ponds.

A. Milstein, M.E. Azim, M.A. Wahab, M.C.J. Verdegem

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22 Citations (Scopus)


The potential of periphyton-based aquaculture in South Asia is under investigation in an extensive research program. This paper is a further analysis of data from four experiments carried out in that framework, to explore periphyton, fish and fertilizer dose effects on water quality. Factor analysis and ANOVA models applied to a data matrix of water quality parameters in ponds with and without artificial substrates (bamboo poles and kanchi sticks), with and without fish (filter feeders catla and rohu, with and without bottom feeder kalbaush), and with a standard or 50% increased fertilizer dose, allowed us to identify the underlying ecological processes governing this novel periphyton-based pond system, and construct conceptual graphic models of the periphyton-environment relationships observed. We clearly established that the phosphorus flow is mainly linked to phytoplankton activity in the water column and decomposition on the pond bottom, while nitrogen flow is mainly linked to autotrophic (photosynthesis) and heterotrophic (decomposition and nitrification) processes that take place in the periphyton in addition to the water column and pond bottom. Consequently, disruption of the pond bottom by bottom feeding fish primarily promoted phosphate cycling and phytoplankton, while periphyton development on the supplied substrates and fertilization mainly improved oxygen balance and nitrogen related processes developing in the water column. The use of bamboo poles led to better results than kanchi sticks, related to the greater autotrophic periphyton development on bamboo and to the larger surface of bamboo poles that facilitate fish grazing and periphyton dislodgment that in turn have a renewal effect on periphyton. Stocking bottom feeding fish produces a fertilizing effect through the food web that benefits the filter-feeding fish and that makes it unnecessary to increase the dose of inorganic and organic fertilizers applied to the ponds. Thus, the output of this analysis will help the fish farmers in resource constrained countries to improve their production in periphyton-based ponds just by choosing bamboo substrates, stocking a bottom feeder fish together with the filter feeders, and saving money on fertilizers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-260
JournalEnvironmental Biology of Fishes
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • indian major carps
  • aquaculture
  • culture
  • hamilton
  • polyculture
  • biofilm

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