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Aquaculture most often involves the farming of fish, but can also include the raising of aquatic plants, crustaceans, such as lobster, and mollusks, such as clams or oysters. As a result, aquaculture equipment can vary considerably. Fish farming aquaculture equipment can include such items as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) holding tanks, pallet covers, and tarpaulins. For crustacean farmers such as those raising lobster, the equipment includes breeding tanks for shrimp larvae as a food source for the lobster, as well as microbe and enzyme delivery systems to improve water quality and prevent disease. Oyster farming requires the use of mesh netting and oyster sox, or bags, and other equipment, such as oyster trays and stainless steel cable ties and wiring.
Aquaculture in general is a diverse industry, with fish farming accounting for 47% of the world's fish supply as of 2011. Since estimates are that over 1,000,000,000 people globally rely on fish as their main source of protein, aquaculture equipment supplies is a big industry. The variety of fish species primarily raised in aquaculture is not that diverse, however, making aquaculture equipment fairly easy to standardize. In the United States, freshwater aquaculture is the main type of fish farming, and is focused on catfish. Worldwide, and centered in Asian nations, the primary types of fish raised in aquaculture are carp and tilapia species.
Pumps are a key component of any aquaculture equipment inventory. One of the reasons for this when it comes to aquaculture filtration for fish farming is that commercial operations have the fish in highly crowded conditions. This creates a large amount of water pollution from waste products and unconsumed feed, which must be pumped and filtered out constantly to keep the fish alive. The unnatural living conditions also contribute to disease and infection, which is prevented by pumping a constant level of antibiotics into the water supply.
A common cost-cutting measure with aquaculture cages is to place them in natural waterways. This form of aquaculture equipment is known as a netpen and allows for the natural environment to serve as a regulatory mechanism for fish health. The netpen is often used for carnivorous fish species, whereby tilapia, which are herbivores, can be farmed in enclosed tanks that are easier to filter, as they are not fed a fish byproduct diet. Herbivore fish species make for a more economically sound investment in fish farming systems. Carnivorous species such as salmon require about two to five pounds (0.9 to 2.3 kilograms) of smaller fish as food for every one pound (0.5 kilograms) of weight that they gain.
Another common type of aquaculture is that of shrimp farming, which is marine aquaculture often conducted in mangrove swamps along ocean coastlines. It is considered a particularly destructive form of aquaculture, as it is generally low-tech and damages the environment. Shrimp farmers utilize the natural resources of the area to grow shrimp until it becomes nonviable and then quickly move on instead of relying on sophisticated aquaculture equipment to create artificially sustained conditions for the shrimp.
The most sustainable and environmentally sound aquaculture equipment designs involve raising bivalves, such as oysters and clams, and aquatic plants. Oysters and clams naturally filter the water as part of their life cycle and they don't require as much space as fish do. Raising fish along with aquatic plants is also beneficial, as the equipment can gather fish waste to fertilize the plants, and the plants can, in turn, filter the water for the fish.
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