Zoo Using Fish Waste and Water to Grow Animal Food

Zoo Using Fish Waste and Water to Grow Animal Food

The Cincinnati Zoo is employing sustainable farming techniques in an effort to be less dependent on outside sources to supply food for Zoo animals.  In addition to growing food for animals at the Zoo’s Bowyer Farm, we are also excited to start growing food for animals right here at the Zoo with our Aquaponics greenhouse!

What is Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a closed-loop agricultural system in which fish are raised in a tank. Water from the fish tank is continuously pumped up to a bio-reactor, which is a fancy word for a small filtration system that mainly houses bacteria; that bacteria converts ammonia from the fish waste into forms of nutrients for plants; water exits the bio-reactor and is dispersed through trays housing plants, which take up the nutrients. The water then falls back into the fish tanks so clean that it makes for happy, healthy, hungry fish. We feed the fish and thereby keep the whole cycle going.

Test batches from the flood and ebb system have been producing harvests for the past couple of weeks! Right now the production numbers are still small, but we’re working on scaling them up. We’re currently seeing between 6-10 cups of lettuce and 2-3 cups of dill per week right now, and hopefully, soon we’ll have more. Our team is working on adding some other plants into the rotation soon as well.

So far, Reptile House and Education Animal Ambassadors have been getting small test batches. Seems like the animals approve!

Guests can see the Aquaponics greenhouse on the deck of Base Camp Cafe. The Zoo aquatics team is still working out some details and getting the systems running fully, but it’s getting there. Keep an eye out for progress!


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Zoo Using Fish Waste and Water to Grow Animal Food

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