Aquaculture North America

Water quality the focus of new aquaculture handbook

January 12, 2015
By John Nickum

Claude E. Boyd and Craig S. Tucker have written a book that covers all aspects of water science that are important in aquaculture.

It’s obvious, but it must be stated: water is the basic ingredient, the “cornerstone,” the building “block” on which all things in aquaculture are built.

Aquaculture requires a lot of water and the water must be of high quality suited to the specific needs of the species being reared. There is an old adage in aquaculture that states: “Good quality water…few problems. Bad quality water… nothing but problems.”

Back in the day… back when I taught a course on aquaculture, I included that statement in the first lecture and repeated it throughout the rest of the course. Claude E. Boyd and Craig S. Tucker have produced a book that covers just about everything concerning water quality that an aquaculturist might need to know.

“It’s a different world.” That’s a statement about life in water that I have used frequently in teaching, and in talks to audiences that lacked a background in aquatic biology. For example, fish survive, and thrive in an environment that has far less oxygen than the air we breathe (~10 parts per million dissolved oxygen versus 200,000 parts per million).

Their metabolic waste products, as well as fecal material are deposited directly into the environment bathing them. They live in immediate proximity to countless other organisms that contribute their wastes to the system. The list of environmental differences with which fish must contend is long, but all the differences must be understood if an aquaculturist is to be successful. Managing water quality in aquaculture is not easy… and it is a full time job.

The Handbook for Aquaculture Water Quality is all encompassing. Its 31 chapters cover all aspects of water science that are important in aquaculture.

The book draws on chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, and practical experience to provide readers with the information needed to understand the principles of water quality management in aquaculture.

Aquaculture systems ranging from ponds to raceways to recirculation units are discussed. The needs of at least 25 individual species are covered in the text. Practical information about the approaches and treatments that can be used to enhance water quality in aquaculture systems will be useful to the experienced aquaculturist, the new entrepreneur just starting a farm, managers of public hatcheries, and researchers needing to maintain standard conditions for their experiments.

The book begins with preliminary background discussions about the importance of water quality management in aquaculture and what the authors want to accomplish with this book. They include an interesting fact, namely that the book is self-published so as to keep the price affordable, ($48.50). Estimated cost if published by mainline publishers exceeded $300. An understandable discussion of the fundamentals of water science and hydraulic engineering principles ensures that readers will have a grasp of essential principles that will be used throughout the book.


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The third chapter of the book focuses on the ecological principles that apply to pond aquaculture systems – systems where factors concerning primary biological production affect water quality and ultimately fish production and even survival. Water sources and how they influence the choice and design of culture units are the topics of discussion in Chapter 4. Chapters 5 and 6 deal with the fundamental aspects of water quality that are measured as total dissolved solids, total hardness, salinity, total alkalinity, and the major ions that make up these factors. How these factors influence the choice of species to be reared and the husbandry of the chosen species is included.

Carbon dioxide, its importance, and its cycles in aquatic ecosystems are the next items discussed as the authors build a foundation for readers to understand the dynamics of water quality in aquaculture systems. A background in basic chemistry will be very helpful to readers of Chapter 7 and the following chapter, which deals with pH, the dynamics of pH, and how carbon dioxide and pH dictate many aspects of water quality management in pond systems. Explanations concerning the appropriate use of lime and fertilizers to control pH, dissolved oxygen, and pond fertility follow logically in Chapters 9 and 10. Chapter 11 discusses a related facet of water quality factors; the effects of feeds on water quality.

Thermal stratification and mixing of water in ponds may seem strange topics for aquaculture systems, but these are real issues and provide the subject matter for Chapter 12. Water quality factors and how to manage them are covered in Chapters 13 through 17. Specific factors and problems discussed in this section of the book include dissolved oxygen, supersaturation, suspended solids, turbidity, water color, nitrogen cycles, and hydrogen sulfide.

Chapters 18 through 23 deal primarily with biological issues ranging from toxic algae and off-flavor problems, to managing aquatic plants and pond bottom soils. The importance of trace elements, managing water quality in low salinity systems, and treatment strategies for solving water quality problems are topics that receive specific discussion.

Chapters 24 through 28 describe water quality management in various aquaculture systems, with specific chapters devoted to partitioned ponds, lined ponds, flow-through systems, cage culture, and recirculating systems. Effluent management is the topic for Chapter 29. Chapters 30 and 31 provide essential information on volume measurements, conversion factors, and calculations. In the absence of accurate measurements and calculations, effective management of water quality is essentially impossible.

I suggest that Drs. Boyd and Tucker have produced a guide for water quality management that should be on the work bench, desk or library of every aquaculturist… and they have made it available at a reasonable cost.

— John G. Nickum

The book’s full citation is: Boyd, C. E. and C. S. Tucker. 2014. Handbook for Aquaculture Water Quality. C.E. Boyd and Associates, Auburn, AL (ISBN 978-0-692-22187-7). The Single copy cost for USA orders (including shipping by media rate) is $48.50. To place orders and for information on shipping cost for multiple copies and international shipping, contact: Pornpimon Boyd at:

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