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The Effect of Goldfish (Carassius auratus auratus) Excrement on the Germination Rate of

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) Seeds

Andrew Favor, Patrick Stumps, Felicia Vo, and David Atta
Department of Biological Science
Saddleback College
Mission Viejo, CA 92692

Aquaponic systems utilize a symbiotic relationship between plants and aquatic

animals wherein plants ingest nutrients from the excretory matter produced by the
animals. This purifies the surrounding water and promotes a healthy environment for the
animals, while the plants gain necessary nutrients for their own growth and function. This
experiment sought to examine whether water containing goldfish (Carassius auratus
auratus) excrement actually increased germination rates of basil (Ocimum basilicum). Basil
seeds were left to germinate in varying concentration ratios of water containing fish
excrement and tap water. Each groups water was tested for a range of compounds
characteristic of fish excrement. Mean number of seeds germinated in group 1 containing
only tank water (3.4 5.52, mean SEM respectively). Group 2, 75/25 tank water to tap
water ratio (4.8 3.66). Rates of germination were found to be highest in-group 3, 50/50
tank water to tap water ratio: (6.2 2.83), and group 4, with a 25/75 percent tank water to
tap water ratio (6.2 3.44). Group 5, containing with solely tap water: (4.6 5.92).
However, analysis with a one-way ANOVA showed no significant difference between the
rates of germination between groups (p = 0.7024). These results suggest that germination
rates increase with increasing nitrite concentrations, but simultaneously decrease with
increasing ammonia concentrations.

Introduction water needed in both practices. Furthermore, due to

In the natural world, symbiotic relationships the ability of certain plants to partake in water
develop between different organisms in order to ideally purification, the utilization of such a system is ideal for
utilize the varying metabolic functions between the food production of people living in regions of the
species. For instance, in oceanic and other aquatic world where clean water is scarce (Chan, 1993).
ecosystems, plants use their ability to ingest Internationally, the use of aquaponic systems as an
environmental nutrients to absorb excretory matter integrative farming technique continues to rapidly
from aquatic animals; this purifies the surrounding increase (Rakocy et al., 2010) and further analysis of
water, and thus promotes a healthy environment for the factors that contribute to ideal conditions for
other organisms while the plants receive the necessary aquaponic systems will allow people to develop new
nutrients for their own growth and function. This aquaponic techniques, which may better fit the varying
symbiotic relationship has been utilized in an needs and resources of people throughout the world.
integrative farming technique known as aquaponics. It is understood that aquaponic environments
As of today, aquaponics is an extremely utilize the ability of plants to take in nutrients from
popular and efficient way for fertilizing plants, and is surrounding water to cleanse the water of excrement
used for a broad range of other industrial applications put out by the fish inhabiting it. Excretory matter
(Rakocy et al., 2006). Most aquaponic systems today produced by fish contains nitrates and nitrites, which
pump fish wastewater through grow-beds, in which the promote plant growth (Esashi et al., 1979), but also
plants filter the water in order to keep the fish healthy contains ammonia, which can inhibit plant growth
(Lennard and Leonard, 2005). (Bennett and Adams, 1970).
Today, the symbiotic effects of aquaponic This project seeks to examine the symbiotic
integration are being utilized industrially to increase relationship between plants and aquatic animals within
the economic efficiency of indoor fish and plant aquaponic systems. Researchers will examine if water
farming (Blidariu and Grozea, 2011). Aquaponic containing Carassius auratus auratus (goldfish)
systems offer an efficient way to promote both plant excrement facilitates faster rates of plant growth than
and animal growth while conserving the amount of pure water, while taking note of the pH, ammonia
concentration and nitrite concentration found in each mean number of seeds that germinated in Group 3
experimental condition. In consideration of this, the dishes (50% tank water/ 50% tap water) was 6.2
specified measurements will be examined to find a 2.83 (SEM, N=5). The mean number of seeds that
dilution-range where the presence of these compounds germinated in Group 4 dishes (25% tank water/ 75%
achieve an ideal balance, and in turn promote tap water) was 6.2 3.44 (SEM, N=5). The mean
germination to the greatest degree. This analysis seeks number of seeds that germinated in Group 5 dishes (0%
to shed light upon whether or not the germination rate tank water/ 100% tap water) was 4.6 5.92 (SEM,
of basil seeds increases with a higher concentration of N=5). The mean germination values of each group can
goldfish excrement in water when grown in a be seen in Figure 1. There was no significant difference
hydroponic environment. Observation of the levels of between the rates of germination between groups (one-
excrement-concentration that seem to ideally facilitate way ANOVA, p = 0.7024). More germination occurred
plant growth will foster a greater understanding how in the middle groups, however the difference was not
the water-purity levels in simple aquaponic systems great enough to reject the null hypothesis (Figure 1).
should be maintained for optimal functionality.
Group Group Group Group Group
Materials and Methods 1 2 3 4 5
Two hundred fifty basil seeds (Ocimum % tank
100 75 50 25 0
basilcum) as well as four goldfish (Carassius auratus water
auratus) were used in this experiment. Seeds of % tap
0 25 50 75 100
Change brand Basil seeds were purchased from water
Walmart and the gold fish were purchased from pH 7.5 7.5 7.5 7.5 7.0
PetSmart. The four fish were housed in a 9.08 L fish
tank with no water filter over the course of three days Nitrite
5.0 3.5 1.5 0.5 0.0
in a researchers house in order to accumulate (ppm)
ammonia and nitrites in the water. The water was then Phosphate
1.0 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.0
tested with a pond test kit. The water was tested for pH, (ppm)
nitrite, ammonia, and phosphate concentrations. Ammonia
8.0 4.0 4.0 3.5 3.5
The tested water was then split up into five (ppm)
different ratios of tank water and dechlorinated tap- Table 1. Concentration of tank water and tap water
water (Table 1). Group one contained 100% tank added to each experimental groups Petri dishes, as
water. Group two contained 75% tank water. Group well as each water-groups pH, and concentrations of
three contained 50% tank water. Group four contained nitrite (ppm), phosphate (ppm), and ammonia (ppm).
25% tank water. Group 5 contained 0% tank water.
Four mL from each of these water groups 15
were put into their corresponding Petri dishes, each
Average Number of
Seeds Germinated
Per Petri Dish

dish containing ten basil seeds, and filter paper to 10

prevent water loss. There were five Petri dishes used in 5
each of the five groups. The twenty-five Petri dishes 0
were placed under a twelve-volt halogen-bulb lamp, on 100% 75% 50% 25% 0%
top of a tin foil sheet, which was used to evenly spread -5
Percent Fish Water
out light. The basil seeds were left to germinate from
20 April to 24 April 2015. All measurements were
Figure 1. Average number of seeds germinated per
made between 20 April and 24 April 2015.
Petri dish vs. different percentages tank-water in each
Data gathered during the experiment was
Petri dish. There was no significant difference between
analyzed for variance between groups using a one-way
the rates of germination between groups (one-way
ANOVA test in order to compare average germination
ANOVA, p = 0.7024).
rates against the different values of pH, nitrite
concentration, and ammonia concentration.
As seen in the results of the statistical
Results: analysis, there is no significant difference in rates of
The mean number of seeds that germinated in
germination, given groups defined by a linear increase
Group 1 dishes (100% tank water/ 0% tap water) was
in concentrations of fish excrement. However, the
3.4 5.52 (SEM, N=5). The mean number of seeds
highest average rates of germination were seen in
that germinated in Group 2 dishes (75% tank water/
groups containing twenty-five and fifty percent tank
25% tap water) was 4.8 3.66 (SEM, N=5). The
water. These groups contained ranges of 0.5-1.5 ppm
nitrite, and 3.5-4.0 ppm ammonia. Esashi, Yohji, Yuuko Ohhara, Makiko Okazaki, and
In certain concentrations, nitrite has been Kohya Hishinuma. (1979) "Control of cocklebur seed
shown increase germination in seedlings by promoting germination by nitrogenous compounds: nitrite, nitrate,
anaerobic induction (Esashi et al., 1979). Furthermore, hydroxylamine, thiourea, azide and cyanide." Plant and
aqueous ammonia is known to be toxic to seedlings at Cell Physiology 20, no. 2: 349-361.
concentrations as low as 3.5 ppm (Bennett and Adams,
1970). The interplay between the inhibitory effects of Lennard, Wilson A., and Brian V. Leonard. (2005) "A
ammonia and the growth-promoting effects of nitrites comparison of reciprocating flow versus constant flow
suggest that the ideal water quality for aquaponic in an integrated, gravel bed, aquaponic test
systems would possess a balance between ammonia system."Aquaculture International 12, no. 6: 539-553.
and nitrite concentrations. Additionally, such a trend
would explain the pattern seen in the varying Rakocy, James E., Michael P. Masser, and Thomas M.
germination rates of this experiments water-purity Losordo. (2006) "Recirculating aquaculture tank
groups. production systems: aquaponicsintegrating fish and
The results of this study, which suggest that a plant culture." SRAC publication 454: 1-16.
balance between ammonia and nitrite is ideal for
facilitating plant-growth, are consistent with the results Rakocy, J. E., D. S. Bailey, R. C. Shultz, and J. J.
of other studies. An examination of the effects of Danaher (2010) "The status of aquaponics
various ratios of nitrogenous compounds on the growth 2010." World Aquaculture Society 2010.
of Strawberries, Fragaria ananassa, found optimal
growth to occur in conditions containing a percentage Saadatian, M., Gh Peyvast, J. A. Olfati, and P.
ratio of 25NH4:75NO3 (Tabatabaei et al., 2006). Ramezani-Kharazi. (2014) "Different species of basil
Additionally, research on the effects of ammonium and need different ammonium to nitrate ratio in
nitrate on growth in Basil plants actually found that hydroponics' system." Acta agriculturae Slovenica 103:
even among different varieties of Basil, there were 223-232.
differences in the optimal concentration-ratios of these
two compounds for growth-promotion (Saadatian et Tabatabaei, S. J., L. S. Fatemi, and E. Fallahi. (2006)
al., 2014). "Effect of ammonium: nitrate ratio on yield, calcium
From the results of this study and others, it concentration, and photosynthesis rate in
can be seen that optimal plant growth occurs when strawberry."Journal of plant nutrition 29, no. 7: 1273-
there is an achieved balance between concentrations of 1285.
ammonia and nitrite in the water or fertilizing material
being used. Since increases in the concentration of
excretory matter in fish-water yields an increase in
both nitrite and ammonia concentrations
simultaneously, future designs for aquaponic systems
might consider ways to filter or inhibit the production
of ammonia, while maintaining standard production of

Literature Cited
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Blidariu, Flavius, and Adrian Grozea. (2011)

"Increasing the Economical Efficiency and
Sustainability of Indoor Fish Farming by Means of
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and Biotechnologies 44, no. 2: 1-8.

Chan, George L. (1993) "Aquaculture, Ecological

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