"Integrated vegetable growing and fish farming polyculture systems have long been used in Far Eastern countries such as China and Thailand. Farm wastes are commonly added as feed to fish ponds and fish are often cultured in flooded rice paddies." 
At the New Alchemy Institute (1971 - 1991) researchers experimented with bioshelters and wastewater management via . This pursuit, of what was to become the permaculture movement, inspired like-minded researchers to advance the concept of fish effluent as fertilizer for crop production.
In 1974 "The Journal of New Alchemists No.2" was published by the New Alchemy Institute and contained an article by William McLarney "Irrigation of Garden Vegetables with Fertile Fish Pond Water". This article was followed with "Further Experiments in the Irrigation of Garden Vegetables with Fertile Fish Pond Water" by William McLarney in 1976 in "The Journal of the New Alchemists No.3". Still neither of these were symbiotic relationships in a circulatory environment.
Formal interest in the combining of aquaculture and hydroponics seems to have started in the mid-1970s. In 1975 K. Sneed, K. Allen and JE Ellis wrote one of the first articles about integrating fish farming and hydroponics. It would take another decade however before a greater amount of research in the integration of the two areas would start to crystallize into the true beginnings of aquaponics.
In the late 1970s Ronald D. Zweig and several other researchers published articles with the New Alchemy Institute about Fish Culture Systems and Solar-Algae Ponds. The progression of this study saw the integration of plants into the system. Ronald Zweig published "An Integrated Fish Culture Hydroponic Vegetable Production System" in the Aquaculture Magazine May/June 1986 pp34-40. It has been called "the most advanced form of aquaculture developed at New Alchemy - the Zweig hydroponic aquaculture pond - which grows both and floating hydroponic lettuce".
In 1985, North Carolina State University (then) graduate student, Mark R. McMurtry, and professors Douglas C. Sanders, Paul V. Nelson, et al. created the first known recirculating (closed-loop), reciprocating (flood and drain) "aquaponic" system (called an Integrated Aqua-Vegeculture System) that filtered Tilapia effluent into sand biofilters (bacteria and alga) planted with Tomato and/or other vegetable crops. From the mid-1980s and throughout the 1990s both McMurtry and Sanders published a number of articles on their research and worked to develop the recirculatory techniques for the arid Third World, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.