Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture (the growing of fish and other aquatic animals) and hydroponics (the growing of plants without soil) in one recirculating environment. In aquaponics, the fish produce waste that the nitrifying bacteria convert into nutrients for the plants. Plant roots absorb these nutrients to thrive. In return, the plant roots clean and filter the water for the fish to live.
How Does Aquaponics Work?
In aquaponics, the plants are grown in the grow bed, and fish are placed in the fish tank. The nutrient-rich water from the fish tank that contains fish waste is fed to the grow bed, where billions of naturally occurring beneficial bacteria break the ammonia down into nitrites and then into nitrates.
Plants absorb these nitrates and other nutrients to help them grow. The plant's roots clean and filter the water before it flows back into the fish tank for the fish to live. The fresh, clean, and oxygenated water recirculates back to the fish tank, where the cycle will begin again.
Benefits of Aquaponics
Here are some benefits of an aquaponics system:
Aquaponics is a sustainable and intensive production system.
It offers two potential incomes from fish and plant production.
Aquaponics is water efficient.
It does not require soil or large space of land.
Do not use fertilizer, pesticides, and other chemicals because they might affect the fish in the system.
There is no soil involved in aquaponic systems, so it removes the debilitating task of weeding and digging.
Aquaponics allows you to grow food all year round by regulating the temperatures as per what you are growing and using greenhouses.
The produce harvested from aquaponic systems is organic and free from chemicals
Here are some disadvantages of aquaponics:
It might be expensive to set up and build.
Daily maintenance is required.
It needs knowledge of fish, bacteria, and plant production.
It requires a reliable electrical source.
In aquaponics system, the wastewater from the fish tank is used to irrigate crops such as cucumbers and tomatoes in the grow bed filled with sands. The sand served as the bio-filter of the water that passes through it. The water then returns to the fish tank filtered by the sands.
What Type of Plants Can You Grow in Aquaponics?
Almost all plants can be grown in aquaponics. However, plants also have different nutrient, space, and light requirements. So, to choose the best plants and achieve the optimum result from your aquaponic system, keep in mind the factors mentioned above.
Depending on your aquaponics setup. The plants that grow best in aquaponics systems include vegetables, leafy greens, small root vegetables, microgreens, fruiting plants, herbs, and flowers.
Here is the list of plants that grow best on a specific aquaponics method.
Media Based Aquaponics System: lettuce, tomato, ginger, eggplant, cucumber, and any plants that will fit your grow bed.
Raft System: lettuce, basil, kale, cabbage, bok choy, mint, watercress, and other small rooting plants
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT): lettuce, strawberry, spinach, parsley, dill, and other small rooting plants.
What Fish Species are Best for Aquaponics?
Fish play an essential role because their waste becomes the natural fertilizer for the plants. To achieve a maximum growth output from your fish, select a hardy fish best suited to your location, climate, and needs.
The most common fish raised in aquaponics systems are:
Edible fish: tilapia, carp, catfish, trout, largemouth bass, salmon, yellow perch, bluegill, jade perch, barramundi
Ornamental fish: goldfish, koi, tetras, guppies
Other aquatic animals such as shrimps
Factors that Determine a Successful Aquaponics System
The first and most important factor in having a successful aquaponics garden is ensuring that the fish are kept healthy. All fish need oxygen to survive and thrive, and therefore a good aeration system is essential.
The temperature of the water is also quite critical for fish to survive. Any abnormal rise or drop in temperature can cause problems for the fish. You should check to see which temperature is best for the type of fish you have.
The PH of the water must be between 7 and 7.5, which is neither acidic nor alkaline. If the PH rises or falls, it is essential that the cause is quickly remedied. This may be that the fish is overfed and that the uneaten fish feed disintegrates and collects at the bottom of the aquarium.
By regularly testing the water quality, you ensure any problems that arise be resolved long before they have had the chance to cause actual damage.