What is aquaponics? Here’s a simple breakdown:
AQUACULTURE + HYDROPONICS = AQUAPONICS
First and foremost, let’s handle any terms you’re not familiar with:
Aquaculture: Fish farming.
Hydroponics: Growing plants in water.
That leaves us with aquaponics. So how does this system work?
Well, basically, fish are raised in large tanks, as they are in aquaculture systems. These fish produce waste in the form of ammonia, which must be removed from the water or else it becomes toxic. In aquaculture environments, this waste is removed via a filtration system and water is recirculated. But in aquaponics systems there is a natural water filtration system in place.
That natural filtration system is in fact just plants. When ammonia is released into the water by the fish, naturally-occurring bacteria convert it into nitrites and then into nitrates in a process known as the nitrogen cycle. Plants then absorb these nutrients, effectively filtering the water and making it once again suitable for the fish.
Although this idea has been around for thousands of years, modern research has helped to show that it’s a super-efficient and environmentally sustainable way of growing both plants and fish. Aquaponics systems can be small or large – enough to feed a community or a family – and they can be built from materials found practically anywhere. All that is required is a large tank, plant “beds” or containers that contain gravel or clay where the plants can lay their roots.
Water is cycled through the system. As it collects waste in the form of ammonia from the fish, the plants continue to soak it up.
Aquaponics is a better alternative to traditional farming, because it doesn’t require chemical fertilizers or pesticides, which would be harmful to the fish. It also requires very little additional water, as only a small amount of water loss occurs due to evaporation. All kinds of plants can be grown in aquaponics systems, including leafy vegetables, herbs, and gourds. The fish are an added benefit, as they can also be harvested once they have reached maturity.
Now that we are facing a global food crisis, aquaponics is more important than ever.