Aquaponics is a method of growing fish and plants in an agricultural environment. It is a cost-effective, waste-free way to grow food for consumption or profit. In fact, aquaponics has been shown to be one of the most productive types of agriculture there is. Numerous benefits to aquaponics exist, including saving money, reducing the carbon footprint, improving the health of the fish in the system, and providing an excellent nutrient source for the plants. It is a truly green agricultural method – one that produces no waste. Aquaponics is growing in popularity and can be used on a personal or commercial scale. Getting started with aquaponics is fairly simple, but some background information on what it is and how it works is essential to developing a successful system.

What is Aquaponics?

The term aquaponics is derived from a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaculture is the raising of fish and exists in some form all around the world. Hydroponics involves growing plants in water only without soil and has grown in popularity in recent years. When combined, these two agricultural methods work in perfect harmony to produce both fish and plants. The combination solves many of the problems associated with both aquaculture and hydroponics. It provides waste removal and improves tank cleanliness for the growing fish, and it eliminates the need for soil or fertilizer to provide nutrients for the plants. This symbiotic system produces healthy fish and plants, and will work with edible or ornamental varieties of both. Almost any fish or plant can be incorporated in an aquaponics setup. It just depends on what you want to grow.

How Does Aquaponics Work?

An aquaponics system is based on maintaining a natural, biological cycle. In aquaculture, the fish produce waste material that contains ammonia. Accumulated ammonia could make the water toxic to the fish over time, so some method is required to remove the waste material. In traditional systems, this is accomplished using expensive filters and tedious cleaning methods. In an aquaponics system, bacteria in a bio-filter convert the waste ammonia into nitrates. These nitrates are then removed from the water by the hydroponic plants, which can use the nitrates as nourishment. This filtering process naturally keeps the water purified and safe for the fish, while allowing the plants to grow healthy and strong without the need for soil or added fertilizers. An efficient system can be established using many different types of fish and plants. Once the system is fully established, very little monitoring is necessary other than feeding the aquaponics fish.

The Aquaponic System

Depending on its purpose, a system can range from smaller indoor setups to backyard aquaponics gardening systems to large commercial operations. This scalability is one of the most attractive features of aquaponics. Regardless of the size, the system requires a few key components. A rearing tank for the fish, a bio-filter where bacteria can convert fish waste into plant food, and a hydroponics system where the plants are grown are required. Additionally, larger systems may incorporate pumps to move water between the rearing tank and hydroponic subsystem. The aquaponics fish used in the system can range from edible varieties like tilapia or catfish to ornamental species like koi. The system can also support various aquaponics plants ranging from easy to grown leafy greens to more nutrient-dependent varieties like tomatoes and peppers.

Backyard aquaponics is an excellent choice for growing vegetables and fish for food. They can be scaled to feed a family of any size or established to produce more food for sale or trade. One benefit of backyard aquaponics gardening is that it is cost-effective and does not require a large time investment. Many backyard gardeners are all too familiar with the cost of soil and fertilizers, but these costs are eliminated with an aquaponic garden. By using only organic fish food, the system can be kept organic providing the benefit of no added chemicals in your family’s food. In addition to having fresh vegetables and leafy greens, edible fish can be used in the system. Any surplus in fish or vegetables can generally be sold at a local farmers market, offsetting the cost of the system.

Commercial aquaponics is also growing in popularity because of the same benefits backyard gardeners have found. These large scale systems can produce a large amount of food per square foot. Indoor varieties can grow year round, allowing aquaponic farms to produce a large amount of merchandise with minimal cost and effort. In commercial applications, the fish are also a major profit source. Edible varieties, as well as ornamental species, can be sold for profit, and proper breeding techniques can provide a recurring revenue cycle. Additionally, commercial setups allow for a larger number of fish in the system, which allows these farmers to grow plants that require a more nutrient dense environment. Even commercial systems are scalable, and as long as space is available can be expanded as the business grows. A multi-tank system can support multiple varieties of fish and plants, providing more opportunities for profit.

Whether you are interested in a home or commercial installation, an aquaponics system provides an opportunity to have a highly productive, waste-free agricultural setup. Aquaponics offers numerous benefits. It is easily scalable for indoor, backyard, or business use. The system supports the healthy growth of a variety of fish species, keeping their living and breeding space clean and safe. It also supports numerous plants and can be used to grow vegetables, fruits, flowers, and more. The natural relationship between the fish and the plants ensures that waste is used effectively and both the fish and the plants have the right environment to thrive in. Feeding the fish is almost the only effort or expense that occurs once the system has been established, and by using organic fish food, the entire system can be kept organic. Whether you’re looking to grow for your home or for profit, aquaponics is an ideal solution.