Aquaponics is essentially the combination of Aquaculture and Hydroponics. Both aquaculture and hydroponics have some down sides, hydroponics requires expensive nutrients to feed the plants, and also requires periodic flushing of the systems which can lead to waste disposal issues. Re-circulating aquaculture needs to have excess nutrients removed from the system, normally this means that a percentage of the water is removed, generally on a daily basis.
This nutrient rich water then needs to be disposed of and replaced with clean fresh water. While re-circulating aquaculture and hydroponics are both very efficient methods of producing fish and vegetables, when we look at combining the two, these negative aspects are turned into positives. The positive aspects of both aquaculture and hydroponics are retained and the negative aspects no longer exist. Aquaponics can be as simple or as complex as you’d like to make it, the simple system pictured above is made from one IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container). The top was cut off and turned upside down to become a growbed for the plants. Water is pumped up from the fish tank into the growbed. The water trickles down through the media, past the roots of the plants before draining back into the fish tank.
What is Aquaponics and how it changes the game
- Waist-high aquaponics gardening eliminates weeds, back strain and animal access to your garden.
- Reuse resources currently considered “waste”. In aquaponics there is no more toxic run-off from either hydroponics or aquaculture.
- Aquaponics uses only 1/10th of the water of soil-based gardening, and even less water than hydroponics or recirculating aquaculture.
- Watering is integral to an aquaponics system. You can’t under-water or over-water.
- Fertilizing is also integral to an aquaponics system. You can’t over-fertilize or under-fertilize.
- Gardening chores are cut down dramatically or eliminated. The aquaponics grower only does the enjoyable tasks of feeding the fish and tending and harvesting the plants.
Instead of using dirt or toxic chemical solutions to grow plants, aquaponics uses highly nutritious fish effluent that contains all the required nutrients for optimum plant growth. Instead of discharging water, aquaponics uses the plants and the media in which they grow to clean and purify the water, after which it is returned to the fish tank. This water can be reused indefinitely and will only need to be replaced when it is lost through transpiration and evaporation. Two primary methods of aquaponics growing are most widely in use today.
- The raft based aquaponics growing system uses a foam raft that is floating in a channel filled with fish effluent water that has been through filtration to remove solid wastes. Plants are placed in holes in the raft and the roots dangle freely in the water. This method is most appropriate for commercial aquaponics.
- The second method is called media based aquaponics because plants are grown in inert planting media (gravel, expanded clay pellets, coir, etc.) and is most appropriate for home use as it requires no pre-filtration. The focus of The Aquaponic Source is on home, media-based aquaponics.