What is Aquaponics?
You might wonder why you should care about aquaponics. Aquaponics is an important green way to grow food sources. It uses very little water and can thrive in areas with little soil or water. And perhaps it can give us hope for our climate's bleak future. It’s a system that combines aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaculture is simply raising aquatic animals in tanks (i.e., fish). Hydroponics is growing plants in water. Aquaponics is combining the two in a symbiotic relationship. In other words, it's beneficial for both the plants and fish.
How It Works
Water from an aquaculture system, often a fish tank, is fed into a hydroponic system where the plants grow. The plants usually sit on top of the water in the fish tank and feed off of the fish’s waste. Fish poop is high in nitrogen, which plants use as nutrients. The plants use the nitrogen-rich water which cleans it for the fish. This way, the fish can have water they can live in, and the plants get the nutrients they need without soil. It’s a win-win situation. Sometimes a solids filter is used going from the aquaculture to the hydroponic system to remove particles the plants can’t absorb.
Is It Green?
Aquaponics requires only 2% of the water a traditional farm uses. A farm constantly needs more water to keep the soil and plants moist. Plants in an aquaponic system always have water because it is in a closed loop. The water is constantly recycled; nutrients are provided by the fish and plants clean it and send it back. The only time more water is needed is when it evaporates. Therefore, aquaponics allows for fish and crop cultivation in places where water and soil are scarce. This is promising for our future filled with water shortages and soil erosion.
The water from aquaponics can also be used in the soil of traditionally farm plants. The nutrients in aquaponic water are full of nitrogen which help plants grow. Aquaponics can also be used for biofiltration and the treatment of household sewage.
Making Your Own
Even though many websites say starting your own aquaponic system is easy, that’s not necessarily true. It can be a fairly large upfront cost, but if you can get it started, it can be very worth it. You’ll need a fish tank, filter, gravel, water pump, grow bed, a growing medium (like peat moss or gravel), pH test, and of course fish and plants. It can run you upwards of $73 not including the fish and plants. I don’t mean to discourage you from trying, but you should know what you’re getting into.
Kinds of Plants
The upside to growing an aquaponics garden is that you can grow a large variety of crops. Lots of types of plants grow well in these systems including herbs, vegetables, flowers, and aquatic plants. Also, all aquaponic plants are organic and pesticide free. You can’t use pesticides in aquaponics because it will harm the fish. Many people use pest-eating bugs like ladybugs instead. According to How to Aquaponic, the best fish for aquaponics include tilapia, trout, goldfish, and even shrimps or prawns. Tomatoes do especially well in a water-based system but watch out because they tend to attract more pests. Leafy lettuce also grows well in a watery environment and goes excellently with tilapia.Image Credit: Family Friendly Frugality