Aquaponics is a sustainable system for growing food that involves a symbiotic relationship between fish and plants grown in water. The system allows plants to grow up to 33% faster than using conventional soil-based agricultural methods. It also allows growing food year round, in your own home, giving you the freshest produce imaginable.
Follow the ribbon to our Academy, where we will go in more depth about the aquaponic process.
So how does it all work? It’s really quite simple – it works in the same way as a natural pond. In a pond, plants and animals have to both cooperate and try to live off each other in order to survive.
In an aquaponic system, the fish is given food, which they then turn into a natural fertilizer. The plants soak up this fertilizer through their roots, which are immersed directly in the water, in turn filtering the water from many of the fish waste byproducts that would otherwise have to be manually cleaned.
Aquaponic systems are fully scalable and can fit almost anywhere, from an office desktop to a warehouse-sized facility, all depending on the purposes for which they are being used.
Some of the top aquaponics crops are: Lettuce, Spinach, Herbs, Watercress, Arugula, Peppers, Tomatoes, Peas, and Strawberries.
Leafy plants, like lettuce or spinach, tend to do well in all aquaponic environments. Other plants, like tomatoes and peppers, require more nutrients to grow and are more suitable for larger systems that are more heavily stocked with fish.
If you’re in the process of setting up your first aquaponic system, choosing a leafy vegetable will make it considerably easier to get good results from the very start.
Some of the more frequently used fish are: Tilapia, Yellow Perch, Channel Catfish, Goldfish, and Koi.
The ideal fish for aquaponics are ones that are not picky—they will eat pretty much anything, don’t mind being in captivity (i.e being densely packed in a small space), will grow up quickly and reproduce frequently.
If you are combining fish varieties in the same system, choose species that have similar preferences in terms of water pH and temperature.You will also want to consider whether you want to use an edible species (tilapia) or inedible (koi).
Some simple aquaponic system feature the plants floating on the surface of the water in a raft, with the fish swimming directly below.
In more elaborate system, the circulation of water between the fish and plant components of the system is done through a pump.
These systems come in two varieties, depending on the pump’s action:
Flood and Drain systems feature a pump that works on a schedule, flooding the plants with the nutrient-dense water and then allowing it to drain back into the fish tanks.
NFT systems have the pumps working continuously, keeping the water in circulation between the two containers at all times.
All fertilization in the aquaponic system happens organically, through the material produced by the fish. The only input to the system, other than replenishing water when necessary, is the fish food. When fish are kept in a dense environment, their waste can quickly become toxic to them, but it just so happens that these same organic compounds are exactly what plants use to grow.