Aquaponics refers to any system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.
In an Aquaponics system, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down by nitrifying bacteria initially into nitrites and subsequently into nitrates, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients, and the water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system.
After the initial set-up costs, an Aquaponics system requires very little in terms of financial input. So growers can reap huge rewards.
How does it work?
Fish naturally produce the nutrients that plant need to thrive. In an Aquaponics system, fish are kept in tanks and their waste is collected at the bottom. This waste is then pumped through a filter to make it into ready food for plants.
The plants are set up in grow beds, which allow the roots of the plants to dangle in water absorbing goodness from the fish waste, while the leafy heads absorb the goodness from sunlight above.
Parts of an Aquaponics system:
Aquaponics consists of two main parts, with the aquaculture part for raising aquatic animals and the hydroponics part for growing plants.
Biofilter: a place where the nitrification bacteria can grow and convert ammonia into nitrates, which are usable by the plants;
Hydroponics subsystem: the portion of the system where plants are grown by absorbing excess nutrients from the water;
Settling basin: a unit for catching uneaten food and detached biofilms, and for settling out fine particulates;
Sump: the lowest point in the system where the water flows to and from which it is pumped back to the rearing tanks.
Rearing tank: the tanks for raising and feeding the fish;
Aquaponics gardening eliminates weeds.
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.