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Categories : Aquaponics 101
Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (soilless plant culture). In aquaponics, the nutrient-rich water that results from raising fish provides a source of natural fertilizer for the growing plants. As the plants consume the nutrients, they help to purify the water that the fish live in. A natural microbial process keeps both the fish and plants healthy. This creates a sustainable ecosystem where both plants and fish can thrive. Aquaponics is the ideal answer to a fish farmers problem of disposing of nutrient rich water and a hydroponic growers need for nutrient rich water.
Hydroponics is growing plants in a solution of water and nutrients, without soil. The solution is created by adding the elements a plants needs to water, which is fed directly to the plant’s roots. In some hydroponic systems the roots are in a growing medium which keeps them moist, aerated and helps to support the plant. Hydroponics provides the plant with the ideal water and nutrient ratios and optimum conditions for growth.
In aquaculture, the water quickly becomes nutrient rich due to the fish digesting their food and excreting waste. The waste water is usually filtered and/or disposed of to keep the tank water free of toxic buildups.
In aquaponics, the fish waste provides a food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the fish. This creates a mini ecosystem where both plants and fish can thrive. Aquaponics is the ideal answer to a fish farmers problem of disposing of nutrient rich water and a hydroponic growers need for nutrient rich water.
Commercially, aquaponics is a small but growing industry as entrepreneurs realize that aquaponics and controlled environment agriculture can provide high quality, locally-grown fresh food on a year round basis.
Although the practices of fish farming and soil less plant culture have been traced to ancient times, the combination of the two is quite new. Research in aquaponics began in the 1970’s and continues today. Several universities worldwide are dedicating resources to further the technology.
On a hobby scale, aquaponics is catching on quickly. A home aquarium, with ornamental or food fish, can be combined with a mini garden, growing herbs, vegetables or flowers. A hobby system can serve as a beautiful show piece or a food production system, depending on the size. Many backyard gardeners are setting up systems to grow hundreds of pounds of fish and all the fresh vegetables a family needs.