Aquaponics: How Does it Work?

By September 2, 2013News

Aquaponics is the combination of Aquaculture and Hydroponics. Hydroponics requires expensive nutrients to feed the plants as well as periodic flushing of the systems which can lead to waste disposal issues. Re-circulating aquaculture needs to have excess nutrients removed from the system which can ordinarily means that a percentage of the water is removed on a daily basis. That nutrient rich water then needs to be disposed of and replaced with clean fresh water. Aquaponics allows you to produce fish and plants in the one system with a large reduction in water use.

aquaponics

Aquaculture and hydroponics are both very efficient methods of producing fish and vegetables that have individual downsides. But, when combining the two, those negative aspects are turned into positives. Greengro Technologies’ aquaponic systems can be designed to require no bending, no weeding, no fertilizers, and only uses about the same power it takes to run a couple of light globes.

Aquaponics offers improvements over traditional soil based farming which often requires extensive water, pesticides, fertilizer, tilling, weeding and eventually results in fallow soils and creates harmful byproducts from chemicals and wastewater. It overcomes the issues of hard clay, sand or contaminated soils as well. Additionally, vegetables, herbs and fruits that are mass produced in this way come from seeds and plants engineered for rough handling, disease resistance and long shelf life.

Aquaponic systems can be built both inside and outside depending on climate conditions. Indoor systems are typically built inside of a greenhouse, hoop house, or other controlled environment structures. This allows control over various pests, intensive or destructive weather conditions and permits food to be grown year round in areas which otherwise might not be able to produce any food crops. Smaller systems can also easily be built and operated in people’s homes, providing a convenient food source for your loved ones.

Locally produced food means significantly less energy used when compared to the processes of using heavy farm equipment dependent upon oil and gas as well as the physical labor necessary to till, plant, weed, harvest, process, package, transport, and store food. Research shows that the average meal travels over 1,500 miles to reach your plate. Why are we importing fish from the other side of the planet when we can raise them right here in our own backyard, providing food and jobs for the community? Further, this allows control over various pests, intensive or destructive weather conditions and permits food to be grown year round in areas which otherwise might not be able to produce any food crops.

How does it work?

Aquaponics recirculates water from a fish tank through a vegetable grow bed. Nutrients from the fish waste feed the plants, and the plants filter the water to keep the fish healthy. The two main components of the system are the fish tank and the grow beds with a small pump moving water between the two. The water passes through the roots of the plants before draining back into the fish tank. The plants extract the water and nutrients (fish waste) they need to grow, cleaning the water for the fish. There are a number of different styles of grow bed designs, the two most common being flood and drain and floating raft style.

Benefits:

  • The main benefit from a system like this is the ability  to grow fish and plants for consumption in the one system.
  • Aquaponic systems use about 1/10th of the water used to grow plants in the ground.
  • Relatively low energy consumption
  • Faster growth rates and yields
  • Eliminates the need for weeding and tilling of soil
  • No soil borne diseases
  • Plants are naturally fertilized
  • No pesticides or chemicals
  • The fish are a healthy source of protein
  • No waste water run off in recirculating systems
  • Systems can be established locally minimizing “food miles”

What types of plants can be grown in aquaponics?

Below is a list of some common varieties of plants:

  • Most varieties of lettuce
  • Most varieties of herbs
  • Watercress
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Melons
  • Strawberries

What fish can be grown in aquaponics?

Aquaponics systems, depending upon size, can raise and harvest anywhere from one to potentially tens of thousands of pounds annually. Common fish species that can be grown include but are not limited to:

  • Perch
  • Talapia
  • Catfish
  • Peruvian Pacu
  • Oscars
  • Koi
  • Goldfish and some varieties of aquarium fish
  • Freshwater prawns