What is aquaponics? This is a valid question. Many people are not turning attention to this method of fish and vegetable farming. Gardening enthusiasts new to this system may find the word complex and confusing. There is no need to be. In this post, we define this gardening system in the best way possible. First, take note that the term comes from two words: Aquaculture and hydroponics.
Aquaculture is the practice of raising fish and other aquatic animals. Hydroponics is the soil-less growing of plants. Aquaponics, therefore, involves raising fish and growing plants without the need for soil. Aquaponics thus is a system which allows you to farm fish and plants together. They grow in a mutually beneficial cycle. The system borrows from aquaculture and hydroponics. But, it has some special features that make it stand out. Aquaponics eliminates many of the problems associated with soil-based gardening.
How Does Aquaponics Work?
Normal fish excrete waste which bacteria in water convert to ammonia and nitrates. The buildup of these chemicals makes the water toxic for fish. Plants, on the other hand, need ammonia and nitrates to grow. In an aquaponics system, plants extend roots into the fish water to suck up the chemicals. This purifies the water making it safe for the growth of fish. The symbiotic relationship between the fish and plants makes the system highly efficient. This is true in light of water use.
Once set up, an aquaponics system will not need the kind of maintenance aquaculture needs. Plants in hydroponics need fertilizer. You will not need any fertilizer when growing plants in an aquaponics system. The only maintenance you will do is replacing water that might be lost due to evaporation. This is because the very water is recycled. You will also need to maintain a neutral pH (from 6.8 to 7.2). The three organisms (fish, plants, and bacteria) may have special pH needs. Most fish varieties cannot survive in alkaline or acidic water.
Which Fish and Aquatic Animals Can You Grow In Aquaponics?
Remember that fish is what feeds your plants. Since your most vegetables bloom in freshwater, you will need freshwater fish. The commonly used fish species is tilapia. Barramundi too is good. These freshwater fish are favored because they can tolerate diverse water conditions. They also have a reputation of growing rapidly.
Touts are better choices in geographical areas experiencing low temperatures. Your choices are not limited to tilapia, barramundis, and touts. Other aquatic animals such as shrimps and snails can also do well in aquaponics. When it comes to fish food, you can go for special meals in animal stores. You can also feed them on water lettuce and duckweed.
Which Plants Are Suitable For Aquaponics?
Consider growth requirements when choosing the right plants for your aquaponics. Avoid the temptation to grow vegetables that require acidic or alkaline environments. In a small aquaponics system, the ideal plants to grow are those that need light nutrient input. Examples include kales, lettuce, spinach, and arugula. Others are watercress, spring onions, herbs, mint and decorative flowers.
More advanced and well-stocked aquaponics could do with tomatoes and cabbages. Cucumber, cauliflower, and broccoli also do well in large-scale aquaponics. These plants have heavy nutrient requirements. Therefore, smaller aquaponics cannot sustain them.
The discussion above is a preview of the answer to the question – what is aquaponics. Many cultures in China and Japan now use aquaponics for large-scale production of food plants. In the US many owners of home gardens now turn their attention to aquaponics. This agricultural system is environmentally friendly, water efficient and highly sustainable. You could do well by trying it out.