Aquaponics is a versatile growing method of symbiotically cultivating fish and plants in recirculating ecosystems that utilize natural bacterial cycles to convert fish waste to plant nutrients. It stems from combining aquaculture (raising or farming fish in tanks and other artificial environments), and hydroponics (soilless plant culture) into one integrated system.
As a subset of hydroponics and aquaculture, aquaponics turns these growing methods into a synergistic production technology that produces fish and plants in a sustainable manner. This technology has been considered a completely natural process that mimics lakes, ponds, rivers, and waterways, often being equated to wetland ecology.
Aquaponic systems can be developed indoors or outdoors. Fish are raised in tanks, and plants are rooted in various substrates or bathed in nutrient rich, highly oxygenated water. The main input to an aquaponic system is fish food; fish eat the food and excrete waste. Waste is then broken down by natural bacterial cycles and converted to nutrients, which plants can utilize for growth. Plants in turn clean and filter, purifying the water for the fish, producing an ecologically friendly loop where fish and plants benefit each other, as illustrated below.
Aquaponics is an efficient method of growing fish and plants using a minimum of water and space by utilizing fish wastes. This process can significantly reduce the ecological footprint compared to more traditional growing systems. Growth rates of aquaponically grown plants are far above soil-grown plants. It is considered a scalable, ecological innovation sustainable method of raising both fish and plants in a resilient farming system with the capacity to provide wellness and nutrition and support informed choices to grow healthier, sustainable foods and create environmentally minded green technologies.
Many species of fish and plants can be grown with aquaponics. These systems can be used to grow species typically harvested for consumption. They can also support ornamental species of plants and fish or a combination of both. Aquaponics can be used for special projects or community initiatives. For example, aquaponics has been used to propagate native plants for habitat restoration and greening activities, or food security programs at schools or in local communities. Aquaponic systems are engineered environments that enable the control and maintenance of optimum growing conditions for both fish and plants. It is popular with many people within our communities including residential homeowners, entrepreneurs and commercial businesses, educators, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. Furthermore, with this type of farming, you grow substantially more fish and plant biomass with less water, land and labor than traditional soil-based agriculture.