Understanding the Mechanism of Aquaponics

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Lawn & Garden

The Fundamentals of Aquaponics

It may sound peculiar, but plants can actually grow without soil.
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Aquaponics is an eco-friendly and cost-effective method of cultivating plants and fish. Unlike conventional farming, this system doesn’t use any harmful chemicals and consumes only a fraction of the water. Once the water has been filled in the system, only a small quantity is needed to replace the evaporated water. But how can a water-based system save water?

The answer lies in the natural biological cycle of water. The waste produced by the fish in the tanks is converted into nitrate by bacteria. This nitrate then serves as a nutrient source for the plants. The central principle of aquaponics is to make the most of waste.

Here’s a step-by-step process of how aquaponics works:

  • Fish in aquaponic tanks release waste and ammonia into the water. High levels of ammonia can be harmful to fish, so it must be eliminated to keep the fish healthy.
  • The ammonia-laden water is treated to cultivate beneficial bacteria such as Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter. Nitrosomonas converts ammonia into nitrite, and nitrobacter converts nitrite into nitrate. Both these nitrates act as plant fertilizers.
  • The nitrate-rich water is then supplied to the hydroponic plants (plants grown without soil). These plants are placed in beds that sit on tubs filled with water, and the water is enriched with the nitrate harvested from the fish waste. The bare roots of the plants hang through holes in the beds and soak in the nutrient-rich water.
  • The roots of the plants absorb nitrates, which act as nutrient-rich plant food. These nitrates, which originate from fish manure, algae, and decomposing fish feed, would otherwise accumulate to toxic levels in the fish tanks and kill the fish. Instead, they are used as fertilizer for the plants.
  • The roots of the hydroponic plants work as a biofilter and remove ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, and phosphorus from the water. The purified water is then circulated back into the fish tanks.

Since fish waste is used as fertilizer, there’s no need for chemical fertilizers. This saves money and energy that would otherwise be spent on chemicals. The only conventional farming method used in aquaponics is feeding the fish.

Now that you understand how aquaponics works, which fish and plants are best suited for this system? Let’s explore.


1. What is aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a sustainable farming technique that combines aquaculture and hydroponics. It is a system where fish and plants are grown together in a symbiotic relationship.

2. How does aquaponics work?

In an aquaponic system, fish are raised in a tank. The fish produce waste, which is converted into nutrients by bacteria. These nutrients are then used by plants to grow. The plants filter the water, which is then returned to the fish tank, completing the cycle.

3. What are the benefits of aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a sustainable and environmentally friendly way to grow food. It uses less water than traditional agriculture, produces more food per square foot, and eliminates the need for harmful pesticides and fertilizers.

4. What kind of fish can be raised in an aquaponic system?

Tilapia, trout, and catfish are the most common fish used in aquaponics. However, other fish such as koi, goldfish, and even shrimp can also be used.

5. What kind of plants can be grown in an aquaponic system?

Leafy greens such as lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, and cucumbers are commonly grown in aquaponic systems. However, almost any type of plant can be grown in an aquaponic system with the right setup.

6. Do I need a lot of space for an aquaponic system?

No, aquaponics can be done in small spaces. A small-scale system can be set up in a backyard or even in an apartment with a balcony.

7. How much maintenance does an aquaponic system require?

An aquaponic system requires regular monitoring of water quality and nutrient levels. Fish need to be fed regularly, and plants need to be harvested and replanted as needed.

8. Can I use tap water in my aquaponic system?

Yes, tap water can be used in an aquaponic system. However, it should be treated to remove chlorine and other chemicals that can harm fish and plants.

9. Is an aquaponic system expensive to set up?

The cost of setting up an aquaponic system varies depending on the size and complexity of the system. A small-scale system can be set up for a few hundred dollars, while larger commercial systems can cost thousands of dollars.

10. How much food can an aquaponic system produce?

An aquaponic system can produce up to ten times more food per square foot than traditional agriculture. The amount of food produced depends on the size of the system and the types of plants grown.

11. Can I make money with an aquaponic system?

Yes, aquaponics can be a profitable business. It can be used to grow and sell fresh produce, fish, and even ornamental plants.

12. Is aquaponics a viable solution for feeding the world?

Yes, aquaponics is a sustainable and environmentally friendly way to produce food. It can be used to provide fresh produce and fish to communities around the world, especially in areas where traditional agriculture is not possible.

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