Aquaponics makes it possible to grow your own fresh vegetables and fish. The combination of fish and plants creates a smart, sustainable cycle. The plants are fed by the poop of the fish while the plants purify the water for the fish. A win-win situation it seems.
What exactly is Aquaponics?
Aquaponics is a combination of two words: aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaculture means ‘to grow organisms in water’. Hydroponics is growing plants without using soil or earth. Aquaponics is used in agriculture by the combination of both aquaculture and hydroponics in order to grow fish and feed plants at the same time in water basins.
How does Aquaponics work?
The poop of fish serves as manure for the plants in the water basin. It contains several minerals such as nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and ammonia. These minerals convert into nitrate that the plant will take up. The manure gets distributed through a pump that goes from one basin to the other. Apart from the manure from the fish, sometimes plants receive extra nutrition supplements like iron, calcium of magnesium. This process also serves for purifying the water.
The fish in the water cause contamination, mainly through poop. However, that contamination is collected around the roots of the plants. The roots automatically convert the bacteria that causes the contamination and the waste products in the water into nitrates. As said, nitrates are one of the minerals that feed plants. Therefore, the plants create a perfect self-purifying circle.
Benefits of Aquaponics
Aquaponics represents a sustainable and vicious cycle. It has a lot of benefits for farming. These are, among others;
- 100% reuse of manure and raw materials.
- 100% organic farming.
- Control of the temperature; basins are usually inside and can be easily controlled with a temperature controller.
- Control of water; the basins are usually located inside and therefore will not be affected by (heavily) rainfall like in normal agriculture.
- Water consumption is controlled; the basin has always a solid amount of water that it needs. Whereas in normal agriculture a lot of water is used for irritation, depending on weather conditions.
- No disturbance or holdbacks caused by weeds; everything grows without soil.
- It’s a flexible system with different kind of sizes to grow plants and fish; has great adaption and can be set-up in almost any space.
- It’s a fast system; plants grow fast because of the constant nutrition they receive.
- Aquaponics requires less physical work and creates more profit than normal agriculture since it’s relatively cheap to have.
- It can be used not only by companies but also by individuals. The system can be placed in any kind of space and therefore creates a self-sufficient living.
Aquaponics for individuals
Aquaponics makes it possible to be self-sufficient, even if you are just living in an apartment with a balcony. However, the only thing you need to do is buy a basin with a couple of fishes and a (small) container or a second basin with plants. Between the basin and the plants, you need to place a pump so that both benefit of each other’s nutrition. This principle is pretty simple and although this kind of agriculture is more intensively used over the past few years, the base of has been around for centuries. For instance, Japanese people are using Koi Carp already for many years in their rice fields.
You can’t just place any fish in a pool for aquaponics. Tropical fishes, for instance, won’t work for aquaponics because the temperature of the water needs to stay below 30 degrees Celsius. Also, the exact temperature of the basin depends on the type of fish. Here are some examples of fish that can be used for Aquaponics;
- Tilapia (11-17 °C basin)
- Catfish (20-24 °C basin)
- Goldfish (16-22 °C basin)
- Trout (1-22 °C basin)
- Barramundi (26-30 °C basin)
If you’d like to use the fish not only for aquaponics but also for food, try tilapia, or even shrimp or crayfish.
Where to create an Aquaponic space?
Whether you live on a farm or in the city, you will only need a small area for an Aquaponic space. Aquaponic doesn’t depend on sunlight or rainfall and therefore can be put on a balcony or in any room inside the house.
With Aquaponics, almost any vegetable can grow but there are some that grow better than others. Green leafy vegetables such as lettuce and kale grow very well in Aquaponics. Also, peppers, tomatoes and sweet potatoes are known to grow very fast. Among the fruits, strawberries grow the best in an Aquaponic space. Among the herbs, basil is the most suitable. Whenever you start growing vegetables, fruits or herbs you need to make sure there multiple mature plants inside the container so that the water can be purified any time.
DIY Aquaponics space
If you are planning on building an Aquaponic space inside your house, you can easily build it yourself. The only things you need are a ready-to-use storage rack and waste material made out of PVC. If you are planning on building a bigger space in for example the garden, you could take a look at buying an IBC (industrial packaging for liquids). This is a one-cubic-meter, watertight block that’s useful for growing much fish. You could build another block on top or next to the container with plants. Add a pump to create a passage for nutrition. You’ll be almost ready to use your aquaponic space. Make sure everything is tightened correctly and create the perfect water temperature according to the fish you’re going to use. Luckily, there are many short videos to be found on the internet. These guide you step by step how to create your own aquaponics space.
Apart from short videos, there are many articles and books about Aquaponics. One of those is ‘Aquaponic Gardening: A Step-By-Step Guide to raising vegetables and fish together’ by Sylvia Bernstein.
Aquaponics is the future from back in the days
Aquaponics is a very organic and environmentally friendly way to grow vegetables and fish. Despite the fact that Aquaponics has only been used for a couple of years now, it has an old characteristic. Thanks to Aquaponics, one can be self-sufficient, just like people were before the industrial revolution. This creates less mass-consumption, another factor why Aquaponics is so sustainable.