Aquaponics is the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture. Hydroponics is the cultivation of plants on water while Aquaculture is the raising aquatic animals such as fish in tanks. Both aquaculture and hydroponics have some disadvantages. Removal of excess nutrients in aquaculture is done on a daily basis hence leading to wastage of water. On the other hand, hydroponics requires costly nutrients to feed the plants. Therefore, Aquaponics solve these problems by converting fish waste into plant nutrients.
Types of Aquaponics systems
This is the simplest form of Aquaponics, which consists of garden beds filled with porous rocks such as clay pellets. The vegetables are planted on these garden beds. Water from the fish tank is pumped into the beds via gravity. In this case, the plants will access nutrients from this water. The rocks hold water for a longer time to allow nutrient uptake into the plants. Also, these rocks filter out solid material and biological organisms. This prevents contamination of the water that returns to the fish tank. The clean water is drained to the container below the bed and then pumped back into the fish tank.
Nutrient Film Technique
In this system, series of pipes are placed adjacent to the fish tank. In this case, the plants are placed into the holes in these pipes. The water in the pipes moves very slowly allowing the plants to access the nutrients. The water is pumped back into the fish tank after reaching the end of the pipes. However, an extra filtration system is needed to remove biological waste and solid from the water before it is returned to the fish tank.
This system is very efficient, but it does not support heavy plants such as cucumbers and tomatoes. Therefore, it is ideal for cultivating leafy vegetables that are lightweight and have small root systems.
Deep water culture
In this system, the plants sit on the rafts with their roots protruding into the nutrient-rich water in the fish tank. This is system is relatively cheaper and easier to build. For instance, you can make the holes at the base of Styrofoam container and plants your crops through them. In this case, the container will float on the surface of the fish tank. However, the fish for this system should not be plant eaters; otherwise, they will destroy the roots of your plants. Deep water culture system is ideal for growing leafy vegetables, herbs and other plants with bigger root systems.
Benefits of Aquaponics
• Cheap to operate.
• No need for soil or fertilizers
• No need for pesticides and other harmful chemicals
• The Aquaponics Plants grow faster as compared to traditional farming systems
• Healthier fish and vegetables
• Crops are planted all-year-round
• Most processes are automated
Aquaponics farming has gained popularity in most parts of the world. Most of the traditional farming systems introduce harmful chemicals into our food supplies. In this case, Aquaponics is a great way to achieve a sustainable food production. The crops grown using Aquaponics system are not only safe, but they also mature faster with higher yields. Besides, Aquaponics systems are inexpensive to build and will save you a lot of money in the long run.