What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture. Hydroponics is the cultivation of plants on the water while Aquaculture is the raising aquatic animals such as fish in tanks. Both aquaculture and hydroponics have some disadvantages. Aquaculture systems replace water frequently. 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 

Media Beds 

This is the simplest form of aquaponics, which consists of garden beds filled with porous rocks such as clay pellets. You then plant the vegetables on these garden beds. The system pumps water from the fish tank 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
  • You can plant crops all-year-round
  • The processes are automated

DIY Aquaponics

You may want to consider building your own aquaponic system. There’s extensive instructions online (see video below) to guide you along the way when building a DIY aquaponic system. If you don’t have much space or need to grow plants indoors and don’t have the motivation or skills to build your own aquaponic system, then you may want to consider one of the affordable indoor hydroponic systems (including aquaponics) available on the market.

Conclusion

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.

Aquaponics Resources

Is a Hydroponic System Organic?

Aquaponics

Are hydroponic systems organic? This question has generated a great debate in many countries. This debate has arisen from the disputed ideas on the meaning of “organic”. In many parts of the world, the system is certified as organic if soil is used as a growing medium. However, certain types of hydroponic systems have been certified as organic.

Are there organic hydroponic systems?

As the debate goes on, some growers have decided to produce organic crops in their hydroponic systems. However, this can be daunting because any form of chemicals should be eliminated in organic crops. In this case, the growers have to replace the fertilizer-based nutrients with organic nutrients. Most people who have tried organic hydroponic gardening have faced serious problems that are not present in traditional hydroponic systems. Fortunately, some gardeners have used hydroponic systems to grow organic plants.

Aquaponics system is the most effective system for growing organic hydroponic crops. This is the easiest approach, but growers should pay attention of the plant-to-fish ration and the rate of mineralization. It is advisable to start with low-nutrient-demanding plants such as fresh herbs, salad greens, and lettuce. As the rate of mineralization increase, you can move to fruiting plants.

Also, the growers can use a natural growing substrate to produce organic plants. This substrate supports a large number of microbes needed to mineralize organic fertilizer. Also, other organic growing mediums are available at reputable hydroponic stores. You should inoculate the organic substrate before use to allow the growth of beneficial microbes. In this system, growers use drip irrigation to avoid over-saturation of the root system of the plants.

EC and pH levels

EC and pH are different in organic hydroponic systems. Most organic nutrients do not conduct electricity; hence EC readings may not show the actual concentration in an organic solution. Moreover, the pH levels in the organic system are much higher than in standard hydroponics. Conventional hydroponics systems use pH-lowering acids that are not suitable because they are not organic. Therefore, these systems leave pH to stabilize on its own.

Organic nutrients

For most growers, it is a daunting task to get a balanced organic nutrient source for the organic hydroponics systems. There is a wide range of organic nutrients concentrates on hydroponics stores. Also, it is possible to make organic nutrient solution entirely from waste materials instead of buying bottled products.

Organic nutrients are not as concentrated as salt-based fertilizers and this is a problem. This can lead to weak and diseased plants. In this case, nutrient additives such as fulvic and humic acid facilitate the proper growth of organic plants.

Pest and disease control

Synthetic pesticides and fungicides are not allowed in organic hydroponic systems. Therefore, strict measures should be undertaken to prevent the entry of pest into the grow room. Moreover, natural pesticides such as neem oil should be used in organic hydroponic systems.

Conclusion

Running an organic hydroponic system is possible only if some conditions are observed. However, there is big debate whether organic hydroponics crops are genuine.

References