What is Aquaponics?
The word aquaponics is derived from the combination of the words aquaculture and hydroponics. It is the combination of these two methods that produced a system wherein a symbiotic relationship is used to its full potential.
Let us first try to understand the two methods used in aquaponics. Aquaculture basically is fish farming; it focuses on maximizing the growth of fish in tanks or ponds. Through aquaculture sufficient supply of certain species of fish are kept. In doing so, the water becomes polluted with fish effluents and these effluents in turn produce ammonia. The water becomes toxic for the fish, so water has to be discharged and replaced at a rate of 10 to 20 percent of the total volume of tank water per day every day. The waste water is discharged to streams where it can be harmful to the environment because it pollutes the waterways.
Hydroponics is the method of culturing or growing plants without the soil. A solution of water and nutrients are fed to the plant’s roots. To attain optimum growth of the plants an ideal ratio of water and nutrients must be provided to the plants. Because hydroponics is soilless a regular flow of the solution is required for the roots to absorb the right amount of nutrients. Since the nutrients being fed to the plants are man-made the toxicity of the water will increase and these could harm the plants.
In combining aquaculture and hydroponics and by introducing beneficial bacteria to the system, a sustainable and closed system is achieved. Here is how it goes, the water in the fish tank becomes polluted with fish effluents, these effluents gives off ammonia, the bacteria converts the ammonia into nitrates (nitrates are still harmful to the fish), the water is pumped and fed into the grow beds of plants grown using hydroponics. The roots of the plants absorb the nitrates (helpful to plants to achieve maximum growth) the water is recirculated to the tank minus the nitrates, and the cycle repeats itself. The negative effects of the two methods mentioned earlier cancels each other in aquaponics system.
Advantages of Aquaponics
- Water conservation, because aquaponics reuse and recirculate water.
- Plants are organically grown; no man-made fertilizers are used for the plants.
- Environment friendly, because no polluted water is discharged to the waterways.
- It doesn’t need a large cropland, because two products can be harvested in the same area.