How does an aquaponics system work?
Aquaponics is becoming very popular by DIY home owners. This will interest home owners who are looking for a sustainable way to produce their own food at home. Lets take a look at what an aquaponics system is. Plus how you could benefit from one too. If you love fish and you love to grow your own produce, you’ll love aquaponics!
What is an aquaponics system in 20 seconds…
An aquaponics system is a symbiotic environment that combines conventional aquaculture with hydroponics. Aquaponics is essentially about growing plants without soil. A home aquaponics system works whereby the roots of the plants gain their nutrients from fish or other aquatic creatures waste needed to grow. This waste is broken down by bacteria. But aquaponics systems are not a new concept, as they’ve been around for hundreds of years. Aquaponics systems can be found in China paddy fields, where rice is cultivated and farmed alongside fish.
What is an aquaponics system?
An aquaponics system is a symbiotic environment. This symbiotic environment combines conventional aquaculture with hydroponics. But the benefit of installing an aquaponics system is that you get fresh produce at home. Fresh garden produce like lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes and various herbs. What could be better?
An aquaponics system at home works even if you don’t have a large garden. No need to cultivate the soil. No need to dig over the soil and remove unwanted weeds. But instead you get an easy to use system that works. With the added benefit that an aquaponic gardens uses less than 1/10th of the water you would use for a soil-based garden. So aquaponics is green too!
But then I’d say there’s at least one other benefit of having a home aquaponics system. For me this added benefit is you have a fish tank too. If you’re a lover of fish, you get to enjoy the pleasure of watching fish, whilst you munch away at your freshly picked aquaponic tomatoes.
What is aquaculture?
Aquaculture (or aquiculture), which is also known as aquafarming, is the farming and raising of aquatic animals in tanks. These aquatic animals include fish, crustaceans like shrimps, prawns and crayfish, mollusks like snails, and other organisms. However, aquaculture can also include aquatic plants and algae too.
Aquaculture involves the cultivation of aquatic animals in either freshwater or saltwater. But for the purposes of this blog, I am going to be looking at freshwater cultivation only.
What is hydroponics?
Hydroponics (or hydroculture) involves cultivating plants in water. It’s a method of growing plants without soil. Instead of using the nutrients from soil to grow, the plants use waste matter produced by fish or other aquatic animals.
This waste matter is broken down by bacteria living within the hydroponics system.
Terrestrial plants (i.e. plants that grow on land) are grown with only their roots exposed to this nutrient-rich water. Instead of using soil to support their roots, plants are physically supported by an inert medium. Inert mediums such as clay pebbles, growstone and gravel are used.
How does an aquaponics system work?
Aquaponics is what’s known as a symbiotic relationship.
Where symbiosis is usually about the interaction between two different organisms. Where these organisms live in close physical association with each other. Symbiotic relationships are typically to the advantage of both organisms. This is certainly the case with aquaponics and typically involves vegetable plants alongside fish.
However, with aquaponics it could be argued that there are four partners in this symbiotic relationship. Read on further to find out more.
How does the aquaponics symbiotic relationship work?
Like all good symbiotic relationships, the main symbiotic relationship in aquaponics is between two types of animal and plant. However, there are two further partners in this symbiotic set up. The other two partners are bacteria and humans.
As with all symbiotic relationships, each provides for the other the conditions necessary for its continued existence. A true symbiotic relationship is where each cannot survive without the other.
One could argue that the human element to this symbiotic relationship can survive without it. But it does at least provide for some self-sustaining food production. Which in the world we live in today has to be a good thing. The less produce we buy from supermarkets, the better it has to be for the environment and the planet.
Symbiosis in action and what each organism gets from the symbiotic relationship
Let’s take a look at each of the symbiotic partners in this symbiotic relationship and what they each get from being in the relationship.
What do the plants get from the fish?
The plants are being grown using hydroponics, which means they don’t have normal soil from which to get their nutrients. Instead they get their nutrients from fish waste. Using a filtration system, which takes water from the fish tank that contains the fish waste, nutrients are transferred to the plants.
With a little help from bacteria (the third symbiotic partner), which lives in-between the plant’s roots, this fish waste is broken down. This broken-down waste matter then provides the necessary nutrients needed for the plants to grow.
What do the fish get from the plants?
The loop of the main symbiotic relationship is completed whereby the plants clean the water that goes back to the fish tank. When I say plants, I mean the vegetable variety of plants. Which actually brings in the fourth member of the symbiotic relationship, which is humans.
The plants that are grown using aquaponics produce vegetables for you to eat. This results in the perfect collaboration between aquaculture and gardening.
What do humans get from the symbiotic relationship?
The whole idea behind a DIY home aquaponics system is to grow your own fish and vegetables at the same time. This means that you as the human in this symbiotic relationship get vegetables, as a result of setting up a great system.
What does the bacteria get from the aquaponics system?
Bacteria love waste matter. The bacteria are happy to breakdown the fish waste. This is food for bacteria. Bacteria feeds off of this constant supply of waste from the fish. Which in return, the plants benefit as they are then able to take-up the broken-down matter.
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Happy DIY aquaponics.