What is Aquaponics?
Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (growing fish) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). Herbs and vegetables are able to grow and thrive in the same water system as the fish. Fish excrete ammonia in their waste. In high levels, this can be toxic for both fish and plants. Nitrifying bacteria, which lives in soil and water, convert the ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate. Nitrates are essential for healthy plant growth. Nitrifying bacteria will thrive in gravel in the fish tank as well as the grow bed. The plants will absorb and use the nitrate to grow and thrive, and the water that is returned to the fish tank will contain less nitrates and more oxygen, creating a healthier environment for the fish.
Benefits of Aquaponics:
- Aquaponic systems uses a fraction of water compared to a soil raised vegetable garden because water is re-used and recycled in an aquaponics system.
- Plants are fertilized organically as opposed to chemically, by the natural fish waste.
- By eliminating soil, soil born diseases are also eliminated, as well as weeds, and most pests.
- Aquaponic systems are relatively easy to maintain. Fish need to be fed daily, and water will need to be replenished and refreshed occasionally in the fish tank.
What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics basically means “working water”. It is a cultivation of plants in a nutrient enriched solution, instead of soil. Plants feed on basic nutrient salts that are created when biological decomposition breaks down organic matter. Rarely in soil will the conditions be completely balanced. However, a hydroponic system uses water enriched with the same nutrient salts, but is easier to maintain.
Plants are grown in an inert growing medium, although the plant does not receive anything from the medium. The medium is more beneficial if it is able to retain water and also porous enough to allow gas exchange. Types of growing mediums include: sand, perlite, gravel, etc. The plant obtains the nutrients needed from the nutrient solution.
Benefits of using Hydroponics:
- Food can be produced in parts of the world with soil that cannot sustain plant life.
- Hydroponic systems eliminate the need for pesticides, since most pests live in the soil. Without pesticides, the Earth’s air, water, and soil will be cleaner. Even the food produced by the plants will be cleaner.
- Water waste is reduced since most systems recycle the nutrient solution.
- No weeds
- Hydroponics can save space. Plants can be placed closer together since the roots no longer need to grow and reach for nutrients since the nutrients are brought to them.
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