An aquaponics system is a system wherein fish farming and crop cultivation is simultaneously carried out, with minimal use of water and no fertilizers. The word aquaponics is a combination of the words aquaculture (growing fish or other aquatic organisms) and hydroponics (growing plants with nutrient-enriched water). Aquaponics relies on the recirculation of fish waste and recycled water, each of which helps in the growth of the plants and the fish, respectively.
Parts of an Aquaponics System
The two main components of an aquaponics system are the fish tank, or pond, and a hydroponics system where plants are cultivated without the use of soil. Electricity and water are crucial components of an aquaponics system. The only external factor in an aquaponics system is the fish feed that is required for the nutrition and growth of the fish.
How Aquaponics Works
The fish, which form the aquaculture part of an aquaponics system, are provided with fresh, clean water to grow in and food that provides the nutrition they need. A natural consequence of this is that the water soon becomes filled with fecal matter and waste from the fish. Over time, this water can become toxic and endanger the lives of the fish. The other component of an aquaponics system is the hydroponic part, wherein plants and crops are grown in nutrient-rich water. Over time, this water also becomes toxic, lacks nutrients and is riddled with plant waste.
An aquaponics system uses both the above negative factors to its advantage. As the fish waste accumulates in the tank water, it is passed over to the hydroponic bed after being treated with beneficial microbes and bacteria. These micro-organisms convert the waste matter into plant nutrients, thereby making the waste water an invaluable source of nutrition for the plants. This water is then used up by the plants in the hydroponic system.
As the nutrients from the fish waste are gradually used up by the plants, the water becomes depleted of nutrients. However, this depletion of nutrients makes the water usable for the fish to grow in, as it is no longer toxic to them. The water is therefore pumped back to the fish tank, where it remains till it is again filled with fish waste. An aquaponics system works on the continuous recycling of water between the fish tank and the hydroponic bed, thereby minimizing the requirement for water or fertilizers.
An aquaponics system has several advantages. It minimizes the production of waste, both from the fish tank and from the hydroponic system. If both these systems are used independently, these waste materials are usually disposed of in the environment. Another major advantage is that aquaponics makes it possible to grow crops in areas that have water shortages. This is because after the initial setup, minimal water is required, only to replace that lost due to evaporation and plant transpiration. This amount is minuscule when compared to the amounts used and wasted in traditional fish culture and plant farming settings. Aquaponics systems also remove the dependence on fertilizers or pesticides for the cultivation of crops. The absence of soil makes this system a practical possibility in any environment.