Introduction to Aquaponics
Aquaponics is a fairly new system of food production, but it is rapidly gaining popularity due to its many advantages, especially in the context of the rising food prices. In this short introduction to aquaponics, we'll explain what Aquaponics involves and mention some of its many advantages.
Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture (the growing of fish) and hydroponics (the growing of plants in water without soil). This integrated system works so well because the two form a symbiotic relationship; and nutrients and resources are recycled between the two. The fish provide waste, which the bacteria turn into plant nutrients, providing the plants with food and the fish with clean water. Indeed, bacteria is the linchpin which keeps the whole system running.
With regards to the set-up, it is actually very simple. You have the fish tanks, in which you grow fish, and on top of the tanks sits the grow bed. The grow bed is the surface in which the plants are rooted and is the location of most of the bacteria in the system. The grow bed can be made of different materials, but a common one is gravel. Gravel is ideal because it filters the water and provides support to the roots. In addition, it has a large surface area and can house a large number of bacteria.
In an Aquaponics system, water is pumped from the fish tank to the grow bed, where the bacteria reside. The bacteria break down the fish waste and convert it to nitrates, an excellent fertilizer. The plants take up the nitrates and some of the water, and in the process filter the water. The water is then returned cleaned to the fish tank via gravity.
Aquaponics has many advantages. It is the most sustainable and cost-effective method of food production. It saves you money, and provides you with fresh organic food from your own backyard. It doesn't take much space and can be located anywhere: in the backyard, in a spare room, in the garage, etc... It is very flexible, as you can grow a large variety of vegetables and fish. It is environmentally friendly, as no water is wasted and it produces no harmful by-products. Aquaponics is also much easier to run than a conventional soil farm or fish farm - there is no weeding, no watering and no addition of fertilizers and harmful pesticides.
Furthermore, an Aquaponics system is very easy to scale up, and indeed many people end up doing it for profit. This is because the food produced by Aquaponics farming has minimal costs and fetches high prices (as it is organic) and therefore the profit is significant.
For a detailed comprehensive guide on starting an Aquaponics system, check out Aquaponics 4 Idiots