An introduction to aquaponics.

I don’t know everything about aquaponics, but this is what I have learned. Read and follow along this week then, the we will have a short quiz with a give away!

Here we go aquaponics, my latest farming adventure.

My first introduction to aquapnonics was at the Keauhou Farmers Market where I saw a demo by aquaponics farmer Zac Holser of Living Aquaponics Farm Inc. At his booth I purchased his “living” lettuce and notice a few things immediately. The lettuce lasted much longer than any other I had ever purchased; the leaves were tender and had a much nicer texture.

I went to school and lived in Humboldt County, CA. for several years where growing green medicinal plants in hydroponics was very popular. I was familiar with the technique of growing plants in water, but the addition of fish to the system really piqued my curiosity.  Once I started to research the difference between aquaponics and hydroponics and talked at length with Zac, I knew I wanted to add an aquapnonics system into my one-acre project.

So let’s talk aquaponics.

First off, the most obvious question: What is aquaponics and how is it different from hydroponics?

According to Wikipedia:

Aquapoincs is a sustainable food production system that combines a traditional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish, or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.

I found another definition for aquaponics. In Sylvia Bernstein’s book (my new favorite book) Aquaponic Gardening – A Step-by-step Guide to Raising Vegetables and Fish Together.

I happen to like this definition much better. She quotes from Aquaponics Gardening Community, November 2010 that:

Aquaponics is the cultivation of fish and plants together in a constructed,  recirculating ecosystem utilizing natural bacterial cycles to convert fish waste to plant nutrients. This is an environmentally friendly, natural food-growing method that harnesses the best attributes of aquaculture and hydroponics without the need to discard any water or filtrate or add chemical fertilizers.

OK, what is hydroponics?

I found this definition on several hydroponics web sites and I really liked its simplicity.

The name “Hydroponics” was created from the Latin word which means “working water”. To most of us, it actually means growing plants without soil by supplying all needed nutrients in the plants water supply.

Another definition from Wikipedia:

Hydroponics is a subset of the hydroculture and the method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water,    with out soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only or in inert medium such as perlite, gravel, mineral wool, expanded clay, or coconut husk.

With that we know that aquaponics is the marriage between aquaculture and hydroponics. With hydroponics one would add nutrients to the water where as aquaponics gets the nutrients from fish waste and the friendly bacteria present in the system.

So what nutrients and bacteria are present in aquaponics and how exactly does that work?

Well, when the fish releases waste into the system in the form of ammonia, the bacteria present in the system converts ammonia into nitrates.  Let’s back up to the bacteria. There are hundreds of beneficial bacteria that will be present in the system at any one time, but the two bacteria that are the most beneficial are nitrosomonas and nitrospira. Both nitrosomonas and nitrospira are bacteria that come from a family of bacteria that are “nitrifying bacteria”.  Nitrosomonas is the first of the two bacteria that will inhabit your system. Nitrosomonas convert the ammonia into nitrites. Both ammonia and nitrite are toxic to fish, but the second bacteria, nitrospira, converts the nitrite into nitrates. Nitrates are mostly harmless to fish and are excellent nutrients for plants.

OK so now that we are clear about the difference between hydroponics and aquaponics we will explore the benefits of incorporating aquaponics into your garden…

*Just a little note. If you have some knowledge about aquaponics that I have not mentioned please feel free to share it and leave a comment. Thanks Em

5 thoughts on “An introduction to aquaponics.

  1. Em,
    I love this! I have always wanted to do hydroponics in my sun room and my son and his Botney teacher tried it. It worked, but not exactly organic. Too many chemicals! This is perfect!

  2. Aloha Shelli!
    It really is perfect. It requires very little work to maintain that is the best. I spend all my time in other areas of the garden raking, hand weeding, digging, with aquaponics I feed the fish in the morning gaze at my plants and then feed then at night and check the nitrate/nitrite level and that is it. So easy.

  3. Pingback: The benefits of aquaponics. | Beaches & Bounty

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