Aquaponics is very similar to Hydroponics in that nutrient-rich water is fed to your plants to enable them to grow strong and healthy. The main difference between the two? Hydroponic consists of providing nutrients through a liquid or powder-based mineral from that you add into your reservoir. With Aquaponics, the nutrients develop from fish excretions that are pumped from a fish tank to your plants for them to take up.
Aquaponic techniques have been around for a very long time. The Aztec era and most of Southeast Asia and South China cultivated their rice fields using Aquaponics techniques. China continues to use Aquaponics systems to this day to grow rice, wheat, and other crops.
The first development of modern Aquaponics is an attribute to the New Alchemy Institute and the work from Dr Mark McMurtry of North Carolina State University. Due to these successes, other institutes soon started to pay attention, and in 1979 Dr James Rakocy, of the University of the Virgin Islands, researched Deep Water Culture hydroponic beds using Aquaponics type systems.
Essentially, Aquaponics is the combination of Aquaculture, which is breeding fish, and Hydroponics, which is using soil-less mediums to grow plants. The fish waste provides the plants with an organic food source while the plants naturally filter the water for the fish so that they can be returned to the tank again.
Microbes (nitrifying bacteria) are quite an essential aspect of a successful Aquaponics system. They convert ammonia from the fish waste into Nitrites and then into Nitrates, which is the form of nitrogen that plants can use to grow.
One of the benefits of Aquaponics is that you don't need to buy any expensive nutrients to feed your fish for them to provide your plants with sound quality waste. Additionally, you will only need to check the pH and ammonia levels of your system weekly once your system has stabilized, which requires minimal effort. Most Aquaponic systems are at waist height, which eliminates weeds, back strain, and access to your crops for small animals and slugs.
Aquaponics is a very water-smart method of growing as it is continuously recycling the water with very little waste and there is no toxic run-off like you would have with Aquaculture. It has become popular amongst organic growers as you aren't able to use any pesticides or herbicides, making it a completely natural ecosystem.
Aquaponics systems can be used anywhere and everywhere – indoors, outdoors, or in your greenhouse. It is a scalable method of growing meaning it can work no matter what size space you have available or what your budget may be. And once your produce and fish have fully developed, you get to harvest both of them helping you be as self-sustainable as possible.
In an excellent Aquaponics course, you should learn how to prevent your water from becoming over polluted with fish waste if you are growing using a recirculating system and how to ensure your fishes living environment is kept healthy and resistant to disease.
You will learn about all the different types of Aquaponics systems there are available. Such as Deep Water Culture or raft-based Aquaponics, Media-based Aquaponics, Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), and Vertical systems so you can understand their pros and cons.
Tilapia are typically used in Aquaponics systems as they are the hardy-ist. They can eat a wide variety of food and handle a broader range of pH than most fish can. They can also handle temperature fluctuations better and can live in an environment that has higher ammonia levels. Tilapia eat a wide variety of food. Such as plants, insects, algae, and worms, and some growers have started experimenting with growing their fish food such as soldier fly larvae and duckweed.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind when raising Tilapia for consumption. Due to them being so hardy and can eat a range of different food, they are not always elevated in healthy conditions or fed a portion of high-quality food. They are also lower in Omega-3 fatty acids than other fish. While they are an excellent choice for beginners, other species like catfish, perch, and bluegill can also be of use.
Aquaponics systems are great for the whole family to get involved in, and there is something to be learned no matter what age you are. It teaches kids about sustainability and the basics of science from a young age. It is a hands-on approach of teaching kids the basics of botany and biology all in one and showing them that they can grow anything from flowers to herbs to vegetables. It encourages them to learn how to be self-sustainable from early on, which will empower them to be more environmentally conscious.
It will also encourage more quality time with the family as everyone can get involved and gain benefits.
Aquaponics provides the best of both worlds of Aquaponics and Hydroponics, enabling you to grow hydroponically while still using naturally produced organic matter to grow your produce.
There is so much that the world has to offer.
Have a look at what Aquaponics courses are available in your area and start the journey of self-sustainability today.