What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a farming combination of aquaculture and hydroponics.  Traditional aquaculture is the practice of fish farming.  Traditional hydroponics is farming plants in soil less media or strictly in nutrient solutions.  Aquaponics combines the two practices to form a co-dependent farming ecosystem that capitalizes on the benefits of aquaculture and hydroponics and minimizes the negative effects of each.

Traditional Aquaculture
Aquaculture, or fish farming, has been practiced for thousands of years.  Fish farmers in ancient Egypt farmed tilapia, which is currently the second most farmed species of fish.  Native to Africa, tilapia have moved around the world—of their own accord and by fish farmers.  Eighty five different countries have fish farmers that farm in extensive or intensive fish farm systems.

Extensive aquaculture farms are farms raising fish in ponds, or open systems.  These operations can only operate during warm weather.  Fish are dependent on food sources naturally occurring in the ponds.  Intensive aquaculture systems are closed circulation systems, or fish-farms in tanks.  Fish raised in intensive systems can be raised year-round, if under cover in cold climates.  Intensive aquaculture systems do leave fish vulnerable to diseases, infections and injury.  Fish in these systems are also constantly swimming in their own feces, making them less healthful to eat!

Traditional Hydroponics
Hydroponics systems are more economically and environmentally friendly farming systems.  Hydroponics systems use less water, fertilizer, and herbicide than traditional farming methods.  Plants are grown in soil less media such as vermiculite or in nutrient solutions.  While hydroponics are a better environmental choice than many traditional horticulture and farming methods, there is still waste and nutrient rich water that must be disposed of.

The answer to many of the problems posed by aquaculture and hydroponics systems is aquaponics.  Aquaponics is a system of growing fish and plants in a symbiotic relationship.  Plants are grown in trays filled with gravel.  Fish are raised in tanks of water.  The fish are fed commercial fish food.  Water from the fish tank is pumped into the plant trays.  Bacteria in the gravel base of the plant growth trays breaks down ammonia and other substances in the fish water, turning them into nutrients for the plants.  The plants purify water, which is then pumped back into the fish tanks.  Plants growing in aquaponics systems are larger and healthier than plants growing in traditional hydroponics systems.  Fish in aquaponics systems are healthier and less stressed than traditional aquaculture crops.  Because pesticides or medications would harm the fish or plants, aquaponics systems are by their nature, organic farming systems.

Benefits of Aquaponics
Farming in an aquaponics system can be more cost-efficient.  Farmers will spend less money on food, and no money on fertilizers or herbicides.  Because the plants are growing without soil, all problems with soil-borne diseases are eliminated.  Aquaponics systems can produce an abundance of food in very small spaces, and the food produced is organic.  Aquaponics systems can produce food year-round.  Many types of fish and plants are suitable for growing in Aquaponics systems.  Tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce benefit greatly from the system.  Fish farming is regulated by the Department of Agriculture in specific locations, and must be consulted before commencing a large-scale fish farming operation.

Aquaponics is a great solution for food production in the current age, and in the future.  These systems offer opportunities to produce healthy, local food in an economically and environmentally sustainable fashion.


  1. says

    I’ve heard people talking about aquaponics and found it interesting. Do you think it is possible to do aquaponics on a small farm scale?

  2. John Dattola says

    Dear Sir/Madame:
    I want to learn Aquaponics commercially.
    Do you have classes at Disneyworld?
    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Very sincerely yours,

    John Dattola


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