Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Quick Look Into Aquaponics

I have done some research on aquaponics and I wanted to share what I found with you guys. If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing scroll down to the bottom for a YouTube video from Purdue University.

What is Aquaponics?

Marvel at my extremely lame attempt at using Microsoft Paint

Aquaponics combines the system of farming fish and plants in a codependent ecosystem. The waste produced by both serves as food for each other. There are many different methods from DIY home use to large commercial farms. This is an amazing alternative to traditional produce and fish farming that is environmentally friendly.

The basic idea is simple. This system combines the use of hydroponics with fish rearing. The fish water contains nutrient rich manure which the plants filter with their roots. It purifies the water which is then pumped back into the fish tank. It creates its own ecosystem where added nutrients are rarely added.

There are many different types of aquaponic styles. One in particular that I am interested in is the deep water culture. Here the plants are placed on a foam raft placed over the water. There seem to be two main types where the rafts are put in the same tank as the fish or where they are placed in its own section.

A flood and drain is a simple alternative. I this method the fish tank water is periodically drained or rather flooded into the plant bed then drained once again into the fish tank. This type in particular is regularly recommended as a low maintenance variety along with the raft system. 

Most plants, that don’t have a large root system, can be grown but the leafy greens do the best. Leafy greens are preferred because they do not need phosphorus to grow. Phosphorus is a chemical needed in fruit producing plants.  According to many forum websites it may not be needed depending the food fed to the fish. It is also warned that when adding phosphorus because it can cause a large algae bloom. It is best to regularly use kits to test chemical levels in the water.

Fresh water fish are easier to farm; however, there are some who raise salt water fish. There isn't as much information on this because using fresh water makes the system simpler and more compatible with a wider variety of plants. There doesn’t seem to be a warning against using any one type of fish only to keep in mind of the size of the fish and tank. I am not much of a fish eater myself but what interests me is that koi are an alternative that thrive in aquaponic tanks.

Aquaponics isn’t a new method either. It was used in China thousands of years ago in rice patties. Today’s systems can be used either indoors or outdoors. In commercial use it has the potential to not only save money but to prevent harmful waste from being released into the environment. 

Listen to the fish, he looks pissed off ...
No matter what style of system used it will use less water and won’t need artificial chemicals. In my opinion the main reason that I believe that the aquaponics system should be greatly encouraged in both home and commercial use is that it uses only two percent of water compared to customary farming methods and four percent to conventional fish farming. This is especially beneficial to areas where water is already scarce. However, water is already becoming a scarce commodity and is taken for granted. According to the U.N. and W.H.O. (World Health Organization) about half of the world’s population will not have enough water by 2080. Today, 70% of fresh water is used for agriculture, so reasonably aquaponics looks to be a much needed alternative to help preserve the world’s water reserves.

This alternative is also much more environmentally cleaner. Fish farms today produce high levels of concentrated ammonia which are drained into existing water channels. Aquaponics doesn’t produce a pollutant and with the solid waste it does leave behind can me used as plant fertilizer.

Later on I also plan on adopting this system in my garden with Koi fish. I probably won’t even start until after we buy a house but when I do start I’ll post videos and how-to guides here.

References & Recommended Reading:

Arizona University: Integrated Systems of Agriculture and Aquaculture,

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Aquaponics Mission 2014,

Alabama Cooperative Extension: Aquaponic -- Integration of Hydroponics with Aquaculture,

University of Kentucky: Recalculating Aquaculture Tank Production System,

W.H.O.: Health Topics – Water,

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