In this edition of Gardening ABC, we will discuss one new concept in gardening. We have already discussed the basics of vertical gardening and container gardening and their benefits In our earlier articles. Today we will discuss the basics of The Aquaponics system.
What is Aquaponics?
In layman’s term, Aquaponics is growing fish and plants together in one integrated system. This system is a combination of Aquaculture and hydroponics. Here the fish provides nutrition for the plants and plants filter the water for the fish.
Why Should You Do Aquaponics?
Before discussing the obvious benefits of the aquaponic system. First, let’s discuss some of the most common problems of traditional gardening.
- Weeds, pest, and diseases (mostly soil-bourne).
- High usage of water.
- Labour intensive and can cause back pain especially for older people.
- Usually located far (traditional farms) from the place where they are consumed.
When you shift to Aquaponics here are some of the amazing befits you will witness:
- You can put an Aquaponic system anywhere you want it requires very little space.
- An optimum height aquaponic system eliminates back strains, and it also protects your plants from small sized animals.
- Aquaponics uses the least amount of water (more on this later) and gives you veggies that tastes best.
- It is a mini eco-system. So your time and money both are saved.
- No use of chemicals.
- No soil, so no soil-bourn diseases.
- You can have both plants as well as fish from your garden.
You can read more about the benefits of aquaponics in this article.
Difference Between Aquaponics and Hydroponics System:
Most of us have heard about hydroponics, it is a system where plants are grown without using soil and cultured in water only. Here they generally use chemical fertilizers for the nutrition of the plants. Aquaponics system goes one step further. It uses fish in the water to provide the nutrition to the plants. Thus it makes the total system organic.
Like hydroponics, it also does not uses soil. Roots of plants are generally kept directly in the water. In some cases, roots are supported by some rocks inside the water.
The Basics of Aquaponics System:
Parts of An Aquaponics System:
The three main parts of an aquaponics system are:
- Fish tank
- Grow bed, and,
- Pump (to move the water from the fish tank to grow bed).
How Does An Aquaponics System work?
In the fish tank, we have fish, water, and bacteria. You give food to the fish and they produce ammonia-rich waste. The bacteria are present in both fish tank and the grow beds. They break down ammonia into nitrates and nitrites.
The water from the Aquaponics fish tank then goes to the grow bed. There it provides the much-needed nutrition to the plant. The plants take these nitrates and nitrites as nutrients. These work as fertilizer. The plants in the system act as the cleanser. It clears the water and then drains the water back into the fish tank.
The much-needed oxygen enters through the pump. This oxygen is crucial for the survival of the plants and fish.
The secret of success in Aquaponics is maintaining proper balance.
How To Choose Fish In Aquaponics Culture?
In Aquaponics culture, your choices of fish and plant are very important. It is better to use freshwater fish which we generally found in landlocked lakes or rivers. If you choose seawater fish you will limit the options of plants severely.
Try to avoid ornamental fish such as Goldfish if you have any plans for eating fish. They are commonly treated with chemicals and sometimes can cause cancer in a human. The best options that you can use are common fish like catfish, Tilapia, trout, etc. Adjust the size and temperature of the water inside, once you decide on the type of fish. For example, fish like catfish grow long so you need enough space for them.
If you are really serious about starting an Aquaponic system for your own I will suggest you check out this amazing source of information.
Is Aquaponics System a Sustainable System?
Following are the main reasons why aquaponics is a sustainable system:
- As aquaponics recirculate water between fish and the plants, the water wastage in this system is a bare minimum.
- Aquaponics eliminates the need for soil in growing plants. It works on soilless media. By removing the need for soil it also removes many soil-borne diseases and most of the labor like composting, tilling adding fertilizers etc.
- In aquaponics, you can grow all most any plant irrespective of their soil preferences. It allows food to be produced in many places that would not otherwise be able to grow. You can set up the infrastructure inside greenhouse, warehouse or outdoors where the weather permits.
- The Aquaponics system is self-sufficient. The plants get the nutrients from the fish get the water cleaned by the plants. Aquaponics mimics a natural ecosystem, it produces many nutrients that plants need without adding any chemicals.
- Aquaponics doesn’t produce any waste. So there is no need for garbage disposal.
- If you think the cost of setting up an aquaponics is high just consider the amount of money you spend today, buying fruits and veggies that are not only costly but also unhealthy. In the long run which hurts you more?
Usage of Water in Aquaponics System:
The water used in Aquaponics system in a most amazing way. It doesn’t discharge the water rather reuse and circulate continuously. The basics of Aquaponics is having a symbiotic relationship between plants and the fish.
The environment remains more or less constant in terms of nutrients and oxygen level. The water loss happens only in terms of transpiration and surface evaporation which is very less when you compare it with traditional forms of gardening.
It is calculated as 2% of the water of conventional irrigated farms. So if your area receives very less amount of water, you know you need to switch to Aquaponics.
Pest Management in Aquaponics System:
Aquaponics system also has pest problems like any other forms of gardening. Some of the most common pests are aphids, caterpillars, beetles, bugs, etc. You need to take care of the Aquaponics pests or they might severely harm your production.
The best way to do this keeps your system organic and chemical free. Use common organic pest control techniques like traps, physiological barriers and biological control for repelling pests. One of the most preferred ways is using beneficial insects.
Aquaponics system works most of the time independently. The fish and plants work together and the water gets recycled. You just need to replace the water which has been evaporated from the system. Once you created the system you don’t need to add fertilizers regularly or weed it.
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