Aquaponics has become increasingly popular as a growing system in the past 10 years. Much of this growth was due to the sustainability and respect for the environment that aquaponic cultivation systems guarantee.
In this article we will see specifically what aquaponic cultivation consists of, how it differs from hydroponic cultivation and what are the advantages in using it.
- 1 What is aquaponic cultivation?
- 2 How does an aquaponic growing system work?
- 2.1 Advantages of aquaponic cultivation
- 2.2 Disadvantages of aquaponic cultivation
- 2.3 Should you grow aquaponics?
What is aquaponic cultivation?
To introduce you to aquaponic cultivation, it is better to first review what hydroponics is so that you can fully understand the differences.
Hydroponics uses liquids, sand, gravel and other materials to grow plants away from the soil environment. The roots of the plants manage to obtain nutrients from the water which is enriched with liquid plant food.
Hydroponics is one of the best traditional cultivation methods since the basic requirements of a plant are few: water, sunlight and nutrients.
In a hydroponic system, a plant does not need a vast root system because it does not have to spend energy in search of nutrients as it does when it is grown in the soil.
Aquaponic cultivation instead works differently from hydroponics.
Aquaponics uses a combination of aquaculture (breeding of fish in the cultivation environment) and hydroponics. Based on the ecosystem of the wetlands where plants and animals support each other, the nitrogen wastes produced in the aquaculture of fish, shrimp or clams are used as fertilizer for hydroponically grown plants. Aquaponics requires the help of nitrogen-fixing bacteria and worms to break down fish waste into nitrates and nitrites that can be absorbed by plants.
The resulting clean water is then recirculated to the aquaculture tank. Adding fish to the equation creates a natural ecosystem in which fish, plants and bacteria develop mutually.
The waste of fish and bacteria living in an aquaponic system provides all those nutrients that plants need. These fish, together with bacteria, create a cleaner and above all non-toxic environment for the plant to grow in. This also contributes to eliminating the need for a nutrient solution mixed with chemicals.
How does an aquaponic growing system work?
Aquaponics systems work by using fish waste to naturally provide nutrients to nearby water-grown plants. Likewise, wild fish provide nutrients to plants in a natural ecosystem.
An aquaponic setup includes tilapia or shrimp grown in a tank. The water and nutrients from this tank are transferred to a biofilter in another tank, which transforms fish waste (ammonium and urea) into fertilizers. This is then transferred to a lettuce tank.
Advantages of aquaponic cultivation
The advantages of aquaponics are manifold, let’s analyze them together:
One of the most considered is its ability to grow different types of food by consuming very few resources in the process. In fact it is a natural and organic process.
Minimum use of electricity
Power is required to operate an aquaponic cultivation system, but few pieces of equipment that actually require energy. This leads to a low net energy consumption.
Minimum use of water
Even less water is used as most aquaponics systems are recirculated, which means that water is circulated through the system rather than being disposed of after use.
The loss of primary water in aquaponic systems is very minimal because it derives from the evaporation and transpiration of the plants.
No use of pesticides and chemicals
Equally important is that in many systems the need for pesticides and other chemicals is low and sometimes not needed at all.
Aquaponics systems have been designed for use in a controlled environment, such as a greenhouse or indoor warehouse, and the process by which bacteria convert fish waste into plant or nutrient foods eliminates the need for fertilizers. The pH is also regulated on its own within the system through the conversion process by bacteria.
Disadvantages of aquaponic cultivation
Of course it’s not all pink and flowers, there are also disadvantages in aquaponic cultivation. Let’s go together to see what they are.
Not cheap startup cost
The startup cost is often higher than what people want to spend on the cultivation system.
While you may think these systems are inexpensive, you will notice that professional level systems tend to be quite expensive. However, this expense begins to pay for itself as you start enjoying fresh produce after a short time.
Difficulty in choosing the most suitable system for our needs
Choices among the available systems can be quite difficult to make. While you may think that only one system style exists, you will quickly find multiple systems available.
A simple choice in the wrong system, however, can lead to disaster as the system will not be suitable for the use you want to make of it.
Daily checks must be carried out on systems, lights and pipes. These checks will help ensure the correct functioning of the system, but will also help to ensure that everything is working properly.
Without this type of control, people may have trouble understanding why their plants don’t thrive.
Should you grow aquaponics?
Aquaponic systems are an easy way to grow food.
Daily maintenance is required but once the system is in operation, the main activity, day by day, is to feed the fish and check for signs of changing the balance of the system.
Monitoring of water chemistry, temperature and nutrient levels and shifting to correct them as needed will maintain a thriving aquaponic system.
We at Growrilla Hydroponics recommend starting with the type of cultivation that meets your needs and expectations. We do not yet offer systems or assistance for aquaponics cultivation, but we can offer you experience regarding hydroponic cultivation .
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