Modern farming, forestry, and other agricultural land uses are responsible for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions. Agribusiness relies heavily on synthetic ingredients to generate food, which can be costly and hazardous. Under such circumstances, is Aquaponics a viable option for agriculture?

As per a joint report from the Food and Agriculture Organization and SmartFish, Aquaponics is the cultivation encompassing the culture of plants and aquatic organisms in a circular setting. It is a partnership between plants and fish. The terminology derives from the keywords aquaculture (fish farming in a contained way) and hydroponics ( growing plants in a soil-less setting).

This system is an organic, eco-friendly food-growing system that combines the most outstanding features of aquaculture and hydroponics without the need to waste water or use artificial chemicals.

The essential premise of Aquaponics is that fish consume the nourishment and discharge excrement, which is transformed into elements that the vegetation can utilize as plant food. Vegetations help to filter water by absorbing these substances. The plant kingdom replicates nature by repurposing remnants from the animal kingdom to complete a cyclical cycle.

Setting up an aquaponics system

Aquaponics
Aquaponics | Image Credit – Flickr

Establishing an aquaponics system is simple with the correct home farming equipment. It is no surprise that commercial-scale aquaponics production seems to have become increasingly popular in an era where water is scarce. Local hobbyists, frequently growing in their yards, pioneered the methods and techniques used by grand scale aquaponics producers, which is remarkable.

The first step is to evaluate where one might install the system. Is it feasible indoors or outdoors? Or, in a greenhouse? Take into account the accessibility of both water and energy. And would the aquaponics setup require lighting and heating?

Step I: Deep Water Culture Set Up

A drifting foam raft often employed in large manufacturing installations is used in the deep water culture technology, often referred to as raft-based cultivation. It permits the root systems to sink into the water and receive nourishment straight from the waterbody. The water will have been processed to extract any solid remnants from the container where the fish are kept.

Step II: Nutrient Film Set Up

The water is drawn from the fish container via a slender, hollow cylinder made of PVC with small holes on the top. After that, the root systems will be dangling through the openings, drawing nourishment from the water tank.

Since the setup can be extended along surfaces or suspended from heights, this arrangement is ideal for regions with limited land space. The structure can be placed either horizontally or vertically. Additionally, it can promote plants that don’t demand any reinforcement or support, including green vegetables. 

Step III: Media Bed Set Up

Plants are cultivated on a specific type of medium, like clay particles, in this arrangement, and the media bed is usually sitting on top of or adjacent to the fish container. The water is pulled from the container by a motor pump and then passed along the media bed, permitting the plants to absorb nourishment before being thoroughly purified to the fish tank.

Things you should consider while setting up an aquaponics

The more “precise” these elements are, the better the system’s performance. You can avoid mosquitoes, illnesses, and other sorts of contamination by paying close attention to the below-mentioned aspects.

Location 

The location of your aquaponics system is critical to the growth of veggies and fish. To achieve successful performance, ensure that the ambient temperature is neither too hot nor too cold and that the vegetation needs adequate light to manufacture its food. Also, it would be agreeable if you avoided harsh weather conditions. Ensure that no harmful chemical compounds enter the water, killing both fish and vegetation.

Water Quality

Due to natural limitations such as evaporation and transpiration, the system would need to be replenished with water on a consistent schedule. It is critical to comprehend where your water comes from, whether tap or spring. 

Pollutants, mineral levels, pH, toxins, and other impurities can destroy the aquaponics system. Therefore, water quality is critical. As a result, you will require a reliable provision of pure and de-chlorinated water.

Aeration and water circulation

You should utilize water and air pumps to ensure that the water has high amounts of dissolved oxygen and has proper water circulation to protect the wellbeing of your fish, bacteria, and vegetation. Note that electricity expenses account for a large amount of the system expenditure, so select your pumps and energy supply intelligently and explore photovoltaic power if practicable.

Number of Fishes

Aquaponics with catfish
Aquaponics with catfish | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

As a standard guide, for a 40 liters container size, one should have around 500g of fish. And for every five liters of water, you should retain at least 500g of fish. Professionals use electronic equipment and various types of applications to check the effectiveness of fish in other commercial establishments. 

The majority of commercial fish separation and standard units isolate and categorize fish. The aggressive fish are kept in one tank, and the ones that are non-aggressive in another.

Plant type

Aeroponics tomato and lettuce
Aeroponics tomato and lettuce | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

The vegetation choice can have an impact on the aquaponics system. The most adaptable approach is media-based Aquaponics, which can support a variety of species such as tomatoes, chilies, radishes, lettuce, and cabbage. Hence, to guarantee the effectiveness of your structure, you must first determine which plants will thrive in it.

What are the benefits of Aquaponics?

Aquaponics has been used for countless generations, yet no one incorporated the phrase “sustainable.” People recognized that we would produce additional nourishment by collaborating with parts of the environment. But today, humans have learned to prioritize longevity and viability in food production and maintain nature at its utmost best position and state.

Less land needed

Less land required for aquaponics
Less land required for aquaponics | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Conventional agriculture occurs externally, across flat planes, with plenty of room separating vegetation. Aquaponics agricultural systems take up a quarter of the area needed by soil-based agriculture, and vegetations can be cultivated closer together for various reasons. 

For one, roots would not have to extend as far in quest of nourishment. Next, aquaponics gardens can be positioned vertically to enhance productivity three or five times in almost the same area.

Conservation of water

Only 1/10th of the moisture is incorporated into the system to keep the vegetation alive in the arrangement. As a result, the system saves water. Furthermore, the water is reused, which helps to conserve resources.

Can grow year-round

All year farming
All year farming | Image Credit – Flickr

Because aquaponics gardening methods are not affected by the climates, they can operate throughout the year. Producers will see a considerable increase in revenue. They will be able to concentrate solely on quality commodities with the highest sales without queueing for the following spring. This consistency in output also renders availability more manageable.

Disease-free environment

Since the approach does not employ soil, there are zero instances of soil-borne ailments, infestations, or pathogens.

No weed build-up

What is Aquaponics and How Does it Work? | Video Credit – Agriculture Academy

There are no weeds issues in the aquaponics system since it uses waist-high farming techniques.

Producing no waste

There are no wastes in Aquaponics since it resembles the natural environment. Solid waste from the fish tank can be composted and used in gardening. Any unharvested vegetative debris can be fed to livestock or decomposed, and just a tiny amount of water is released. Nature does not generate waste; neither should agricultural operations.

Purely organic crops

Organic products
Organic products | Image Credit – Freepik

The fish are devoid of hazardous substances, and the vegetables are 100 % organic.

Reducing food miles

Long-distance shipping of produce wastes vast amounts of energy and fuel, polluting the environment and increasing our environmental footprint. Thanks to Aquaponics, we can produce abundant food in the house, at our institutions, and in local neighborhoods. This benefit implies more incredible nourishment because it is freshest and has fewer drawbacks concerning prolonged travel.

How convenient is it to set up Aquaponics?

Anybody could establish an aquaponics system with just an aquarium and some fish. One could begin if they already have fish in a tank. And this is for anyone who wants to produce a consistent supply of fresh produce for the household. 

This type of solution is also appropriate for people keen on off-grid ventures. To bring in additional income, you may wish to expand the venture after you realize the benefits and production of vegetation you generate in a brief period.

Wrapping up

Aquaponics, irrespective of size, produces a significantly more efficient vegetable garden. When implemented appropriately, it may produce both veggies and seafood at speeds that surpass even the most rigorous hydroponic and aquaculture facilities.

It overcomes the majority of the issues that hydroponic and fish-raising plants face, such as delivering a steady, balanced supply of nutrient elements without supplementary manure while also removing garbage from fish in aquaculture containers.

Aquaponics is a comparatively recent agricultural concept. Just as in Aquaponics, all of nature’s ecosystem functions depend on symbiotic associations among plants and animals, biogeochemical cycles, and embedded circuits in the ecosystem. So, how about we start our own kitchen garden and a fish tank to keep our plates full with nutritious food?

(Last Updated on June 14, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Shradha Bhatta holds a Bachelors’s Degree in Social Work along with a Post-graduate degree in Project Management from Georgian College in Canada. Shradha enjoys writing on a variety of topics and takes pleasure in discovering new ideas. She likes traveling and spending time with nature. She is a very people-person who loves talking about climate change and alerting people to go green!