So for many of my readers and people who hear me speak, they hear the word Aquaponics and they have no idea what I'm talking about.
Aquaponics is a soil-less growing system that marries Aquaculture and Hydroponics in a closed loop symbiotic farming solution.
Wooooooooo!!!!! That was a mouthfull, but let's break it down a little bit.
Aquaculture: is the growing of fish in an artificial environment like tanks or enclosed pools. This requires intensive water changes of up to 60% each week and the effluent waste water needs to be treated before introducing back into any leechway or public waterway.
Hydroponics: is the growing of vegetables or other plants like marijuana in a nutrient rich water without actual soil. The plants may be suspended in water with little plant baskets in a floating raft, or they may be planted in a grow medium like gravel, or clay pellets, or other non-soil, porous material. This requires constant adding of minerals and nutrient supplements and requires up to a 20% water change every week and it's effluent must be filtered before introducing back to a waterway.
Aquaponics: is a closed loop system where the fish in their tank eat food, excrete Ammonia and other nutrients, but their water is sent to mineralization tanks where the Ammonia is converted to Nitrates and finally Nitrites which is a major nutrient that is needed for plant growth. After the minerelization tanks, this nutrient rich water is sent to the vegetable beds where the plants use the Nitrites along with other minerals from the fish waste and then the clean water is pumped back to the fish.
There is some fish waste solids that don't get used and must be flushed out of the system into a septic tank or lagoon where they can further break down over time, but there are also designs where even this flush stays within the system, like Nelson and Pade's ZDEP (Zero Discharge Extra Production) system. With Aquaponics you are never removing more than 2% of the water, although you may have to add water to compensate for plant usage and evaporation.
So whether you have a counter top fish bowl to grow a few herbs, or a 5000 square foot green house growing thousands of plants a month, the basic components are the same. Fish do their thing, Vegetables grow on the nutrients and you just keep feeding the fish.
In the next article I'll start to cover specific components of the system.