Author: Aqua Gardening

What is Aquaponics and How Does it Work?

Aquaponics is a growing trend both for commercial farmers and urban greenies. Last month there were 74,000 Google searches for the word and according to a US report, the commercial industry is set to earn one billion dollars by 2020.

So, what is all the fuss about?

Aquaponics can be simply described as connecting your fish tank, or a sizable plastic container, to your vegetable garden. In other words, it is a system that combines aquaculture and plants. An aquaponics garden is different to a typical soil garden. Instead of soil, the plants live in a hydroponics system that keeps the aquaponics system clean and healthy, and accelerates growth. Fish are housed in a tank, and their waste - yes, that includes poo - is transformed into nutrient-rich food that nourishes the plants. The plants serve as natural purifiers, filtering and cleansing the water to ensure the fish thrive.

Aquaponics Nitrogen Cycle Diagram


1000L IBC Aquaponics System

There are many benefits of aquaponics over traditional gardens. In an aquaponic system, you will need just 2% of the water required for an ordinary garden. Additionally, there’s no need for weeding, fertilising, or the use of harmful pesticides.

One of the disadvantages of aquaponics often cited is that it very expensive to set up. However, as with hydroponic systems, you can customise your aquaponic garden to your needs; it can be as simple or as complex as you like!

What type of fish are suitable for aquaponics?

Commercial aquaponic farms often utilise edible fish species such as perch, tilapia, barramundi, or cod, effectively establishing a dual-purpose farm for producing both vegetables and fish. The good news is that home systems with fish tanks of 300L or larger can also cultivate these edible species. For home aquaponics systems with less than 300L of water, the ideal species are resilient and adaptable ones such as goldfish, angelfish, and guppies.

What else do I need?

When you first begin experimenting with aquaponics, it's best to start small. To make your own mini-system you will need:

How do I put it all together?

You can adapt any kind of hydroponics system to also include fish. Essentially, all that is needed is to replace your nutrient solution container with a fish tank instead. Using the above materials, you could create a Drip System, by making a loop of tubing coming from your water pump, poking holes into the loop and sitting it in the top of your plant container.

You could also use a Nutrient Film Technique, by pumping your fish water through PVC piping containing your plants; or a Deep Water Culture system, where your plants are suspended over the fish tank.

One of the quickest and easiest methods that we have discovered is to simply take a piece of polystyrene, cut holes in it and plant herb seedlings such as mint or cress into the holes. Then just float the whole thing in the top of your fish tank and watch them take off!

To find out more about how to build and maintain your own aquaponics system, take a look at our other aquapnic articles.