Aquaponics is raising an aquaculture by combining the farming of fishes with the practice of raising plants in water. The practice of raising plants is known as hydroponics. The experts in the field say that it uses very little water and absolutely no soil – the two dwindling resources for traditional farming. If not much, one can always purchase a hobby greenhouse and place it in the backyard.
Something like this can be placed almost in anybody’s yard in an urban or a suburban area. Aquaponics is now set to transform the urban landscape. To put it in clear and crisp words, Aquaponics combines the growing of fishes with vegetables in a miraculous yet scientific way.
- The most phenomenal characteristic of aquaponics is that the excretions from the aquatic organisms are used to fertilize the garden. These are introduced as alternatives to regular chemical pesticides in use. This is because in aquaponics pesticides or herbicides can’t be used to kill pests as they can harm the fishes.
- Remember that you can’t use any type of insecticides and especially the chemical insecticides because if that gets into the water, it will definitely harm your fishes. That way it is organic because here instead of using chemical fertilizers, the plants are fertilized by the fish excretions.
- Since the plants don’t need dirt, it facilitates gardeners to have more production in less space. Along with vegetables they can cultivate edible fish as well. That way you can eat the fishes and the vegetables both!
- The two really big and powerful concepts about aquaponics are that one can grow without soil and recycles water. It is due to the fact that most of the places where food is not grown are because there is no good soil or either there is no water.
- Moreover, it is a very cost effective way if you are tight on space yet want to grow a lot of plants. More than half the world’s population now lives in cities where it does not rain much or rain is seasonal. They are slowly and gradually becoming concrete and deserts in terms of life.
A lot of city people can be seen struggling to raise food in that kind of environment and there is not really much you can do about it. But then using things like aquaponics, you can give it life.
Correct utilization of waste is the basic mantra
This whole process works where fishes do their business, go about their lives and as they breathe out through their gills, they emit ammonia into the water. Ammonia is toxic for the fishes. They also emit liquid and solid wastes which can build up in the water and become harmful for the fishes. But it is great for plants. The waste water flows out of the fish tank where separator catches the solids and the liquid is being pumped up to the plants in various grow beds.
There is a naturally occurring bacterium which converts the ammonia into nitrates and then these nitrates are absorbed by the plants as a fertilizer. So, the plants absorb that nutrition out of the water. Once, the plants absorb the nutrition there is now clean water in the system. And then from the grow beds this cleaned water in the process drains down into the fish tank. So, it is a whole circular system where the clean water flows back to the fishes.
Types of Fishes can be cultured
Many types of fishes can be used to fertilize the crops from tilapia to shrimp. With aquaponics, people like to grow tilapia. They are warm water fishes. Lot of people will grow perch fishes in the colder areas as they are cold water fishes. You can grow edible fishes and have a tank housing a bunch of gold fishes. So the whole system is really clean, so much so that one can literally drink the water in which the fishes swim. Yes! Astonishingly, it is absolutely potable water.
Plants that can be grown
A variety of leafy vegetable like basil, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, bell peppers, okra, cantaloupe and tomato along with other vegetables like onions, kohlrabi, peas, beans, melons, taro, radishes, sweet potato and various herbs can be grown profitably in these aquaponics.
If you are a relatively lazy gardener or you are at work and want to multitask, just follow the footsteps of Rob Torcellini. He has installed those automatic feeders through which the fishes get fed few times a day. This way you do not need to put in much effort to come out every day and feed your fishes. These feeders automatically open up at the timings set for feeding and get closed after the process.
Basically, it is like a fully automated greenhouse in your backyard where you can monitors all the different functions that are going on in the greenhouse like indoor temperature, outdoor temperature, water temperature and the amount of light coming into the building.
Precautions which are needed
Aquaponics has its hurdles. With aquaponics or even with standard hydroponics, you can’t keep the roots submerged in water all the time as they can get damaged. So, it is important to make sure that you are continuously flooding and draining the system.
Keeping a check on this is a very good way of not drowning your plants. Also, it takes a big initial investment and to grow anything a huge crop produce and huge crop produce means you need a lot of fishes and bigger tanks.
You can also do community service by selling the products from the greenhouse with the existing produce to the local community or use them for your own consumption. Everything in here is organically grown, there is no outside chemical introduced into the system. It is basically fish food and fish waste water that’s feeding the plants.