The benefits of gardening with aquaponics

The benefits of gardening with aquaponics

Aquaponics feeds plants by using dirty fish water as fertilizer. Learn how this system works and how your garden or backyard can benefit from it.

The benefits of gardening with aquaponics

A symbiotic system

With aquaponics, plants receive water filled with the rich fertilizer found in fish waste, and fish naturally have their tank water cleaned without being disturbed. Growers benefit the most — both by raising fish in an easier way and fostering bulkier, healthier, organic plants in less space than they'd normally use and with much less work. These setups can also be created anywhere with the right planning, so a balcony, kitchen counter top or even a basement would support an aquaponic system if the right lighting is used.

Design and setup

Most aquaponic systems consist of two growing areas: the fish tanks and plant grow beds. Tanks can be traditional glass construction or more natural pond enclosures. They should be filled with pH-controlled water and a substrate, often gravel, useful in breaking down waste matter.

Plant beds are connected to the tanks through flow tubes. Water fills the bottom of the grow beds, while a growing medium supports the plants from the middle to the top of the beds. The plant roots grow through the medium and typically hang free in the water. A pump moves dirty water from the fish tank to the grow beds. Once cleaned, it moves the water back to the fish tank, cycling another load of nitrate-filled water to the plants.

The best fish and plants to use

The most popular fish for backyard ponds might be koi, but for those interested in using aquaponics for food, tilapia is the best choice. They're hardy, easy to propagate and they have a mild taste that works well in many dishes. However, many types of fresh and saltwater fish can be raised aquaponically.

Similarly, most types of plants can be raised using this method as well, from flowering bushes to fruit trees. A beginning aquaponic system will turn out lush, leafy greens. Fruit-bearing plants and those left to bloom require a hardier, established system to provide all the fertilizer. The only types of plants that don't do well in an aquaponic grow system — or a hydroponic one — are root vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes.

Growing more with less

The biggest draw to aquaponics is the ease and affordability it offers any gardener growing plants or food, and the system is modelled after one used for centuries. The rice paddies of Asia are a perfect example, and ancient civilizations even used these methods for growing larger amounts of food in smaller spaces. Plants love the fertilizer provided by fish! And fish thrive in clean water. We can combine these features to create gardens that not only provide organic fish, fruits and vegetables for eating, but also require little maintenance, no weeding and little cost.

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