Aquaponics FAQ

Aquaponics FAQ

  • What is aquaponics?
  • Is aquaponics organic?
  • What are the benefits of aquaponics?
  • What plants can I grow?
  • What fish can I raise?
  • How many fish can I put in my fish tank?
  • How many plants can I have with a certain number of fish?
  • What do I feed the fish?
  • How does it work?

What is aquaponics?

Aquaponics is the combination of recirculation aquaculture and hydroponics. In aquaponics, you grow plants and fish together in one integrated system. The fish waste provides a food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in. This creates a sustainable ecosystem where both plants and fish can thrive.

 Is aquaponics organic?

Aquaponics is a completely natural process which mimics all lakes, ponds, rivers and waterways on earth. The only input to an aquaponics system is fish food. The fish eat the food and excrete waste, which is converted (by beneficial bacteria) to a form that that plants can use. In consuming these nutrients, the plants help to purify the water. You can not use herbicides, pesticides or other harsh chemicals in an aquaponics system, making the fish and plants healthful and safe to eat.

What are the benefits of Aquaponics?

The combination of aquaculture and hydroponics is quite new and the potential for using aquaponics to grow high quality food around the world is tremendous. Here are some of the many advantages of aquaponics food production:

  • Aquaponics utilizes the nutrient rich water from aquaculture that otherwise would have been a waste product or would need to be filtered in a costly manner.
  • Aquaponics eliminates the cost and time involved with mixing traditional hydroponic nutrients.
  • Aquaponics provides a truly organic, natural form of nutrients for the plants.
  • By eliminating the soil in vegetable production, you eliminate all soil borne disease.
  • Aquaponics uses a fraction of the water that traditional field production does because no water is wasted or consumed by weeds.
  • In aquaponics, plant spacing can be very intensive, allowing you to grow more plants in a given space.
  • With high stocking densities in the fish tank, plants will quickly grow and develop in an aquaponics system.
  • In aquaponics there cannot be any pesticides or herbicides used, making the end product healthier and safer.
  • You can grow crops and raise fishes in an aquaponics system year-round. 

What plants can I grow?

Almost every plants growing above ground can be successfully grown in an aquaponics system. At first however, you should grow leafy greens, herbs and non-fruiting plants to give time to your system to built up the necessary nutrients required for the fruiting process.

What fish can I raise?

Tilapia, a fresh water that is fast growing and has firm white meat when filleted, is most commonly raised in aquaponics because it is very hardy and can tolerate a wide variety of water quality conditions. Other fish, such as crappie, brim, bass, carp, goldfish and koi can all be raised in aquaponics.

How many fish can I put in my fish tank?

It depends on the size of the tank and the type of filtration you have. In an aquarium-based system, a good rule of thumb is to stock the tank at 1″ (of fish length) per gallon of water. In larger systems with proper filtration, growers usually stock the tank to a maximum of 1lb of fish per 5-10 gallons of water.

How many plants can I have with a certain number of fish?

The number of plants you can grow is directly related to:

  • The number of fish
  • The size of the fish
  • The amount of fish food added daily

What do I feed the fish?

If your goal is optimum growth rates and food production, you should feed your fish a species-specific, commercially available fish food. If maximum production is not your goal, you can grow or make your own fish food. Duck week, water lettuce, worms and similar live feeds are often fed to tilapia.

How does it work?

The key to a successful aquaponic system is the beneficial bacteria which convert the fish wastes into nutrients that the plant use.

More than 50% of the waste produced by fish is in the form of ammonia, secreted through the gills and in the urine. The remainder of the waste, excreted as fecal matter, undergoes a process called mineralization which occurs when Heterotrophic bacteria consume fish waste, decaying plant matter and uneaten food, converting all three to ammonia & other compounds. In sufficient quantities ammonia is toxic to plants and fish. Nitrifying bacteria, which naturally live in the soil, water and air, convert ammonia first to nitrite and then to nitrate which plants consume. In your aquaponic system the nitrifying bacteria will thrive in the gravel in the fish tanks and in the growing medium in the grow bed. The plants readily uptake the nitrate in the water and, in consuming it, help to keep the water quality safe for the fish.