As we all know by now, Aquaculture is the farming of fish in a recirculating water system and Hydroponics is the farming of plants in water (no soil), also in a recirculating water system.
Aquaponics is the combination of the two systems, where one can grow fish and plants in a recirculating closed water system, giving you the best of both worlds. Aquaponics thereby gets its name from both systems, namely "aqua" from aquaculture, and "ponics" from Hydroponics.
Just as a matter of interest, I was recently asked the question at one of our workshops what the name "ponics" meant.. Of course I had no idea, but thanks to Google I soon had the answer. It is defined as " To labour or toil".
So there you have it, if ever you were wondering.
Back to the reason for this blog. Most aquaponic systems are obviously designed to take care of the fish (A), beneficial bacteria (B) and the plants (C).
With most small backyard systems, this approach is fine. However, on larger systems it can prove disastrous if something catastrophic happens to either the fish or the plants.
Many modern commercial systems therefore, are being designed as a hybrid system (see image below)
Let's assume for example that all your fish die, either from pesticide poisoning, ammonia spike, or some disease or other. You now have 5000 plants without any nutrients! What to do? With the design above, it's very easy.. You simply convert it into an Hydroponics system by closing off Valve 1 and adding hydroponic nutrients to the Sump. You can then empty out your fish tank and have it disinfected while the plants continue without missing a beat.
The converse is also applicable when something goes wrong with your plants, or you need to do extensive maintenance to the DWC channels or plant grow beds. You close off Valve 2, converting your aquaponics system into an instantaneous Aquaculture system.
Happy designing and happy farming!