WHAT IS AQUAPONICS AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
Aquaponics is a combination of Aquaculture & Hydroponics. Aquaponics uses the water from the fish tank to circulate through a grow bed where the plants are grown. Nitrifying bacteria convert fish wastes into plant-available nutrients. The plants use these nutrients as their main nutrient supply. The fish benefit from this process also, as the water is filtered by the plants, giving the fish clean water to live in. With Aquaponics, both the fish and the plants not only grow well, they flourish.
IS AQUAPONICS ORGANIC?
Aquaponics is totally organic, the process of Aquaponics is a natural interaction between fish and the plants that produces no toxic waste, and does not use any chemical fertilisers or nutrients. Both the plants and the fish contribute to the cycling process of Aquaponics, with the grower using this interaction to their benefit – the fish provide the nutrients for the plants and the plants filter the water so that the fish are able to live. Natural chemicals and the fish food are the only additives to the Aquaponics system.
CAN THIS BE A HOBBY OR IS IT A COMMERCIAL INDUSTRY?
The great thing about Aquaponics is that as well as being a growing commercial industry, its methods can also be used in the backyard by the hobbyist to grow food and fish for the family.
Aquaponics systems vary in size with the smallest being an indoor fish tank with either fish you can eat or fish that you like to watch and not eat e.g. goldfish. An Aquaponics system can be adapted to an aquarium that is already operating, or can be started from scratch.
Aquaponics systems used by the backyard grower can vary in size, sometimes taking up a corner of the backyard, and sometimes taking up the whole backyard. Aquaponics also has the potential to provide fresh food and fish to the community through community based schemes, using either backyards or public land to set up the systems.
The commercial industry of Aquaponics is growing in Australia, especially since the push towards using more sustainable ways of farming began, and coupled with the drought that much of Australiahas been experiencing in the last decade. Some Hydroponic and Aquaculture businesses have converted their existing enterprises into Aquaponics systems, and other business owners have set up Aquaponics systems from scratch.
DOES AQUAPONICS NEED A GREENHOUSE?
A greenhouse is not an essential part of an Aquaponics system, although it provides enormous protection for the system compared to being exposed to the elements (rain, hail, wind etc.). If you live in an area where it gets cold during winter, a greenhouse is needed for the protection of the fish and plants during the colder months. Aquaponics systems can also be set up indoors, using grow lights over the plants instead of using sunlight. This system uses more power than a greenhouse system due to the cost of running the lights.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF AQUAPONICS?
· Reduced water use
· Reduced chemical use
· Reduces pesticide use when set up in a greenhouse
· Reduces erosion by eliminating the need to plough the soil
· Reduced running costs compared to a conventional horticultural farm
· Stops backbreaking work of digging the soil and weeding for the home gardener
· Can produce fish and plants for the family / grower all year round, using a greenhouse
· Compared to conventional Hydroponic growers, Aquaponics does not need to use Chemical nutrients for the plants, as the fish waste provides these nutrients to the plants. This eliminates the pollution of waterways, which is usually used to dispose of the eliminated chemical water.
· Compared to conventional Aquaculture growers, an Aquaponics system does not have a build-up of wastes in the system that causes the water to become toxic due to the nitrites. Aquaponics utilises this waste, with the bacteria in the grow beds converting the nitrites into nitrates, which the plants then consume as their main nutrient source.