An increased interest in sustainability
and conservation has led many farmers to begin growing plants through
growing. This practice grows plants using only water and a
growing medium – with no soil necessary. This provides the
opportunity to grow a substantially larger crop yield in less space.
is a word used to describe the raising and cultivating of marine
animals, fish, and crops that are grown in both fresh and salt
waters. When you combine “aquaculture” and “hydroponics” you
end up with “aquaponics” – raising fish
and plants together without soil, using only water!
Fish waste provides plants with
nitrates, and the plants in turn provide the fish with clean
water. But it takes work to make sure the plants and fish are
thriving. According to David
Landkamer, an aquaculture specialist from the Oregon State
University Sea Grant Extension program, "These systems require
monitoring to make sure everything is in balance and running
smoothly," Landkamer said. "You have to pay attention and
see how well the fish are feeding, how well the plants are growing
and see whether the water is circulating properly."
There are several ways to grow plants
with aquaponics. The raft
method is one of the most well refined techniques as it has been
for years in the
Virgin Islands. The plants float on a raft (made from
and their roots dangle into a trough below. The water in the trough
feeds into a separate fish tank and the plants and fish
simultaneously thrive. This method is the best for mass
production of plants and fish.
A second form of aquaponics is called
“NFT” – nutrient film technique. According to Aquaponics
Exposed, “The system operates by providing a slow, steady
stream of nutrient-rich water to the plant roots. The water is
circulated using a combination of pumping and gravity draining.
Unlike an Ebb and Flow system, Nutrient Film aquaponics does not
require a flood period – just a consistent flow of water from the
fish tank.” The biggest
issue with NFT is that the plants roots can clog the channels,
and the waste from fish can also cause issues with the plumbing.
Vigilance is necessary for using nutrient film technique to grow
The third type of aquaponics is media
based. This is the simplest form of aquaponics. Plants are in
containers filled with “media”
such as rocks or perlite and are watered by the fish tank, either
through ebb and flow, or flooding the plant and then draining. This
is the simplest form of aquaponics for small scale growth.
the plants and fish you wish to use in your aquaponics system, be
mindful of their pH and temperature needs. They should be
complementary, even if they will not perfectly match. Some good fish
choices include tilapia, blue gill, crappie, koi, fancy goldfish,
catfish, large mouth bass, and carp. Plants that do well with an
aquaponics system include any type of lettuce, arugula, basil, mint,
watercress, and common houseplants. If you wish to grow tomatoes,
peppers, squash, or other plants that have higher nutrient inputs,
make sure you have a lot of fish to accommodate their nutritional
Aquaponics is a truly remarkable and
sustainable way to grow your own salad and your fish filet for