Aquaponics gardening is a terrific way to grow your own organic veggies and chemical free fish. It is a sustainable food production system that combines a traditional aquaculture with hydroponics in a symbiotic environment. In the aquaculture, effluents accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity for the fish. This water is led to a hydroponic system where the by-products from the aquaculture are filtered out by the plants as vital nutrients, after which the cleansed water is recirculated back to the animals. The term aquaponics is a portmanteau of the terms aquaculture and hydroponic. Aquaponic systems vary in size from small indoor or outdoor units to large commercial units, using the same technology. The systems usually contain fresh water, but salt water systems are plausible depending on the type of aquatic animal and which plants.
Unlike traditional gardening, there is no constant manual watering or soil used in aquaponics gardening systems. Instead, there are two main parts in the aquaponics system which is the rearing tank for the fish and the hydroponics subsystem for growing plants. The hydroponics subsystem is the portion of the system that allows the roots of plants to be immersed in nutrient rich water that comes from the rearing tank. The waste from the rearing tank contains vital nutrients that are similar to traditional gardening fertilizers. This system does not require constant maintenance like a traditional garden. Nitrification, the aerobic conversion of ammonia into nitrates, is one of the most important functions in an aquaponics system as it reduces the toxicity of the water for fish, and allows the resulting nitrate compounds to be removed by the plants for nourishment. Ammonia is steadily released into the water through the excreta and gills of fish as a product of their metabolism, but must be filtered out of the water since higher concentrations of ammonia can kill fish. Although plants can absorb ammonia from the water to some degree, nitrates are assimilated more easily, thereby efficiently reducing the toxicity of the water for fish.
Aquaponic systems do not typically discharge or exchange water under normal operation, but instead recirculate and reuse water very effectively. The system relies on the relationship between the animals and the plants to maintain a stable aquatic environment that experience a minimum of fluctuation in ambient nutrient and oxygen levels. Water is only added to replace water loss from absorption and transpiration by plants, evaporation into the air from surface water, overflow from the system from rainfall, and removal of biomass such as settled solid wastes from the system. As a result, aquaponics uses approximately 2% of the water that a conventionally irrigated farm requires for the same vegetable production.This allows for aquaponic production of both crops and fish in areas where water or fertile land is scarce.
Aquaponic systems can also be used to replicate controlled wetland conditions that are useful for water treatment by reclaiming potable water from typical household sewage. The nutrient-filled overflow water can be accumulated in catchment tanks, and reused to accelerate growth of crops planted in soil, or it may be pumped back into the aquaponic system to top up the water level. In terms of outputs, an aquaponics system may continually yield plants such as vegetables grown in hydroponics, and edible aquatic species raised in an aquaculture.