Growing plants and fishes together
Aquaponics, is a sustainable food production system that combines conventional aquaculture, (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks), with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.
In 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 broken down by nitrogen fixing bacteria, then filtered out by the plants as nutrients, after which the cleaned water is recirculated back to the animals.
As existing hydroponic and aquaculture farming techniques form the basis for all aquaponics systems, the size, complexity, and types of foods grown in an aquaponics system can vary as much as any system found in either distinct farming discipline.
The five main inputs to the system are water, oxygen, light, feed given to the aquatic animals, and electricity to pump, filter, and oxygenate the water. Spawn or fry may be added to replace grown fish that are taken out from the system to retain a stable system. 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. Typical build ratios are .5 to 1 square foot of grow space for every 1 US gal (3.8 L) of aquaculture water in the system. 1 US gal (3.8 L) of water can support between .5 lb (0.23 kg) and 1 lb (0.45 kg) of fish stock depending on aeration and filtration.
Ten primary guiding principles for creating successful aquaponics systems were issued by Dr. James Rakocy, the director of the aquaponics research team at the University of the Virgin Islands, based on extensive research done as part of the Agricultural Experiment Station aquaculture program.
As aquaponics systems are very sensitive to imbalances to the above, automated system monitoring and control comes more than handy to reduce risks of aquaponics system failures and potential loss of fishes and/or plants.
A comprehensive guide to building and operating aquaponic systems, from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
This 288-pages free technical paper explains all the key principals of aquaponics (fishes, plants, bacteria and the nitrogen cycle, factors of water quality, various aquaponic techniques and key system components) with a focus on small-scale /backyard, rooftop, etc./ systems.
With a general maintenance and troubleshooting guide, this document is a must have for the backyard aquaponic farmer.
A blog and a community maintained by Sylvia Bernstein, author of “Aquaponic Gardening: A Step by Step Guide to Growing Fish and Vegetables Together”, offering knowledge and accessories related to aquaponics.
This site is a good place to start discovering aquaponics and to stay with the largest online aquaponic community of North America.
Promoting the benefits of growing fish and vegetables together
New to the concept of aquaponics? Looking for reliable information or news on the topic? Seeking micro-grants for your aquaponics? The AA is offering all these.
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