What is Aquaponics?
Aquaponics is basically a method that combines hydroponics and conservative aquaculture to grow food. Crops are grown in water in a symbiotic environment that taps into the relationship of a natural ecosystem combining microorganisms, water, plants, air, and fish. Growing using hydroponics alone is costly because nutrients are required to feed the crops and also, periodic flushing of systems leads to problems with waste disposal. On the other hand, aquaculture alone requires re-circulating of water, which often contains numerous nutrients, on a daily basis. This water is disposed off and replaced with clean water. Aquaponics helps reduce water usage by allowing farmers to produce organic crops and fish in a natural, dynamic pond type environment to feed their own families or for commercial purposes. This simple way of growing food has been described as the farming method for the future.
The Principles behind Aquaponics
There are two basic principles that form the basis of aquaponics:
- Biological diversity â This is a complex relationship that integrates microbes, plants and fish with their ecological niches towards enhancing microbial activity that is beneficial. This principle is the core of aquaponics
- Nutrient cycling â This happens vial biological filtration of water that changes fish waste into nutrients that plants can absorb and utilize
How does Aquaponics Work?
In aquaponics system, nutrient rich water is pumped from an aquaculture system to a hydroponic system where nitrogen fixing microbes split the derivatives in the water into nitrates and nitrites that are utilized by crops.Â The water is then circulates back to the aquaculture structure. Essentially, an aquaponic system re-circulates water through a vegetable garden back to the fish tank. Nutrients generated by fish waste are used to feed the crops while the crops help in filtering the water so that the fish stay healthy. An aquaponic system features three important components, the grow bed, the fish tank and a small water pump that helps push water in between the two. Water is pumped through crop roots then drains into a fish tank. As it does so, the crops extract the fish waste, which contains the nutrients they require to grow. As they do so, they clean the water for use by the fish.
Parts of an Aquaponic System
An Aquaponic system generally has two main components that represent its combined farming systems, hydroponics and aquaculture. The hydroponics components are used for growing crops whereas the acquaculture components are used for growing fish.Â Aquatic waste from fish accrues in the water as a result of the closed-system, making it poisonous for the aquatic life when its concentration becomes high. However, but this waste contains nutrients that are necessary for the growth of crops. Though aquaponic systems comprise of these two systems, they can be grouped into many other sub-components that aid with effective elimination of waste, or preservation of water oxygenation. Â The following are some of the typical components of an aquaponic system:
- Tanks for the Fish: Each fish in the aquaculture system will require 5 gallons of water and at least a gallon per inch of fish. Barrels, food grade tanks, ponds, traditional tanks and pools may be used to create a fish tank.
- Trays for the Plants: These need to be deep and strong enough to hold at least 6 to 12 inches of rocks or clay. Buckets, plastic storage containers, or rain gutters may be used as trays. There are several ways of designing plant trays. However, floating raft and flood and drain are the most common.
- A Water Pump: Water that is used in an acquaponic system is often recycled. The water pump is used to kickoff the cycling process by pushing water from fish tank into plant trays. The water passes through plant mediums then drains into the fish tank again.
- A Medium: Plants grown in the medium and because soil will not be used in acquaponics, the roots as well as crops are supported by the medium. The medium also holds some of the water as it runs through the acquapoinic system.
- Air Pump: This important equipment is used to push air from the external environment into the fish tank through tubes, keeping the water aerated. The water in the acquaponic system needs to get oxygen through aeration because the fish and the plants draw oxygen from the water.
- Timer: This serves the purpose of turning the water pump on as well as off in half hour increments. This is because the water in an aquaponics system should not run all through or crop roots wonât receive oxygen. If they donât get oxygen, they start developing root rot and drown.
- Tubing and Air stones: The tubing carries water into the system. Black tubings, measuring half and inch tend to be the best as they prohibit growth of algae. Air stones are useful in breaking air bubbles that flow in from the air tubing apart so as to aerate the water effectively. They are plugged at tubing end.
- A Bio-filter: This is where nitrification microbes produce and convert ammonia from the fish into nitrates that is utilized by crops.
- Settling Sink: This is a unit that us used to catch separated bio-films and unconsumed feeds in the fish tank. It helps in clearing fine particles.
- Sump: This is the lowest part of an aquaponic system where water runs to and away from as it is pushed back to the fish tank.
Crops and fish that can grow in Aquaponic Systems
Farmers can grow various types of plants in aquaponic systems including most lettuce and herb varieties, tomatoes, squash, peppers, melons, broccoli, strawberries, zucchini, cucumbers and watercress. Also, various fish species may be grown in aquaponics including perch, catfish, Oscars, goldfish, koi, freshwater prawns, Peruvian pacu and tilapia. Even say, the amount of harvest realized through this farming method largely depends on the size of the system. Aquaponics however has the potential to grow and harvest tens to hundreds of thousands of pounds of crops and fish pounds each year.
Why People Choose Aquaponics?
There are enormous benefits of using Aquaponics for growing Cannabis plants. Itâs not just a technique of growing some flowers and vegetables at home, but a revolutionary scheme of farming which has got the potential to convert a barren land into garden and a warm desert into an oasis. Letâs focus on the main reasons why itâs at the top of the priority list of people when it comes to growing Cannabis.