Aquaponics can be seen as a synergistic, organic combination of two nonorganic growing methods, Hydroponics and Aquaculture. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in a soilless media filled with a chemical nutrient solution. It has many problems, among them the use of expensive, nonorganic fertilizers. Aquaculture is the intensive raising of fish in tanks or ponds. It has the advantage of raising large numbers of fish in a small area, but produces large amounts of toxic fish waste, just as feed lots create toxic manure runoff. In an Aquaponics system, the fish tank water is passed through a grow bed full of beneficial bacteria and composting redworms, which transforms it into the perfect food for the plants growing in the bed. Thus the problems of both systems are solved and integrated. The benefits of Aquaponics include:
- The system is completely organic. Plants are feed by bacteria and worms breaking down organic wastes, just as they are in an organic garden. No chemicals can be used on either fish or plants; they will destroy the bio-filter.
- It uses one tenth the water of conventional growing (all water is recirculated.) This might be important as water costs go up.
- There is no digging, weeding, fertilizing or watering, just feeding fish and harvesting.
- There are no worries about soil quality or availability.
- Aquaponics fish are healthier and safer than other fish.
Aquaponics are great for growing large amounts of fish and vegetables in a small area. ( Yields are about 125 pounds of fish and 250 pounds of vegetables per hundred square feet.) However, it can’t grow staple carbohydrates, whether they are tubers, beans or grains. In my next post, I will explain how another growing method, Biointensive, can do just that. . . in a back yard!
For more information on Aquaponics, read Aquaponic Gardening, by Sylvia Bernstein. Be warned that she is alarmist about population growth.