Aquaponics is a combined method of growing fish and plants together in a recirculating ecosystem using natural bacterial cycles to convert fish waste into plant nutrients. It is an environmentally friendly method that uses the best attributes of aquaculture and hydroponics without the need to add chemical fertilizers, discard water, or leachate.
Aquaponics is a system where plants and fish are grown together in symbiosis. The products of the fish provide food for the plants, and the plants in turn filter the water, which is returned to the fish.
Aquaponic systems are typically grouped into several components or subsystems responsible for effectively removing waste, adding a base to neutralize acids or enriching water with oxygen. Typical components include:
Breeding tank: tanks for breeding and feeding fish;
Sump: a unit for catching feed residues, separating biofilm, and separating fine particles;
Biofilter: a place where nitrifying bacteria can grow and convert ammonia into the nitrates needed by plants;
Hydroponic subsystems: part of the system where plants are grown by absorbing excess nutrients from the water;
Sump: the lowest point in the system where water enters and from which it rises back into the tanks.
Depending on the complexity and cost of the aquaponic system, waste tanks, biofilters and/or hydroponic subsystems can be combined into a single section or subsystem that prevents water from flowing from the aquaculture portion of the system into the hydroponic portion. Aquaponics makes it possible to significantly reduce, and in some cases reduce to zero, wastewater discharges.