Aquaponics is the creation of a complete cycle of symbiotic relationships where the fish help plants and the plants help fish. It uses no chemicals, requires one tenth of the water needed for field plant production and only a fraction of the water that is used for fish culture. (Aquaculture)
This is truly a remarkable system, because it works so well. The fish actually supply nutrients to a bed of plants, (called Grow Beds) and plants clean up the water that the fish live in, making a mutual beneficial environment for both. The only external input to the system is food for the fish. The plants grow in a Grow Bed
Both Aquaponics systems compliment each other as a single unit, not as separate units. The fish water is pumped to the Grow Beds, and is evenly distributed by a simple system of pipes. The fish water feeds the plants, such as tomato's, cucumbers, lettuce and other green leafy vegetables, then filters through the grow bed that is filled with gravel / round river stones, finally returning to the fish tank by gravity or by pump. The water is returned to the fish tank cleaned ready for use by the fish, and so the cycle continues.
So an Aquaponics system is made up of a tank containing the fish of choice, and a series of Grow Beds for vegetable production.
Aquaponics is suitable for ornamental fish, Barramundi, Bass, Jade Perch, Golden Perch, Silver Perch, Murray Cod. In Australia we are blessed with a wide choice of Native Fish Species (some listed above) that are perfectly suitable for Aquaponics and are wonderful eating as well. In other parts of the world Tilapia and Carp are grown very successfully.
What is amazing in Aquaponics, once the system is initialised, it works really well, just as it should being a natural system.
The water is basically recycled, with a small amount of water added weekly to compensate for what is lost by evaporation, and transpiration by the vegetables. Therefore Aquaponics uses only about 10% of the water required for traditional gardening or fish farming. Aquaponics is the future of home gardening and commercial fresh food production for a dry land like Australia.
Aquaponics is a balanced, self-contained eco system that works!! No chemicals fertilisers are added what so ever. It istotally organic. In fact, insecticide chemicals cannot be sprayed or added to the vegetable part of the system, because if that happens, the fish will die. Aquaponics has an inbuilt organic policeman. Garden pests are kept to a minimum by housing the system in a green house and eventually a natural balance is achieved.
Earthworms can be raised to feed the fish and the earthworm compost is used in other parts of the garden or perhaps planter box gardens. The worm farm is fed on excess vegetable material from the Aquaponic system.
This "Practical Aquaponics" article was first published July 30th 2006 -
Murray Hallam's Practical Aquaponics.