Why Aquaponics Is Better Than Hydroponics

Traditional agriculture has been facing many challenges especially due to environmental issues. There has been an increase in water source contamination, misuse of synthetic chemical inputs, and depletion of natural resources. The stale large fields are depleting and farmers are looking for better alternatives and safer ways to increase production while using less space.

With that, hydroponics and aquaponics have gained popularity while offering significant benefits to both growers and consumers. These systems have no negative impact on the environment.

What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is the process of rearing fish and growing plants in the same environment. With this method, waste from the fish is converted into nitrates by the existing bacteria in the aquarium. The plants now use the nitrates as food, in turn the plants clean the water for the fish to survive. This creates a healthy co-existence between the two species. The aquaponic ecosystem balances itself and takes minimal effort to maintain.

aquaponics

What is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is a popular soilless system that allows you to grow your plants using water and chemical nutrients. It is an efficient way to grow plants in limited space and harvest high yields. Hydroponics also takes minimal effort to maintain. You can place a little hydroponic kit in your house and grow vegetables such as kale, spinach, lettuce, basil, peppers and tomatoes.

aquaponics vs hydroponics

Are Aquaponics And Hydroponics Organic?

Yes, Aquaponics and Hydroponics are completely organic. Aquaponics allows the plants and fish to live in the same environment safely while the hydroponics only have plants and need you to add nutrients into the water manually.

Both systems have less pest and diseases so there isn’t any need to keep spraying harmful toxins that may be absorbed into your food. In addition, the fish in aquaponics may die from the pesticides, so it’s best to avoid them. If you notice weeds or pests, talk to a specialist to recommend natural remedies.

What Are The Similarities Of Hydroponics And Aquaponics Farming?

Aquaponics is the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture, it’s only natural the two systems have similar benefits.

Longer Growing Season

Most hydroponics and aquaponics are indoor setups, safe from the harsh climatic seasons and have alternative artificial growing lights. That way, the plants are no longer limited by seasons and can grow all year round. Both hydroponics and aquaponics growers can enjoy healthy produce and higher yield.

Decreased Environmental Effects

Indoor plants have fewer issues with weeds and pests. They are generally protected due to minimal interactions with direct wind, migrating pests, soil transfers, and cross-pollination that introduce the pests and weeds. With fewer pests and weeds, the growers don’t have to use any chemicals that have negative environmental effects. Although the plants grow directly in a water system, aquaponics, and hydroponics use less water than traditional gardening. The two systems recycle the water and have zero wastage.

Faster Plant Growth Rate

Plants grown in soilless environments grow faster than ones in soil-based gardening by 30-50%. This is due to the plant’s roots being in direct contact with the nutrients in the water. Also, the extra oxygen encourages fast root growth and direct nutrient absorptions. In soil-based gardening, the plants have to compete for nutrients, water, and oxygen with the soil, weeds, and other factors that reduce the plants’ growth rate.

High Yields

Plants in the soilless systems have a higher yield of about 30-40% more compared to the traditional farming methods. This is due to plants absorbing nutrients directly from the water solution and improved growing conditions. The indoor plants are well taken care of and if they lack anything in terms of light, nutrients, or water, the grower can easily rectify the situation. Such plants thrive well in indoor systems and produce higher yields.

What Are The Differences Between Hydroponics And Aquaponics Farming?

While there are some useful similarities between hydroponics and aquaponics, the systems have major differences worth mentioning. You as the grower have to compare both systems to choose the right one for your project.

Aquaponics vs Hydroponics

Capital

The startup cost for each system varies especially during choosing the plants and fish for the aquaponics. Aquaponics requires a growing media to support the bacteria that helps convert fish waste into nitrates for the plants. The growing media is costly and requires more space to work better. Furthermore, you’ll need to choose the right fish for your system to ensure their peaceful coexistence. Fish species are expensive and depending on the type you choose, you’ll need extra care to ensure their survival.

Hydroponic systems are quicker to set up since you only need the nutrient solution cycle for a few days to stabilize before introducing your plants. Aquaponic systems take longer to start functioning. It requires a minimum of one month to grow the nitrifying microbes that convert fish waste into nutrients. The cycle may take up to 3 months before your system is ready to support your plants. In the meantime, the hydroponic plants are far along if not harvested already for the ones with a short growing cycle.

Functioning Costs

For the hydroponics systems, you need to buy fertilizers throughout the growing season to ensure the nutrient solution is up to standard. The good news is, hydroponic systems only require small batches of nutrients to keep going.

On the other hand, aquaponics uses more electricity to support the water recycling process. The fish release waste into the water, the bacteria in the water convert the waste into nutrients and plants use the nutrients as food. In turn, the plants clean the water and increase the oxygen levels in the water to support the fish. The pumps, artificial lights, and fans used in aquaponics make the system expensive to maintain.

System Design

To support the fish, aquaponics requires a deeper system that runs up to 12” deep giving the fish more freedom to move freely. In hydroponic systems, the plants only need a water reservoir that’s about 6” deep and they have shallow roots.

The hydroponic plants are dormant and need simple growing media to support the plants and root system. The growing media is shallow and strong to support the plants all through the growing season. Aquaponics only need an environment that supports the roots and harbors good bacteria.

Plants

In hydroponics, you can grow plants with high nutrient needs and provide the nutrients in the water to meet the demands. In aquaponic systems, since there’s no external nutrient source, you might need to grow plants with lower nutrient requirements such as leafy greens, herbs, and lettuce. Otherwise, the plants will lack nutrients and die, which may cause the fish to die.

aquaponics plants

Ecosystem

In hydroponics, there are only plants making it an independent system but in aquaponics, fish, microbes, and plants co-exist peacefully. The three species rely on each other to survive and interact daily without posing any harm to each other.

Sustainability

Hydroponics is not sustainable in the terms of fully existing without depleting natural resources or severe ecological consequences. As for aquaponics, the system is sustainable as the plants, microbes, and fish co-exist and provide essentials to ensure their survival. The aquaponic system is self-sufficient and requires no external support to thrive.

Nutrients

In hydroponics, the plants need nutrients from the external fertilizer to thrive. However, in aquaponics, the fish waste is converted into nutrients with good bacteria. The nutrients in aquaponics systems are low compared to hydroponics. The fish acts as a natural source of nutrients and the microbes take their time to convert all of it into nutrients

Aquaponics Better Than Hydroponics

pH Levels

When maintaining an aquatic growing system, the water must have the right pH levels. In hydroponics, the solution must have pH levels of 5.5 to 6.0, while aquaponics needs to be neutral with a higher acidic level of about 6.8 to 7.0 for the fish to survive. Note that the fish create a naturally acidic environment and sometimes it might overwhelm the system. Therefore, it’s important to constantly monitor the pH levels closely.

Electrical Conductivity

Electrical conductivity (EC) is the ability of a material to conduct electricity. In aquatic environments, this feature is important and helps measure the salt levels in the water solution. The EC determines if the aquatic system can provide the sustainable nourishments the plants need.

In hydroponics, since the nutrient solution is made of external fertilizers, the salt levels might be dangerously high and if not controlled, the plants will suffer. Thus, it is important to constantly check the salt levels in the hydroponic systems.

In aquaponics, the organic waste from fish has little salt levels hence a high electrical conductivity in the water never results in any damages. The plants thrive naturally and you don’t have to keep checking the salt levels.

Conclusion

The soilless systems are fast-growing and more people are choosing these methods more in recent times. Both hydroponics and aquaponics have more advantages over traditional soil-based gardening. It is the future of planting with the potential to increase yields and reduce pests or diseases.

The two systems differ in many ways but both have good results. As you consider which system is best for you, compare the similarities and differences to determine which one best suits your needs. If you have more space, you can choose the aquaponic system for its sustainability and enjoy both fish and vegetables.

aquaponics experts

Welcome to The Aquaponics Guide

Hello! We are the Johnsons and the faces of The Aquaponics Guide. We have been avid gardeners for many years and growing our own food is one of our key priorities. We have found sustainable Aquaponics farming to be a life changer, which is the reason we have created The Aquaponics Guide.