Where Did Aquaponics Farming Come From?
Aquaponics is a system that allows aquaculture and hydroponics to coexist peacefully. Both farming methods benefit and support each other. In the reservoir, nitrifying bacteria convert the fish waste into nutrients that serve the plants. The water then passes through the plant roots for filtration before circulating back to the tank.
This system is 100% natural and is much better than traditional farming methods. The aquaponic garden is self-sustaining and requires no fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides, and low maintenance. Aquaponics is the ultimate environment-friendly system that helps urban growers to maximize their food yield.
How Long Has Aquaponics Been Around?
Aquaponics systems have a rich history behind them. Similar to other innovative technology, aquaponics has revolutionized the farming industry over the recent years. It’s not clear where the aquaponics system originated but they were traced to ancient Aztec (Indians) people around 1000 AD. These people had limited farming land and the vast freshwater lake known as the Tenochtitlan.
To increase their production, the Aztec people designed rafts made of reeds called “chinampas” and filled them with soil, and planted herbs and vegetables on them. These wonderful creations made little floating islands that we refer to as aquaponics systems today.
These chinampas worked great and improved the people’s livelihood. The people created artificial shallow lakes with canals that enabled fish farming. Some people argue that aquaponics hailed from Thailand, Indonesia, and South China reared fish in their wet rice fields.
Farming is becoming harder by the day due to dependence on the land, water, and other natural resources that are decreasing fast. Some brilliant minds at North Carolina State University and New Alchemy Institute are responsible for the modern aquaponic systems. Now more people can grow plants and rear fish in their small apartments. This method has proven useful and anyone can adopt and enjoy higher yields.
How Does An Aquaponics System Work?
Commercial Aquaponics can be a little complicated and you may need professional help to set up. Talented scientists are behind the amazing creation, with more business people and individuals embracing the system to improve their yields. Now that there’s limited land for more people to grow their plants, we can expect more people to adopt this method and enjoy healthier food.
Before we continue, how does the aquaponic system work?
An aquaponics system has fish in water reservoirs, the fish wastewater is transferred to the vegetable bed covered with gravel. The plants have shallow roots in the gravel that take up the nutrients and grow faster. After the water is cleaned, it returns to the reservoirs for the fish to enjoy. The system fully supports itself and doesn’t need external help.
You can create a large aquaponic pond or have a small one and place it on your kitchen counter. Depending on your need, you should also balance the number of fish. If the fish tank is small, choose smaller fish and less in number. If overcrowded, the fish will lack enough space to survive. If the fish are also less than the number of plants, the system won’t be balanced.
The fish won’t produce enough waste to provide the needed nutrients required. So it’s important to balance the number of fish and plants to create the perfect balance. Also, make sure other things like light, oxygen, and water are in plenty to allow your system to thrive.
What Are The Benefits Of Aquaponic Systems?
No Seasonal Limits
Traditional farming methods are limited by extreme weather conditions making some months unproductive. With the aquaponics system, individuals can plant their crops all year round using greenhouses with efficient temperature regulations. This method increases productivity and the planters can expect high yields.
Low Water Usage
Aquaponic growing helps reduce water wastage compared to farming on land. On open fields, there’s a lot of water wastage due to little puddles, evaporation, and runoffs. In aquaponic systems, all the water in the tank is recycled repeatedly without wasting a single drop. The system itself cleans the water hence you don’t need to worry about frequent water changes.
Weeds are mostly transported by wind, birds, and pollination during the flowering stage. But in closed greenhouses, you can expect little to no weed. This enables minimal activities and makes it ideal for people with busy schedules. Also, you can avoid using herbicides to enjoy fresh and healthy vegetables.
Plants in aquaponics grow up to 5 times faster than plants on land. Plants in aquaponics get to absorb nutrients directly from the water solution. On land, the plant has to struggle for nutrients and compete with weeds.
Plants in aquaponic ponds have access to all the nutrients every day making them grow stronger and give high results. They also grow faster enabling you to harvest several times in a year depending on the plant’s maturity period.
Source Of Income
You can use your aquaponic system to sell both fish and vegetables. The good thing is you can sell one or the other when the supply is low. It is a kind of food security and makes a self-sufficient lifestyle.
Less Space Used
Aquaponics gardens require less space compared to traditional farming. Aquaponics only need a water tank, light, and oxygen to thrive.
High Nutritional Value
Plants and fish in aquaponic systems are fresh and taste better than other methods of farming. They also don’t have any chemicals, pesticides, or herbicides that are harmful to human health. The growers can properly take care of the system and ensure they are 100% organic.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Aquaponics?
Despite aquaponics systems being efficient and self-reliant, it also has some weaknesses we can’t overlook. Here are some of them:
It Can Be Expensive To Setup And Maintain
The initial financial cost is steep and might discourage most people. The costs are greatly affected by the size of the aquaponics, pumps, greenhouse, piping system, and artificial lights. Even small counter aquaponic garden kits are worth hundreds of dollars to thousands, which is not available to most growers.
Not All Plants Are Compatible With Fish
Aquaponics is great for small plants, fruits, and vegetables. However, tuberous plants such as carrots, radishes, potatoes, blueberries, parsnip, chrysanthemum, and sweet potatoes cannot thrive in this system. Also, large plants that require lots of nutrients won’t do well in such a system. This system can only support plants with low nutrient consumption and shallow roots. Remember, the fish waste supply is low and a plant with high nutrient consumption would die and poison the fish. Also, not all fish can exist in an aquaponics system. Avoid fish trout, salmon, largemouth bass, and yellow perch.
Can Require Professional Installation
Setting up an aquaponics system requires skills and experience. If you’re buying a little garden kit, you can read the instructions and set up quickly. But for a bigger system, there’s a lot of construction and maintenance required to have it start working. The system is also delicate and needs close supervision especially the first few weeks of setting up.
In this system, you might save on water and land but compensate for electricity. Aquaponics systems require the water pumps to work 24/7 and the fish need room temperature to survive. This makes the electricity bills expensive and if there may be any power shortages for more than a day, your plants, and fish would suffer greatly.
Important Aquaponic Gardening Tips To Get You Started
As mentioned earlier, aquaponic systems need extra care when setting up. If done properly, you’ll enjoy the high yields for years to come. Let’s discuss a few things you’ll need to consider to make sure your system gives you great results.
Choosing the right location is important to provide a conducive environment for your fish to thrive. You’ll need to make sure the temperature is right for the fish and your plants need light to grow. The system should also be in a place with less disturbance and fresh air for the plants. Stress can be fatal to your fish. Make sure your fish are happy and healthy to produce enough waste for your plants. Avoid adding chemicals to your system as they can harm both your fish and plants.
Your plants take in carbon dioxide and take out oxygen that supports your fish. Make sure your fish has enough and the water temperatures are comfortable.
Pick The Right Fish And Plants
Aquaponic systems support almost all types of fish if you are only looking for pets, but if you want to fish for food, not all fish is edible. Also, some states don’t allow you to rear some types of fish. This means you have to confirm with the local authorities or look up online the restrictions and regulations in your state.
When starting the process, you’ll need to add water to the fish tank and let it sit for a while depending on the size of the tank. For instance, if you’re using fresh tap water for a small aquaponics kit, let the water sit for at least 3 to 5 days before adding your fish. If the tank is bigger, you need to let the water sit idle for long.
This is to let the water collect active microbes to create a conducive environment for your fish. If you add your water directly and transfer your fish, you risk them dying. After the water is right, add your fish and give them a few more days to produce some waste material before adding your plants. That way, the plants start cleaning the water, the microbes convert waste into nutrients for the plants.