Aquaponic gardening is a new technique that combines hydroponics and aquaculture to create a system in which plants and fish thrive. It is similar to an eco-system in that it basically requires growing plants and raising fish together in order to maximize the benefits that each provides to the other. In an aquaponics system, the fish and plants have a symbiotic relationship and that means they have to be seen as a unit and not treated separately. Once properly set up, this system is self-sustaining and will deliver great results.
There are many advantages to aquaponic gardening over other more traditional methods of growing plants or raising fish. One of the main benefits of aquaponics is that it is environmentally friendly and has little negative impact in terms energy usage or pollution. Since the fish and plants work together to maintain this self-sustaining system, there is no need to use any chemicals. Compared to standard agriculture and aquaculture methods, aquaponics systems use very little water. The average system uses only a tenth of the water and energy needed to successfully plant field or garden crops.
In addition to being environmentally friendly, aquaponics also saves money in the long run. Even though it can be costly to start a system and get it working as a unit, once it is started and functioning very little money will have to be invested. This is because the plants, which do not require soil, are fed by the nutrients resulting from the ammonia produced by the fish. Not having to rely on soil also reduces costs since there is no need to prepare or purchase soil, buy gardening tools like shovels or remove weeds by hand or chemicals. Water is recycled throughout an aquaponics system so only very little has to be added now and then after some is lost through natural evaporation. Very little maintenance is required to keep an aquaponic system running smoothly.
Plants grown in an aquaponic system also grow faster. In general, the plant growth rate is twice that of soil grown plants. This is mostly due to the abundant and constant supply of nutrients. The fish in the tank supplying the nutrient rich water to the plants also thrive with little effort, because the plants use up the nitrates in the water so only clean, fresh water is returned to the tank.
Aquaponic gardens are extremely efficient and simple to operate. There are large commercial-scale systems, as well as smaller do it yourself systems that are ideal for any garden. There are even sets available that can be operated indoors so that fresh produce can be guaranteed throughout the year. The basics needed to start are a fish tank to hold the fish, a pump to deliver the waste water from the fish tank to the plants in a raised grow beds that are filled with a hydroponic medium and a pump that returns the clean oxygenated water to the fish tank.
In addition to the equipment, it will be necessary to choose plants and fish for the system. There are countless options and combinations, which makes it important to determine beforehand exactly what you want to grow and which are the ideal complementary fish for that system.