What is Aquaponics?

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The word aquaponics is the combination of two words, aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaculture is the science of raising fish and hydroponics is the science of growing plants in a soilless media. Therefore, aq-uaponics is the combination of those two food production systems into one.

Most of the world’s aquaculture production takes place in earthen ponds or raceways, and these sys-tems are static or flow through. Fish in these systems produce nitrogenous and mineral wastes which require extensive filtration. In hydroponics, inorganic fertilizers are used as the source of nutrients for plants, which requires flushing the system on a regular basis to replenish the fertilizer solution or to remove excess salt ac-cumulation. In an aquaponics system, ammonia (NH3) excreted by fish as a waste product from protein metab-olism is converted to nitrate (NO3-) by nitrifying bacteria so it may be used by plants. Plants act as a water fil-tration system by absorbing nitrogenous and mineral wastes to improve water quality for the fish. Fish, nitrify-ing bacteria, and plants benefit each other. The fish are the source of nutrients for the plants, nitrifying bacte-ria convert fish waste products to usable forms for the plants, and plants filter nutrients from the water to ben-efit the fish (Figures 1 and 2).

Thus, aquaponics is a unique ecosystem within a food production system, where fish, bacteria, and plants are mutually benefiting each other. In other words, aquaponics is the combination of both intensive aq-uaculture and hydroponic production systems in a re-circulating water system.

Todd Sink
Joseph Masabni
Texas A&M Agrilife Extension