Aquaponics is a type of culture that establishes a symbiotic relationship between plants and fish. The term is derived from two terms – aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaculture involves the breeding of aquatic animals, while hydroponics is the cultivation of plants in water.
If you are planning to try out aquaponics, you should be familiar with the basics and the pros and cons of aquaponics. As a combination of sustainable farming of plants and animals, you should learn the basics of how the system works.
In this system, the fish waste serves as the plants’ fertilizer, while the plants function as natural filters of the water. Aside from the plants and fish, another important factor is the presence of the microbes.
The nitrifying microorganisms accumulate amidst the root spaces and transform the ammonia from the wastes by fishes into nitrites then to nitrates that are absorbed as nitrogen by the plants.
It also converts the solid fish waste into vermicompost that becomes food for the plants.
The combined system functions as a sustainable form of crop production and also as a water conservation scheme.
The combination of aquaculture and hydroponic systems ensures that aquaponics capitalizes on the benefits of both and reduces any drawbacks from both individual systems.
Let us now take a closer look at the pros and cons of aquaponics.
What are the advantages of aquaponics?
Aquaponics is a sustainable crop cultivation system. It provides a series of beneficial features for the environment.
Some of the advantages of aquaponics include the following:
An aquaponics system can generate 2-6 times production since it allows you to utilize several platforms on top of each other. Regardless of your location and the climate conditions, you can cultivate various crops in the same area.
Efficient use of water and nutrients
In aquaponics, water is efficiently used, which serves as a life source for both the fish and the plants.
Fish waste is a nutrient-rich fertilizer for plants. By using the fish waste, it can help lessen the expenses set aside for fertilizer salts.
In aquaponics, you can utilize the same land for the production of plants and fishes. It simply means that it can provide a good yield on your land.
Flooring is not necessary.
In most areas today, the quality of the soil is relatively poor. Due to this, it prevents the production of good-quality plants. With the help of aquaponics, I recommend it as an alternative for areas with poor soil. Aquaponics is also a good option for those living in urban areas who are eager to try it out.
Aquaponics utilizes 90% less water than the standard modes of agriculture. It is also a better option than organic farming since it does not involve any harmful farming practices.
An aquaponic system can be installed in any location. In some areas, it is situated close to food markets and distribution centers. With this approach, it is possible to lessen expenses on transportation. The production would have fresher, and better-quality since damage post-harvest is avoided.
Among areas where the water supply is scarce, aquaponics can help save water significantly compared to a garden grown on the ground. It consumes less water than hydroponics or aquaculture.
High level of nutrient use
Both the fish and plants in most aquaponics systems generally catch 70% of the supplement contribution in the form of fish food. The leftover solid waste is easy to manage and can be later utilized on organic trees or conventional horticultural crops.
Since the plants are fertilized naturally by the fish waste, it is possible to lessen fertilizer expenses. If you manage a small system, you no longer need to hire extra workers, which can significantly save on labor costs.
Easy to maintain
An aquaponics system is hassle-free to maintain as long as you fully understand how the system works. Nowadays, many schools teach aquaponics installation as part of their practical task for core STEM subjects such as biology, math, engineering, and chemistry.
An aquaponics system can be created on any scale. You can prepare a small-scale model as an aquarium or take it to a higher level as a greenhouse farm. The system is being installed even in deserts or areas with poor-quality soil. It is a system that is worth trying out, even for those in urban areas.
Source of income
Aquaponics functions as a sustainable source of income since it allows you to harvest both fish and plants.
What are the disadvantages of aquaponics?
Similar to any production system, aquaponics also has its share of disadvantages that you should be familiar with. Remember that the extent of these depends on the care you provide. I will share below some of the disadvantages of the system.
It is important to note that no cultivation system has a perfect success rate. In an aquaponics system, the percentage is relatively small. Take note that many systems are primarily standardized, such as hydroponics. In aquaponics, further research is needed, and standardization is still lacking.
Several potential points of failure
Aquaponics is more complex than the other cultivation systems. With this in mind, you must be aware of both the fishes and plants. It merely means that there are several points where the system is likely to fail. In one scenario, the fish might die if the conditions are not right. On another point, the plants might be prone to pathogens.
Unsustainable fish food
The price of fish food can make the system economically unsustainable. It is vital to ensure that the supply of the food is at a good rate. In most cases, it is the costliest element in the entire system.
The initial cost of the setup
If you want to start an aquaponics project, expect a higher initial cost than other systems. Nevertheless, it is not possible to provide the actual figure. It usually depends on the size of the system and the technological level.
Remember that the system will require pumps and plumbing components. You also have to set aside a budget for the fish and plants and the monthly utility bills.
Not enough crops available
Several crops cannot grow via aquaponics. Certain plants such as tuberous plants and root vegetables thrive best within the soil, and aquaponics utilizes water as a substitute for soil. Additionally, it is also challenging to cultivate large crops since they use up more water and nutrients.
Consumption of electricity
The fish tank must maintain a specific temperature 24 hours a day. The water pumps also operate 24 hours a day. All of these can result in a high utility bill every month. The system is also not practical in areas where electricity is not available 24/7.
An aquaponics system is complex and may require the proper knowledge and skills to construct and maintain. If the system is not properly created, it can lead to the loss of fish and plants. Some common mistakes include overcrowding the fish tanks, inappropriate pumps and piping, inability to clear wastes regularly, and many more.
If you plan to create an aquaponics system, you should take time to learn the basics and how to manage one properly.
Remember that the system has specifications that require suitable materials and maintenance to ensure that it stays effective for a long time.
Now that you are familiar with the Pros and cons of Aquaponics, you can decide on whether aquaponics is right for your needs.