Aquaponics is a very important system that turns waste from fish and a variety of other aquatic animals into food for hydroponic plants. The plants in the system sever as filters that purify the water for fish which provides the waste material for the system.

Hydroponic plants grow without soil. Instead, growers use an alternative substance in place of dirt to support the roots of the plants.  Overall, the main idea is to have crops grow directly in water with nutrients made by the fish.  One common type of vegetable crop that easily grows in an aquaponic system is lettuce.


First, the fish produce waste. Fish waste contains ammonia, which is a source of nitrogen for plants.  Ammonia boosts plant growth as well as seed production and is also a key component of photosynthesis. After the ammonia enters the system filter, the system’s bacteria break it down.  Then these bacteria convert the ammonia into nitrites and eventually nitrates. Finally, nitrates are able to make their way through the filter and down into the roots of the crop to feed it.

While the plants absorb the nutrients, LED lights within the system shine down on them. The purpose of the lights is to transmit the proper wavelengths to the plants. Next, the plants convert light energy into chemical energy. Overall, this is known as photosynthesis.


The reason growers choose LED lights instead of other forms of lighting is that they last longer and are low-cost to leave on.  After the LED lights provide the energy for photosynthesis, the plants are well-fed, the crops are able to filter and purify the water within the system. After the plants filter the water, the water is actually sent through another group of filters. This final group of filters makes sure the water is free from any extra sediment. Then, after the water is free of sediment it travels back to the fish tank at the beginning of the system. Finally, the process can keep repeating.


Some benefits of aquaponics:

  • Fertilizer is all-natural
  • Produce is free of pesticides and herbicides
  • Less water use (which reduces pollution)
  • The system can grow 8x as much food as a typical agriculture system


Some cons include:

  • Excess of electricity use
  • The fact that it cannot be set up by just anyone (must call on professional help)
  • Potentially high cost depending on the size of the system
  • Not many plants can be grown this way

So, while aquaponics is a very efficient and useful system, it does have its potential downsides. These are all things to consider for those wanting to get into aquaponics. Overall, it is important to research across all sides of a topic, not just the good sides. Despite the negatives, aquaponics is very effective in reducing our environmental footprint.  Furthermore, these systems provide many fresh and nutritious vegetables that are pesticide-free.  Some common produce includes cucumbers, bell peppers, cauliflower, and kale!

What do you think about aquaponics?

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