Aquaponics is a way of growing plants and fish together in a sustainable system. It creates its own mini-ecosystem. One common type of vegetable crop that easily grows in an aquaponic system is lettuce.

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.


In an aquaponic system, fish are raised in a tank and their waste (poop) produces nutrients that plants need to grow. Fish waste contains ammonia, a source of nitrogen for the plants. Ammonia boosts plant growth as well as seed production and is also a key component in photosynthesis. 

After the ammonia enters the system filter, the system’s bacteria break it down. The bacteria convert the ammonia into nitrites, then into nitrates. The nitrates then pass through the filter and into the roots of the crop. 

While the plants absorb the nutrients, LED lights within the system transmit the proper wavelengths of light to the plants. The plants convert this light energy into chemical energy through photosynthesis.

The plants also filter and “clean” the water for the fish. After the plants filter the water, it is actually sent through a second (and final) group of filters. These filters ensure the water is free of sediment. The water then travels back to the fish tank at the beginning of the system.

This cycle continues over and over again, with the fish producing waste that feeds the plants and the plants cleaning the water for the fish. This means that you can grow both delicious veggies and healthy fish without using any harmful chemicals or fertilizers.

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:

  • The fertilizer is all-natural, free from any harmful chemicals because the fish waste provides all the nutrients the plants need to grow.
  • Free from pesticides and herbicides because pests and weeds are controlled naturally without any harmful chemicals that can pollute the environment.
  • By stacking plant beds vertically and using the water from fish tanks to irrigate the plants, you can grow up to eight times as much food in the same amount of space as traditional soil-based agriculture systems. 
  • Uses 90% less water than traditional soil-based farming because the water is constantly recirculated between the fish and plants. This means that less water is needed overall.


Some cons include:

  • Requires a lot of electricity to run
  • Setting up the system can be expensive, especially if you are starting from scratch. You have to invest in a lot of new equipment, like fish tanks, pumps, etc.
  • Not all plants can be grown this way. Root vegetables like carrots and potatoes need more space and soil than a hydroponics system can provide.

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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