Aquaponics is a very important system that turns the waste from fish and a variety of other aquatic animals into plant food for hydroponic plants and allows them the ability to filter and therefore purify water. Hydroponically grown plants are those that are grown without soil; instead an alternative substance is used in its place to support the roots and the crop is grown directly in water that is filled with nutrients to help it thrive. An example of a plant that is grown in a hydroponic system is lettuce, and just think, the lettuce you eat was grown with the waste of a fish!

How is this system possible? 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, it is broken down by the system’s bacteria and converted first into nitrites and eventually nitrates. Nitrates are able to make their way through the filter and down into the roots of the crop to feed it. While the plants are absorbing the nutrients, the LED lights within the system are shining down on them. The purpose of the lights is to transmit the proper wavelengths to the plants, which in turn, leads to plants converting the light energy they are getting into chemical energy.

This is known as photosynthesis. The reason LED lights are used as opposed to other forms of lighting is that they last longer and are the most effective in the aquaponics system. After the LED lights perform their job, and the plants are well-fed, the nurtured crops are able to filter and purify the water within the system. After the plants filter the water, they are actually sent through another group of filters to make sure any extra sediment is removed from the water. Once the water has been filtered for a second time, the newly purified water then travels back to the beginning of the system, which is the fish tank, so that the process can begin once more.

THE BENEFITS OF AQUAPONICS

The benefits that come with using this system are plentiful. Fertilizer is all natural, produce is free of pesticides and herbicides, less water is used since the system recycles (which reduces pollution), and the system can grow eight times as much food as a typical agriculture system! Some cons of aquaponics include, an 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, and also the fact that not many plants can be grown this way.

So, while this is a very efficient and useful system, it does have its potential downsides as well which is something to consider for those interested in getting into aquaponics. This is why it is important to do research across all sides of a topic, not just the good sides. Despite the negatives, aquaponics is very effective in reducing our environmental footprint and is the reason why we have so many fresh and nutritious vegetables that are pesticide-free such as cucumbers, bell peppers, cauliflower, and kale! What do you think about aquaponics?

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