What is Aquaponics? How it Works And Extent of Profitability

Hydroponics and aquaponics have become increasingly popular in recent years as more crops are grown without soil. Both methods rely on nutrient-rich water as the growth medium for all plants.

What Is Aquaponics?

In short, the name says that all aqua means water and phonics means to work or to cultivate, so basically aquaponics is a method of growing plants in water and using it as a habitat for fish farming.

By growing plants and fish in an aquatic environment, you get the best out of hydroponics and aquaculture. In hydroponics, you only grow plants in water, which is most often pumped out of the system. However, in aquaculture, the accumulation of toxic nutrients from fish, fish feed, and fish waste mean that water also needs to be constantly pumped out and replaced with clean water.

However, in aquaponics, these two problems are addressed in a mutually beneficial way. Through this continuous recirculation of water, plants can remove toxic nutrients, making the water safe for fish again.

How Aquaponics Work?

Now that we have defined aquaponics, we need to understand how this process works. The system is based on the process on which everything depends: this process is the nitrogen cycle. If you remember, we mentioned that by placing plants in the system, they purify the water and make it safe for fish again.

Role of Bacteria and Nitrogen Cycle

Until then, the nitrogen cycle makes it all possible. It all starts with ammonia, ammonia is a waste product from the respiratory cycle of fish, as well as the decomposition of fish feed, and fish waste, when ammonia accumulates in high concentrations, becomes toxic to fish.

Every dark, wet surface of the aquaponics system is home to nitrifying bacteria called “Nitrosomonas”. They are natural and extremely beneficial as they convert ammonia to nitrite. Unfortunately, however, nitrite is even more toxic to fish than ammonia.

Fortunately, there is another class of bacteria called “Nitrobacter” that converts nitrite to nitrate, which is fantastic because nitrate is an excellent source of plant nutrients.

So, as you can see, the nitrogen cycle is an extremely important process that converts toxic waste into less toxic nutrients that plants can use.

Role of Biofilter

Now that the importance of the nitrogen cycle and beneficial bacteria has become clear, we will emphasize the role of what is called a “biofilter”. Biofilters can be made from any inorganic material, such as gravel or hydroponic substrate, and incorporated into an aquaponics system to provide a place for beneficial bacteria to live and reproduce.

Biofilters provide a large, dark, moist surface on which Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter survive. In addition, the tank water is pumped through these biofilters and the ammonia is converted into usable nitrates; then the water flows into the reservoirs of the plant. The nitrates are used up and the water can now safely return to the tank.

Guide to Start Aquaponics

If you’re feeling inspired to start your aquaponics business, you’ll need some serious equipment to get started. We’re going to list the most basic products that you can use to create a simple system.

  • Ideal if you are a beginner, you will first need a tank, which can be made from a variety of materials such as stainless steel, veneered wood, or plastic.
  • The size of the container will depend on the number of fish you want to store.
  • Secondly, you will need the beds that you will use to grow your plants. The media layer can be made from biofilter-like materials such as gravel or hydroponic substrate.
  • If you plan on growing plants on floating trays, you will also need raft beds, while media beds can serve the same purpose as a biofilter.
  • You can include a separate system in your project, if you have space and resources to circulate water throughout the system, you will need water pumps.
  • In order for them to work, you will need to connect them to an electrical system, which can be main powered or solar, depending on your preference.
  • If you live in very hot or cold areas, you can also purchase water heaters or coolers to heat the water in the winter and cool it in the summer.
Guide to Start Aquaponics
Image Source: YouMatter

Additional Guide for Aquaponics Practitioner

In short, this is aquaponics, as promised, we have a few more recommendations for those of you who are still listening to music:

  1. Start small, if you have little or no experience in aquaponics, start with a small system instead and build it up as your experience and confidence grows.
  2. Choose your plant and fish wisely. If you’re wondering which species are best for you, first see which ones grow best in your climate, try chilling aquatic fish in specific areas. This can be quite difficult and increases the cost of cooling the water, it is also important to use additional fish and plant species.
  3. Check the water regularly. Fish are extremely sensitive to fluctuations in nutrient content and pH. Therefore, it is important to take daily or at least weekly water level measurements. You can buy simple and inexpensive kits online or at aquaponics stores.

How Profitable is Aquaponics?

It is estimated that an aquaponics farm with a production of about 200,000 plants per month can generate about $ 1.2 million in sales per month. However, this is based on the fact that you are not planting anything that will not be used as it will be wasted and add value. So, try to run factories based on demand and focus on 19% per month.

Nineteen percent per month is an exceptional proportion of the total harvest that will bring you a good harvest. We mean this because most business people around the world will be concerned about this because companies are looking for productive farms of this type. What’s more, it will also help you win the competition in the market.

Studies have shown that plants grown using aquaponics synthesize completely different chemicals than traditionally hydroponic or soil-based ones, but these chemicals are not bad, but good. Plus, they are really in high demand from cosmetic companies.

These are proteins and various types of molecules synthesized that help fight aging. They are antioxidants, so he is a true pioneer. Cosmetics companies are interested in the purity of these chemicals and, upon request, convert these plants into plants. This is a real point to consider when choosing plants for your farm.

Similarities Between Hydroponics and Aquaponics

  • Extended growing season compared to conventional gardening
  • A lesser impact on the environment
  • Faster plant growth
  • Increased production

Difference Between Aquaponics and Hydroponics

The great controversy that has been going on for centuries: the aquaponics system versus the hydroponics system, which is better. We will compare and talk about which one is best in which situation, and which makes more sense in other situations.

Aquaponics and hydroponics vary in funding, complexity, materials, and customization. The main differentiator is fish (or lack thereof). The difference between hydroponics and aquaponics is that aquaponics uses fish as a source of nutrients, while hydroponics uses specially formulated solutions.

  • Disease prevalence: A common problem in hydroponics is Pythium, commonly known as root rot. Lower water temperatures and a sterile environment help reduce morbidity but do not eliminate fungus. Meanwhile, Pythium is hardly used in aquaponics. It is believed that this is not due to microbes on the surface of the water, but due to the higher immunity of the plant caused by being in an aquaponic environment.
  • EC: Salt concentration is an important factor in determining the efficiency of a water system. Electrical conductivity is an important characteristic of aqueous solutions as it indicates the efficiency with which a solution conducts electricity.
  • Ecosystem: Aquaponics can be considered an ecosystem because of its interactions between plants, fish, and microbes. Hydroponics does not fit this definition, and hydroponic gardens cannot be considered ecosystems.
  • Insect control: Aquaponics poses more pest control problems than gardening, despite fewer insects. Spider mites, aphids, and thrips can pose problems in both systems, but pest control in aquaponics has proven to be much more challenging. Aquaponics uses non-chemical methods to kill insects. Hydroponic methods use pesticides to kill insects; Aquaponics uses chemicals to kill insects, but pesticides can harm fish.
  • Maintenance needs: The monitoring required for aquaponic growing is much less than for hydroponic growing when the system is stabilized and operating at its peak. In aquaponics solution, pH and ammonia levels should be checked regularly to check EC, pH, TDS, and nutrient concentrations; in hydroponics, the solution should be more closely monitored for EC, pH, TDS, and nutrient concentrations.
  • Mechanical failure: Aquaponics systems are known for mechanical failures due to fish waste that can clog the system. For this reason, hydroponic systems can withstand failure over a long period of time.
  • Nutrients: Hydroponic systems use an aqueous feed solution that needs to be regenerated and fertilized periodically to maintain proper plant nutrient levels. The most obvious difference between the two systems concerns the power supplies of the growing solution. Fish scraps provide the aquarium with natural nutrients, while the nutrient levels in the water are low for aquaponics.
  • pH: For aquaponics, neutral or slightly acidic solutions are needed. The optimal pH for hydroponics is 5.6-7.0; for aquaponics, 5.5 to 6.0 is ideal. with an optimal level from 6.8 to 7.0 for safekeeping of fish. The resulting fish waste naturally creates an acidic environment, so it is very important to closely monitor the pH level.
  • Plants: Plants with high nutrient requirements respond best to hydroponic systems because the nutrient solution can be adjusted as plant needs change; Aquaponics systems are best suited for plants with lower nutrient requirements such as lettuce and leafy greens.
  • Running costs: Hydroponics and aquaponics have different operating costs. Hydroponics need fertilization to keep the roots at the ideal level. Aquaponics needs more electricity to keep the fish alive.
  • Startup cost: Aquaponics systems are slightly more expensive to set up than hydroponics systems when fish are excluded. Microbes need nutrients, so adding a nutrient medium to the mix increases the initial cost.
  • Sustainability: With this in mind, we can assume that hydroponics is not sustainable because nutrients have to be constantly renewed in an aqueous solution. If this were true, hydroponics would deplete natural resources and cause serious damage to the environment. The components required for sustainability are provided with minimal cost. Aquaponics is like that because it includes all the components and components needed to survive.
  • System design: Despite the deeper layers of hydroponics, aquaponics beds usually do not exceed 12 inches to avoid compaction. Aquaponics beds require a minimum depth of 12 “while hydroponic beds typically go up to 6” to prevent compaction.
  • Temperature: For hydroponic systems, it is imperative to keep the water temperature below 70 ° F to prevent fungal growth, while for aquaponics, the temperature should remain between 82 and 86 ° F to prevent mold growth.
  • Waste disposal: Finally, hydroponic systems must periodically dump their solution and then add a new one. Regular ponds and rivers, with the exception of aquaponics, can contain pollutants that usually dissolve in water. These contaminants can cause serious health problems if released into the environment or drains.

Pros and Cons of Aquaponics

Advantages

Now let’s talk about the benefits of aquaponics because aquaponics has many benefits and the main advantage of aquaponics:

  • It is more suitable and more in demand for local regions, farmers, and farmers.
  • People in the market love the idea of ​​aquaponics, however, to be honest, aquaponics is no more nutritious than any other growing method.
  • The concept of fish and plants is cultivated together, like all nature, and this type of concept is very popular with people.
  • An innovative marketing strategy.
  • Attractiveness to consumers.
  • A rewarding experience.
  • You can eat fish.

To understand this, we can talk about the benefits of hydroponics over aquaponics:

  • One of the advantages of hydroponics over aquaponics is that it is ten times lighter than commercial hydroponics.
  • It wasn’t even fun, so on an easy-to-use commercial scale and you want to start making money right away, hydroponics outperforms.
  • Hydroponics is superior to aquaponics in growing certain crops because you can customize your solution to the exact needs of a particular crop, but it ranges from monoculture to one crop type. So, this is an advantage, if you grow the crop on a large scale and distribute it in this way, you will benefit.

Disadvantage

  • A certain amount of nutrients in solution tends to imbalance after plants have consumed or absorbed most of the nutrients, as the water is diluted and concentrated and you don’t know how much magnesium there is. So, you know how much phosphorus there is, so you are kind of ignorant, so you have to drain the water and start over.
  • There are more complications in construction.
  • The amount of time it took to cycle.
  • Errors made by beginners.
  • Increased construction costs

Conclusion 

Aquaponic water mimics the natural ecological relationship between plants, bacteria, and nutrients in waterways around the world. Aquaponics is a natural way to grow food. Aquaponics combines these individual components inspired by nature: just as mother nature does in every aquatic ecosystem, fish waste from plants and bacteria is converted into ideal plant fertilizer, which is then returned to plants.

This brings us to the end of this introductory article on aquaponics. We hope you learned something new, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.

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