Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What is Aquaponics System

Before we begin exploring the details how to build an Aquaponics System, I believe I'll start with a noob question: What exactly is aquaponics means. Quoted from wikipedia, aquaponics is a sustainable food production system that combines a traditional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a a symbiotic environment.

Definition of Aquaponics System

Aquaponics is an interesting system that's been around for hundreds of years, and involves cultivating plants and aquatic creatures, such as fish, in the same recirculating aquatic environment. It has some problems - the waste from the animals is extremely helpful for plants as it accumulates, but can be toxic to the fish, for instance. Here's a look at aquaponics and what it's used for.

Environment in a Good Aquaponics System

In a good aquaponics system, plants are grown in a way that lets them get the most out of the nutrient rich water. Hydroponic growing is common. The plants consume the nutrients, and should be set up so that they eliminate the toxicity of the water for fish and other animals in it. Often, the water is cycled around the plants, so that they can clean it, then returned to the animal environment.

An aquaponics system doesn't discharge water or exchange it with other systems. In order to maintain the environment, these systems rely on the relationship between the animals and the plants, and new water is only added to replace water that's evaporated or has been absorbed by plants. First practiced in Ancient Egypt and by the Aztecs, this system is used modernly in all kinds of formats. Systems vary from small home units to huge commercial ones, and can be either fresh water based or salt water based. China, Thailand, and other countries in Asia have made extensive used of aquaponics for centuries.

Most fish farmed this way currently are nile tilapia, though other fish and aquatic creatures can be produced this way, too. For instance, as tilapia are banned in Australia, silver and jade perch, barramundi, fresh water crayfish and trout are often grown. Green leafy vegetables are often grown in the hydroponic part of the system.The big advantages of an aquaponics system include conservation of water, easy organic fertilization of plants, and elimination of the need for waste disposal (usually used to produce fish). Less land is needed to produce crops, plant production requires fewer resources, and efficient installations can be built near markets. That means food doesn't have to travel that far.

Of course, there are disadvantages, too. The cost of the setup can be significant at the beginning, the number of possible configurations mean a wide range of results, and some installations require a lot of power and technological solutions. Designed well, an aquaponics system is very efficient, but not all systems are designed well. It's also possible for aquaponics system to fail in a number of ways. Feedstock for fish grown in these system can also be of environmental concern, since most fish are fed on wild caught fish meal. However, there are some more sustainable alternative options available, including plant based foods and duckweed.


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