How do plants clean the water in an aquaponics system?

Hydroponic plant roots work like a biofilter: they remove ammonia, nitrates, nitrites and phosphorus from the water. The clean water is then circulated back to the fish tanks. Nitrifying bacteria, which naturally live in soil, water and air, convert ammonia first to nitrite and then to nitrate consumed by plants. In an aquaponic system, heterotrophic and nitrifying bacteria will adhere to the walls of the tank, to the bottom of the ponds, to the organic matter, to the culture medium (if used) and to the water column.

The beneficial bacteria discussed here are natural and will inhabit an aquaponic system as soon as ammonia and nitrite are present. Essentially, you have three crops to keep alive in aquaponics: fish, plants, and beneficial bacteria. Each of these three living entities depends on the other to live. Bacteria consume fish waste and keep water clean for fish.

In the process, bacteria provide plants with a usable form of nutrients. By removing these nutrients through plant growth, plants help clean the water in which fish live. An aquaponic fish tank is like an autonomous ecosystem that produces the right conditions for your plants and fish. It is also a self-cleaning system that makes it quite manageable, since there is no need to replace water regularly.

Plants serve as a natural filtration system to clean water. At the same time, plants receive a natural nutrient source free from commercial fertilizers. Aquaponics is the process of operating fish farming and the cultivation of hydroponic plants in a contained system in which water circulates, is filtered and reused between the two. Fish tank water accumulates debris that must be filtered to keep fish healthy.

But these residues can provide nutrients for plant growth, so in an aquaponic setting, water is used to grow plants hydroponically. Plant roots filter water by absorbing and using these valuable nutrients. By circulating water through the system in this way, both plants and fish benefit, and the water is reused. The system also provides a natural environment where vegetables, herbs and fish are organically raised.

For a great explanation of the process, as well as a tour of what an aquaponic system can look like, watch this video. Aquaponics is not limited to greenhouse production, but putting an aquaponics system in a greenhouse has its advantages. Media containing soil, wood chips, peat, or similar materials do not work in an aquaponic system. In aquaponic systems, they perform two functions: space for plants to grow and to help filter toxins out of the water.

A brief warning, aquaponics is not hydroponics, just as it is not aquaculture, it is a combination of both and creates a mini-ecosystem. Aquaponics is the ideal answer to a fish farmer's problem of eliminating nutrient-rich water and the need for a hydroponic producer of nutrient-rich water. Aquaponics has become a highly efficient means of supplying nutrients without the need to change water. Aquaponic fish tanks are really promising, in addition to allowing you to do a hobby or something you like to do, they can also be a means of providing food to the table.

When you think about maintaining an aquaponics system, the choice is up to you if you want to manage a system that can feed a large number of people or simply a family with a small number of members. From a nutritional point of view, aquaponics provides food both in the form of proteins (from fish) and vegetables. Although it is important to remove chlorine at the start of the aquaponic system, if a little water is needed just to complete the system, chlorinated water will be fine. Since aquaponics is two agricultural techniques combined, understanding just one aspect is not an option.

This fact sheet is to give a basic overview of aquaponics with an emphasis on plant growth and does not cover the entire aquaponics system. Grow beds are perhaps the best place to start designing the aquaponic system. . .

Erika Shipley
Erika Shipley

Subtly charming beer nerd. Extreme internet specialist. Devoted travel junkie. Proud coffee maven. Friendly problem solver.