How does aquaponics work?

farmer holding a lettuce plant from an aquaponics farm

How does aquaponics work?

How does Aquaponics work?

August 26, 2021

So, you know what Aquaponics is but how does is the water cleaned? How do the plants grow without soil? How DOES aquaponics work? We understand you might have a lot of questions so we’ve decided to break it down into bite-sized pieces.

The Aquaponics process is a marriage between a Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) and a Hydroponic system. Before you start panic Googling, let’s explain what these two systems consist of.

Recirculating Aquaculture System

Simply put this is a method of fish farming that constantly recirculates water through multiple filtration methods to provide clean water to the fish tank.

Hydroponic System

Plants are grown in soil-less media while water is once again circulated throughout the system. However, all the required plant nutrients need to be supplemented into a hydroponic system.

It’s easy to put two and two together and see that the link between these two systems is the water recirculation process. Here is where aquaponics was born, the combination of these two processes help eliminate many complications found in the individual systems such as excessive nutrient supplementation, antibiotic treatments, and those unnerving water bills.

But how does aquaponics work? Let’s take a look at the step-by-step process of a simple aquaponic system.

Spring Onion

Components of an Aquaponics System

  1. The Fish Tank

This one’s a bit obvious, it’s where we keep the fish. We feed the fish in an aerated environment and in turn, they excrete waste. Naturally, over time that fish waste builds up in the tank. These high levels of waste can become toxic and even fatal. Therefore, we need to remove it.

  1. Solids Removal

Also known as Mechanical Filtration, this step is where the solid waste and other debris are physically removed from the water. There are different methods to do this but ultimately the goal is the same. This step is important because the solid waste can easily clog up other parts of the system like your grow beds, filters and your plant roots.

  1. Biofiltration

By definition, Biofiltration is the process where microorganisms colonize a porous medium and carry out an important function in the treatment process of the system.

In aquaponics, the bacteria, specifically the Nitrifying bacteria convert the Ammonium (that toxic fish waste we spoke about) into Nitrates. These Nitrates are crucial for healthy plant growth and without biofiltration, they wouldn’t be available to the plants. For more information about this step in the process, see our blog post on The Chemistry Behind Aquaponics.

  1. Plant Grow Bed

This brings us to the last step in the cycle: the plant grow beds. This is where both degassing and the hydroponic process takes place. Degassing is important for an aquaponic system to be effective. Certain gasses are produced during the biofiltration stage. These gases can be toxic to the fish. Exposing the water to air is the best way to get rid of these gasses. The plants are grown in the hydroponic component of the system. The plants finally receive the water filled with those delicious nitrates. These nutrients are then absorbed and clean water is returned to the fish tank to start the process all over again.

So how does aquaponics work? Well, it’s as easy as 1,2,3…4! Now that you know the ins and outs of the process you can see why we think aquaponics is farming for the future while utilizing the oldest, natural processes from the past. If you want to learn more, then check out our courses on offer at our academy.