What is Aquaponics? A Combination of Aquaculture and Hydroponics

So What is Aquaponics Anyways?

The easy answer to this question is, “A combination of aquaculture (farming fish) and hydroponics (growing plants in nutrient solution).” But there is much more to aquaponics. 

There is much enthusiasm for aquaponics, and for good reason. But not all the information you read on the internet is correct. This article will help you understand the elements of aquaponics so you can make informed decisions about this exciting new way of growing food.

How Does Aquaponics Work?

Aquaponics combines recirculating aquaculture and hydroponics. Water from fish tanks flows to the root zone of plants and pumped back to the fish.

The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) has been operating an extensive research system for decades. The fish tanks drain through physical filters to hundreds of square feet of grow beds, which flow into a sump. A pump in the central sump then pushes the water back to the fish tanks. The vast majority of profit from such a system comes from the plants, but the largest cost center is fish feed.

Recirculating aquaculture must remove uneaten food and fish feces. The UVI system is sized, so these solid wastes can be discarded without depriving the plants of necessary nutrients. More advanced systems process the filtered wastes to extract nutrients for the plants, a level of complexity that reduces the amount of feed required by over 50%. 

Mechanical systems are required to ensure fish and plants have adequate oxygen. Systems for lighting, heating, and cooling may also be required either for crops grown out of season or to maximize growth.

What are the benefits of aquaponics?

There are many benefits of aquaponics, and growers are motivated by goals that may be diverse. A few of these benefits and objectives are:

Sustainable Farming

An adequately designed aquaponics system uses minimal water resources, important since most world aquifers are being depleted at an unsustainable rate to support food production. 

Small-Scale Agriculture

Aquaponics allows the growth of a significant amount of food in a small footprint, making it a desirable method for home gardeners and small farms. 

Local, Organic Farming

Aquaponics allows organic crop production in contaminated or urban areas. Local crops can be grown where the soil is too gritty for consumer tastes.

Year-round Farming

Aquaponics in greenhouse or indoor environments allow crop production in all but the most extreme conditions.


Aquaponics is a great way to teach biology, physics, and sustainability. It doesn’t need to take up a lot of space and is fun, making it an excellent tool for parents and schools.


Aquaponics is a fascinating and enjoyable way to grow plants. Also, it conserves water, an increasingly crucial factor in some locations. Because of the nature of aquaponics, it rarely requires the weeding and bending associated with traditional gardening. Click here to learn more about the benefits of Aquaponics.

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