Last Updated on March 6, 2021 by Filip Poutintsev
Before starting, let us break down the term ‘aquaponics’. Aquaponics is the successful integration of two agricultural ideas. They are aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (soilless plant culture ).
The term aquaponics was coined in the 1960s. However, due to extensive interest in local sustainable food initiatives, and awareness among development agencies that aquaponics may allow for the products of both vegetables and fish in water-deficit and soil-deficit zones, interest on this agricultural farming has increased promptly in recent years.
As we know, nothing interesting is ever completely one-sided, aquaponics has both advantages and disadvantages.
Table of Contents
- Pros of Aquaponics
- Cons of Aquaponics
Pros of Aquaponics
By definition, aquaponics refers to a sustainable form of agriculture that lets you grow vegetables and fish all at the same time. You must be wondering how? So the basic idea is the fish eat the food and excrete waste which can be a source of natural fertilizer for the growing plants and as plants consume these nutrients, they help to purify the water the fish live in. Here are some of the benefits of Aquaponics.
1. Environmental Friendly
Aquaponics is a closed system and it uses no harmful manure that runoff into the watershed (similar to biomass). If farmers use it, their fish can die. So farmers must be extremely honest about this. It is more environmentally friendly than organic farming because, in order to keep up nutrient-rich soil, farmers use a ton of composts that have innumerable harmful side effects but the case is otherwise in an aquaponics system.
2. Organic Fertilizer
A huge amount of fertilizers are used for commercial farming but aquaponics farming doesn’t involve pesticides or herbicides as these chemicals may kill fish. The plants are naturally fertilized by the fish feces which is a nutrient-rich fertilizer for the plants.
3. Saves Water
For nations where there is a scarcity of drinking water, aquaponics can produce with huge water savings contrasted with a garden grown on the ground (80-90℅ water savings) or even less water if compared with hydroponics or aquaculture.
4. High Level of Nutrient Utilization
The fish and plants in most aquaponics frameworks catch generally 70℅ of the supplement contribution in the form of fish food and the remaining solid waste is relatively simple to manage and might also be later used to organic trees or traditional horticultural crops.
Since plants are naturally fertilized by the fish feces, it is possible to reduce considerably the expense of fertilizer. If you do this on a small scale, there is no need of hiring extra laborers which will save your labor cost.
6. Easy to Maintain
It is easy to maintain after one understands the basics of this system. Even children can take care of it. In fact, many schools have done an aquaponics installation as their practical task for core STEM subjects like Maths, Biology, Chemistry, and Engineering.
7. Space Efficient
An aquaponics system can be set on any scale. It can be as small as an aquarium and as big as greenhouse commercial farm. It is being installed even in those areas where the quality of the soil might be poor or desert areas. It has become a system of great interest to cultivate in cities and places where arable land is practically non-existent.
8. Can be Installed Close to Market
As mentioned earlier, an aquaponics system can be installed almost everywhere including food distribution centers and markets which will lessen expenses of transportation. That would also avoid post-harvest damage during transportation and fresh and better quality of products can be served without being wasted.
9. Good Source of Income
Aquaponics creates a sustainable source of income for farmers because farmers are allowed to harvest fish and plant both.
Cons of Aquaponics
1. Not Many Crops Available
A lot of crops cannot be grown through aquaponics. For example, specific plant species such as tuberous plants and root vegetables perform most of their growth within soil and aquaponics uses water as a substitute for soil. It is also hard to grow large crops as it takes a lot more water and nutrients.
2. Initial Cost
It is difficult to mention the exact figure for the cost because it will depend on the size of the system and its technological level. There are fish and plants to buy and there is also a monthly electricity bill to deal with.
3. High Consumption of Electricity
Fish tanks are supposed to be kept at certain temperatures 24 hours a day. Water pumps also run 24 hours a day and this leads to high electricity consumption. Also, it is difficult to operate in places where electricity is not available 24/7.
4. Must be Professionally Installed
The aquaponics system is a complex system that requires a lot of knowledge and experience to construct and maintain. If it is not constructed flawlessly, losses of fish and crop/plants occur which can waste your time and money.
Mistakes including overcrowding fish tanks, unsuitable pumps and piping, not clearing waste regularly enough are made because aquaponics grower lacks knowledge about fish, microbes, plants and many other small components in the system.
5. Unexpected Failure
Aquaponics is more complex compared to other production systems because both the plants and animals should be taken care of. If the fish do not have the right conditions, they can die and plants are also susceptible to pathogens.
Aquaponics is an intriguing alternative for cold-weather nations or deserts as well as urban centers and community growers. Though it’s popularity is rapidly growing, the full potential of aquaponics is yet to be explored with the tremendous opportunity for optimization. There is still a long way to go!