Aqua… what?

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Veronica reports on AQUAPONICS!

Have you heard of aquaponics? It’s the coolest sustainable  garden system that combines raising fish and growing plants in a symbiotic closed loop circuit. Aquaponics is an awesome food supply solution and may be the future of urban gardening. Here’s how it works: water is circulated between the fish tanks and plant growing areas so the fish waste can fertilize the plants. The plants then filter the water of ammonia and nitrogenous compounds, returning clean water to the fish.


Basically, aquaponics takes advantage of the naturally occurring nitrogen cycle. In nature, the nitrogen cycle allows plants and animals to live in regenerative symbiotic relationships. All living things require nitrogen to live, but plants and animals must obtain nitrogen in different chemical forms. Plants absorb nitrogen compounds from natural fertilizers in the soil like animal waste or decaying plants. Animals get their nitrogen by eating plants or other plant-eating animals. Aquaponics fulfills the nitrogen cycle by combing hydroponics (growing plants in water) with aquaculture (raising aquatic animals).

Many kinds of fish and plants can be raised in aquaponic systems. And they can be raised hormone and pesticide free! Freshwater, herbivorous or omnivorous fish are ideal options for ease of feeding. Although not necessary, growers often chose edible fish, including tilapia, catfish, crappie, koi, trout, and perches. Prawns and crayfish are also good marine creatures for aquaponic systems. The common plants that are grown include green leafy vegetables like lettuce, basil, Swiss chard, arugula, watercress, and Chinese cabbage (bok choy). Yum! In more complex systems with more nutrients, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans, peas, and squash can also be grown. Talk about a great food system!  

Aquaponics has more benefits than other food systems because of its versatility and adaptability. The system can operate with minimal environmental impact and even run on solar power. Aquaponics requires 90% less water than conventional vegetable gardens and 97% less water than standard aquaculture methods. They can also be built in a variety of configurations—both indoor and outdoor, horizontal and vertical. Indoor aquaponics, like The Plant in Chicago, Illinois, are able to provide food year-round. The 1:1 team is excited about these innovative gardens!

If you want to learn more about how to start your own aquaponics system, San Diego’s EcoLife offers training. Note that aquaponics just one example of the larger domain of permaculture (sustainable and self-sufficient agricultural ecosystems). If you’d like to learn more about different kinds of permaculture other than aquaponics, check out the San Diego Living Institute’s awesome classes!