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(University of Michigan at Ann Arbor)

- Overview 

Aquaponics is a food production system that couples aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as fish, crayfish, snails or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) whereby the nutrient-rich aquaculture water is fed to hydroponically grown plants.

As existing hydroponic and aquaculture farming techniques form the basis of all aquaponic systems, the size, complexity, and types of foods grown in an aquaponic system can vary as much as any system found in either distinct farming discipline.

In aquaponics,: 

  • Fish are raised in tanks.
  • Plants are grown in water.
  • The nutrient-rich water from the fish provides fertilizer for the plants.
  • The plants help to purify the water for the fish.
  • A nitrifying bacterium converts the wastes produced by fish.
  • The plants and nitrifying bacteria remove ammonia and other nitrogenous compounds from the water, making it safe for fish to live in.

Aquaponics is seen as a highly efficient farming solution that addresses multiple farming challenges. Aquaponics is an artificial ecosystem that attempts to mimic some of the natural metabolic cycles. 

Through the combination of a carefully selected group of organisms, the system becomes almost self-contained. Generally speaking, there are three different organisms present in an aquaponics system: animals, microorganisms, and plants.


- Aquaponic Ecosystems

Many definitions of aquaponics acknowledge the "ponics" part of the word hydroponics, which is growing plants in water using a soilless medium. Hydroponics is a growing method that has its own advantages and disadvantages. 

Aquaponics is literally about putting the fish to work. As it happens, the work these fish do (eating and producing waste) is the perfect fertilizer for growing plants. Once the fish get to work they can grow lots of plants! 

One of the coolest things about aquaponics is that it mimics a natural ecosystem. Aquaponics represents the relationship between water, aquatic life, bacteria, nutrient dynamics, and plants that grow together in waterways around the world. 

Aquaponics takes inspiration from nature and harnesses the power of living things to integrate these individual ingredients: exchanging the fish's waste by-products into food for bacteria, transforming them into perfect fertilizer for plants, and returning the water to be clean and safe for the fish. Just like nature does in every aquatic ecosystem.


[More to come ...]

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