Aquaponics: Vegetables Grown with Fish


Aquaponics, cooperation between fish and plants, to produce hydroponically (in water) growing plants using nutrient-rich water. It is closely related to hydroponics but is different because it incorporates fish to create nutrients. This practice is traced back to Aztech times when they grew plants on rafts on the surface of the lake. Today, aquaponics is still in its infancy but is steadily becoming more popular as a sustainable production practice. 

Like many production means, aquaponics has some downfalls such as being costly to set up and maintain, unavailability of plants and fish, electricity use, and risk of unexpected failure. However, this method’s benefits can be argued to outweigh the downfalls. These can include using ⅙ of the water to grow 8 times the amount of food per acre in traditional agriculture, natural fertilizer, removal of reliance on mined fertilizer, can be free of pests and herbicides, and being effective, sustainable, and highly productive. So how can you get started in aquaponics? 

If you prefer to build things and save some money in the process, building a system may be the right fit for you. There are thousands of plans found all over the internet that range in size and intended purpose. My favorite design was created by the Wartburg College Iopanoic program. It is a relatively easy system to manage and replicate. It has a lower cost to size ratio, as it can have high production for a relatively low size system ratio. This system is also found successfully growing Coleus cuttings in Mrs. Gettler´s room. It utilizes koi fish to grow the plants without the use of a soil-based media. In response to being fed, the fish produce a naturally nutrient-dense fertilizer that is ideal for plant growth. 

Another amazing aquaponics system is the one created and active at Morningside University. It resembles closely Aztech’s plans, including a basin (reservoir)  that houses the growing chamber (plastic baskets). It uses a separate tank, connected by hoses, to house the fish. The water from this tank is then pumped into the reservoir, becoming available for use by the plants. Morningside’s system is currently a large-scale system, but could easily be replicated on a smaller, more manageable scale. If you are interested in growing your own food, in the comfort of your own home, and love fish, Aquaponics may be the thing for you.