Did you know you don’t need to dig into the earth to get a garden started? Did you know there is more then one method to do this? Find out about Aquaponics and Hydroponics in this weeks blog
There is a rapid growing trend in the gardening/farming community. It increases growth rate, cuts back on cost, waste, and much more. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, I’m talking about hydroponics and aquaponics. Now, these two things do sound quite alike but are actually very different.
What is hydroponics and aquaponics? Well, they’re technologically advance ways to grow plants. To grow plants without soil! That’s right, growing plants without soil. Without having to dig any holes and messing with dirt.
These two methods deliver nutrients directly to plant roots. A much quicker and more efficient way to feeding plants. The roots of the plant are constantly submersed in nutrient rich water. Plants that are grown like this, don’t need extensive root systems because they don’t need to expend energy to seek out nutrients in the ground.
Both hydroponics and aquaponics uses liquid, sand, gravel, and other materials to grow plants outside of soil environments. However, aquaponics uses one more very crucial component, live fish. The fish in aquaponics, enrich the water with minerals and nutrients for plants to feed off of through the release of their bioload. While in hydroponics, it is up to the grower to formulate a blend of micro and macro nutrients with water for plant to feed off of. The formulated blend is very crucial in hydroponics. Too little and the plants starve. Too much and you might encourage unwanted growth like algae.
Aquaponics can be said to be a more complete and self sustaining system, while hydroponics requires human effort to enrich the water for plant absorption. As mentioned above, both is these methods are very similar. They both use highly oxygenated water that is enriched with nutrients for plant roots to continuously be bathed in. Both aquaponics and hydroponics see plant better growth rates than those grown in soil.
[Img Source: https://aquaponicsfarm.blogspot.com/]
Now that we know the main difference between the two, lets takes a more detailed look at cost of plant nutrients, sustainability of nutrient enriched water, productivity, maintenance, and lastly, organic growth. In hydroponics the cost is nutrients is fairly inexpensive. As mentioned above, the source of plant nutrients in the aquaponic system is provided by fish’s bioload. The main cost here is the feed need for the fish. Most fish food does not cost a lot and will last for quite awhile. In the hydroponic system, it’s a different matter. The cost of the chemical nutrient for the plant is quite expensive and can fluctuate drastically with demand. Currently the cost for these chemical nutrients is gradually rising due to over-mining and scarcity.
Knowing where the nutrient comes from in both system, we can then look at how well they are retained. In the aquaponic system, there is a natural balance. As long as the ratio between fish and plant is ideal, the water never needs to be replace. The plants will keep the water clean and nitrogen levels as bay. Only topping off the fish tank with water is needed due to evaporation. Unlike aquaponics, the hydroponic system isn’t a natural balance. Over a period of time, the water in the hydroponic system needs to be cycled out. This is necessary because the build-up of salts and chemicals throughout the system can reach harmful levels for plants.
Both aquaponics and hydroponics are superior to the soil method, but between the two it can be said that aquaponics is the better. In the initial start, hydroponics has better productivity and growth. Like plant aquarium or natural ecosystem, it takes the aquaponic system up to 6 month or more to establish beneficial bacteria and biofilter. In many studies and research, it has been shown that once an aquaponic reaches this stage, quicker and more efficient plant growth can be seen compared to hydroponics.
Once an aquaponic system matures, it is very easy to maintain. Like mentioned earlier, you will be required to top off the fish tank water level. Occasionally check the ammonia leave of the water to make sure the water quality is still healthy for your fish. Hydroponics though, requires a little more attention and maintenance. You need to routinely check chemical nutrient level in the water, check for salt build-up, and clean the whole system along with cycling out the current nutrient enriched water.
As you can see form everything mentioned above, an aquaponic system replicates the system of mother nature while the hydroponic system is a man made and controlled environment. Therefore, it can be said that the aquaponic system is completely organic. Some aspects of hydroponics can be said to be organic, but it is much less than aquaponics. Hydroponics can involve a lot of costly natural or synthetic chemicals.
These two systems, aquaponics and hydroponics, are far superior to the traditional soil method. Each has their own pros and cons. The selection between the two method really depends on the person, purpose, and the cost. If you want a more organic, self sustain system, and enjoy the company of fish then the aquaponic system is for you. If you’re a person to likes to play with formulas, chemicals, and want to have more control over a grow environment then mostly likely hydroponics is for you.
Has anyone tried aquaponics or hydroponics? Do you have some memorable experience form trying either that you would like to share? We would love to hear your thoughts and stories! As always, happy gardening!