Aquaponics is a food production system that combines aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in water). The fish excretion (ammonia) is broken down by nitrogen fixing bacteria and eventually converted to nitrate, which provides nutrients essential to plant growth. The fish, therefore, serve as a natural fertilizer for the plants and in return, the plants help purify the water for the fish. This soilless system recycles up to 98 percent of its water, making it very sustainable option for cultivating crops and fish. These sustainable food systems have been around for thousands of years in rural landscapes and ancient cultures; however, they have just recently gained popularity in the West. In an effort to optimize and scale them up for worldwide use, funding agencies and researchers around the world have been dedicating time and other resources to better understand these systems.
Aquaponics has also been used as en educational tool across the world, as it incorporates the application of many essential skills (model design, engineering, problem solving, systems thinking, cost/benefit analysis, etc) and content areas (biogeochemical cycles, ecosystems, symbiotic relationships, scientific research, photosynthesis, energy production, agriculture, etc). For this reason, it is a great choice for classrooms using Project Based Learning (PBL), Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and/or inquiry learning techniques. For more information on using aquaponics as a model and educational tool, check out our education page.
We have several blog posts you can consult to learn how to build your own system for classroom or home use:
We have a list of FAQs here.