Aquaponics is an integrated production of fish and hydroponic crops with recirculation of the nutrient solution in which fish wastes are used as plant fertilizers.

There is a growing interest in aquaponics around the globe due to the increased preference for locally grown food produced in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.

Aquaponics consists of two main parts, with the aquaculture part for raising aquatic animals and the hydroponics part for growing plants. Aquatic effluents, resulting from uneaten feed or raising animals like fish, accumulate in water due to the closed-system recirculation of most aquaculture systems. The effluent-rich water becomes toxic to the aquatic animal in high concentrations but this contains nutrients essential for plant growth. Although consisting primarily of these two parts, aquaponics systems are usually grouped into several components or subsystems responsible for the effective removal of solid wastes, for adding bases to neutralize acids, or for maintaining water oxygenation.

Typical components include:
Rearing tank: the tanks for raising and feeding the fish;
Settling basin: a unit for catching uneaten food and detached biofilms, and for settling out fine particulates;

Biofilter: a place where the nitrification bacteria can grow and convert ammonia into nitrates, which are usable by the plants;

Hydroponics subsystem: the portion of the system where plants are grown by absorbing excess nutrients from the water;

Sump: the lowest point in the system where the water flows to and from which it is pumped back to the rearing tanks.

In some cases, aquaponic production uses only 10% as much water as traditional crop production on cultivated land. With good management, the use of chemicals, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers can be significantly reduced or eliminated. If space is available, aquaponics systems can be easily scaled up to meet market demands.


Aquaponics offers plenty of methods or system design options perfect for anyone with limited space who wants to maximize their backyard for fresh produce. One, in particular, is the vertical aquaponics system.

A vertical aquaponics system is one aquaponics method that grows plants without soil in columns above a fish tank. This method of aquaponics is popular with growers because it is a water-efficient and space-saving way to grow crops and raise fish. It is a space-saving system that allows for the maximum use of vertical space. It applies the nutrient film technique (NFT) aquaponics method, in which the plants are grown in a long narrow pipe or channel.

The Vertical Aquaponics system has many advantages including the following: it does not require a large space to set up, more plants can be stacked up in vertical rows, no bending over to garden because vertical systems keep plants off the ground, vertical tubes are easy to set up and move to different areas, inexpensive and only require a little material to construct, easy to customize to your preferred style and layout, great for urban farming, flexible and can operate outdoors, indoors with lights, or in a greenhouse.

The only drawback here is that the system is technology dependent.


Tilapia are probably the most adaptable fish species for use in most aquaponics businesses. Other fish are generally less suited for various reasons.

Catfish are disease prone under high density conditions, but they require high densities in cages or tanks to deter the formation of aggressive hierarchies.

Carp can adapt to aquaponic conditions, but they are not a sought-after species usually, and most other aquatic species grow too slowly or are too carnivorous for profitable production.

Some success has been reported with hybrid bluegill, freshwater prawns, and red claw crayfish, and successful culture has been reported with trout in some cool-water situations so these species may bear evaluation in the context of the geographical region and target markets in question.

However, some fish species such as hybrid striped bass simply do not tolerate the typical aquaponics environment – especially when plant nutrients must be supplemented.

Whatever the species, the efficiency of fish production in a recirculating system depends on maximizing the average standing crop from day to day.


Tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, peppers, watercress, leafy greens, squash, zucchini, cucumber, peppers, and eggplant, are all examples of plant crops that have been raised successfully in aquaponics.

However, rapid turnover of plant crops is important to generate profits and maintain cash flow. Romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, herbs and several other types of plants grow quickly under aquaponic conditions and are well suited for this strategy.

Diversifying plant crops makes sense and can result in more marketing options, but plant crops must be compatible in terms of temperature and humidity requirements if they are to be produced simultaneously in the same system.

In some cases, it may be necessary to supplement certain plant nutrients such as potassium, iron, or even calcium. Insect pests are a threat to some plant crops, and early detection and control are essential.

Food safety has emerged as an extremely important management consideration in aquaponic systems. Systems and products should be routinely tested for E. coli. The need to maintain healthy populations of beneficial bacteria in biofilters and throughout recirculating systems results in a limited number of options for the avoidance of potentially harmful bacteria such as E. coli. As a result, a number of key areas of focus must be addressed on a day-to-day basis in order to maintain food safety.


Nowadays, there is a growing interest in small-scale aquaponics systems. These systems can be located within cities; for example, they can be located in parks, urban gardens, buildings, houses, courtyards, and on rooftops.

Introducing small aquaponics systems into cities can bring many benefits:

Aquaponics can provide a large variety of organic and seasonal fresh produce. These vegetables are environmentally friendly because they have a reduced transport footprint; Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation (trucks, airplanes, railways, etc.; do not need to be transported far before reaching our tables.

Urban aquaponics systems can also encourage social initiatives. For example, they can promote cohousing (communities in which people have their own residences but share common spaces such as rooftops, courtyards, and balconies).

Educational workshops, both of which provide people with a greater chance of meeting their neighbors.

Aquaponics can also provide shelter for birds and beneficial insects, which increases the city’s biodiversity.

Last, urban aquaponics can help create jobs for people in cities.


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