About Hydroponics and Aquaponics
Overview of Hydroponics and Aquaponics:
As the world continues to evolve with advancements in health, science, and technology, the gardening world is rapidly embracing hydroponics and aquaponics. Why? Because these growing techniques can be less problematic and yield better results when compared to conventional soil gardening. Let’s look at each of these growing methods more closely to discover how you may benefit from using these growing techniques.
It’s all about hydroponics and aquaponics these days, so come and join in!
What is Hydroponics?
The word origin of hydroponics comes from the Greek words for water (“hudor”) and labor (“ponos”). Thus, the literal definition of hydroponics is “water working” or “water labor.” Broadly speaking, hydroponics is the method of growing plants by suspending the roots in oxygenated water
instead of in soil. Nutrients are added to the water, creating the nutrient solution. This nutrient solution contains known quantities of nutrients and can be adjusted as needed when conditions change. Grow media – such as clay pellets, coconut fiber, and growstones – are used to support,
aerate and retain the nutrient solution in the root zone. Since growing plants typically use soil as a medium, the most notable change to hydroponic growing in the absence of any soil.
Benefits of using Hydroponics
Traditional soil growing is subject to many variables outside of the grower’s control. In contrast, hydroponics allows us to give plants precisely
what it needs when it needs it. Some of the key advantages of hydroponic growing include:
No soil means fewer problems: Growing plants in the soil can be a messy and problematic endeavor. Hydroponics eliminates the need for weeding, keeps growing spaces soil-free, and minimizes pests and soil-borne disease.
Space Saving: Traditional soil-based gardening requires a lot of space to grow plants while hydroponics allows for maximizing yield within limited spaces. Hydroponics can produce the same amount of crops in just 10% of the space used for traditional farming.
Faster growth and higher yield: Because nutrients and oxygen are delivered directly to roots in a controlled environment, plants tend to grow faster (30% – 50%) when using hydroponics. Faster growth results in shorter times until the next harvest. Thus, there are more growth cycles and a greater crop yield compared to growing plants in soil.
Better quality crops: Not only is yield higher and the growth quicker, but the quality and size of plants is often superior when growing hydroponically. With the optimal conditions of hydroponics, plants can reach their full genetic potential.
Year-round: Hydroponic systems allow for both indoor and outdoor gardening. If you live in a colder climate, no problem! Plants can be grown year-round indoors, meaning you can always have something growing during any season.
More control: Since you control the growing environment, traditional soil-related problems like overwatering/underwatering, aeration in the root-zone, and nutrient deficiencies are less of a concern with hydroponics.
Conservation: Hydroponics uses 90% less water than traditional soil gardening. Many hydroponic systems recycle water and nutrients, so there much less waste overall.
What is Aquaponics?
The integrated system of aquaponics combines the aquaculture element of raising fish with the hydroponics element of growing plants in water instead of soil. Like hydroponics, grow media and pumps are used. But instead of relying on the man-made nutrients used in hydroponics,
aquaponics uses organic fish waste to supply the nutrients for growing plants. Fish consume inexpensive fish food, which is digested to become waste, then this waste is pumped into the grow beds, supplying the nutrients necessary for plant health. Plants naturally help to clean water in aquarium tanks, so the symbiotic environment of aquaponics requires less cleaning and overall maintenance.
Benefits of using an Aquaponics System
Aquaponics shares many of the same benefits as hydroponics.Because plants are grown in soilless, nutrient-rich, well-oxygenated water, crops experience the same fast growth and high yield as do hydroponic plants. Aquaponics systems are space-saving, can be set-up indoors and utilized year-round, and eliminate the problems associated with soil growing. While raising fish may not appeal to everyone, there are a few advantages to using aquaponics vs. hydroponics:
Organic fertilizer: Aquaponics appeals to organic growers, as no man-made fertilizers are used and no additional nutrients need to be purchased (beyond the fish food).
Easy disposal: Since fish waste is organic, this fertilizer can be flushed down the drain or saved for composting.
Low maintenance: The natural ecosystem created by aquaponics tends to balance itself out, meaning only periodic testing of pH,
ammonia and nitrate levels may be necessary.Because of the aquariums used, aquaponic systems tend to consumer more energy than most hydroponic systems. In addition, it may take months to get an aquaponics biofilter to become fully established, whereas hydroponics systems hit the ground running. However, while both hydroponic and aquaponic techniques can be more efficient than soil growing, aquaponics is often the easier system to maintain once it is established.