Aquaponics /ˈækwəˈpɒnɨks/ is a sustainable food production system
that combines a traditional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in
tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In aquaculture, effluents
accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity for the fish. This water is led to a hydroponic system where the
by-products from the aquaculture are filtered out by the plants as vital nutrients, after which the cleansed
water is recirculated back to the animals. The term aquaponics is a portmanteau of the terms aquaculture and
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Aquaponics ... spelled Aquaponik in the German
language is the use of aquaculture and hydroponics to produce organic vegetables
and healthy disease free fish. While both of these farming techniques exist in Austria, the combination
of the two is rarely seen.
The founders of the GesundheitsVererin have done great deal of
research on aquaponics in the United States and came to the conclusion that Aquaponics is the
sustainable agriculture of the future. The United States, Canada and Australia are
leading the world on development of aquaponic technology. Whether you farm in a warm climate or
cold, the bottom line is that plants grown using the aquaponic method are far superior to those farmed by
other means. The plants grow quicker, larger, healthier and without the use of pesticides. In addition,
aquaponics is the world’s most productive food system in terms of water use.
It almost seems too good to be true … so how does all this
work? In simple terms, aquaponics is a closed system. The water from your fish tank moves through
a planting grow bed where the nutrients from the fish waste ie., fish fertilizer, nourish the plants … the
plants filter the water and then return it to the fish tank in a clean state … and this cycle
repeats. The plants get their nourishment easily as the nutrient rich water flows around the root
system. In traditional farming using soil, the plant root system has to spread out and search for
nutrients ... with aquaponics the plants can use their energy to grow larger and healthier
because the need to search for their nutrients is eliminated.
Fish are raised in a tank or pond
Water from the fish tank is pumped or gravity fed to the plants
Bacteria that occurs naturally converts ammonia and nitrite to nitrate
Plants absorb the nutrient rich water
Filtered water is returned to the fish tank, clean and ready for the cycle to
There are four primary methods for growing food aquaponically:
1.Raft method: The raft method grows plants on boards (rafts) in tanks separate from the fish
tank, where the raft supports the plants and the roots of the plants sit directly in the water. Water flows
constantly from the fish tank, through filters, through the rafts, and then back to the fish tank. This method is
used commercially and the extra volume of water in the raft tank is a benefit as it provides a buffer for the fish
so they are not stressed by possible water quality problems.
2. Nutrient film technique (or NFT): With the nutrient film technique, instead of growing
the plants in tanks with their roots submerged in the water, the NFT trickles a thin film of water over the roots
of the plants, which are grown in narrow channels. This method is not used as heavily as the other two methods
because it requires a biofilter to provide additional nitrifying bacteria.
3. Media-filled bed method: In the media-filled bed method, the plants grow in a box filled with
a growth medium, such as perlite or gravel. Water from the fish tank is pumped into the box where the media acts as
a mechanical and biofilter. It is then pumped back to the fish tank ... "cleaned" and ready for the
4. Vertical towers ... specifically zip grow towers. Using a special media matrix it
offers huge bio filtration benefits to vertical farmers/gardeners with the integration of redworms into the Matrix
Media. By allowing the worms to inhabit the towers, growers are able to better manage the solids naturally floating
around in their systems. This type of bio filtration works so well that there is no need for other mechanical
filtration . The towers are made in the good old USA from food-grade PVC. The specially designed Matrix
Media has a silicone binder that limits exposure of the water to the plastic. It’s made from recycled water bottles
and is designed to be very safe.
For our project in Austria, we felt that the zip towers were the best choice for
us. The climate can be harsh for several months of the year and greenhouses need to be heated... it only
makes sense to figure out a way to grow more food in a smaller space to keep heating costs down.
The zip towers give us the "biggest bang for our buck"!
To sum it up ... aquaponics /aquaponik is a sustainable, abundant, and
soil free food growing system that produces crops 365 days a year!