Due to the world’s ever-increasing population, farmers need to look for different methods to grow food products.
According to a study, the world population will be nine billion by 2050, while 50 percent of the land will be unfit for agriculture. Hence, food production should increase by 110 percent to meet the growing demand.
Aquaponics vs Hydroponics System
Compared to the soil-based growing method, hydroponic and aquaponic systems use water to grow vegetables and plants. One of the most significant reasons for using water as the growing medium is that plants mature and grow faster.
The farmers need to ensure a controlled environment with access to the desired hydroponic nutrients, allowing the plants to flourish. Since there isn’t any soil; hence, the growers no longer need to worry about plant diseases.
Another benefit of using water as a growing medium is that commercial growers can cultivate and harvest vegetables throughout the year without relying on the weather. As a result, you can grow plants in smaller spaces in vertical farming.
The hydroponics and aquaponics growing methods are different based on the characteristics discussed in detail below.
Hydroponics is one of the most commonly used soilless systems for growing crops with only two primary components – water and nutrient solution. You can use organic media, such as peat and coco coir, or an inorganic media of gravel and perlite.
The hydroponic growers place the plants in a tray above the water reservoir containing the nutrient solutions. Later, the watering system circulates the water upwards to the plants. Lastly, the excess water usually drips back down in the reservoir.
Drip systems, Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), wick systems, and Deep Water Culture (DWT) are all examples of hydroponic systems.
Benefits of Hydroponic Systems
Whether you are a beginner or a commercial grower, you can choose the hydroponics growing technique for the following reasons.
You can easily estimate and evaluate the required fertilizers and plant food based on the overall size of the hydroponic setup. Furthermore, the prices of the nutrients usually stay the same throughout the year; hence, the cost remains consistent throughout the year.
It’s entirely up to you to decide the overall scale of the hydroponic system. Not only that, but you can grow your plants vertically or horizontally indoors as well as outdoors.
The primary goal of the hydroponic system is to maximize space utilization. For example, a small hydroponic system requires a six-inch deep bed, while a more extensive setup should have a minimum of 12 inches for drain and flood systems.
The overall process and steps involved while operating a hydroponic system remain the same. All you need to ensure proper lighting, humidity, and nutrient levels, and you are good to go.
The growers have complete control over the supply and use of the nutrients in the hydroponic system. Not only that, but you can also customize the availability of the nutrients for different plants during the development cycle.
The aquaponics growing method is essentially a combination of fish farming, also known as aquaculture, with the commonly-used technique of growing vegetables in water.
Hence, you don’t need to use any nutrients or chemical fertilizers as fish waste offers the desired nutrients and beneficial microbes and bacteria to the plants. In this farming technique, you can use catfish, bass, trout, and tilapia fish species.
The aquaponic systems outshine the rest of the growing systems because of their organic and sustainable nature. The growers can’t use any herbicides or pesticides because they can harm aquatic animals. However, it’s essential to filter the water to offer a healthy environment to the fish and the plants.
Benefits of Aquaponics System
In addition to growing plants, raising fish is undoubtedly rewarding and, of course, a fun task. Keep reading to learn about the advantages of implementing an aquaponics garden.
No Expensive Nutrients
Compared to the hydroponic system, you replace the nutrient solution with fish waste. Of course, one can argue that you need to buy fish feed to ensure sufficient fish waste. However, based on the size, the cost of fish food is undoubtedly lesser than the nutrient solution.
Alternatively, you can opt for the fish solution instead of buying fish food, which is more cost-effective.
Fast and Organic Growth
The aquaponics system utilizes a closed-loop ecosystem without using any additional nutrients. Instead, the bacteria and worms are responsible for the breakdown of fish waste and ammonia to offer the desired organic nutrients to the plants.
Another benefit is increasing your overall income by selling fish such as catfish and tilapia, which make a delicious dish.
Similarities – Aquaponics vs Hydroponics System
Both hydroponics and aquaponics systems are water-based agricultural methods to grow and nourish plants and fruit without using soil.
Not only that but both practices are sustainable and stable, leading to higher yields compared to soil-based methods all year long.
Lastly, these methods ensure lesser wastage, electricity costs, minimum maintenance, and startup costs.
Differences – Aquaponics vs Hydroponics System
Read the following deciding factors if you are confused between setting up an aquaponic or hydroponic system.
Nutrient Supply and Control
In the case of the aquaponics system, the nutrient source is fish waste. On the contrary, you need a nutrient source for the hydroponic system.
As a result, it’s the responsibility of the farmer to control the nutrient levels. Not only that, but you also have to select from the available liquid fertilizers that contain potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen to ensure the proper growth of the vegetables.
It’s essential to spend some time learning about the plant’s development cycle and the nutrient-rich water to set up a hydroponic system.
On the other hand, you need to determine the suitable feed for the growing fish because the fish waste affects the water quality. For example, the nitrogen-fixing bacteria break down the fish waste into nutrients that plants can easily absorb. However, if the waste quality isn’t good, the plants won’t get the desired nutrients.
As a result, you need to learn about fish food, fish waste, and the plant’s growth to maintain the sensitive aquaponic system. Nonetheless, once you master the technique, the entire operations run smoothly as the system becomes self-sustaining.
The nutrient solution is the most crucial method to decide the growth and yield of the plants in a hydroponic system. On the other hand, the rich and organic fish waste is without any doubt better for the vegetables’ growth in the aquaponics system.
You must be wondering how much space you require to set up an aquaponic or a hydroponic system. The good news is it’s relatively easy to build a hydroponic system as it requires less space since you don’t need to raise fish. Furthermore, you can buy a hydroponic starter kit to create a customized hydroponic system indoors.
For example, you can grow more than two dozen plants vertically in a tiered system within two to three feet.
On the other hand, you need more water to house the fish. The rule of thumb is that fish require five to seven gallons of water for each pound of their weight.
As a result, you require five to seven square feet of area for five Tilapia fish weighing around a pound. That’s why large aquaponics systems are relatively more stable.
In general, you require more setup and equipment for aquaponics than a hydroponic system.
A hydroponic setup needs the following equipment, to begin with:
- A water reservoir
- Growing media with seedlings
- A water pump
- Grow lights
You need to fill the reservoir and place the growing trays above it. Next, you can install the pump to circulate the water into the growing media containing seeds.
You must ensure that the root system touches the water. Lastly, you can add the nutrient solution and turn on the light to initiate the development stage.
Alternatively, you need the following equipment for the aquaponic system:
- Big fish tanks
- Water filters
- One water pump
- An air pump
In an aquaponic garden, the water pump circulates the plants through the growing medium while the air pump offers the required oxygen to the fish.
Furthermore, the plants can’t use the fish waste directly; instead, the bacteria must first break down into the nutrients that plants absorb.
Lucky for you, it’s pretty easy to maintain a hydroponic setup. All you need to do is to monitor the nutrients and water. The rule of thumb is to add water after one day and the nutrients after two weeks. Lastly, you should ensure an optimal temperature for a hydroponic system.
Usually, the plants and vegetables remain in the hydroponic system for six months. Moreover, you must prune the plants and trim the roots to prevent the water pump from blocking them.
On the downside, the hydroponic system crashes, leading to root rot, less yield, and algae growth if you don’t maintain it properly.
Nonetheless, you need more training and basic knowledge to maintain an aquaponic system. It’s because you need to monitor and maintain the following factors:
- pH levels
- Dissolved oxygen levels
- Weekly nitrogen parameters check
- Twice a month, micronutrient levels check
Furthermore, you should ensure that the grow lights don’t reach the fish tank; else, you can increase the risk of algae growth.
The traditional soil-based growing system won’t meet the food demand successfully in the near future. As a result, it’s high time for growers to opt for different farming techniques that require lesser cost and natural resources.
To sum up the aquaponics vs hydroponics discussion, both techniques offer better yield in less time than the soil-based growing process. Not only that, you don’t need to worry about soil pests.