an alternative to grocery store produce

With all of the different pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides being used today on our fruits and vegetables during the growing process; it’s easy to doubt the safety of what we’re feeding our families. If creating your own backyard garden is too much work, or you just don’t have the room or resources; a better option may be to get an aquaponics system. 

Aquaponics is the combination of raising aquatic animals and growing plants in a symbiotic environment that mimics a natural ecosystem. Keep reading to find out if this is something you want to try in your own home!

two little boys playing outside

how does aquaponics work?

step #1

Feed the fish. The main input to an aquaponic system is fish food. The fish will eat the food and excrete waste in the form of ammonia.

step #3

The plants absorb the excess fish waste that has been successfully converted into nitrates as their food source.

baby koi fish pond

step #2

Nitrifying bacteria consume the fish waste and convert the ammonia into nitrite and then nitrate, which keeps the water clean for the fish.

step #4

As the plants grow and continue to remove plants, they filter the water and help it remain clean for the fish to continue to eat and grow.

Aquaponics Infographic

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fish are friends not food

how it works

After the fish are fed, the waste by-product that they produce is converted, by bacteria, into a perfect fertilizer for the plants. The filtered water is then able to return in a safe and clean form to the fish. The effluent from the fish contains all the required nutrients for optimum plant growth, and thus does not need any kind of plant growth chemical solutions. And since the aquaponics system is acting as a natural ecosystem there is no need for pesticides or herbicides.

where to grow

Even though ‘aqua’ is in the name, aquaponics actually uses much less water than other gardening methods such as soil-based gardening, hydroponics, and recirculating aquaculture. They can be grown indoors as long as their proper needs are met with artificial light and heat, or they can be placed outdoors if you live in a temperate climate. Food banks and missions utilize aquaponics to grow nutrient-rich foods to help people in need. Aquaponics is also increasing in popularity amongst commercial growers who most often grow tilapia and leafy greens.

how to get started

It is imperative that anyone looking to venture into having their own aquaponics system receives the proper training. Luckily, because they are increasing in popularity, there are many classes being offered all throughout the country. And if there are no classes being offered near you, there are online courses you can take! 

Aquaponics can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You can grow every fruit and vegetable your heart desires and have multiple setups for your crops, or you can get a little betta tank and grow your own herbs or microgreens. Just make sure to do your own research first.

Melissa Zargon

Melissa Zargon

Green Actioneer Intern
UCF Environmental Engineering Student


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