Because hydroponics and aquaponics.both relate to water, confusing them with each other is simple. Both are non-traditional methods to grow plants using a water source, but aquaponics has the added component of using aquatic animals, such as fish, to create a closed, recirculating system.
The term "hydroponics" means growing plants in water without soil. The method also involves the use of mineral nutrient solutions to help the plants grow. People have been growing all sorts of terrestrial plants using hydroponics for years. The technique is favored because it uses less water than traditional growing methods, plant nutrition can be targeted more carefully and it keeps out all harmful pollutants.
Hydroponics often is used in places with no good soil supply. During World War I, for example, soldiers stationed on rocky Pacific Islands grew produce hydroponically in order to survive. Popular hydroponic crops include peanuts, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers. Because hydroponically grown plants are free of pesticides, the crops are often sold at a premium at high-end grocery stores and to health-conscious customers. They also are valued commercially for added nutrients.
Aquaponics builds on hydroponics by adding aquatic animals. The result is a mutual relationship. In the aquaponics method, the water and waste products of a densely populated, small tank of animals such as fish are recirculated. The waste provides valuable nutrients to growing plants, and the water applied to the plants is reused in the aquatic animals' tank.
Aquaponics is newer than hydroponics. The United States, Mexico, Canada and Australia have their own aquaponic facilities, and they use fish such as tilapia and perch in their circulation systems. Some proponents of the method hope it can be used someday to create a sustainable, ecologically friendly and cost-effective food supply for developing nations.
- Aquatic Eco-Systems Inc.: Hydroponics vs. Aquaponics
- Cocoponics Commuity: Is Aquaponics Better Than Hydroponics?
- Brainerd Dispatch; Aquaponics Shows Promise; Renee Richardson
- Greenhouse Product News (GPN); Hydroponics -- Successful Surfing; Elizabeth Pensgard
- Southern Regional Aquaculture Center: Recirculating Aquaculture Tank Production Systems
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images