Ordinary gardening can be grueling, messy, and, surprisingly, wasteful. Think about how much water is used on the basic garden. Its need is continual, and in especially drought-prone climates it can make gardeners question whether the water use is really worth it. Enter practical aquaponics, a self-sustaining ecosystem in which growing vegetables and aquatic life form a symbiotic relationship that promotes a healthy environment for both fish and plants.
Practical aquaponics was developed in 2006 by Murray Hallam, a South Queensland, Australia, native who, after discovering the method for his personal use, researched thoroughly to make that method more efficient and applicable to the layman.
Hallam is perhaps the most-trusted name in the industry, as he has sought to bring his methods to a wider audience via a strong YouTube presence in which he documents the various ways individuals can set up their own systems and tips for keeping them clean and fruitful.
Click here to see the practical aquaponics book.
How exactly does this self-sustaining system work? By combining aquaculture (i.e., the development of aquatic life in a contained environment) and hydroponics (i.e., the development of plants in mineral nutrient solutions, such as water, without the use of soil), a relationship is created between the lives of fish and the lives of the plants.
The fish in the tank inevitably produce wastes such as ammonia and algae, which if left unchecked can be detrimental their health. With the introduction of certain microbes and worms, those wastes can be transformed into nitrates, which are extremely beneficial to the development of plants, therefore effectively cleaning the tank for the fish. This cycle thus promotes healthy development for both plants and fish.
Because of the self-cleaning nature of practical aquaponics, the waste of water is minimal. What waste there is can usually be attributed to the transpiration process, in which water is distributed throughout plants and is transformed into vapor, at which point it bubbles to surface to be released into the atmosphere.
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Although the initial construction of such a system can be time consuming and demand a great amount of attention to specific details in order to ensure the safety of the fish involved, once set up there is very little maintenance. There is no plowing fields, toilsome planting, or any of the other backbreaking work that is typically associated with ordinary crop development.
Now, it should be noted that not all types of plants are able to be grown in such a way and that not all fish can thrive in this set up. Vegetables that are typically grown through practical aquaponics consist of leafy greens such as spinach, tomatoes, onions, beans, peas, and all sorts of berries.
When selecting which fish to include in a tank, it is important to consider the climate as well as whether fresh or salt water is being used; the former is more widely used, though ornamental fish can be supported in such systems.
For more details you should read the book.