Aquaponics is an alternative to traditional agriculture that mimics a process in nature. In aquaponics you grow plants and fish alongside each other like in a pond. When you keep fish in an aquarium, if you want to be a good pet owner, you must drain off half of the water to rid the fish of their own waste and replace it with fresh water to keep them healthy. But how does nature take care of this in a pond?
Fish waste is processed by bacteria turning ammonia to nitrite then to nitrate. The plants that grow around the water then take in the nitrate as a food source helping the plant grow. The plants also help the fish in other ways like getting more O2 in the water.
In properly set up aquaponics system your daily activities are testing the water and feeding the fish to keep the system in balance. You feed the fish and the fish feed the plants. You test the water to monitor for imbalances and correct them. For example, if ammonia has spiked slow the feeding to keep the fish waste down and check for dead fish (this will also spike ammonia).
From this author’s experience, Aquaponics is a high initial investment to get going but low on manual labor once you get it there. Most of the work involved in aquaponics is mental when it comes to resolving imbalances and reasoning your way thru it. Occasionally you may have to put in some elbow grease when a major problem is discovered.
There are several types of Aquaponics set ups but for beginners perhaps start with a small media bed with a flood drain system. Using this method, you can pretty much grow anything but it is harder to scale to commercial levels. Should you chouse to use this method put in a filter in between the aquarium and the grow bed to keep solid waste out of your media.