Nutrients in an aquaponic system are delivered to plant life in a liquid form, aquacultural effluent. Aquaponics is a completely natural process that duplicates what occurs naturally in our lakes, rivers, ponds and streams, along with any other waterway. This is a method of gardening that is organic, along with being a way of gardening in harmony with nature.
In aquaponic gardening, effluent from fish tanks that is full of nutrients is used to fertigate hydroponic growing beds. This is good for both the fish and the plants. Waste from one biological system serves as nutrients to the other by the reuse of water through biological filtration and recirculation.
The nutrients that are generated from fish waste, algae and decomposed fish food are contaminants that build up to toxic levels in fish tanks when not properly filtered. The grow beds of an aquaponic system function as a bio-filter and allowing for the freshly cleansed water to be recirculated back to the fish tank. In this filtering process, nitrifying bacteria living in the grow beds and the association of plant root systems is what plays a critical role in the nutrient cycle.
Aquaponics is the ideal solution for disposing of the nutrient-rich waste from a fish tank and reusing it to supply plant life with the nutrients they need to thrive in a sustainable manner. Fish food is the main input of an aquaponic system, fish eat the food and then excrete the waste. Fifty percent of waste that is produced by fish is in the form of ammonia from urine, and in small quantities through there gills. The remainder of the waste is excreted as fecal matter and undergoes a process of mineralization. In this process heterotrophic bacteria consumes fish waste, decaying plant matter and food remains, converting them to ammonia and other compounds.
When ammonia is present at a high enough level, heterotrophic and nitrifying bacteria that lives naturally in soil, water and air, converts the ammonia first to nitrite and then to nitrate, a form that plants can consume. These beneficial bacteria are natural and will inhabit an aquaponic system once ammonia and nitrite are available.
Really there are three crops that you need to keep alive in an aquaponic system, fish, plants and beneficial bacteria, all three of these rely on each other. Aquaponics is a very efficient method of growing crops with minimum water, space, and utilizing waste by turning it into nutrients for plant life to thrive on. A truly organic method of gardening.