Hydroponics and Aquaponics stand face to face when we talk about soilless methods of crop production. Although, both techniques are similar in certain ways, but there are many differences too. In hydroponics, plants grow in nutrient- rich solution whereas aquaponics integrates the above environment with aquaculture i.e. with the process of cultivating aquatic species.
Well, to follow any of the methods, it is necessary to know the differences between them. Read on this article to find those:
Basics of Hydroponic Systems:
In a hydroponic system, plants are fed through nutrient-rich solution in order to make them grow. Once water gets devoid of nutrients, additional solution is added and the process is continued until sufficient growth is achieved.
Basics of Aquaponic Systems:
Aquaponic system creates a balanced ecosystem between hydroponics and aquaculture in a well-controlled environment. One component is a hydroponic bed where vegetation is grown with the help of nutrient solution. Another component is an aquarium of tank where fishes are cultivated. Waste matter from the fish tank is supplied as a natural nutrient to the hydroponic tank after being acted upon by bacteria. Similarly nutrient-devoid water from this tank is sent to the aquarium to let the fishes survive. This process is repeated again and again.
Main Differences between Hydroponics & Aquaponics Systems:
- Startup Speed: A hydroponic system is faster to start than an aquaponics system. You just have to add nutrient-formulated solution in the reservoir before starting the setup. On the other hand, aquaponic system takes about a month to develop the nitrifying bacteria, necessary for the system to thrive.
- Bacterial Presence: Hydroponics systems are fairly sterile while bacteria are revered by an aquaponic grower as they are the engine that drives the system.
- Nutrients Cost: Chemical nutrients involved in a hydroponics system are expensive and their costs are increasing with passing time. Whereas, fish-feed is used in aquaponics which is easily affordable.
- Grow Bed Configuration: Hydroponic gardeners generally use 6” deep flood & drain trays to keep plant pots or cubes. As aquaponics grow tray has to serve a dual role- a bio-filter for fish-excreta & home for crops; both the needs have to be considered. Aquaponic growers use a 12” deep grow bed which is efficient to grow the kind of bacteria needed for the system.
- Flood & Drain Cycle: Gardeners using flood & drain technique in their hydroponic system fertigate their crops every 4 to 6 hours. But in an aquaponic system, flooding is performed for 15 minutes in every 45 minutes. This is because if the fish water is run through the filter every 4 to 6 hours, the fish waste would accumulate in large quantity ultimately reaching to high danger levels.
- Maintenance: An aquaponic system is easier to maintain than a hydroponic system as in the former one, balance is created naturally between the system elements. You just need to check ammonia & pH levels once a week and the nitrate levels once in a month. Whereas you have to examine the electrical conductivity of your hydroponic system once every day.
- Productivity: Many studies showed that once a complete aquaponic bio filter becomes fully established, plant propagation is quicker and more efficient as compared in a hydroponic system.
- Ecosystem: Hydroponic system is a man-made environment which cannot be accomplished successfully without his intervention while an aquaponic system is a natural ecosystem which will work as long as the pumps are successfully working, without human control.
There are some more differences between the two systems but choosing the one solely depends on you. Despite a long startup time of aquaponic systems, many gardeners use them because it is easier, requires less work, economical and be more advantageous in the long run.