Aquaponics is a technique used to grow plants and aquatic animals in a system using the recirculation of water. In order to understand aquaponics, we need to have knowledge about aquaculture, hydroponics, and bacteria. 

But how could aquaponics be a good option?


  • Space can be optimized to produce two types of food: Plants and fish. We have to mention, not all aquaponic systems are able to produce and sell fish and lettuce. Most of the time systems are more focused on plant production.
  • Fish waste from aquaponic systems makes possible the use of these systems as an organic way to produce plants. This is one of the most important advantages of aquaponics.
  • Better waste management. Aquaculture systems can tend to pollute different environments when water with fish waste is discarded. In aquaponics we reuse this water.


  • Aquaponics demands knowledge. In order to operate an aquaponic system properly, we need to learn how to keep a good balance between all biological components. Small errors can make the system collapse.
  • Starting an aquaponic system can be more expensive than starting just a hydroponic system. There are different levels of complexity used in system design, from very basic (used by hobby growers) to more complex systems (Used by commercial growers).
  • An aquaponic system can require enrichment. Sometimes fish waste will not provide full nutrition to our plants and we will be in the need to apply other organic fertilizers.

Essential components in aquaponics

From the most basic to the most complex design, all aquaponics systems should include A fish tank, pumps/ plumbing, biofilters, and a hydroponic system.

The fish tank will be the place where fish are going to eat and live. Fish waste will be used by bacteria in order to make nutrients available for the plant. Without bacteria, plants can get intoxicated by the water coming from the fish tank. 

One of the most important elements for plants is Nitrogen. Fish waste contains ammonia a source of nitrogen that cannot be used by the plant. In order to take up, nitrogen plants need nitrate or ammonium. Bacteria in aquaponic systems are in charge of making the conversion from ammonia to nitrate. Even though we cannot see bacteria, this is one of the most important components in aquaponics systems.

Aquaponic systems are the perfect way to keep a closed aquaculture system. When producing fish we have two options: to reuse water or to discard water. Aquaponics makes possible the replacement of expensive systems used to clean water in aquaculture systems.

Bacteria are very important in aquaponic systems. Therefore they will need a specific area where they can live and work. In order to provide enough surface area for bacteria, we use biofilters. This is a component where bacteria can convert all ammonia to nitrate. This process requires oxygen. This is why most biofilters areas include an air pump.

Finding balance in aquaponics:

Aquaponics requires a perfect balance between fish, fish food, biofilters, and plants. How do we balance this system? When working in aquaponics systems we most of the time have plants as a priority. Starting from there we should first consider the amount of plant product or area needed in our production. Based on the space of amount of plants required we will calculate the amount of food required by the system in order t provide enough nutrients to our plants. 

When working with leafy greens we will calculate to use about 40-50g of fish food per m2 of plants daily in our system. If working with fruiting crops usually more nutrients are required. In this case, we will calculate to use from 50g to 80g of fish food per m2.  

Once we know the amount of food required by the system to keep plants with good nutrition levels, now we have to calculate how many fish can be fed using that specific amount of food daily. 

Fish eat about 1-2% of total weight. Therefore if you know the specific food required by the system you can work on weighing your fish in order to calculate how many fish can be added to the system. For example, if 200g of food are required daily into my system and fish eat 1-2% perfect of their weight. We can calculate the total amount of fish in grams required by the system (200 g x 100/ 1-2g feed/day). Once you know the total amount of fish required in grams and the average weight of your fish, you can make a quick division to know the amount of fish required by the system.

This is just basic information required to start an aquaponic system. At Hort Americas, we will be happy to assist you in order to get the best products for aquaponic systems, you can find with us from great substrates for organic recipes that can be used without any issue to enrich your aquaponic systems.