Aquaponic Gardening: Growing Fish and Vegetables Together


What if I told you that you could catch fish for dinner right in your own backyard? And if you did, what if I told you that right up until you caught those fish, they were growing the veggies for the rest of your dinner? Would you believe me? You should! This is all within reach using a new style of gardening called aquaponics.

Photo by Pixabay

Aquaponics is, at its most basic level, the marriage of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants in water and without soil) together in one integrated system. The fish waste provides organic food for the growing plants and the plants naturally filter the water in which the fish live. The third and fourth critical, yet invisible actors in this symbiotic world are the beneficial bacteria and composting red worms. Think of them as the Conversion Team. The beneficial bacteria exist on every moist surface of an aquaponic system. They convert the ammonia from the fish waste that is toxic to the fish and useless to the plants, first into nitrites and then into nitrates. The nitrates are relatively harmless to the fish and most importantly, they make terrific plant food. At the same time, the worms convert the solid waste and decaying plant matter in your aquaponic system into vermicompost. 

Aquaponics cycle 

Any type of fresh water fish works well in an aquaponic system. Tilapia is perhaps the most widely grown aquaponics fish, but aquaponic gardeners are also growing catfish, bluegill, trout, and even red-claw crayfish. Not interested in eating your fish? No problem! Koi, goldfish, and any decorative fresh-water fish you would purchase from a pet store work as well. In selecting your fish, however, you do want to pay attention to the temperature at which they both thrive and survive. Tilapia, for example, can survive down to temperatures in the low 60s, but they won’t thrive until they reach the mid 70’s. In contrast, trout will survive up to a maximum temperature of 65, but won’t thrive until their water is in the high 40s to low 50’s. 

Fish in net

7/31/2021 9:24:41 PM

Great article... so much potential! A local, sustainable and healthier alternative to commercial fishing. My only question is what do you feed the fish? If I combine a vermiculture with the aquaponics, can I feed the worms to fish like trout and would it be enough to sustain them. Would love to hear if anyone has been successful at doing this. Thanks, Eric

3/8/2021 11:59:31 AM

this fish is dead!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! why did you keep it out to long im now sad

John helper
5/8/2020 9:21:16 AM

If you are in Tulsa, Oklahoma this store I shop at all the time has classes on organic growing and hydroponics all the time. Here is their information in case anyone local to me wants to get some cool classes. They talk about a lot of the same stuff in this article which is what made me think of them. very similar opions on stuff. Skunk Grow Supply 4959 S Peoria Ave, Tulsa, OK 74105 918 860 4769 good people look them up!

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