postheadericon Aquaponics: Eco-Synergy

In Hawaii, the use of fish to fertilize plants has a long history, beginning 400 or 500 years ago, when islanders irrigated crops with water from fish ponds. At some point, they had noticed plants watered from the fish ponds grew better than with plain water.  Aquaponics as a technology has been around for several decades, but it’s only become widespread in Hawaii within the past three or four years.

Aquaculture specialist Clyde Tamaru from the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources recently commented:

“Since November 2009 we have been able to provide two informational workshops on Oahu and one on Maui with our Sea Grant counterpart Robert Howerton that in total drew over 300 participants. Outcomes of the workshops have been an ever increasing number of individuals establishing aquaponic and hydroponic systems both in their backyards and also in commercial settings on Oahu. Anticipated impacts will be the realization of a decreased dependence of imported food items improving our ability to be self sustainable.”

Aquaponic systems are a blend of two food producing technologies; fish farming (aquaculture) and growing plants without soil (hydroponics).  Aquaponics is the fastest growing form of US agriculture.  Aquaponics is a synergistic relationships between plants and fish that is beneficial to both, and to humans as well.

It works like this: fish waste from the fish tank is transported up to a plant bed (the bog) where plants are housed in rocks, rather than soil.  The fish waste (ammonia) is produced by fish, and becomes organic fertilizer.  Plants and friendly bacteria, living on the rocks, make this happen and simultaneously purify the water by removing ammonia.  Naturally cleansed water then filters back down into the tank, making it unnecessary to change the water or use a filter.  The cycle repeats itself every 1-2 hours on a timer.

Backyard units are often self contained and take up minimum space.  Traditional farming equipment is not needed, and because the plants on an elevated gravel bead, many common pest problems are eliminated all together. Oxygen and PH levels are also important factors in healthy and productive system.  These can be controlled and monitored with a home kit.  This type of system is 100% organic if the fish food is also organic, the fish are typically not able to tolerate chemicals and fertilizers.

The fish of choice for these systems is tilapia.  The second most cultured fish in the world, and extremely popular in Aquaponics systems. They are an ideal species for aquaponics for many reasons. They are easy to breed, fast growing, withstand very poor water conditions, consume an omnivorous diet and are good eating. Tilapia are also declared pest in many areas.

You can find information on systems for sale at and DIY plans and education at:  This company also sells plans for DIY and offers free systems for non-profits:

Here is a good blog on aquaponics:

One Response to “Aquaponics: Eco-Synergy”

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