There are many definitions for the term ‘aquaponics’ which state that it is a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture. Because of this, people often mistakenly assume that both are similar and many people don’t even know the difference.
There are several differences between the two. This article will highlight a few differences. There are pros and cons to both systems. You will need to do your own research to see which you prefer. For now, lets just examine the differences.
Firstly, hydroponics is much faster to start. All you need to do is purchase the nutrients which are commercially available and add them to your reservoir. You will be able to immediately start growing your plants. With the aquaponics system, you will need to wait for the ‘cycling’ process to begin and it will take about 6 months till your system is able to be self-sufficient. However, once this initial phase is over, the aquaponics system will yield faster produce than the hydroponics system.
Secondly, the hydroponics system is sterile. The aquaponics system relies on bacteria and the system can only thrive if bacteria are present for the whole process to take place.
Another major difference between both systems is the pH value of the water in the system. For hydroponics, the ideal pH range is from 5.5 to 6.0. Whereas for the aquaponics system, the range is from 6.8 to 7.0.
The aquaponics system is an ecosystem but the hydroponics system is more ‘robotic’ in nature. Aquaponics uses fish, wastes, bacteria, etc. to create an interdependent system where each part supports the other. This is something that totally differs from hydroponics which seems much more structured and detailed. A hydroponics system is totally controlled by the person owning it. If they do not run it, the system will collapse. The aquaponics system will still be able to function normally without any human intervention as long as the pumps are working.
Hydroponics plants are also more susceptible to disease which could explain why most hydroponics systems are in very sterile environments. Many hydroponics plants and systems have been affected by a plant disease called ‘root rot’. The disease is caused by a fungus known as pythium. However, this disease hardly ever affects aquaponics systems. This could be due to the fact that the bacteria and aquatic life in the aquaponics system greatly reduces the risk of pythium taking over the system. Research is still being conducted on this.
Another difference between the two systems is the dumping of nutrients. With aquaponics, nutrients are not required because the fish wastes are broken down by the bio filter and become nutrients for the plants. With a hydroponics system, nutrients need to be dumped into the reservoir to ensure there is a proper nutrient balance. There are many checks and balances required with the hydroponics system. That makes it much more labor intensive than the aquaponics system.
There are several more differences and which method you decide to choose is up to you. Most people prefer an aquaponics system because it is easier, more fun, less work, cheaper in the long run and does not have large setup costs.