What Is Aquaponics?

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The Ancient, Emerging Farming Method

Aquaponics has a long and storied history. It was the backbone of some of the most advanced ancient civilizations including the Aztecs and Ancient Chinese. Today aquaponics is emerging as an advanced technology for growing food anywhere there is access to water and power.

Combining the principles behind Aztec “chinampas”,Chinese rice paddies, and modern technologies, we’re able to adapt this farming technique and bring it into the modern era.


Aquaculture is the backbone and driving force of the aquaponics system. Fish are grown in aquaculture tanks or aquariums and their water gets plumbed to feed the plants. The fish provide a natural and continuous source of fertilizer in the aquaponics system. When they exhale through their gills they release ammonia, similar to how we release carbon dioxide when we exhale. That ammonia, in turn, is the start of the nitrogen cycle and nitrogen is the main source of nutrition for plants.

In aquaponics, you generally grow freshwater fish. Depending on the size of your system, you can grow edible fish to sell as well and get two income streams off of one production unit.


Plants are the main output when you grow with aquaponics. The majority of producers grow edible plants like leafy greens, herbs, fruits, and vegetables. There is a style of aquaponics that will suit any plant that grows in soil – so there are no limitations to what you can grow. In most cases, aquaponics is far more productive than traditional soil-farming or gardening because you can plant more densely and grow plants more quickly, gaining significantly more abundant growth per square foot.

To learn more about plant bed styles, what plants grow in what styles, how to optimize your system for your plants, and all things aquaponics, check out our aquaponics tools and resources page.


Ahh, microbes. They are the often overlooked secret heroes of our aquaponics systems. Beneficial microbes in the form of nitrifying bacteria are what allow the fish and plants to grow to their fullest potential in an integrated environment.

Without the presence of these microbes, the relationship between the fish and the plants just wouldn’t work. Microbes are the most important part of your aquaponics system, yet they get discussed so little. Learn how to ensure your system is set up for success by creating an environment for your microbes to thrive.

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