How Are Aquaponics And Hydroponics Different?

Ecologically friendly Aquaponics is raising fish and plants in the same system. On the other hand, Hydroponics is a method of gardening that does not require soil.

It’s up to you to decide which of these methods is best for your application. Some plants thrive better in one method, so it is essential to first learn about the differences between Aquaponics and Hydroponics.

As a result of this article, you’ll be able to determine which method is best for your needs.

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What Is Aquaponics?

Fish and plants are grown together in an aquaponics system, a type of aquaculture. When this method is used, fish waste is converted into nitrates by bacteria in the surrounding environment. When the plants use these nitrates as a food source, they return the water to the fishes free of harmful contaminants, creating what’s known as the nitrogen cycle.

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However, before the fish are harmed, the bacteria in the water convert the waste into beneficial nitrates before it becomes toxic to the fish. This method is straightforward, but there are a variety of systems you can use to implement it, ranging from media beds and vertical towers to the Nutrient Film Technique.

Benefits Of Aquaponics

Cool Marketing Angle

Some Upstart Farmers have discovered Aquaponics to be an excellent marketing tool. There is a lot of potential for marketing and customer attraction when live animals are used as part of the production process.

Consumer Appeal

Aquaponics is a great marketing tool because it grabs the attention of potential customers. One business that successfully taps into this market niche is Page 63 Restaurant in Sag Harbor, New York. This restaurant uses Aquaponics to grow to produce on-site, and a portion of the system has been converted into a display in the main dining room. Customers can dine in the company of fish tanks, white ZipGrow Towers, and other eye-catching displays. The restaurant gains new customers thanks to this one-of-a-kind experience.

Fun & Rewarding

Aquaponics’ greatest and most compelling argument is, of course, the fact that raising fish is rewarding. Raising fish provides a sense of accomplishment for many aquaponics growers, who use Aquaponics as a method of crop production. Growers, educational programs, and training events benefit from having a little fun with it.

Fish To Eat

Growers should not rely on fish sales for income when using aquaponic systems (more on that below). Aquaponic systems can produce delicious fish entrees, like tilapia and catfish.

Farms Don’t Have To Be Exclusively Aquaponic

Managing a farm allows you to be adaptable, which is a huge advantage. Aquaponic and hydroponic growers can work together. Aquaponic and hydroponic systems are frequently used in tandem by farmers who benefit from the best of both worlds.

Challenges Of Aquaponics

While a fantastic way to grow food, Aquaponics is not without its drawbacks.

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The Building Is More Complicated

It is challenging to construct and set up a complex aquaponic system to be a blessing and a curse. Additional space had to be allocated for the fish portion of the operation and splitting of plumbing systems to accommodate fish tanks. For example, in our aquaponic greenhouse in Laramie, we keep ZipGrow Towers, sumps, and work areas in a greenhouse and a fish house. It was necessary to purchase additional materials such as the fish house and plumbing components to add about 450 square feet.

In the case of hobby growers who use media beds directly above the tank, the space requirements may be slightly different. An IBC was used on top of an IBC as a tank and media bed in a second greenhouse system. Only a tiny amount of additional square footage was needed here.

Cycling Time

Aquaponics has a significant limitation on producers in terms of starting time. Fishless cycling should be completed at least six weeks before planting in aquaponic systems to establish microbial communities necessary for nutrient cycling. More than a year after the first six weeks, aquaponic systems will see a drop in production due to increased microbial populations. Once their systems are established, aquaponic growers can often achieve high yields, sometimes better than hydroponic growers.

Beginner Errors

A final hurdle aquaponic growers have to overcome is the steep learning curve associated with a complex system. Unfortunately, mistakes in leadership and unfortunate events can quickly spiral out of control, leading to much larger problems. A single fish’s death can affect the health of other fish, microbes, and plants. Operators find it increasingly difficult to deal with increased plumbing and biology issues. Aquaponics, without a doubt, is more complex than hydroponics!

Higher Build-Out Cost

Typically, an aquaponic system costs 30 to 50 percent more to build and implement than a hydroponic system of the same economic output. Due to this, it is impossible for aquaponic growers to compete based on price with hydroponic growers.

What Is Hydroponics?

Using only chemical nutrients and water, Hydroponics is a popular method of growing plants that do not require soil. Basil, lettuce, and tomatoes are all grown primarily using this technique across the United States. Hydroponics is a popular method for growing plants because of its consistent results and high yields.

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Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in nutrient-rich water. They can obtain all of their essential nutrients from nutrient-rich water because their roots are suspended. Plants will continue to grow without interruption as long as the remaining plants have access to oxygen. Hydroponic systems come in various shapes and sizes, all of which affect the flow of water and how it reaches the plants.

Benefits Of Hydroponics

In many cases, commercial farmers prefer Hydroponics because it’s easier to control and more convenient in their business models.

Consistent/Predictable Costs

Hydronic production’s costs are more predictable because of their consistency and can be managed and sourced more effectively. This creates a sense of financial security and ease in accounting and ordering for businesses.

Since hydroponic nutrients are pre-formulated and don’t change from month to month, a smaller range of nutrients can be estimated than aquaponic food and supplements.

Simpler To Operate And Train Employees

The hydroponics training process is another benefit hydroponics offers businesses. Managers can easily plan training for new employees because the system’s additions and problems are relatively predictable.

Easier For GAP Certification

GAP certification processes can be sped up significantly if there are no fish or fish waste in the system. The system is less susceptible to contamination. Hydroponic certification might also benefit the certification process since certifiers are more familiar with it than aquaponic certification.

Challenges Of Hydroponics

Hard To Get Certified Organic

The GAP certification may be more beneficial to hydroponics producers than the organic certification for aquaponics producers. Hydroponics uses nutrient solutions, which are not suitable for organic certification.

However, organic hydroponics fertilizer options are available for those who want to be certified. Although many organic hydroponic fertilizers begin with proteins as Aquaponics do, they don’t have fish in them. It is not uncommon for organic Hydroponics to use a different EC scale than conventional hydroponists or cycle their systems like aquaponists.

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The Differences Between Aquaponics VS Hydroponics

Although Hydroponics and Aquaponics are both highly effective ways to grow plants, there are some significant differences between the two techniques that you should be aware of before deciding which option is best for you. You can benefit from both methods because they allow you to grow plants without using soil. To make an informed decision, you must be aware of the differences between the available options.

Aquaponics and Hydroponics have many fundamental differences, including:

Cost Of Chemical Nutrient

Chemical nutrients are required in hydroponic systems, which can be very expensive. These nutrients have become somewhat scarce in recent years, driving up costs even more. Aquaponic fish feed, on the other hand, is significantly less expensive.

Retain Nutrient Solution

Due to their high nutrient requirements in water, hydroponic systems may accumulate too many salts and chemicals, which can be toxic to plants if left unchecked. As a result, it is necessary to dispose of the water regularly. The water in an aquaponics system should never be changed because it is nitrogen-balanced.


An aquaponics garden should produce plants more quickly and efficiently after six months of operation than hydroponics systems.

Ease Of Maintenance

Aquaponics is a low-maintenance system. To avoid electrical conductivity issues in a hydroponic system, the water’s electrical conductivity will need to be checked daily. There will be a consistent level of water chemistry because of the natural ecosystem of growth that occurs in an aquaponics system Ammonia and pH levels should be checked once a week. Nitrate levels should be checked once a month.

Organic Growth

Hydroponics is an artificial system because the environment is artificial. Aquaponics is an organic system because it is modelled after a natural ecosystem. Nutrients can be made from various salts and chemicals in a hydroponic system, which isn’t the best used in a greenhouse. Aquaponics uses fish waste as a source of plant food, resulting in a more sustainable farming method.


Because there is no soil in these systems, insects like thrips and spider mites aren’t as common, but they can still be a problem. Pesticides may be required to eradicate these insects in a hydroponic system. However, it is necessary to use non-chemical methods to protect the fish for aquaponics systems.


Any method of plant growth that relies on water has pH as a critical component. The water in a hydroponic system should have a pH between 5.5 and 6.0, indicating acidic. While in an aquaponics system, the pH level should be between 6.8 and 7.0, which is considered neutral.

Similarities Between Aquaponics VS Hydroponics

There are some notable differences between these two systems, but also some similarities, such as:

Growing Season

The long growing seasons of these two approaches are well-known in the agricultural community. It is possible to grow plants year-round in these systems because they are typically installed indoors. This allows you to grow certain produce even during off-seasons.

Lessened Negative Environmental Impacts

There are no weeds or pests to deal with because aquaponic and hydroponic systems grow plants indoors. Using these systems in your garden means using fewer chemicals, which positively impacts the environment because these systems rarely encounter problems.

Faster Growth

These plants can grow 30 to 50 percent faster than their traditional soil-based counterparts because they are grown in systems that do not use soil. The plants can grow faster because they have greater access to oxygen. Oxygenation aids root development and uptake of nutrients.

Higher Yields

Hydroponics and aquaponics systems typically yield 30-40 percent more crops than other growing methods. Reduced insect pressure and increased food supply are two factors that contribute to higher yields.

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Which One Is Better? Does It Really Matter?

Is one of the two systems superior to the other, or is a third option available? Hydroponics and Aquaponics, like soil-based gardening, have distinct environmental impact and resource consumption advantages over soil-based gardening.

As a soilless system, Aquaponics is widely regarded as superior to Hydroponics. This creates a nearly self-sufficient, utterly sustainable ecosystem by adding nitrifying bacteria that break down fish waste into an easily usable nitrogen source for plants.

Once the aquaponics system is up and running, it requires less maintenance daily. The increasing salinity of the water does not necessitate the replenishment of the aquatic solution. It requires less monitoring and is much easier to dispose of than hydroponics.

Hydroponics is more popular among hobbyists and commercial growers than hydroponic systems. It is easy to predict this because hydroponics is easier to set up, looks cleaner indoors, costs less, and provides a greater and faster return on investment (Return on Investment).

There’s no real difference between the two, and it doesn’t matter. You, as a grower, should select a system based on your requirements or even just your personal preferences.

The Bottom Line Between Aquaponics And Hydroponics

Aquaponics and Hydroponics produce faster growth and higher yields, so there is no consensus on better methods. Instead, think about the resources at your disposal and the method you think is best for you before deciding.

In this case, hydroponic systems are a better choice because they require less time to set up. After all, you don’t have to worry about raising fish simultaneously as your plants. You may prefer Aquaponics if you are more concerned about the cost of the growing methods since hydroponic systems use chemical nutrients that can be expensive. In the end, it doesn’t matter which system you choose because they’re both effective.

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