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Aquaponics vs Hydroponics: A complete overview

Aquaponics Vs Hydroponics: A Complete Overview

Growing plants in the soilless system are becoming increasingly popular and provide the grower with many advantages over traditional methodology. Two basic systems are popular amongst homeowners. Hydroponics that solely grows plants within its contained and aquaponics which mixes hydroponics with raising fish. There are pros and cons of each system, so the same is the case with the aquaponics and hydroponics system. Each system had its own advantages and disadvantages and the selection of the system depends upon the end-users.

Here in this article, I will tell you about the brief difference along with the similarity of both systems and at the end choice is your which system is most appropriate according to your resources and environmental conditions.

First of all, you should know about both terms.

What is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, that has been used as a growth medium for years. First, it seems like a dream to grow plants with none soil but hydroponics is an intricate system that works better than the normal method of growing plants in soil. For plant growth, they required two things: a group of the plant with essential nutrients and water. If the nutrients are provided within the water and delivered to the roots. There is not a need to own soil present within the growing system. During a hydroponic growing system, a nutrient charged aquatic solution is flushed through the foundation zone to supply the plants with the resources needed for optimal growth.

There are many benefits of using a hydroponic grow system: fewer resources are consumed arable land is not needed and therefore the harvestable plants are of upper quality than growing using traditional methods. From the last 60-70 years, these benefits have increased the recognition of hydroponics and have expanded the limited possibilities of indoor and concrete gardening.

Further Reading:

How To Build A Hydroponic Garden (Best Tips For Begginers)

Top 3 (best) Small Hydroponic Systems

What is aquaponics?

Aquaponics is another innovative system of growing plants with none soil to support their root system but is slightly different than hydroponics. Aquaponics is that the combination of growing plants hydroponically and therefore the practice of aquaculture.

Same as hydroponics, the aquaponics system is grown in a soilless environment rather than getting their nutrients from the soil. An aquatic solution provides the essential nutrients needed for plant growth on to the roots where efficient nutrient uptake can occur.

Instead of adding fertilizer to the water to produce nutrients like what you have to apply in hydroponics, fish are grown simultaneously within the aquatic environment to make a symbiotic relationship that ends up in an incredibly efficient system. In it, fish provide a natural source of organic nutrients through their excreted waste, beneficial microbes convert the waste into usable nutrient sources for plants. The plants successively naturally filter the water providing a clean living environment for the fish and microbes.

In aquaponics, the microbes convert the ammonia from the fish waste into nitrites then into nitrates. The plant then soaks up the nitrates through their roots using them as a source for plant essential nitrogen. This combination of hydroponics and aquaculture allows aquaponics to get advantages of both systems while minimizing the individual side effects.

Further Reading:

EcoQube C Aquaponics Aquarium Review

How To Grow Marijuana Aquaponics

The similarity between aquaponics and hydroponics:

As you know aquaponics is the combination of both hydroponics and aquaculture then they have many similarities that make both of them beneficial.

Long growing season:

This may be one of the foremost attractive similarities between both systems. Most hydroponics and aquaponics setups are housed indoors, shielded from the climate and have supplemental lights for growing. Just thanks to this, it is possible to grow plants for much longer than the season permits outside. This allows hydroponic and aquaponics growers to produce healthy produce year-round to areas that will not usually have access within the off-season.

Reduce environmental effects:

The plants that usually grow under controlled conditions have a far low incidence of pest attack. This lower pressure may be a direct result of a contained system that cannot be infested because of the wind, soil transfer migration of pests. They protect the growing bed from weeds because weed seed is not distributed by birds or moved from garden bed to garden bed on the wind or by gardening implements. Lower pest and weed pressure mean fewer chemical applications that would potentially have negative environmental impacts.

Even though some plants are grown directly in water in both types of systems. They use less water overall than traditional gardening because the aquatic solutions are recirculated and reused. An aquaponics system uses about 10% of the water consumed in soil-based gardening.
Increase growth rate:

Plants grown in soilless systems grow on the average 30-50% faster than those sown directly into the soil. The thought behind the faster growth is because of the additional oxygen available to the roots in an aquatic solution. The extra oxygen stimulates root growth and encourages quicker, more efficient nutrient absorption. The energy saved is often put towards faster growth.

Increase yield:

On average, the plant is grown in the soilless system yield approximately 30-40% quite traditional growing method. This is often partly from the careful monitoring of nutrients within the aquatic medium which guaranteeing plants are receiving optimal levels of food but also decreased the level of disease and bug pressure and therefore the more finely tuned growing conditions.

Differences in hydroponics and aquaponics:

While there are some similarities between both systems, in addition to this there are also present some differences in both systems due to the rearing of fish when you are comparing soilless growing systems with each other.

The difference in the component of the system:

One of the most important difference is the components used in the design of both systems. The major difference is the depth of the grow beds needed. Hydroponics typically utilize 6” deep grow beds as roots can easily unfold within the aquatic solution with little worry of root compaction. Aquaponics needs a minimum of 12” deep grows beds to permit room for the fish to maneuver within their environment.

Sterility of the environment:

The second major difference comes from the varying components. Hydroponics systems are very sterile, and there is no need for any extraneous growing media to support the plants or root systems. Aquaponics on the opposite hand needs an environment around the roots to harbor beneficial microorganisms. On the other side hydroponic does not need deep growing media to support the plant and roots of the plant. Some hydroponic systems even do not use any growing materials.

Cost of setup:

Disregarding the fish, the startup costs between the hydroponics and aquaponics systems are quite similar. The aquaponics system needs growing media for the microbes to reside in, which adds a bit extra startup cost. In large difference though is that the cost of buying fish to stock the aquaponics grow beds. The cost of fish varies reckoning on what variety you choose to grow and the way many you may need.

Speed of the system:

A major discrepancy lies within the start speeds between the two systems. After constructing a hydroponic system, it is only necessary to let the nutrient solution cycle for a pair of days at the most to stabilize before adding plants. Aquaponics systems are slower to induce up and functional due to the fish. At a minimum, it takes a month to develop the nitrifying bacteria needed to interrupt down the fish waste, most systems can take upwards of three months to stabilize the environment enough to introduce plants.

Running cost:

Each system has one running cost that differs from the opposite system. Hydroponics systems need fertilizers purchased throughout the complete season to stay replenishing the nutrient solution. Aquaponics features a higher electricity cost since the system requires a better level of oxygenation within the water to support the fish. Overall, the running costs for slightly costlier.


Hydroponics growing systems are used for plants with high nutrient needs because the nutrient solution is adapted to satisfy plant needs. Aquaponics systems typically work best to support plants that have lower nutrient needs like lettuce, other leafy greens, and herbs.


An ecosystem could be a community of interacting organism and therefore the resulting environment created. Hydroponics cannot be considered an ecosystem while aquaponics can due to the plant, fish and microbe interaction.


To be sustainable something has got to be maintained at a gentle level without the depletion of natural resources or causing severe ecological damage. Keeping this in mind and that we can assume that hydroponics is not sustainable because it needs the nutrients continuously replenished within the aquatic solution. Aquaponics is sustainable as every component is provided and essential for the survival of the system which required minimal inputs.


The nutrient sources for the feeding solutions are among the foremost pronounced differences between the two systems. When growing plants in an exceeding hydroponics setting, the grower must periodically regenerate fresh aquatic solution, mixing fertilizer to form the suitable nutrient levels. While the nutrient levels are low in aquaponics, the fish waste is a natural source of nutrients within the water for best plant growth.

The pH of the water:

while using any aquatic system as a growing medium, the pH plays a vital role in it. The optimum solution pH in hydroponics is 5.5 to 6. The solution for aquaponics must be neutral or only slightly acidic with an optimal level between 6.8 and 7 to soundly harbor fish. The fish waste generated will naturally create an acidic environment, so it is crucial to observe pH levels closely.

The electrical conductivity of water:

Electrical conductivity is a vital characteristic of aquatic solutions to determine how well the medium will conduct electricity. It measures the salts in a solution, telling how concentrated it is. This can be a vital aspect of any soilless system that depends on its aquatic solution to supply all of the nourishment for the plants.

Salts are naturally integrating into a hydroponic tank because the grower normally uses salt-based fertilizer to form the nutrient solution. Due to continuous recirculation of nutrient solution, The EC can reach a dangerously high level, damaging the plants. This makes it a necessity to test EC regularly in hydroponics. Organic waste from fish has little salts in it so a high electrical conductivity within the aquatic solution in aquaponics is rarely ever a concern.

The temperature of the system:

Warm water may be a perfect habitat for fungus growth so it is a necessity to lower the aquatic temperature for the hydroponic system than aquaponics. In aquaponics though, the microbes and fish seem to stay fungus cornered and also the water temperature is higher. It is recommended to stay the water temperature below 70oF in hydroponics and between 82-86oF for aquaponics.

Disease prevalence:

The fungal disease Pythium, commonly referred to as plant disease, could be a prevalent problem in hydroponics. A lower water temperature and sterile environment helps to reduce the incidence but does not eradicate it.

On the opposite hand, Pythium is sort of non-existent in aquaponics. This is often thought to be an on the spot results of the microbes within the aquaponics system and also the resulting strength within the immunity of the plant grown there in the environment.

Insect control:

Both soilless systems have significantly fewer insect problems than soil-based gardening. Some insects like spider mites, aphid and thrips can become problematic in either system, but insect control is considerably more difficult in aquaponics. Hydroponic growers can apply pesticides to eradicate insects, non-chemical methods need to be used in aquaponics to stay from harming the fish.


After the system is stabilized and running at its prime pace, there is much less monitoring needed in growing with aquaponics than hydroponics. The aquatic solution in hydroponics must be monitored way more closely to test the EC, the pH, total dissolved solids and therefore the nutrient concentration. An aquaponics solution must be checked for pH and ammonia level weekly or if the fish seem in stress.

In aquaponics there is no must flush and replace the nutrient solution due to its sustainability and present processes that keep nutrient levels in restraint. In hydroponics, it is necessary to periodically drain the aquatic solution and replenish it with a brand new batch as salts become concentrated.

Mechanical default:

Problem with the normal functioning of the system components is trouble in either system but it had a bigger concern in an aquaponics system because the water is filtered much less frequently in hydroponic which is after every 4-6 hours while in aquaponics is take place in every 15-45 minutes, that the system can withstand being non-functional for a more extended period. Aquaponics solution is more susceptible to mechanical failure because the fish waste can clog the system.

Waste disposal:

The difference between the two systems is waste disposal. As mention before, the water employed in the hydroponic system has to be periodically dumped, then the new solution is added. Disposal of this fertilizer rich water into natural bodies of water or down the drain can have inherent risk, in aquaponics, the sole component within the aquatic solution is that the fish waste not de-escalated by the microbes and may be safely disposed of down the drain.

Pros of aquaponics:

There are many pros to using aquaponics.

Cool marketing:

Many upstart farmers have found aquaponics to be a good marketing tool. Having live animals as a part of the assembly process brings in an exciting element that pulls customers and parades plenty of selling opportunities.

Fascinating look:

One of the main reasons that make aquaponics a novel marketing angle is that it attracts the eye of consumers. It can also place in a restaurant. These restaurant grows to produce aquaponically within the restaurant and has modified a part of the system as a display. The restaurant grower gets to eat unique then local produce and lots of tables are arranging along with the fish tank that gives an esthetic look. It also becomes an attraction for customers.


One of the most compelling arguments for aquaponics is that it is rewarding a little fish. Most aquaponics growers choose aquaponics as a grow method a minimum of partly due to the satisfaction they find in raising fish. Not only it is fun for grower but it makes events like tours and educational programs.

Fresh fish:

The grower should not depend upon fish sales for income. Aquaponics systems are often excellent thanks to supplementing your family dining table. Many aquaponics fish like tilapia and catfish create delicious entrees.

Cons of aquaponics:

There are certain challenges you have to face while using aquaponics.

Building more complicated:

The complexity of aquaponics systems may be a curse still as a blessing because it makes building and founded harder. The addition of fish tanks means plumbing systems should be split and extra space needs to be put aside for the fish a part of the operation. This system requires 450 additional square ft. and also the purchase of additional materials just like the fish house and plumbing components.

The media beds which are situated right above the tank may be staring at a rather different space requirement. A second system run in our greenhouse used two halves of an IBC to constitute a tank and a media bed, one over the opposite during this case not much extra square footage was required.

Cycling time:

A very important constraint that aquaponics places on producers may be a delayed outset. To make the healthy microbial communities necessary for nutrient cycling, aquaponics systems must experience a fishes cycling period of a minimum of 6 weeks before planting. After those 6 weeks and for up to 18 months. Aquaponics systems will see depressed production while microbial populations stabilize. Once established however aquaponics growers can experience great yields sometimes even over in hydroponic systems.

Pros of Hydroponic:

Many commercial farmers choose hydroponics as a growing technique because it is more controllable and fits into more convenient business models.

Predictable cost:

Depending on size, management and cost of hydroponic production tend to be more consistent and so more predictable. This result in a way of monetary stability and may make accounting and ordering much easier in business. Hydroponic nutrients are formulated and do not vary month to month and also the amount of fertilizer used will be estimated within a narrow range than the food and supplements of aquaponics.

Simple to run:

Another advantage of hydroponic is needed to offer business is simple training processes. Since addiction to the system is fairly consistent and troubleshooting is restricted managers can formulate their training of the latest employees fairly easily.

Cons of the hydroponic system:

Here is the set back of the hydroponic system.

Hard to get certified organic:

GAP is often easier on hydroponic, another style of certification favors aquaponics producers. Organic hydroponics, with its use of a nutrient solution, is not seen as an honest candidate for organic certification.

The grower who wants to be certified, however, should remember that some organic hydroponics fertilizer options might help. However, many organic hydroponic fertilizers start with proteins, essentially mimicking an aquaponics system juts without the fish. Organic hydroponic often must cycle their system like aquaponics and must run their system on a special EC scale than a conventional hydroponic grower.

Hopefully, through this article you get a complete understanding of differences among both systems along with the pros and cons of each system, it would make it easier for you to select a soilless medium for the cultivation of plants according to your needs.


Robert Davis

Robert Davis

What started as a personal experience to improve my overall health by growing my own food has turned into a mission to share my experience and my own research. Growing your own food and eating healthier food is something that everyone has to try.

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