It’s not every day that something which benefits both the health of plants and fish in one fell swoop is introduced. Cue the OSU Sea Grant Extension program’s use of aquaponics, a food production system that combines raising fish with hydroponics to create plant nutrients. A practice which is apparently centuries old.
People generally raise their fish in indoor tanks or outdoor ponds, where the fish have room to make excrement. That water mixed with waste from the tank flows to a nearby hydroponics tray where plants can grow safely in water without the need for soil. However, the leftover waste is harmful to the fish, though it becomes valuable fertilizer for plants. While the plants soak up the necessary nutrients, the water is in turn filtered into clean water, which gets recycled back into the fish tank. It’s recommended that people not use chemical fertilizers, as they can harm the fish.
OSU Sea Grant aquaculture specialists say you can grow any plant through aquaponics, with leafy greens like lettuce and arugula being the least difficult to grow. It’s also reportedly possible to grow anything from herbs and cucumbers to even potatoes. Experts suggest raising freshwater fish like tilapia, catfish, or trout, but in order to raise tilapia you must buy a transport permit from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The fish can be fed a standard diet from any pet store.
For more information on aquaponics and how to build your own system, visit the USDA site: https://afsic.nal.usda.gov/aquaculture-and-soilless-farming/aquaponics.
By Patrick Fancher