How Does Aquaponics Work?

how does aquaponics work

You’re probably wondering, “how does aquaponics work?”. It’s actually all quite simple. The above diagram shows in its most simplest form the process of aquaponics.

I’m going to go a bit more in-depth and break down the step-by-step process of the entire system.

  1. The fishes are fed food to produce ammonia rich waste, which accumulates in the water. The effluent-rich water is toxic to fishes in high concentrations, but they’re essential for plant growth so the waste water is pumped to the grow beds.
  2. The bacteria that is cultured in the grow beds helps to break down impurities and as a result, nitrogen remains, which is an essential nutrient for plants.
  3. The plant roots filters the water which now contains nutrients for the fishes, and is pumped back down to the fishes. The cycle then repeats itself.

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Main Components Of An Aquaponics System

Easy! DIY AquaponicsThere are only two main parts involved in aquaponics. The first part being the aquaculture section for raising aquatic animals such as fish, and the second part being the hydroponics section for growing plants.

Though there are only two parts of an aquaponics system, there are several essential components that are responsible for keeping the cycle in order.

These components consists of:

  • Rearing Tank: This is the tank used for raising and feeding aquatic animals such as fishes. It doesn’t have to be a traditional fish tank, instead, barrels and other forms of containers can be used.
  • Solids Remover: This is the component responsible for catching uneaten feed and detached biofilms, and also for settling out fine particulates.
  • Biofilter: This section is in place for bacteria to grow and convert ammonia into nitrates for plants to absorb.
  • Hydroponics Subsystem / Grow Bed: Plants are grown here to take in all the excess nutrients from the water.
  • Water Pump: This is the lowest part of the system where water flows to and then pumped back into the rearing tank.

Inputs In The Aquaponics System

There are three main inputs in an aquaponics system:

  • Water: The water in an aquaponics system is recirculated and reused in an effective way. The working relationship between the aquatic animals and the plants allows for a stable environment for both to survive. Water is only added when there’s water loss as a result of absorption and transpiration from plants, evaporation or overflow from rainfall.
  • Feed: As a result of depleting wild fish stock, fish meals from lower value species is not sustainable. Therefore, organic fish feeds is a viable alternative. Others include duckweed, worms and  black soldier fly larvae.
  • Electricity: The amount of energy used all depends on the size of the aquaponics system and whether it’s indoors (requiring the need for grow lights) or outdoors. It can be highly energy efficient if the system uses alternative energy and less pumps by allowing the water to flow downwards.


That’s all there really is to an aquaponics system. Obviously the bigger the system then the more complex it’ll be, such as large industrial systems used for commercial purposes. However, the main focus for us is a home aquaponics setup, which is very simple, basic and low-cost.

To get the most out of your aquaponics system, I highly recommend the following articles, where you can decide from the highest rated and bestselling products for aquaponics.

  • + Easy! DIY Aquaponics (simple guide on how to build a home aquaponics system for cheap)
  • + Aquaponics 4 You (another step-by-step guide on building a low-cost aquaponics system)
  • + Top 5 Best Water Pump For Aquaponics
  • + Top 5 Best Grow Lights
  • + Top 5 Best Aquaponics Grow Media
  • + Top 7 Water & pH Test Kit Best Sellers
  • + Top 5 Best Aquarium Heater Products
  • + Top 10 Best Fish Food
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