Aquaponics is the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture, that is, the growing of plants and fish in a symbiotic environment. The integration of the two fields creates a new discipline where the difficulties of the two fields are eliminated.
Difficulties include the build-up of nutrients which requires periodic dumping and refilling of water. In the aquaponics system, the fish and plants balance the aquatic environment, limiting the water loss to surface evaporation and transpiration through the plants.
The microorganisms that thrive in the system convert organic fish matter to useable nutrition for the plants to utilize, creating a strong growing environment.
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Cycling the system refers to the initial process of establishing the naturally occurring bacteria that converts fish waste to available nutrient for the plants. This conversion is called the nitrification process. Cycling the system is done before the fish are put into the system. Fish waste and uneaten fish food break down and produce ammonia. Ammonia is also produced from the gills of the fish. Accumulated ammonia is harmful to plants and fish.
Naturally occurring bacteria accumulate in dark and wet areas, particularly in the media beds which have a large surface area but also on the walls and in pipes. Nitrosamines bacteria present here convert the ammonia to nitrites and grow in number. Then another form of bacteria, nitrobactor, converts the nitrites to nitrates.
Plants are able to take up nitrates. Water is mechanically filtered by the media and also biologically filtered by the bacteria. Nutrients are made available to the plants, taking it out of the water and then the water is sent back to the fish tank.
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