Difference Between Hydroponics And Aquaponics

Hydroponics and Aquaponics have both become popular options for growing plants. The two gardening methods differ in their approaches but also share some similarities. Aquaponics is a type of hydroponic system that combines the cultivation of aquatic animals, such as fish and snails, with the growth of plants in water. This unique combination results in an environment in which the waste produced by the aquatic animals is used to fertilize and nourish the plants grown in it. The nutrients released by the fish in the form of ammonia are converted into nitrites, which plants then absorb as a nitrogen source. The water is continuously cycled between the fish tank and the growing bed, delivering nutrient-rich water to the plants while providing clean and oxygenated water for the aquatic animals.

What Is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics combines aquaculture, which is the farming of fish, and hydroponics, which is the growing of plants without soil. In an aquaponic system, water from a fish tank is pumped to a plant bed, where bacteria convert the fish waste into nitrates. The plants then take nitrate as fertilizer, and filtered water is returned to the fish tank. This process allows for high levels of sustainability since both the plants and fish benefit from a balanced ecosystem that requires less energy and maintenance. Aquaponics also uses less space than traditional farming, making it ideal for urban areas or other limited spaces.

What Is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is a type of gardening that utilizes nutrient-rich water instead of soil to grow plants. This method requires the gardener to monitor and adjust the water’s nutrient content and pH levels for optimal growth. The system can be set up indoors or outdoors, allowing growers more significant control over the environment in which their plants are grown.

Difference Between Hydroponics And Aquaponics

  • Definition: Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in water. Aquaponics combines aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growth of plants) to create an eco-friendly system for raising two organisms in the same environment.
  • Nutrients: Hydroponics is a soil-less growing method in which plants are grown in water enriched with nutrient solutions. It uses no natural soils or organic matter, instead relying solely on the nutrient solution to provide all the minerals and other compounds needed for plant growth. In contrast, Aquaponics combines hydroponic techniques with aquaculture (aqua farming), allowing the two systems to work together in a mutually beneficial way. Aquaponics combines fish waste and bacteria, breaking the fish waste into usable plant nutrients. This process creates a natural system for growing vegetables and fish simultaneously, meaning no additional nutrient solution must be added.
  • Cost: Hydroponics is a more costly option for growing plants than Aquaponics. This is due to the need for additional components such as pumps, tank liners, and air pumps and the electricity needed to operate them. Additionally, because hydroponic systems are closed-loop systems that use concentrated nutrients in the water, they require more frequent nutrient replacement and water flushes than aquaponic systems that use fish waste as fertilizer. Furthermore, hydroponic systems also require more time for set-up and monitoring. In contrast, aquaponic systems are much less expensive to operate over the long run. Aquaponics can be started with just a few simple materials, and the costs can be kept to a minimum by adding components (e.g., fish tanks and grow beds) as needed.
  • Start-up cost: The startup cost of hydroponics systems tends to be higher than Aquaponics. This is because additional equipment, such as pumps and air stones for oxygenation, will be required when setting up a hydroponic system. Aquaponic systems require less equipment as they rely on natural processes like nitrification and denitrification for water purification.
  • Productivity: Hydroponics and Aquaponics are highly effective forms of gardening, but their products can differ in some ways. Hydroponic systems rely solely on nutrient solutions for plant nutrition, allowing faster growth rates and higher yields than traditional soil-based growing methods. Aquaponic systems use a combination of fish waste and nutrients from the water to feed the plants. While yields overall can be lower than with hydroponics, they tend to be more balanced in terms of both quantity and quality.
  • Maintenance: Both hydroponic and aquaponic systems require regular maintenance. Hydroponic systems must be checked at least once a week for pH balance, nutrient levels, temperature, etc. Aquaponic systems also need regular monitoring of these factors but typically require less attention since the tank water is autonomous, thanks to fish waste.
  • pH: The pH for Aquaponics ranges from 6.8 to 7.0. At the same time, the ideal range is 5.5 to 6. 0.
  • Ease of use: Hydroponics is often considered to be the easier of the two systems since it does not require a large tank for fish or a complicated filtration system.

Advantages Of Aquaponics

  • Sustainable and intensive production system: Aquaponics is a sustainable agriculture system that merges traditional aquaculture with hydroponics, creating an intensive production system. It uses 90% less water compared to soil-based farming and has been shown to produce up to 10 times more food than conventional methods.
  • Aquaponics is water efficient: the amount of water used in an aquaponics system is much less than that of a hydroponics system. This is because water from an aquaculture system can be recycled and reused, enabling an aquaponics setup to reuse up to 90% of its water compared to only 10-20% for traditional hydroponics systems. Aquaponics is also more nutrient efficient than hydroponics, as aquaculture fish waste not only provides an additional source of nutrients.
  • Does not require soil or large land spaces: Aquaponics systems can be set up in small areas and do not require soil to grow plants. This is because the roots are placed in a nutrient-rich solution instead of soil, providing efficient access to essential minerals for plant growth. Furthermore, there is no need to buy or transport large quantities of soil as it is unnecessary for the system.
  • Removes the debilitating task of weeding and digging: Aquaponics removes the need for weeding and digging since the plants are grown in a nutrient-rich water solution rather than dirt. This makes it much easier to maintain than traditional hydroponic systems.

Disadvantages Of Aquaponics

  • Expensive to set up and build: Setting up an aquaponics system requires a lot of equipment and materials, making it more expensive than hydroponics.
  • Daily maintenance is required: Water must be tested, nutrient levels and pH must be monitored, and the plants must be harvested and replanted. Hydroponics requires more maintenance than Aquaponics because there is no natural source of nutrients like in an aquaponics system, where the fish provide manure for the plants to use as a fertilizer.
  • Requires a reliable electrical source: Aquaponics systems require a reliable electrical source to power the water pump, while hydroponics only need light and ventilation. Aquaponics systems also generally require complex plumbing setups.

Advantages Of Hydroponics

  • It saves water: since the plants are in a closed system, water is reused and not lost to evaporation.
  • It eliminates the use of chemicals: Hydroponics uses no chemicals for plant nutrition. On the other hand, Aquaponics relies on fish waste and aquatic bacteria to provide an all-natural source of plant nutrients.
  • Decreases the time between harvests: It also decreases the time between harvests. Hydroponic systems need less time to produce a crop than traditional soil-based growing systems, as water directly supplies the nutrients and oxygen needed for plant growth.
  • Allows food to be grown: Hydroponics is an innovative way of growing plants in nutrient-rich water solutions without soil. This method has been around since the early 19th century and is still popular today due to its efficiency, low maintenance requirements, and lack of space needs.

Disadvantages Of Hydroponics

  • Require a higher level of monitoring: When using hydroponics, it is essential to monitor the pH level of the water, nutrient concentration, and oxygen levels. However, in Aquaponics, there is no need to actively monitor these parameters as they are regulated by fish waste.
  • Expensive: Additionally, hydroponics requires water-soluble fertilizers, which can be expensive and difficult to find. On the other hand, Aquaponics relies on naturally occurring bacteria to break down fish waste into a form that plants can use as fertilizers. This eliminates the need for additional fertilizers making it more economical and sustainable.
  • Need special tools: Hydroponics requires special equipment, such as pumps and aerators, to maintain optimal water conditions. On the other hand, Aquaponics has a much simpler system and requires minimal equipment. This makes it easier to set up and more cost-effective in the long run.


Can fish live in hydroponic water?

No, fish cannot live in hydroponic water.

What plants grow well in Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is an incredibly versatile type of agriculture, allowing the successful cultivation of various crops. Due to their short growth cycles and nutrient requirements, leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, and kale are some of the most commonly grown plants in aquaponic systems. Other vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and squash can be grown in Aquaponics, as well as many herbs like mint and basil. Flowers such as marigolds and petunias are also popular to grow in an aquaponic system, providing a splash of color to the garden.

What kind of light do I need for Aquaponics?

Aquaponics requires lighting for the plants, just like any other hydroponic system. However, because Aquaponics combines fish and plant systems, it is essential to use lights that will not disturb the delicate balance of the two ecosystems. Generally, red or blue LED light systems are recommended as they provide a warm, natural glow without overwhelming the fish or plants.

Does Aquaponics need sunlight?

No, Aquaponics does not need sunlight. Unlike hydroponics which relies heavily on artificial lighting for the growth of plants, Aquaponics can thrive without any light energy from the sun.


differences between hydrophonics and aquaphonics - infographic
differences between hydrophonics and aquaphonics – infographic

Hydroponics and Aquaponics are excellent ways of growing plants with minimal environmental impact. Hydroponics uses only nutrient-rich water and can grow various plants, but it requires more energy to maintain the system. Aquaponics combines hydroponics and aquaculture, creating a symbiotic ecosystem between fish and plants that requires little input from the user. Both systems have strengths and weaknesses, so potential growers must research and decide which system best fits their needs. Whichever you choose, you can rest assured knowing that you are growing food in an environmentally friendly way.

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