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Categorized | Aquaponic Tips

The Difference Between Hydroponics and Aquaponics

Image Credit: NASA/KSC

Image Credit: NASA/KSC

Hydroponics and aquaponics are interesting techniques used to cultivate different kinds of crops. By definition, aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and a hydroponic environment. The combo creates a balanced ecosystem that can be used to grow fishes and plants all year round. However, “hydroponics and aquaponics” are two different worlds. There are number of differences between the two strategies.

Eight Differences Between Hydroponics & Aquaponics Systems

There are many differences between hydroponics and aquaponics systems. Sometimes people confuse the two. If you’re brand new to aquaponics, then let’s go over the biggest differences between the two. These are the eight thorough breakdowns of hydroponics and aquaponics.

Difference #1 – Immediate versus Slow Start

When compared against hydroponics, aquaponics suffers a very low start up speed. Hydroponics is a carefully formulated system that uses commercial nutrients. Thus, the deep water culture system produces immediate outcomes. On the other hand, aquaponics requires at least a month to start.

During this month, bacteria has to develop a colony in the aquatic system. This process is known as cycling. The cycle would remain incomplete till many interesting conversions and chemical processes are complete. For example, fish waste has to be converted into nitrates in the aquaponics systems. This conversion would take at least a month or two.

Difference #2 – Sterile versus Bacterial Environment

Do you know that hydroponic systems require a sterile and composed environment? If you analyze a well-established hydroponic system, you will see people with hairnets and coveralls. Whereas, Aquaponics considers bacteria as natural gardeners. Bacterial is a catalyst that drives the aquaponics system.

Difference #3 – Irregular versus Frequent Draining

Hydroponic systems can remain intact with drain and flood techniques that are opened once in every seven to nine hours! However, studies prove that aquaponics systems should be flooded evenly every 30 minutes. This is because fish waste builds up rapidly in the aquaponics system.

And, fish waste is regarded as a might villain in aquaponics systems. Thick deposits of fish wastes must be filtered and removed from the system frequently. The draining would take from 15 to 45 minutes. However, the results of draining will enrich the lifetime of your aquaponics system extensively.

Difference #4 – Small versus Large Flood Tables

Hydroponic systems require six inch flood tables; while aquaponics use twelve inch growth beds. Deep beds promote bacterial growth and create a perfect ambience for red worms! The twelve inch table plays two important roles, namely it acts like a bio-filter and a home for plants.

Difference #5 – Imbalanced versus Balanced Flow of Nutrients

Hydroponic depends on the inflow of nutrients. All hydroponic gardeners depend on supplements and natural nutrients. However, the case is different with aquaponics gardeners. In an aquaponics garden, you should focus on a balanced ecosystem. Anything that creates an imbalance within the Aquaponics ecosystem should be avoided. For instance, certain types of seaweeds and iron-based plants must be evaded.

In a hydroponic system, nutrients should be replaced or dumped frequently. This is a tacky notion that mystifies aquaponics gardeners. You should not dump the deep water system abruptly. Instead, you must keep an eye on the health and purity of the tank’s resources.

Difference #6 – Hearty versus Healthy systems

Recent studies prove that hydroponic systems are more prone to be affected by plant diseases. To be more precise, the water culture is likely to be affected by a fungus called root rot. This is a pythium absent in aquaponics systems. Researchers attribute this to the tank’s high oxygen percentage and active worms!

Difference #7 – High versus Low Temperature

Temperature is a very important feature that prevents the growth of pythiums in aquaponics systems. In most cases, the tank and nutrient solution is maintained below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This is an optimal temperature for plant and marine growth. Whereas, hydroponics systems are managed at 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Difference #8 – Optimized versus Customized Conditions

Finally, hydroponics systems are meant for plants and fishes that grow well in optimized conditions. On the contrary, aquaponics establishes a new, complete eco-system for its fishes and plants. For example, hydroponics systems can grow amazing in a pH level between 5.5 to 6.1. This is regarded as an optimal pH for hydroponics units.

Meanwhile, aquaponics systems can be maintained at a pH between 6.8 to 7.2. This is an important range that is not compromised by most fishes, bacteria and plants in the aquaponics system. Experienced gardeners state that the aquaponics system should be nurtured in optimal conditions. The organic content in the soil should be closely related to the right kind of pH.

Difference #9 – The Right EC Level

Just like temperature and pH, you should keep an eye on the system’s “Electrical Conductivity alias EC”. This is an important measure that affects the performance and growth of hydroponics systems.

Technically, electrical conductivity gives as account of the amount of salts and nutrients in the solution. EC should be relatively high in hydroponic systems, due to its high percentage of mineral salts. On the other hand, EC is not extremely important in aquaponics systems. To be more precise, the amount of minerals in aquaponics systems should be controlled and managed carefully.

Difference #10 – Its All About Insect Control

Moving on, insect control in aquaponics and hydroponics systems is poles apart. As mentioned previously, aquaponics deals with fishes; conversely, special care should be devoured in terms of insect control! Even conventional sprays and soaps will be harmful in the aquaponics systems. Whereas, you don’t need to worry about insects in hydroponics systems! This is because most bugs wouldn’t have a grip over plants in the hydroponics systems.

As a result, nibbling in hydroponics systems is close to impossibility. And, according to experts, some insects tend to promote the growth of plants in hydroponic units.

Difference #11 – The Eco System

Another interesting facet that differentiates aquaponics from hydroponics would be the Eco System. Do you know that hydroponic systems are especially designed to survive under optimal conditions? Meanwhile, the aquaponics systems can be treated as a symbiotic entity. Here, a perfect eco system is created for all kinds of living creatures.

The aquaponics system makes use of some insects, liquid sea weeds and worms for better growth. These creatures make a team in the aquaponics systems. Anything that does not survive the symbiotic relationship, would not last long in the aquaponics systems.

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