Aquaponics is a system that combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (soil-less plant culture) in a symbiotic environment. In this system, fish are raised in a tank, and their waste products (ammonia and nitrate) are broken down by nitrifying bacteria, which convert them into nitrites and nitrates. These nitrates serve as nutrients for the plants, which are grown hydroponically in a separate grow bed or trough. The plants absorb the nitrates, which serve as fertilizer, and in the process, they purify the water that is then returned to the fish tank.
The biofactor in an aquaponics system refers to the ratio of fish biomass to the amount of grow bed surface area. This ratio is important because it determines the amount of waste products that are generated by the fish, which in turn, determines the amount of nutrients that are available to the plants. The optimal biofactor for an aquaponics system is typically between 0.5 to 1 pound of fish per 1 square foot of grow bed surface area.
The working mechanism of an aquaponics system is based on the nitrogen cycle, which involves the conversion of ammonia (excreted by the fish) to nitrite and then to nitrate. This process is carried out by nitrifying bacteria, which are present in the grow bed and filter media. The nitrates produced by the bacteria are taken up by the plants, which use them as nutrients for growth. In the process, the plants also absorb other dissolved solids, including minerals and micronutrients, which are also present in the water. As the water passes through the grow bed, it is filtered and purified, and then returned to the fish tank, where the cycle begins again.
In summary, aquaponics is a closed-loop system that relies on the symbiotic relationship between fish and plants to create a sustainable and efficient method of food production. By optimizing the biofactor and maintaining a healthy balance of fish, bacteria, and plants, aquaponics systems can produce a variety of crops and fish with minimal inputs and maximum output.