The decision between hydroponics and aquaponics can be a difficult one. The two methods of growing plants have their own unique pros and cons, which makes it hard to decide which is best for your situation.
In this guide, we’re going to discuss in detail the differences in cost, ease of use, and maintenance needed as well as the benefits and disadvantages of both methods so you can make an informed decision!
What is hydroponics?
Hydroponics is an increasingly popular method of growing plants without soil. Instead, the roots are submerged in water with dissolved nutrients that feed the plant directly.
What is aquaponics?
Aquaponics is a method for growing plants in water, using fish waste for nutrients. The fish live in an aquarium suspended above the plant beds and their droppings fall through the mesh bottom into the grow bed where it becomes fertilizer for your plants!
What are the advantages of hydroponics?
- Maximizes any space – Requires little space compared to aquaponics. Hydroponic systems can be hung on walls or even stacked vertically, making them perfect for growing in small spaces!
- Conserves a lot of water – Growing plants without soil greatly reduces the amount of water needed for growth. A hydroponic garden can produce up to ten times more food than traditional farming!
- Facilitates a micro-climate – Allows the gardener to regulate humidity levels, temperature, and airflow individually for each plant.
- Produces much higher yields – Can produce up to ten times more food than traditional farming methods.
- It’s less labor-intensive – Many hydroponic systems are automated, requiring very little physical labor.
- You don’t need soil – No mess, no fuss. Just water with nutrients and a little space are needed.
- Produces super high-quality food – Hydroponic plants are very healthy and high quality because they’re not exposed to soil-borne diseases.
- Reduces supply chain – Growing food locally reduces the distance it has to travel before being consumed, reducing carbon emissions.
- Predictability and seasonality – Climate control enables hydroponic gardening to be less dependent on seasons, making the process more predictable and reducing losses due to weather.
- Crops grow much faster – In most cases, hydroponic plants grow up to twice as fast compared to soil-grown plants. They can produce a harvest every couple of months.
What are the disadvantages of hydroponics?
- Quite expensive to set up – Requires specialized equipment in order to grow. You’ll need a place for your fish tank, pumps, and nutrient tanks along with the proper lighting system.
- Power outages are a problem – If the power goes out, then your plants will die. Growing food in a greenhouse or indoors can be very difficult to do during the winter months.
- Needs constant maintenance and monitoring – The amount of work involved in maintaining a hydroponic system is quite demanding.
- Vulnerable to waterborne diseases – If you don’t disinfect your system properly, diseases can spread quickly and be extremely difficult to get rid of.
- Problems affect plants quicker – If a problem arises, hydroponic plants can die in a matter of days. This is because they’re not protected by soil and are much more susceptible to disease.
What are the advantages of aquaponics?
- Nutritional and organic benefits – Uses no pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers. Allows you to grow food organically and sustainably!
- All year round, crops are cultivated – You can grow your plants all year round, not dependent on seasons.
- It uses far less water – Growing plants without soil greatly reduces the amount of water needed for growth.
- Reduces carbon footprint – Growing food locally reduces the distance it has to travel before being consumed, reducing carbon emissions.
- No harmful runoff of pesticides in waterways – Aquaponics uses 90% less water than traditional farming methods and protects freshwater sources. It also does not lead to toxic runoff.
What are the disadvantages of aquaponics?
- Can cost a lot upfront – Requires specialized equipment in order to grow! You’ll need a place for your fish tank, pumps, and nutrient tanks along with the proper lighting system.
- Some plants can’t be grown – Some plants are not able to be grown in an aquaponic system, as well as some fish cannot be used also.
- Takes up a lot of space – Requires more room than hydroponics or traditional farming methods! Growing your own food in-house can save you some time and money, but it’s definitely no magic bullet solution.
- Eats up a lot of electricity – Fish tanks need to be kept at a specific temperature and the lighting system requires electricity.
- Requires constant monitoring – You’ll have to monitor your fish tank regularly, as well as changing out the water every couple of weeks.
- Not beginner-friendly – You will need a professional to help you get started, so it’s not ideal for first-time growers.
- Unexpected failures and risks – It can and does happen. If the power goes out, plants can be at risk of dying.
What are the differences between Hydroponics vs Aquaponics?
The main difference between a hydroponic system and an aquaponic system is the way the plants are grown. As mentioned above, hydroponics is growing plants without soil using water with dissolved nutrients that feed the plant directly while aquaponics uses fish waste for nutrition which then fertilizes your crops above them!
Both methods produce healthier and higher-quality food because they’re not exposed to diseases in soil but hydroponic produce is often better quality because they’re grown in a controlled environment!
Aquaponics is more forgiving to mistakes, so it’s easier for beginners to get started. However hydroponic systems do not need soil or weeds but can be very expensive and require constant maintenance while aquaponics takes up less space and requires much less water than traditional farming.
Both of them consume a lot of electricity, but hydroponics is more vulnerable to power outages while aquaponics can produce two crops per year on average!
Finally, both systems are commercialized with the best practices which makes them super high-quality and predictable products. They’re also said to be better for the environment because they don’t use soil.
Can you combine aquaponics and hydroponics?
Yes, you can! They make the perfect pair because they produce nutrient-dense food with little environmental impact. This combination is called aquaponic gardening, where the plants are grown in water and fertilized by fish waste which reduces costs (no soil or fertilizer needed!) while producing healthier crops than traditional farming methods.
Conclusion: Which is better hydroponics or aquaponics?
Both methods can produce high-quality and nutrient-dense food with a low environmental impact which makes them the best combination! Is aquaponic gardening better than hydroponics?
It depends. If you’d like to grow crops all year round, then an aquaponics system is probably a great option for you as it will provide two harvests each year.
Hydroponics is ideal if you want to have greater control of your growing environment. However, overall, hydroponic systems are better for large-scale production while aquaponics can be done on a smaller scale and also produce two harvests each year.