What is The Difference Between Hydroponics and Aquaponics?

A Guide to Understanding the Difference Between Hydroponics and Aquaponics


You may be wondering what the difference between hydroponics and aquaponics is. Great question! 


Aquaponics is simply a hydroponic system with fish. Instead of adding store bought (or homemade) nutrients to your hydro system, you raise fish in a tank and then feed that water to your plants. You monitor the temperature of the water in the fish tank and feed the fish a high quality diet. They eat the food you give them, and in turn their waste turns into the food for the plants. It is generally a closed system where the fish water is pumped directly to the plants. 


That’s it! That’s aquaponics. But if that’s the way you’re going, you are also a fish caretaker. You have to really monitor the temperature of the fish water. I once saw a really sad die-off of an entire tank of fish when they got too hot in a greenhouse aquaponic system. Fish can also be susceptible to diseases which will sicken or kill them. 


Difference Between Hydroponics and Aquaponics - Setup


Before starting a hydroponic fish tank, think about whether you can provide a nice life for the fish as well as for your plants. Stressed fish will not provide good nutrition for your plants.


Fish need space: Plan on plenty of room for your fish

Fish need food:  Feed your fish a high quality diet so they can produce high quality nutrition for your plants

Fish need light: Please don’t keep fish in a sad, dark tank. If you have a small home aquaponic system with goldfish or koi, you can even dress up their tank with some plants. 

Monitor your water temperature: Here is where a water heater or chiller is so important. Although some fish can withstand a variety of temperatures, they still have to stay in a certain range.

Do your research: Be sure the fish you are buying are the right fish for your space and climate. If you are planning to eat them, know how long it takes to grow them from fry to adult. Learn about fish diseases, and how to prevent and treat them.

Ornamental or Edible: Are you planning on eating or selling the fish? If you already have goldfish or a koi pond, you are halfway to an aquaponic system.


There are some aquaponic kits you can buy that fit right on top of an aquarium. Some countertop models have the fish tank built in with a nice window for fish viewing. 


If you don’t have enough fish in your tank, you won’t have enough nutrients for your plants, so plan accordingly. 


For more great content check out the Proponics YouTube channel below!


Proponics on YouTube



Meredith Bio Pic
By Meredith Martin
Meredith Martin started a small hydroponic farm in 2004. Within a few years, it was supplying basil to more than 20 supermarkets. She has since sold the farm and now spends most of her time skiing, windsurfing and travelling. 


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