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Aquaponics Vs Hydroponics: Which Is Better? [Revealed]

Aquaponics and hydroponics are the innovation in the farming world likely to transform traditional farming methods to a whole new level.
Generally, aquaponics is the method of growing plants and fish together, while hydroponics has a system of growing plants in water with nutrients. In hydroponics, plants get their nutrients from the hydroponic solution, whereas plants feed on fish waste in aquaponics.

Both are soil-less farming methods promoting sustainable production with higher yields.

This article will help you to compare these two methods and make the right choice considering your needs.

Aquaponics Vs. Hydroponics: Differences

In simple terms, aquaponics has a more natural way of growing plants, while hydroponics boasts simple systems. 

Hydroponics Vs Aquaponics comparison chart
Hydroponics uses nutrients from the reservoir, and aquaponics deposits the fish waste to grow plants.

Here are the factors that show the lines of difference between these soilless systems.

1. System Components and Design

For Hydroponics, you will need a plant, a reservoir to hold nutrients, a growth tray, and a medium to transfer nutrients from the reservoir to plants.

However, you must manage a fish tank, a plant grow bed, and pumps to exchange water for aquaponics.

In hydroponics, the roots get the nutrient from the nutrient solution in the reservoir. Water with fish waste works as a nutrient for plants, and plants freshen up the water for fish in aquaponics.

Also, you will need 6 inches-deep grow beds for hydroponics, while the grow bed must be 12 inches if you are into aquaponics.

Drip, Wick, NFT, Deep water culture, Ebb and flow, and Aeroponics systems are the major hydroponics design methods.

On the other hand, major aquaponics design includes Media beds, Deep water culture, and NFT.

2. Startup and Operating Costs

The start-up cost of both aquaponics and Hydroponics are almost the same. However, you must add materials for filtration and extra aeration in aquaponics.

The cost of fish differs according to the breeds you prefer in your aquarium. Comparatively, those costs are equal to the expense of nutrient medium for hydroponics.

Hydroponics consumes nutrients throughout the growing season, so using aquaponics can be costly due to high electricity requirements.

The operating costs are thus higher in aquaponics compared to hydroponics.

3. Chemical and Nutrient Costs

Hydroponics uses nutrients during the entire growing season that may be very costly. 

On the other hand, you need to add fish food in aquaponics that will be budget-friendly compared to hydroponics.

Moreover, the nutrients for hydroponics are scarce only to inflate the price, but you can easily find commercial fish food in the market.

Hydroponics uses too many nutrients resulting in high salt accumulation that may be highly toxic to the plants if you don’t change the water.

There are no such risks in aquaponics, and you need not change the water regularly as nitrogen is perfectly balanced.

4. Cycling Period and Yielding

If you start a new hydroponics system, it’s the only nutrient solution that needs to cycle and be stable before you place any plant.

However, aquaponics is a slow process as the solution needs to produce beneficial bacteria depending on fish wastes and water temperature. 

The cycling period is usually 6-8 weeks in the aquaponics system.  In contrast, hydroponics has a shorter cycling period as it stabilizes the nutrients within a week. 

Nevertheless, aquaponics provides higher productivity than hydroponics after it becomes fully stable.

aquaponic system vs hydroponic system
Aquaponics has more harvest than hydroponics.

Also, you can harvest both crops and fish using aquaponics.

5. Ease of Maintenance and Waste Disposal

Aquaponics needs minimal maintenance; you only need to check up on water pH weekly and nitrate levels monthly.

However, you need to check the electrical conductivity, pH, and nutrient level of water in hydroponics daily.

Moreover, aquaponics systems lose their water from filtration and evaporation. You need not change the water regularly.

But, you must flush your hydroponics system regularly to avoid nutrient build-up for the safety of your plants.

The wastewater from the hydroponics system is likely to affect your drainage system.

You can easily dispose of aquaponics wastewater without risking the sewage system.

6. Pesticides and Insecticides

Your plants are susceptible to pests and insects even if you grow them in aquaponics or hydroponics.

Although pest attacks are rare due to no soil use, insects like thrips, aphids, and spider mites are likely to cause problems.

You have the option to choose any chemical pesticides for hydroponic plants.

But, it’s challenging to use chemical pesticides in aquaponics as they may harm your fish.

7. pH Balance

Balance in pH is one of the vital necessities when it comes to aquatic farming.

In aquaponics, you need to maintain neutral pH for the safety of your fish. But, hydroponics plants demand slightly more acidic pH than aquaponics.

Maintain a pH between 5.5-6 in hydroponics, whereas a pH between 6.8-7 will be best in aquaponics as fish waste, maintain acidic pH afterward.

8. Organic Growth

Using chemicals to grow plants in hydroponics creates an artificial environment for plants.

However, aquaponics provides a natural ecosystem with perfectly built nutrient cycling.

Also, high salt accumulation and nutrient buildup may harm the environment in hydroponics.

In comparison, aquaponics converts fish waste into fertilizer with the help of microbes, creating better organic growth than hydroponics.

Aquaponics and Hydroponics: Similarities

Aquaponics and hydroponics share several similarities, like resistant varieties, sustainability, flexibility, and rapid growth.

1. Growing Season

Hydroponics and aquaponics setups allow you to grow healthy off-season crops with a continuous light supply free of climatic risk.

As a result, you can grow your crops for a long time, even if the growing season ends.

In traditional gardening, you can’t have such a facility as the seasons never permit you to grow off seasonal crops.

2. Reduced Negative Environmental Impacts

Your plants may face various environmental issues like pests and pathogens in soil gardening.

Mainly, they occur and spread due to infected soil and wind, resulting in diseased plants.

So, your plant rarely faces those problems in aquaponics and hydroponics as they grow without soil.

Also, low application of pesticides and fungicides will reduce the environmental impacts.

Hydroponics and aquaponics use less water compared to traditional gardenin with aquaponics using only 10% of water soil. 

3. Faster Growth

The plants you grow in aquaponics and hydroponics will get additional oxygen than those you grow in soil.

This fastens root growth, and plants absorb the nutrients rapidly and effectively.

Ultimately, your plants will save more energy and consume this into the plant’s overall growth.

Plants will grow 30-50% faster than in traditional methods due to the effective aeration in aquaponics and hydroponics.

4. Higher Yields

 Aquaponic or hydroponic plants will undoubtedly get balanced nutrients and pH compared to soil-grown plants.

Also, the reduced chances of diseases and pests result in a higher yield of crops in soil-free growing methods.

Note: You can expect 30-40% increased yields in aquaponics and hydroponics than in soil farming.  

Aquaponics Vs. Hydroponics Pros & Cons

Aquaponics encourages organic farming with sustainability, but the management is very complex and costly.

Besides, hydroponics offers crop farming with perfect water and nutrient balance but must depend wholly on nutrients.

You can also create your own hydroponic system with cost-effective materials or buy a commercial hydroponic kit available in the market.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Aquaponics

Eco-friendly and sustainableExpensive method in comparison to soil farming
Uses fish waste instead of harmful chemical fertilizersComplex to maintain and set up
Allows both crops and fish harvestHigh energy consumption for pumping and filteration
Uses water and nutrients effectivelyCan't be maintained without stable water and electricity
Can be used both indoors and outdoorsRequires extra care for fish safety
High yield and low maintenence after stabilizationAffects other parts when one part fails
Affordable and space friendlyLess option for crops
Less water useHigh startup cost

Advantages and Disadvantages of Hydroponics

Low risk of diseases and pestsTiresome management
Balance between water and nutrientsExpensive than soil gardening
High quality crops and yieldsHigh salt and chemical accumulation
No risk of climatic condition Could create problems in drainage after disposal
Allows off seasonal crop growthRequires high energy
Time saving and space-friendlyCreates issues in plants if water isn't replaced

From Editorial Team

Aquaponics Vs. Hydroponics: which one fits your need?

Both hydroponics and aquaponics allow you to grow plants better than soil gardening, but choosing one among both depends upon your needs.

Hydroponics is most preferable option if you want to grow a wide variety of crops using chemical nutrients at a low cost. 

But aquaponics allows you to harvest fish and plants together, which isn’t possible in hydroponics.

Also, aquaponics is a perfect choice if you prefer eco-friendly organic farming.