Would-Be Urban Farmers Find a New Gardening Ally in the Form of Living Fish

As more people have become interested in getting back to the basics, gardening has become a topic of special popularity. There is probably no more direct or elemental way of getting in touch with the Earth and one’s environment than growing food for a family, and many people today are discovering just how satisfying this hobby can be.

On the other hand, not everyone has the necessary space and land to make traditional gardening practical. Few city-dwellers, for example, can hope for more than a small plot in a rooftop garden or a pair of window boxes that might suffice for a couple of tomato plants and some herbs. Opportunities like these can still be worth seizing, but they often leave people wanting more after having had a real taste of what gardening can produce.

For people in these situations, one increasingly popular answer is the science and technology of aquaponics. Unlike traditional gardening, aquaponics does away with soil entirely, utilizing instead a sophisticated, recirculating, water-based medium that can support far more plants for a given area.

That means that, with a good aquaponics system design, urban farmers and others can often make use of spaces that would never allow for traditional gardening approaches. Even a large closet, when equipped with a well-designed system and enough in the way of grow lights, can often turn out satisfying and rewarding amounts of lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables.

The key to this arrangement is the secret weapon that makes aquaponics so productive: fish. The aquaponics approach adds a new and highly productive wrinkle to the more familiar technology of hydroponics. Water that is used to nourish plants in an aquaponics system is pumped from a fish tank, where the residents produce waste that bacteria then turn into a highly effective fertilizer.

Aside from the need for a source of light, then, an aquaponics system is a remarkably self-sufficient closed loop. The fish that are so central to the productivity of an aquaponics system do need to be fed, but bags of fish food are far more compact and enjoyable to deal with than those of fertilizer. Couple this with the incredible productivity that can be expected from such a system, and it is easy to see why this option is becoming so popular.