Aquaponics - the inside scoop on the closed-looped, fish and produce yielding system
What is Aquaponics?
It is a closed-looped, symbiotic process involving fish and produce where fish waste provides a food source for the plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in. So that means you can raise your own fish and grow your own produce in a self sustaining nutrient system. Wikipedia and Aquaponics.com have more detailed explanations of the nutrient exchange. Egyptians and Aztecs were noted as the first civilizations to master aquaponics. Currently, nations such as Thailand and China have been using this symbiotic treasure on a large scale and has since been growing in popularity here in the U.S. Tilapia are the most popular fish used in these tanks (however depending on your wants and needs, many different fish can be raised) and produce can be anything from vegetables such as lettuce, chard (my fav!) and basil to fruiting plants like tomatoes, peppers and cantaloupe (here are some more)! Yumm! Integrating vegetable and fruit growing with organic fish farming is a great way to live sustainably in many facets of life! (For example, you are saving money, producing locally, eating organically, and putting less pressure on our oceans and agricultural lands!)
How realistic is Aquaponics?
Aquaponics systems vary from large scale industrial to small scale backyard systems. Backyardaquaponics.com has some great resources on getting started, such as a backyard aquapnonics getting started downloadable magazine.
The great thing about these systems is that they are low maintenance once they are up and running. The water in the tank is filtered and does not need to be replaced, only added to occasionally as the plants will evaporate some. The outputs are well worth the cost of the inputs once you calculate your savings on food over a few years, especially with the price of organic foods! It is important to buy high quality, local food for your fish, or get an advanced system that allows you to grow sustenance for your fish. The systems are also quite adaptable for different weather types as long as you get fish that thrive in your conditions.
I think aquaponics is an extremely cool way to live sustainably and enjoy great food you have grown yourself! I once heard a saying that was along the lines of 'having your own garden is the ultimate act of independence,' or maybe it was rebellion... I think that might go for 'aquaponics systems' as well.