Does aquaponics require electricity?

Aquaponics is a system that involves sharing water between plants and fish, fostering a relationship where the fish, assisted by bacteria, provide nutrients for the plants to grow. In turn, the plants filter and clean the water and improve the environment for the fish. This system attempts to mimic natural processes in nature, but on a much smaller and more limited scale, so the model is incomplete. Electricity is usually used to replace much of the energy that would normally be provided by sun, rain, the flow of rivers, the movement of tides, etc. There are certain alternatives that can be used if one needs to operate “off the grid,” but some source of supplemental power is definitely needed to operate pumps, supplemental lighting, or other elements of an aquaponics system.

At the very minimum, water must flow for aquaponics to work. Fish waste must be kept aerated by movement of water from oxygenated areas (the surface) to the bottom where it lays. Failure to keep it aerated means that the beneficial bacteria will be unable to process the waste, producing no food for the plants and allowing toxins in the water to build up. Once the waste is converted to nutrients, the water must be circulated among the roots of the plants so they have constant, reliable access to water and nutrition, or they will fail to grow and thrive. In small operations, it is possible to provide this movement without electricity, but some other energy will be needed, whether that’s wind (a windmill), animal (a treadmill), or manual (arms and legs). Siphon action can be employed to help, but several times a day, something or someone will need to move the water around again to keep the cycle going. If regular treadmill sessions aren’t on your list of preferred activities, solar, wind or even water power can be considered and are easily converted to electricity.

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