Definitions Introductions Uncategorized

What Is Aquaponics?

What is aquaponics? Let’s find out!…

You’re listening to Fish Grow Plants—A podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft.

Hello, and welcome to Fish Grow Plants, today’s episode is asking the basic question—what is aquaponics?

Do you remember the first time you heard that word? What did you think? Did you think of crazy Uncle Harry and his “hydroponic” basement operation? Or were you just kind of perplexed and at a loss for what this word could mean?

I think the first time I heard “aquaponics” was around 2007 or 2008; probably in a book or magazine—definitely not from anyone I would have been around at the time. I probably just read over it and didn’t think much of it. But as fate would have it, I must have seen it a time or two—and that triggered me to dig a little more. Before I knew it, my brain’s RAS (Reticular Activating System) was on high alert to any mention, or near mention, of aquaponics.

I had to know more, beyond the basic definition (that I had already found), beyond the introduction. I wanted some specifics, some implications, prices, people, and places to just name a few!

I don’t want to inundate you like I did myself, but I do want to give you some good information that you can take with you. Afterall, the field of aquaponics has grown and changed quite a bit since I first found out about it.

Alright, so what is “aquaponics”?

Well, the dictionary definition of aquaponics, from Merriam-webster is:

a system of growing plants in the water that has been used to cultivate aquatic organisms”

And from we are told aquaponics is:

“a farming system that circulates wastewater from animal aquaculture to hydroponically cultivated plants, whereby the plants draw nutrients from the waste and filter the water, allowing for its recycled use by the aquatic animals.”

I guess that’s pretty succinct, but how about a non-dictionary definition? Here are a few examples.

From, we learn that:

“Aquaponics is essentially the combination of Aquaculture and Hydroponics.”

And from, they say:

“Aquaponics is a form of agriculture that combines raising fish in tanks (recirculating aquaculture) with soilless plant culture (hydroponics).  In aquaponics, the nutrient-rich water from raising fish provides a natural fertilizer for the plants and the plants help to purify the water for the fish.”

All good, right?

Well, not if you don’t know what aquaculture and hydroponics means.

So, let’s take a minute and define those two words really quick.

Again, from Merriam-webster, we learn that aquaculture is:

the cultivation of aquatic organisms (such as fish or shellfish) especially for food”

And from Penn State University, we find out that:

“Aquaculture is the production of aquatic organisms, includ­ing fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and aquatic plants, and the cultivation of freshwater and marine plants and animals under controlled conditions for all or parts of their life cycles.”

Sounds like it’s farming critters in water to me, whatever type they may be!

As for the hydroponics definition, we have, from Merriam-webster:

“the growing of plants in nutrient solutions with or without an inert medium (such as soil) to provide mechanical support”

And supports this with their definition of hydroponics as:

“the cultivation of plants by placing the roots in liquid nutrient solutions rather than in soil; soilless growth of plants.”

Sounds good, right?

But it still seems like a lot of words moving around for some people, so how about this:

Aquaponics is “fish grow plants”.

I’ll call that Logan’s definition, but it’s the shortest one I can come up with.

Hey, and it still allows for all those variations that can happen on the fish or plant side.

Wow, I’m glad I wrote this down—aquaponics is fish grow plants.

(I hope you can remember this mom!…)

Ok, ok, ok. I know I can’t leave you hanging like that—just because we’ve clarified what aquaponics is, that doesn’t mean I can just walk off and leave you hanging.

So, what should we do?

Well, how about some mental “what-if” games?

If you are like me, when you find out about something new, you let your mind wander with it and see what comes up.

For me, years ago, my mind would dream up all these really cool aquaponic inventions and weird farms that seem to run on perpetual energy and never had to pay a bill or buy hardware. Pipe dream—I know, but it let my creative juices start to flow.

So what if we try to think of a way to use aquaponics?

For ourselves, family, community, or any other creative idea.

What would you do?

For me, I’d like to have an endless supply of greens for any and every meal I have. I’d also like to share extra veggies with family and friends. And when I’m really good, have plenty of space, time, and money, I’d probably like to try making a business out of growing greens for people.

Mmmmm, sounds tasty to me, if nothing else.

So what about you?

If aquaponics is simply fish grow plants, then what would you do with an aquaponic system?

What would you want from it? How would it look?

Any special type of fish or vegetable you would grow?

Think about what gets your juices flowing when you hear the word aquaponics. Now that we’ve clarified what it means and you know the “variations” are almost as broad as your mind can allow, what would you do?

Remember, think like a little kid at Christmas time—you can ask for the moon, even if you know you can’t have it. So go ahead, get creative!


Questions! Let me have them! Do you need clarification, more information, or maybe you just have a tangent thought—send all your thoughts my way. See the website for episode details, or just fire off an email to and I’ll get back to you.


So, was this episode good, bad, ugly, or other? Let me know! Comment, email, smoke-signals it doesn’t matter! I love to hear from you. Your feedback is immense, and I am always grateful for it. Likewise, thank you for taking the time to listen and share your thoughts. Have a wonderful day.

This has been another episode of Fish Grow Plants—the podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft.