What Is The Difference Between Aquaponics And Hydroponics?

by RightFit Gardens | Last Updated: September 1, 2021

It’s the hydroponics vs. aquaponics debate, the great alternative to conventional gardening. You’ll finally be able to choose whether you want to grow vegetables, fish, or crayfish once and for all. Here is all the info you need to know about these water-based systems.

The Difference Between Hydroponics And Aquaponics

Aquaponics and hydroponics are alternative farming techniques that share the same concept and end goal. In both systems, plants are grown in water rather than soil. Why is using water better than soil? It takes your plants less time to mature. Vegetables, fruits, and plants thrive in a controlled environment with access to nutrients. Plants with no soil are also less susceptible to diseases and require less maintenance.

Furthermore, since the seedlings will withstand weather changes, you can harvest them all year round. By using vertical growing setups, you can even optimize your small space and available light.

Many gardeners are confused by soilless gardening systems that use water. Some even use them interchangeably. Here are the facts, so let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s compare aquaponics and hydroponics.

Hydroponics Systems

aquaponics vs hydroponicsPlants that are grown with hydroponics do not require soil. Organic media, such as peat and coco noir, or inorganic media, such as perlite, are used. A watering system delivers nutrients to the plants. In general, plants are grown in trays above a reservoir of water containing nutrients. Plants are supplied with nutrient-rich water via a water pump. Alternatively, the extra water drains through the drainage path or backs up in the reservoir. Therefore, a hydroponic system contains a growing medium, plants, water, and hydroponic nutrients.

Aquaponics Systems

Hydroponics combined with aquaculture is aquaponics. There will be fish and plants in this system. A reservoir like the earlier one is filled with fish and aquatic animals like crayfish, but it also has fish. Using aquaponics as an example, here’s how it’s done.

Keeping fish and plants together in the same environment creates a cool cycle in which the plants help clean the fish’s water. In turn, the plants receive nutrients from the fish. The fish need to be fed first.

Hydroponics Vs. Aquaponics?

You now understand the difference between hydroponics and aquaponics. To see which of these options is best for you, let’s look at their standard components.

Nutrient Control

We will begin our hydroponic vs. aquaponics comparison with the level and control of nutrients. In hydroponic systems, nutrients are always available. Fish food and fish waste are both sources of nutrients in aquaponics. Growing plants correctly is all about supplying the nutrient-deficient water with the nutrients needed. In addition, fish growth depends on water quality.


Humans entirely manufacture nutrients such as these. By following online guides, you can create your solution. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the main components of these liquid fertilizers. Mineral salts and micronutrients are also present.

The amount of water and fertilizer you feed the plants is in your control. Using nutrients correctly requires some knowledge about plant nutrients. Further, hydroponic fertilizer options are somewhat limited and expensive.


Fish waste and feed for your fish are two forms of nutrients used in aquaponics. The feed is where it all begins. Various feeds produce different results. It’s crucial to feed your fish the proper food so that their waste doesn’t foul the water.

Fish grow best in clean water. Having poor water quality will probably result in sick or dead fish. Because water is a plant’s source of nutrients, its quality can also impact them. Fish waste is transformed into something that plants can absorb by nitrogen-fixing bacteria. In other words, if the waste is not of good quality, your plants cannot receive enough nutrients.

In comparison to a traditional hydroponic system, aquaponics requires more attention and is more sensitive. If you want this system to run smoothly, you need to understand how fish waste, fish feed, and plants interact. A smooth operation makes it almost self-sufficient.

Required Space

When choosing, you should have one thought in mind: how much space do I have? Due to your available space, you have limited options. With stackable systems, hydroponics and aquaponics can be configured compactly. Let’s look at how much space each setup requires.


Hydroponic systems can be elaborate or simple to build. When you want to make your life easier, you can purchase hydroponics starter kits or build complex hydroponic systems on your own. If you want to put a lot of effort into growing plants hydroponically, choose what you want to grow.

Since there are no fish to house, hydroponics takes up less space. Within a 2-3 square foot area, a tiered system like a tower garden could support over two dozen plants.


Because this is a two-part system, it takes up more space. Decide where you will place your system. Remember that fish require between 5-7 gallons of water per pound of body weight (4). Dimensionally, that’s about one square foot per pound.
The stability of larger systems is better. But we’re just talking about home-scale plans. For a small setup, you will have to stack the plant bed on top of the fish tank. This will give you equal space for plants at the most.

Setup and Equipment

Aquaponics generally requires more equipment than hydroponics. You grow two systems, that’s all. Check out what each setup requires.


Water reservoir, grow light, seedbeds with growing media, and a water pump are necessary to create this system. Assembling it is very simple. The growing trays go on top of the growing reservoir, and the pump is at the bottom. You can then put seedlings or seeds in the growing media once the water starts to circulate. A root system or media should touch the water. It is now time to turn on the grow light and add some nutrients to the solution.


It is more difficult to set up this dual system. A large tank for the fish is needed, as well as filters and two pumps. Plants are supplied with water by a pump, and fish are supplied with oxygen by an air pump.Aquaponics requires more time to set up since you need to acclimatize the fish and let the water cycle before adding the plants. During cycling, you wait for bacteria to start working.

The fish waste can’t be used right away by plants. Plants can use it only when bacteria have broken it down. Adding plants is possible after cycling. The fish water is brought to the plants through a watering channel in the grow beds. If the plants are above the fish tank, they can be positioned next to it. You can direct the water back to the fish if you place it on top. Additionally, it takes up less space.


The easy part is building the system. The real work begins with maintaining the systems. The growth parameters of both hydroponics and aquaponics need to be specific.


It is relatively simple to maintain a hydroponic system. It’s just a matter of monitoring the water and nutrients. Kits usually include a reminder for these things. Alternately, you can add nutrients every two weeks and water every other day. Growing healthy plants require adjustments to the grow lights as the plants grow. But remember that hydroponics relies heavily on temperature. Temperature is also related to light intensity. The temperature will rise as the intensity of light increases.

Up to six months can pass before plants are removed. Keeping them longer requires more maintenance. By pruning, you make sure your plant doesn’t run amok. It’s important to trim your plant roots to maintain your water pump’s efficiency. If you manage a DIY aquaponics system, you will also need to mix your nutrient solution.

A poorly maintained hydroponic system results in low yields, root rot, and algae growth. Your system goes down.


To maintain an aquaponics system, you need to be knowledgeable and work harder. Checking a lot of factors is important. Daily monitoring of pH, dissolved oxygen content, and temperature is important to ensure the water is high quality. You should also evaluate nitrogen and micronutrient parameters every two weeks. Additionally, you must feed the fish daily. A wrong move can drastically affect the yield output efficiency of the system since the entire infrastructure is dependent upon one another.

When the crops grow bigger, many aquaponics growers prune them. It is also a good idea to ensure that the fish tanks don’t receive light. Algae otherwise start growing, competing for plant nutrients. In some cases, algae can even clog pipes. As a result, many things need fixing.


You can save and make money with each of these systems over time. However, you will have to pay for the setup and maintenance as well.


Hydroponic setups are less expensive because you are not purchasing additional equipment for raising fish. Maintenance costs will, however, be higher.
In a hydroponic system, water is usually not recycled. You fill it up as needed after the plants have used it up. The plants tend to be too sensitive to tap water, so you need distilled water for this setup.

Lighting, electricity, and nutrients are other things you constantly use. It is expensive to buy nutrient mixes from commercial suppliers. Making your own involves many components to be purchased so that it can be quite expensive. As you will need some grow lights and a pump operating continuously, you will also have to take your electricity bill into account.

Aquaponics Systems

Aquaponic setups are expensive at first. Fish, feed, and testing devices are all purchased by you. Aquaponics, however, only involves maintenance and seeds after the initial costs. With this water system, you also have more options for growing. The higher overall yield compensates for the large investment.
Having free fish nutrients compensates for the cheaper price of fish feed over nutrient solutions so that you can save even more money. As long as you have outdoor space, you do not need grow lights for an aquaponic system.

Crop Yield

Crops grown with hydroponic and aquaponic systems produce better results than those grown with soil. Plant growth can be affected by many soil variables. The soil’s acidity, fertilizer levels, and soil contaminants are just a few of the variables.
It is not necessary to weed or worry about plant pests with either water systems. In essence, what it comes down to is how you manage your systems.

It is also important to consider the nutrient mix. With a hydroponic system, you can use premade solution. You might get slightly better crops with fish waste compared to hydroponics if you consider its richness. It only works if you properly fix nitrogen and manage fish waste.


There are many great gardening alternatives, including hydroponics and aquaponics. Hydroponics has the advantage of being easier to maintain, easier to control, and quicker to set up. Having fewer factors to consider minimizes errors. As long as you have the funds for the upkeep, you should be fine.
For those who are willing and able to work hard, aquaponics is a good learning experience. Maintaining the system with various gadgets will be fun as you experiment with different parameters.