How Much Food Can You Produce With Aquaponics?

How much food can you produce with aquaponics?

Aquaponics is an organic, sustainable form of agricultural production in which fish and plants are cultivated together in specialized tanks and environments. This method of farming combines conventional aquaculture systems with hydroponics (the cultivation of plants without soil). By creating a balanced ecosystem that mimics nature, it uses fewer resources than traditional farming methods and requires very little maintenance. The end result is a highly productive system that yields healthy, high-quality crops with little effort. As such, aquaponics has become increasingly popular among commercial and small-scale farmers alike who are looking for ways to produce large amounts of food with minimal environmental impact.

This guide discusses the potential of aquaponics as a means of producing quality food at scale while minimizing resource consumption. It covers topics such as:

  • Key components and essential ingredients needed to create an effective aquaponics system.
  • Yield potentials and environmental considerations associated with this style of farming.
  • Recommendations on how to optimize harvest outputs and maximize sustainability efforts.
  • Insight into the future prospects and evolution of aquaponic technology.

What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture, which is the cultivation of fish, and hydroponics, which is the cultivation of plants without soil. Aquaponics is an efficient and sustainable form of food production. It requires much less water and land than traditional farming, and can produce significantly higher yields.

In this article, we’ll look at what aquaponics is, and how much food it can produce.


Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture (the farming of fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growth of plants) that recirculates water with nutrients by growing fish and plants together in one integrated system. The waste materials produced by the fish are broken down by bacteria in the water, creating plant fertilizer that makes it possible to grow plants without having to use additional chemical fertilizers. This sustainable system produces both crops of edible veggies and delicious, fresh fish while significantly reducing waste.

In an aquaponic system, nitrogen flows back and forth between two different organisms – the aquatic animals (usually a type of fish) and the plants in a contained environment. The waste products produced by the fish feed nitrifying bacteria which convert ammonia to nitrates, providing essential nutrients for the plants growing nearby. As the vegetables take up these nitrate nutrients for growth, clean water is filtered back into the tank for use by aquatic animals. This process is repeated over time; as more edible vegetables are harvested from an aquaponic system, more clean water returns to benefit aquatic life as well.


Aquaponics is a sustainable farming method that can be used to produce a continuous supply of healthy, organic food. This method creates an integrated system where fish or other aquatic animals are grown in tanks and the waste produced is used to fertilize the plants growing around the tank. The plants in turn help to clean the water before it returns to the tank, creating a closed loop system with immense benefits for both producers and consumers alike.

One of the main advantages of aquaponics is its ability to increase vegetable yields while decreasing labor costs. Aquaponics utilizes only 2% of the water required for traditional soil-based methods while also reducing fertilizer usage by up to 90%. Additionally, water management is easier as nutrients are cycled efficiently, meaning fewer inputs are required over time.

Not only does aquaponics provide producers with an efficient way to produce quality organic food with minimal inputs, but it also provides a variety of health benefits for their consumers as well. Studies have shown that plants grown via aquaponic systems can have higher levels of fiber, vitamins and minerals than those grown in soil-based environments due to increased oxygen levels available in this type of system. Additionally, fish products from aquaponic systems have been found to contain fewer contaminants such as mercury than those from traditional farming systems due its closed-loop nature and lack of overfishing or pollution sources affecting it.

In short, aquaponics offers producers an efficient way to grow high-quality organic produce with minimal inputs while the end product provides consumers with nutritious food that is free from contaminants and harmful chemicals.

Types of Systems

Aquaponics is an alternative form of food production that is becoming increasingly popular. It uses the combination of fish and plants to create a sustainable and productive growing system.

Aquaponic systems are divided into two main types – media based and deep water culture. Each type has unique benefits and can be used to produce different types of foods.

In this article, we’ll look at the different types of systems and how much food they can produce:

Media-Filled Beds

Media-Filled Beds are one of the most popular types of hydroponic systems; they are simple, highly efficient systems that use grow beds filled with a substrate such as expanded clay pellets, coconut coir, or volcanic rock to grow vegetables and herbs. Grow beds often reduce the amount of water needed to maintain an acceptable water level for growth, generally maintaining a constant temperature.

In this type of system, fish waste is converted into beneficial nutrients for plants by nitrogen-fixing bacteria that live in the grow beds. The plant roots absorb these nutrients and mineralize them for growth. The water from the grow beds is then cycled back into the fish tank where it is filtered and oxygenated.

This type of aquaponics system is one of the most efficient in terms of producing edible produce – it has been estimated that up to 5 pounds of vegetables can be produced from a single square foot within this environment!

Deep Water Culture

Deep Water Culture (DWC) systems consist of a tank, plant beds, and fish or aquatic animals. The plants are grown in floating rafts with their roots directly in the water. This type of system is considered the easiest to set up and maintain for those just starting out, as the only pump needed is an air pump that circulates oxygen throughout the pond.

The kind of vegetation you can grow in a DWC system is limited to fast-growing plants such as lettuces, spinach, greens and herbs. Because of this limitation and relatively lower yield potential, DWC systems are rarely used by commercial growers who prefer higher yielding systems such as media beds or NFT systems. However, many aquaponic hobbyists like DWC systems because they offer a wide range of benefits over other types of aquaponics including:

  • Cost savings – A single medium-sized tank can house plenty of fish for yields up to 10lbs (4kg) per month which will cover a reasonable family’s needs for fresh vegetables.
  • Higher water temperatures – Plants grown in DWC systems are exposed to warmer before being moved to higher-temperature water so they can thrive in warmer climates better than those grown in other methods.
  • Easy maintenance – Since all parts are contained within one unit there is no need for complicated machinery other than pumps and water levels remain stabilized due to minimal plumbing needed.
  • Reduced human labor – Although some manual labor may still be needed occasionally when it comes to cleaning or harvesting crops in small grow beds, larger ones require minimal time investment from their users on a day-to-day basis making maintenance fast and easy.

Nutrient Film Technique

The Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is a widespread system used in aquaponics. It involves running water containing nutrients through a closed pipe system made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Through gravity, the nutrient-rich water is passed through the pipes for plant roots to absorb. The NFT system provides easy access for close monitoring and replanting of seedlings.

The system can be set up above or below ground level and generally consists of a sump tank, pump and network of pipes with trays at intervals – the latter containing plants supported within a growing media. Gravity flow carries the water from an upper reservoir/sump downwards to each tray and then back again, thus creating a continuous circulation of water throughout the entire sytem.

The NFT system offers numerous advantages – generally offering lower start-up costs than other aquaponic systems as well as high flexibility options, such as enabling you to change out plants often with ease. Its design also eliminates standing water while offering higher yields per square foot than more conventional techniques. However, NFT systems should always be designed correctly so that there are no unnecessary losses in terms of either nutrient or energy costs – inefficient recirculating designs can lead to poor crop production rates as well as high levels of solids waste building up in the pipes over time.

Factors that Impact Food Production

Aquaponic systems can be incredibly efficient and yield impressive yields of edible crops. But there are many factors that can impact how much food you can produce with aquaponics. Factors such as the size of the system, the type of fish used, the type of plants grown, and the environment can all play a role in how successful the system is in producing food.

Let’s dive into these factors and see how they can affect food production in aquaponics:

  • Size of the system
  • Type of fish used
  • Type of plants grown
  • Environment
How much food can you produce with aquaponics?


Temperature plays a key role in how much food you can produce with aquaponics. Temperature regulation is especially important during the wintertime when temperatures drop, as cold temperatures can often hinder plant growth and health. Keeping water temperatures in aquaponic systems between 68-86 degrees Fahrenheit (20-30 Celsius) is optimal for both the fish and the plants, allowing for maximum growth of both elements.

When selecting a fish species, it is important to consider which species are best suited for temperature changes, as some varieties do not do well in colder climates. For example, Tilapia tend to be more tolerant of temperature variations than other species such as barramundi or salmon. Additionally, seasonal changes can significantly impact the amount of food that can be produced with an aquaponic system – during wintertime plants may grow slower or stop producing completely due to colder temperatures or shorter days. It is therefore important to prepare for seasonal fluctuations with supplemental heating equipment and/or supplemental lighting in order to maintain production levels.


Lighting is one of the most critical factors in successful food production with aquaponics, as it directly affects plant growth. If you are using a system with fish and plants, adequate lighting will ensure that your plants have the necessary energy to grow.

Light intensity is measured in lumens or lux (lx). Plants require different levels of light which are determined by:

  • species;
  • growth stage;
  • season;
  • environment.

A general rule of thumb when determining the necessary lighting for your aquaponics setup is that the lower the wattage, the more diffuse and less intense the light will be. For best results when growing food with aquaponics, use environmentally friendly LED lights and ensure that you provide proper lighting for at least 12 hours a day.

If you have an indoor setup, you need to pay special attention to controlling light as too much can also affect plant growth. Be sure to consider how intense reflected sunlight from windows or from other objects might be affecting your plants’ growth rate. Additionally, humidity levels must also be taken into consideration – too much moisture can decrease the amount of heat given off by lights making it ineffective for food production. If possible, adjust reflectors inside your setup or control how bright lights are used within your environment so that there is no stunting of plant growth due to inadequate lighting or excessive heat. Also checkout more about aquaponic basics.

Fish Feed

The amount of food that can be produced through aquaponics largely depends on the type and size of both the fish and the plants. Fish feed plays a key role in achieving maximum production. When choosing a feed, it is important to consider factors such as its nutritional quality, suitability for the type of fish being raised, affordability, digestibility and sustainability.

  • Nutritional Quality: A good quality fish feed should provide essential nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates and lipids. These will ensure optimal growth of your aquaculture fish stocks. It should also provide other nutrients like vitamins and minerals needed by their immune systems to protect them from diseases, helping to improve yields.
  • Suitability: Feeds should be suitable for aquaculture species being reared in the facility; different species may require specific diets for optimal growth performance or health requirements. The food type also needs to be suitable for the culture system’s water temperature and salinity if applicable.
  • Affordability: Cost-effectiveness is a key criterion when selecting a commercial feed; if it is too costly relative to what is gained during harvest period then it might not be practicable to use it in large scale systems; locally sourced feeds may be more affordable while still providing sufficient nutrient composition compared with commercially produced feeds used in large scale systems.
  • Digestibility: The ability of a fish to process/absorb/digest certain ingredients affects digestion efficiency; this determines how much of nutritional content will eventually become available for their growth and ultimately how much fishes can grow within certain periods of time within the system – otherwise this could impact the quantity of harvest from your facility as there would be reduced weight gain among fishes due to poor digestive capacity or poor feeds’ digestibility if not chosen well or fed inappropriately according to their life stages or needs throughout culture stages.
  • Sustainability: If you want long term sustainable production results from your aquaponic system then you must select feeds which are easy to find (in terms cost, availability) in local area as this eliminate extreme transport costs (or time needed) associated with sourcing faraway brand specific products which might have better nutrient composition but less affordable/available since they come from overseas sources – which means maintenance costs associated with those particular feed brands could rise significantly over time making entire operations less efficient than they could otherwise be (less economically viable).

Plant Species

Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants in water). This sustainable form of food production can be used to provide a range of fresh products such as fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. The ability to produce these items depends on a few different factors, one being the species of plant grown.

The most common types of plants grown in aquaponics are herbs and leafy greens. This is because they are better suited for a constantly wet environment due to their hardiness and capability for fast growth rates. Popular choices include lettuce, kale, arugula, spinach, chard, parsley and basil. Other vegetables that can be produced include watercress, leeks, long beans and peppers as well as small fruit-producing plants like strawberries or even dwarf citrus trees.

The success of an aquaponics system will also depend on the species of fish used for nutrient production for the plants in the water. Fish with high growth rates have been chosen because they are able to produce higher volumes of waste which supports greater plant production yields. Popular varieties include tilapia and perch since they require similar temperature requirements as many common types of edible aquatic plants grown in systems like this one.

In order to maximize productivity in an aquaponics system it is important to understand what type of plant species are being raised with particular types of fish so that they complement each other’s needs appropriately and your efforts yield maximum results.

Calculating Yields

Aquaponics is an increasingly popular way to grow food because of its potential to produce higher yields with less resources. It’s important to understand the factors that affect aquaponics productivity in order to calculate how much food you can produce. In this article, we will discuss some tips and tricks to help you calculate aquaponics yields:

Estimating Fish Production

When it comes to estimating fish production for an aquaponics system, the ratio you need to measure and consider is the ratio of fish to water volume. The more water there is in your tank, the larger and healthier your aquatic ecosystem will be.

This ratio is typically calculated in pounds of fish per volume. For example, a one-gallon tank can handle up to 0.2lbs or 0.9kg of fish stock at a time. As such, an effective production rate for a 10-gallon tank would produce up to 2lbs or 9kg of edible fish product per year with proper maintenance and care.

In addition to calculating the right number of fish for your given volume, you’ll also want to consider how many types of species you’d like to include in your system as that can influence both your yields and overall cost efficiency significantly. Different species require different parameters for optimum health and growth rates including diet requirements, oxygen saturation levels and ideal water temperature ranges – all factors which must be factored into consideration when planning out your Aquaponic system’s design accordingly.

Estimating Plant Production

Once you’ve created your aquaponic system and balanced the parameters, it’s time to start planning the number of plants and estimated yields you can expect from your set up. This is important because part of successfully managing an aquaponic system is being realistic about what you can harvest in a given period.

Harvest yields will depend on several factors, including the types of vegetables being grown, the size and type of aquaponic system and any biological imbalances that might be present. Aquaculture production methods such as extensification or intensification will also have an effect. When estimating yields, it is best to err on the side of caution as unforeseen problems may arise that affect production capability.

To estimate your expected yield, consider using scenarios based on research data that has been published previously on similar systems with similar propagation parameters. Such basics such as water temperature, nutrient concentration and stocking density should be taken into account. Additionally, research by other experts in the field can provide valuable insights into how these variables might influence plant growth and overall crop yield.

It may also help to monitor your own fish population within the tank to take note if anything unexpected begins to happen throughout harvesting cycles or when switching out crops in order to get better estimates over time. Lastly, do not hesitate to increase production rates if needed – through setting up additional growing beds or cycling through more saturated fertilizer solutions for instance – if results are above expectation when necessary.


In conclusion, it is possible to produce an abundance of food through aquaponics. The amount of produce you can cultivate will depend on the size and scale of your system, the environmental conditions (temperature and pH level), the type of fish used, and the types crops that you are growing. With careful attention to detail and regular maintenance, aquaponics systems can be designed to maximize their food production capabilities.

The success of an aquaponics setup also depends on setting up a biological balance between the fish population, plants, bacteria and other microbial life forms. If properly managed, an aquaponics system can be a highly efficient and productive way to grow fruits, vegetables, leafy greens and herbs.

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