Aquaponics vs Hydroponics vs Aquaculture

What is aquaponicsand what is the difference between aquaponics, aquaculture, and hydroponics? Let’s start with the basics.


Ponics’ is a Greek word that refers to: toil, labor, work hard, fatigue; exertion; also, suffering (those of us in aquaponics can relate to the last definition).


Aqua is a light bluish-green color, and hydro refers to water.

Photo by Bytemarks

The simple definition of aquaculture is a fish farm with the primary objective being to raise fish for consumption. More specifically, aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, shellfish and even plants. The term aquaculture refers to the cultivation of both marine and freshwater species and can range from land-based to open-ocean production.




Photo by Kanu Hawaii

Hydroponics is the cultivation of plants in a nutrient solution rather than soil. Some just say, ‘growing plants without soil’. In other words, growing plants is possible through the process of adding plant-specific nutrients to a recirculating water system.





Photo by Scrap Pile

Aquaponics is the symbiotic cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a recirculating environment. It is similar to a hydroponics system except instead of adding nutrients, you rely on the fish as nutrient-generators. That is, you feed the fish (this is the only input), the fish create waste, and that waste is converted to nitrates (plant food) through a nitrification process (bacteria).

Given these definitions, we can look at the actual words, hydroponics and aquaponics. Aquaponics would be the ‘working of bluish-green water’ or the nutrient rich water produced through a process that mimics nature. Hydroponics would be the ‘working of water’ which refers to growing plants without soil.




  1. hello,

    I am a potential fish farmer from Nigeria who is interested in the aquaponics
    system. I will like to know where I can purchase the system and at what cost.
    Also I will need technical advice and support since I am a beginner. Your quick response will be appreciated. Thank you for your time.

    Best Regards
    Adepeju Adeyemi

    • Hey there,
      My name is Ed and I have some knowledge on smaller scale aquaponics. If you still need help or have questions I’d be happy to answer the for you. I look forward to talking to you!

  2. adewunmi adefami

    i would like to have some background information aquaponics and hydroponics in nigeria coastal waters

    • Hey there,
      My name is Ed and I have some knowledge on smaller scale aquaponics. If you still need help or have questions I’d be happy to answer the for you. I look forward to talking to you!

      • Hey Ed … I am currently in the process of investing some money in a fish farm… I am not too sure which form is best for fish farming but currently they are making the tanks with a filtration system…they aren’t using plants as part of the process..should I be concerned?

      • You shouldn’t be concerned, that process is called aquaculture. The advantage of aquaculture is that certain methods can be used without worrying about plant life (i.e. Chemicals to fight bacteria outbreaks, easier to heat, more focus on the fish production). The disadvantage of aquaculture (apart from the lack of crops produced) is that there will be a higher amount of ammonia, nitrite, and eventually nitrate which will either need to be cleaned or the water will need to be replaced. Depending on where you live and whether or not you have access to clean water, this can raise the cost of raising fish. Whereas in aquaponics the plants use the nitrates as fertilizer which keeps the water clean for the fish, and cuts down the cost by both water used, crop sales, and, depending on your location, certain fees for draining “used” water. Both ways have their benifits and costs, but aquaculture makes up for much more fish on today’s market than aquaponics.

  3. thank so much for the informative description of the related terms.

  4. Great info!! Thanks! You should check out this grow lighting cost calculator that might help.

  5. Endless thanks for the simple, yet detailed differentiation.

  6. hi just wondering, what are the benefits of aquaponics over aquaculture and hydroponics? Why is Aquaponics more beneficial??

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