The idea of combining aquaculture and hydroponics is far from new. This integrated system was in use in Mexico and parts of Asia. In Asia, it was used in rice paddy systems. Even though the name aquaponics was coined in the early 1970s, the practice started in 1000 AD. The Aztec Indians would raise plants of rafts slightly above the water surface.
The Aztec Indians cultivated plants in agricultural islands using a system known as chinampas. Chinampas are integrated networks of canals and artificial islands in which crops were grown using water from the canals and mud rich in nutrients. The nutrient-rich mud and waste from adjacent cities was used to irrigate the plants. This is thought to be the first form of aquaponics.
Another early example was practiced in Thailand, Indonesia, and China. Here, gardeners combined farming rice in paddy fields with fish. This system was ideal for raising fish such as swamp eel and oriental loach. In south China, farmers also include ducks in the system. The ducks were housed in raised shelters above the ponds.
Development of new aquaponics system
Aquaponics emerged from farmers need to raise more fish while decreasing the need for soil, water, and other essential resources. Traditionally, as discussed above, farmers would raise fish in large ponds but since 1970s modern systems have revolutionized how fish farming is carried out.
In the 1970s researchers embarked on a journey to create systems that used plants as natural filters of the water that the fish thrived in. Meanwhile, in the 1980s, the first closed aquaponic system was developed. Fish waste from the tanks was used to irrigate crops in sand grow-beds, the filtered water would then drain and pumped back to the fish tanks.
Where we are
Farmers and homeowners are embracing Backyard and indoor aquaponics systems. This is after they realized solutions that they bring to the table. Aquaponic gardening solves the problem of poor soil conditions and inadequate water. Non-profit organizations have also stepped in to popularize the systems in developing countries; they provide them with low-cost aquaponics.