Integrating Aquaponics Into Your Permaculture System

Sustainability has become a key focus for many people, and the popularity of sustainable living is increasing. Unfortunately, the world’s natural resources are gradually dwindling as climate change takes over due to human activity and pollution. Yet, many farmers and homesteaders have used this opportunity to renew the Earth by implementing sustainable practices.

One such practice is using permaculture design. Permaculture is all about sustainable living and making ethical decisions within the natural environment. The goal with permaculture is to mimic the natural environment by making zero waste and implementing a closed-loop system. It helps provide food, shelter, energy, and other resources sustainably.

Integrating aquaponics into your permaculture system is something permaculture farmers can do to boost sustainability. It provides another food source and feeds into the closed-loop system of permaculture.


What Is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics combines aquaculture, or fish farming, with hydroponics, which is growing plants without using soil. It creates a harmonious environment where plants and fish can help each other thrive and grow.

Both the fish and the plants benefit from each other’s waste. Organisms work together and make use of every nutrient derived from the waste.  Additionally, the plants can filter the fish water, which then feeds back into the tanks, providing clean water for the growing fish. The system constantly recycles water, which minimizes waste.

Overall, the system is highly sustainable. It creates zero waste and is environmentally friendly. About 3 billion people worldwide depend on fish and other seafood as their primary food source, so being able to generate both fresh produce and sustainable protein at the same time increases global food security.


How to Integrate Aquaponics With Your Permaculture System

Image by Oregon State University under CC BY-SA 2.0.

If you already have either an aquaculture or hydroponics setup, you can easily convert it into an aquaponics system. For a hydroponics system, invest in an aquaculture tank. Add some hardy fish and install pipes to carry the water from the fish to the plants and back to the tank. Your hydroponics vegetation will feed off the nutrients provided by fish waste, and the root systems will filter out the water and send it back to the tank.

If you already have an aquaculture setup, add a few plants that can thrive on the nutrient-filled water, like lettuce and herbs. Invest in some hydroponic pots and other containers that can easily hold the water and support your plants.

You don’t need to invest in a hydroponics system, though, to make use of an aquaponics system. All you need is your backyard permaculture garden.  Collect the fertilizer — also known as fish feces — in a filter in the fish tank.  Use this fertilizer for fruit trees, vegetables, or any other vegetation.  Additionally, you can use the water collected in a settling tank to water your plants, which is great for germinating seeds.

When you harvest the fish for consumption, you can make use of the fish organs as well. You can create an additional fertilizer with them for your trees and other plants not used for consumption. You can even use the waste from the vegetables and fruits you harvest for fish food.

Of course, there are other items involved in setting up your aquaponics systems, such as filters, pumps, tanks, and pipes. Those will vary depending on the size of your setup and your budget. When you invest in this equipment, ensure you’re sourcing from a sustainable retailers or use recycled items. This further enhances your sustainable and permaculture approach.

Benefits of Aquaponics in Permaculture Design

Why should you integrate aquaponics into your permaculture system? Here are a few benefits of aquaponics:

  • Produces no waste: Since aquaponics is a closed-loop system, it produces zero waste. This goes along with the idea of permaculture to mimic a natural environment that doesn’t produce waste.
  • Offers high yields: Aquaponics can be extremely high-yielding. You gain both vegetation and protein.
  • Values diversity: Natural ecosystems rely on diversity to thrive. Even though an aquaponics system isn’t natural, it does value diversity. Most aquaponic farmers add a variety of fish and plants, and natural bacteria will form to add to that diversity.
  • Boosts water efficiency: Aquaponics is incredibly efficient with its water. It uses up to 10 times less water than traditional agricultural practices.
  • Climate-resilient: The climate has been changing more rapidly than ever, which means the agricultural sector has to adapt. New technologies have helped with climate resiliency, and aquaponic systems have taken a lead in climate adaptation. It’s a closed system, and you can adjust accordingly to keep it climate-controlled.
  • Profitable: As you expand your aquaponics system, you can begin to sell your vegetables and fish to others, allowing you to make a profit and contribute to the local economy. The initial aquaponics setup can cost you some money, but if you sell your products, you can easily make that money back.

Combining aquaponics with your permaculture system benefits you, the environment, and the economy.


Sustaining the Planet One Step at a Time

Although aquaponics is still a growing practice, it has proven to be sustainable. As more homesteaders and family farmers integrate this method, food security will increase, sustaining future generations.

Jane Marsh

Jane writes on environmental sustainability, agriculture and gardening. She also works as the Editor-in-Chief of

One Comment

  1. What a great article, Jane. Aquaponics definitely has a place in the permaculture tool kit. We started a system 10 years ago, but lack the batteries we need for the solar panels. I hope to get that done this coming year.

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