Aquaponics Vs Hydroponics – What’s The Difference?

Are you interested in growing your own food? Have you seen the words hydroponics and aquaponics thrown around?

Are you wondering what the difference is?

This article is all about aquaponics vs hydroponics and which will be better for you.

What is the Difference Between Hydroponics and Aquaponics?

difference between hydroponics and aquaponics graphic

The difference between hydroponics and aquaponics definition is that hydroponics is the overall practice of growing plants without soil, while aquaponics is a subset of hydroponics where you grow plants in water and raise fish for nutrients.

In aquaponics, the fish and plants work together to help each other thrive.

Hydroponics – What the Heck is it?

Hydroponics refers to growing plants without soil. Gardeners grow plants in other substances like water, sand and gravel instead!

The way these plants get nutrients is through the watering process. Gardeners put fertilizer into the water before watering the plants.

This gives you – the gardener – complete control over the nutrients the plants receive.

For some inspiration on how you can use hydroponics to create a produce garden, check out this article on Tower Gardening

Before we go on, If your interesting in taking complete control over what can give back to the environment – continue to be conscious about the environment and check out our free guide to Non-Toxic Homemade Cleaning Products

Aquaponics – What the Heck is it?

Aquaponics is a type of hydroponics where gardeners choose water as their medium in which to grow plants.

They also raise fish and other water life, such as snails and crayfish, whose waste provide the plants with nutrients.

Raising fish and plants together in the same environment creates this cool cycle where the plants clean the water for the fish and the fish provide nutrients for the plants.

History of Aquaponics

The practice of aquaponics is ancient.

It can be traced back to the Aztecs where they raised plants on rafts that became moveable islands of agriculture!

Then in old Southeast Asia, rice was farmed in paddy fields with fish and ducks. They had their own miniature ecosystem going on where the plants, fish and ducks all benefited from each other.

If you want to read more on the history of aquaponics, you can check out this article.

Hydroponics vs Aquaponics – Which is Better?

So which is better?

This depends on your needs and preferences since these are both great methods! But, let’s compare them to each other to give you a bigger picture.


Raising plants correctly is all about the nutrients. In hydroponics, the nutrients are completely controlled and human-made. You control how much water and fertilizer you feed to the plants. In aquaponics, the nutrients are sourced from the fish you are raising. Still effective, but you need to worry about keeping the fish healthy to provide the best nutrients.


Hydroponics would require less space since you are not dealing with housing for fish, or the space to run pumps. Aquaponics would require additional space since it’s a two-part system. But, how much more space? Well, while they can get quite large, you can still have a small aquaponics system if you’d like. This article shows, along with a few other options (and sizes!), how you can have one with a 5-gallon bucket.


Aquaponics would take more effort initially, to set up two systems and to get used to raising fish. But after the initial setup, the effort to run these two methods would be the same.


Hydroponics would cost less because you’re not buying additional equipment to raise fish. But, after the initial costs, aquaponics would only cost the price of maintenance, seeds and fish food. Keep in mind, however, that the nutrients you will have to feed your plants in a hydroponics system can be costly as well. However, an overall price for either would be contingent on the size of your system and how many plants (and fish!) you would want to grow.

Aquaponics and Hydroponics for Beginners

All this information can be confusing when you’re just starting out.

If you’re a beginner, start out small and test out both methods to see which one suits you best.

You can create small systems at first, and you can even experiment with aquaponics in your backyard. Start small and work your way up from there.

Are you interested in growing plants in general? There’s SO many different things you can do if your lacking space and live in an apartment. Find out How To Grow Cilantro Indoors right here!

Hydroponics and Aquaponics Advantages and Disadvantages

Hydroponics and aquaponics have many advantages and some disadvantages:


  • You don’t need to use soil to grow plantsEasy to move, whether around the yard or to a new house
  • You don’t have to worry about pests attracted to the soilStylish and looks great in any backyard.
  • You don’t need to worry about soil contaminationFeatures an easy-access egg collection door.
  • Using other methods to grow plants (such as water) is more cost effective than soil.Features an easy-access egg collection door.
  • You can control the nutrients the plants get either through fertilizer (in hydroponics) or how well you raise fish (through aquaponics)Features an easy-access egg collection door.


  • A learning curveMay not hold up against stronger predatory animals like coyotes.
  • Extra cost to set up and raise fish (for aquaponics)May be too small if you have plans for a large flock.
  • Plants will die fast if not properly monitoredDoes not include a tray to collect chicken droppings.

Aquaponics vs Hydroponics – Yield

Will the use of hydroponics or aquaponics yield better crops?

In general, and when implemented correctly, using hydroponics or aquaponics will yield healthier, larger, and more flavorful plants, because the plants can reach their true potential without soil getting in the way.

There are many variables in soil that can affect plant growth.

Some variables include pH levels of the soil, the amount of fertilizer as well as any contaminants in the soil.  

If you are interested in learning more about plant yield with hydroponics, check out this article.

Hydroponics and Aquaponics Systems

Systems are what makes the plants grow. They are the environments in which the plants and fish live and thrive, so it is important to know how to build them correctly!

How to Build Hydroponics Systems

Building hydroponics systems can be elaborate or simple.

Depending on your style or how much effort you want to put into growing plants hydroponically, you can use this tutorial to build a complex hydroponics system.

Or you can purchase kits for hydroponics if you want to make your life easier.

There are even indoor hydroponic systems that you can check out and build.

What is an Aquaponics System

An aquaponics system involves extra structures to house and raise fish. There are great resources on the internet to help you get started.

You check out this tutorial on how to build an aquaponics system step by step. Or you can purchase an aquaponics kit for beginners.

What’s the Verdict?

Whatever method you use, hydroponics or aquaponics can be a great alternative to growing plants.

Hydroponics gives you the reins over what your crops absorb. Aquaponics uses fish to give your crops nutrients without having to worry about mixing fertilizer.

Both methods are something to be considered when starting to grow plants.

Have you dipped your toes into hydroponics or aquaponics? What did you think?

If you have any questions, comment them down below!

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