What is aquaponics? Hobbyists utilize unique farming method

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In an effort to go green and to be more efficient, some farmers and companies are growing plants and raising fish together.

It’s a method called aquaponics. Simply put, it’s using fish and plants and growing them together by using the fish waste to feed the plants and using the plants as a filter to the fish water.

“When you’re combining the two systems they both get benefits,” Chris Mullins said.

Chris Mullins is an extension specialist at Virginia State University. VSU utilizes aquaponics to raise tilapia and grow leafy greens.


“The plants get nutrients from the fish and the fish get cleaner water,” Mullins said.

VSU’s green house is currently undergoing renovations, but normally inside you would see tubs filled with fish and these trays covered in green.

Mullins said aquaponics is ideal for only certain plants.

“The primary use in these systems is going to be leafy greens, lettuce, basil, things like bok choy, swiss chard those kind of leafy vegetables,” Mullins said.


Mullins said any fish could work but they use tilapia because they are hearty and can withstand poor water quality.

“Some fish are going to put out nutrients at different rates different levels. Some are going to grow faster than others,” Mullins said.

If you’re concerned about using fish waste as a fertilizer, Mullins said it’s nothing to worry about.

“You don’t really see a difference in terms of nutrition or flavor or anything like that,” Mullins said. “Sometimes you can get faster growth, it just depends on how much you push the plants.”


Mullins said the increase in aquaponics will likely be from hobbyists growing things at home and from those looking for a new way to be more eco- friendly.

“You are literally growing green but you are also growing green in that this is a very sustainable system,” said Mullins.

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