Aquaponics Glossary: Key Terms Explained

Term Definition
Aeration The process of adding oxygen to water. Essential for maintaining healthy fish and beneficial bacteria.
Aerobic Bacteria Bacteria that require oxygen to survive. They play a key role in breaking down fish waste in aquaponics systems.
Algae Simple, non-flowering aquatic plants. While some algae can be beneficial, excessive growth can be problematic in aquaponics.
Alkalinity The water's ability to resist changes in pH, acting as a buffer.
Ammonia (NH3) A toxic nitrogenous waste produced by fish and decomposing organic matter.
Anaerobic Bacteria Bacteria that thrive in the absence of oxygen.
Angiosperms Flowering plants that produce seeds within fruits. Many common vegetables and herbs suitable for aquaponics are angiosperms.
Aquaculture The cultivation of aquatic organisms (fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and aquatic plants).
Aquarium Trade The industry focused on buying and selling fish and other aquatic organisms for home aquariums.
Aquaponics A sustainable farming method that combines aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.
AquaSprouts A brand or system designed for accessible aquaponics, often for educational or small-scale home gardening.
Auto Siphon A device that automatically floods and drains grow beds, optimizing plant growth and root aeration.
Bell Siphon A specific type of auto siphon mechanism commonly used in flood and drain grow beds.
Beneficial Bacteria Microorganisms that play a critical role in converting ammonia to nitrites and nitrites to nitrates, providing essential nutrients for plants.
Biofilter A component where beneficial bacteria live and facilitate the conversion of ammonia and nitrites into nitrates.
Biofloc An aquaculture technology where a dense community of microorganisms forms within the water, acting as a food source for fish.
Biomass The total mass of living organisms in a given area; often refers to fish biomass in aquaponics.
Biosecurity Measures taken to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases or pests in an aquaponics system.
Bottom Feeder Fish that primarily feed on organisms or food found on the bottom of their habitat.
Breeding The process of intentionally mating fish to produce offspring.
Brix A unit measuring sugar content in plants, an indicator of flavor and nutrient density.
Bypass System A design feature in aquaponics systems allowing water to bypass certain components for maintenance or during issues.
C3 Plants Plants using the most common photosynthetic pathway. Named for the 3-carbon compound initially produced during the process.
C4 Plants Plants adapted to hot and dry conditions with a photosynthetic pathway named for initially forming a 4-carbon compound.
Calcium (Ca) An essential macronutrient important for plant growth, especially cell wall development and fruit production.
Carnivore A fish that primarily eats other animals for its diet.
Chlorophyll The green pigment in plants that's essential for photosynthesis, as it absorbs light energy.
Chlorosis A condition where plant leaves turn yellow, often indicating nutrient deficiencies.
Cold-Water Fish Fish species that have adapted to cooler water temperatures. Examples include trout and goldfish.
Companion Planting The practice of planting different species together to provide mutual benefits like pest control or nutrient sharing.
Cotyledons The first embryonic leaves to appear when a seed germinates.
Crop Rotation The practice of sequentially growing different plant varieties in the same area to improve soil health and reduce pest problems.
Crop Yield The amount of edible plant produce you can harvest from a given area.
Culling The selective removal of fish (often smaller or weaker ones) to maintain a healthy fish population.
Cultivar A specific plant variety that has been developed through selective breeding for desirable traits.
Decoupled Aquaponics An aquaponics system design where the fish and plant systems can operate independently, offering greater flexibility.
Deep Water Culture (DWC) A hydroponic method where plant roots are suspended directly in a nutrient-rich, oxygenated water solution.
Denitrification The process where certain bacteria reduce nitrates back into nitrogen gas, usually occurring under anaerobic (low oxygen) conditions.
Detritivore A fish that feeds on decaying organic matter and debris in an aquaponic system.
Dicot (Dicotyledon) Plants with two cotyledons (seed leaves), such as beans, lettuce, and most herbs.
Direct Root Zone (DRZ) A hydroponic technique where nutrient solution is dripped directly onto the base of the plant stem.
Dissolved Oxygen (DO) The amount of oxygen dissolved in water. Critical for fish health and the activity of aerobic bacteria.
Dorsal Fin The fin located on the top of a fish's body.
Duckweed A small, fast-growing floating aquatic plant that can be both beneficial and problematic in aquaponics. Beneficial as a food source for fish and nutrient uptake, but problematic if it overgrows.
Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain) An aquaponics system that periodically floods and drains the grow bed, mimicking natural tidal movements.
Ecological Balance Achieving a stable balance between all living organisms and their environment within the aquaponic system.
Effluent The water that has passed through the aquaponic system and contains waste products and excess nutrients.
Electrical Conductivity (EC) A measurement of the water's ability to conduct electricity, which indicates the amount of salt and nutrients dissolved in the water.
Emergency Overflow A safety feature designed to prevent the grow beds from overflowing in case of technical problems.
Endangered Species Fish species facing a risk of extinction in the wild.
Etiolation Plant elongation with pale coloration due to insufficient light exposure.
Evapotranspiration The combined process of water evaporation from the soil or water surface and the release of water vapor from plants through transpiration.
Fingerlings Young fish, particularly after the fry stage but before reaching adult size.
Fish Emulsion A natural fertilizer derived from fish byproducts, providing a source of nitrogen and other nutrients for plants in aquaponics.
Fish Feed Specialized food formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of fish in aquaculture systems.
Fish Load The amount of fish biomass (total weight) in an aquaponics system, often measured by weight per gallon of water. It's important to maintain a healthy balance to avoid stressing the fish or overloading the biofiltration.
Fish Scales Small, overlapping bony plates covering the skin of many fish species.
Fish Stocking Density The number of fish per unit volume of water in the aquaculture component of an aquaponics system. Maintaining a proper stocking density is crucial for water quality and fish health.
Floating Bead Filter A type of biofilter that uses plastic beads to provide a massive surface area for beneficial bacteria to colonize and break down fish waste into usable nutrients for plants.
Freshwater Fish Fish species that live in rivers, lakes, and ponds with low salinity water. These are the fish typically used in aquaponics.
Fruit The ripened ovary of a flowering plant containing seeds, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. Fruits are a common target crop in aquaponics.
Fry Newly hatched fish that have absorbed their yolk sac and are now capable of feeding independently.
Germination The process of a seed sprouting and beginning to grow into a seedling.
Gills The respiratory organs of fish that allow them to extract oxygen from the water.
Grow Bed The area or container in an aquaponics system where plants are grown. Grow beds can be filled with media or utilize other methods to support plant roots.
Grow Lights Artificial light sources, often LED or fluorescent bulbs, used to supplement natural sunlight and stimulate plant growth, particularly indoors or during low-light conditions.
Grow Media Inert materials that provide support and anchorage for plant roots in a media-based aquaponics system. Common grow media include gravel, clay pebbles, and coconut coir.
Gymnosperms Plants that produce "naked" seeds, such as conifers (pines, firs, spruces). These are not typically grown in aquaponics due to their root requirements.
Hardness The concentration of dissolved calcium and magnesium salts in water. Hardness affects the buffering capacity of water, which helps maintain a stable pH, and can also impact the health of aquatic life.
Harvesting Collecting mature plants or fish for consumption or use.
Herbivore A fish that primarily feeds on plants and algae.
Hormones (Plant) Chemical messengers within plants, such as auxins and gibberellins, that regulate plant growth and development.
Hybrid A plant created by the cross-breeding of two different parent varieties, potentially inheriting desirable traits from both parents.
Hydroponics The method of growing plants in a water-based, nutrient-rich solution without using soil. It forms one of the two main components of aquaponics.
IBC Tote Intermediate Bulk Container – a large, reusable plastic container often repurposed as the base unit for DIY aquaponic systems.
Immersion Heater A device used to maintain a consistent water temperature within a suitable range for the health of both fish and plants in an aquaponics system.
Inert Media Substrates used in aquaponics that do not decompose or readily release substances into the water column, providing a stable environment.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) An environmentally friendly approach to managing pests that involves a combination of techniques, including the use of natural predators, to minimize pesticide use.
Invasive Species Fish introduced to a region outside their native range, potentially causing harm to the local ecosystem by competing with native species or disrupting food chains.
Iron (Fe) A micronutrient essential for plant growth and health. Aquaponics systems often require iron supplementation for optimal plant development.
Lateral Line A sensory system unique to fish that allows them to detect water movement and pressure changes, aiding in navigation and prey detection.
Light Spectrum The range of wavelengths of light emitted by a light source. Plants respond differently to different parts of the light spectrum, and choosing the right lights is important in aquaponics.
Macronutrients Essential nutrients that plants require in larger amounts for healthy growth. The primary macronutrients include nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).
Magnesium (Mg) An essential macronutrient for plants, playing a crucial role in chlorophyll formation, which is essential for photosynthesis.
Mechanical Filtration The physical removal of solid waste particles (fish waste, uneaten food, etc.) from the water in an aquaponics system, typically using filters or screens.
Microgreens Young, tender, edible vegetable greens (like lettuce, herbs, etc.) harvested shortly after germination and the development of the first set of true leaves.
Micronutrients Essential nutrients required by plants in smaller amounts. Important micronutrients in aquaponics include iron, manganese, zinc, copper, molybdenum, and boron.
Mineralization The process by which beneficial bacteria in an aquaponics system break down organic matter (like fish waste) into simpler, plant-available nutrients.
Monocot (Monocotyledon) Plants that have only a single cotyledon (seed leaf) upon germination. Examples include grasses and onions.
Net Pots Small mesh pots used to hold plant roots and growing media in both hydroponic and aquaponic systems.
Nitrates (NO3-) The final, plant-usable form of nitrogen produced by beneficial bacteria during the nitrogen cycle. Nitrates are less harmful than nitrites or ammonia and are absorbed by plants as a nutrient.
Nitrification The biological process in an aquaponics system by which beneficial bacteria convert ammonia (from fish waste) first into nitrites and then into nitrates.
Nitrites (NO2-) A toxic compound produced as an intermediate step in the nitrogen cycle. Beneficial bacteria further convert nitrites into the less harmful nitrates.
Nitrogen Cycle The crucial process in aquaponics where beneficial bacteria convert ammonia from fish waste into nitrites and then nitrates, which plants utilize as a nutrient source.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) A hydroponic method where a thin film of nutrient-rich water continuously flows over plant roots suspended in a channel or tube.
Nutrient Supplementation The addition of specific nutrients to an aquaponics system to address any deficiencies and optimize plant growth and health.
Organic Matter Material derived from living or once-living organisms, often used in aquaponics to add nutrients or as part of the biofilter media.
Oxygenation The process of increasing the level of dissolved oxygen in the water, crucial for fish health and the activity of beneficial bacteria. Typically achieved through aeration methods.
Particulate Matter Tiny solid particles suspended in the water column of an aquaponics system, including fish waste, uneaten food, and other debris.
Pathogen A microorganism (bacteria, virus, etc.) that can cause disease in plants or fish within an aquaponics system.
Pest Any organism (insect, fungus, disease, etc.) that can damage plants in an aquaponics system.
pH Level A measure of acidity or alkalinity on a scale of 0 (very acidic) to 14 (very alkaline) in the water. Maintaining a suitable pH level is crucial for the health of both fish and plants in aquaponics.
Photoperiod The duration of light and dark periods in a 24-hour cycle. The photoperiod can influence plant flowering, growth cycles, and overall development.
Photosynthesis The process by which plants use sunlight as an energy source to convert carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates (sugars) for food, with oxygen released as a byproduct.
Plant Spacing The distance maintained between individual plants in an aquaponics system. Proper plant spacing is important for optimal growth, allowing for adequate light access and airflow.
Plant Stress Any environmental factor that can negatively impact plant growth and development in an aquaponics system. Stress factors can include nutrient deficiencies, insufficient light, improper temperature, or pest problems.
Pollination The transfer of pollen from the male reproductive parts (anthers) of a flower to the female receptive part (stigma), which can lead to fertilization and seed development. While some plants self-pollinate, some require assistance from wind, insects, or manual pollination techniques in aquaponics.
Polyculture The practice of cultivating multiple plant or animal species within the same space in an aquaponics system. This can create a more diverse and resilient ecosystem.
Potassium (K) A vital macronutrient essential for plant growth, particularly important for flowering, fruiting, and overall plant health. Potassium supplementation may be necessary in some aquaponics systems.
Predator Fish Fish species specifically introduced into an aquaponics system to help control populations of pest insects or other unwanted organisms.
Propagation The process of creating new plants from existing ones in an aquaponics system. Common propagation methods include using seeds, cuttings, or division.
Protein Skimmer A device used in aquaculture, and sometimes in larger aquaponics systems, to remove dissolved organic compounds and protein waste from the water column, helping to maintain water quality.
Pruning The practice of selectively removing certain plant parts (leaves, stems, or roots) to improve the plant's shape, promote bushier growth, or control its size.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) A common, durable, and affordable plastic material widely used for building aquaponics systems due to its ease of use and versatility.
Radial Flow Filter/Settler A type of mechanical filter used in aquaponics systems to separate solid waste particles from the water flow through a circular pattern, promoting the settling of heavier solids for easier removal.
Raft System A type of aquaponics system where plants are grown on floating platforms, with their roots dangling in the water below. This method is particularly useful for leafy green vegetables.
Recirculating System An aquaponics system design where water is continuously cycled between the fish tank and the plant grow beds. This is the most common type of aquaponics system.
Redox Potential (ORP) A measurement of a solution's tendency to gain or lose electrons, influencing oxidation-reduction (redox) reactions. Monitoring ORP can be a helpful tool for assessing water quality in aquaponics.
Refugium A designated area within an aquaponics system that provides a safe haven for beneficial organisms, such as zooplankton or aquatic invertebrates. These organisms can help maintain water quality and provide a food source for some fish species.
Remineralization The process of adding essential minerals back into the water column of an aquaponics system, especially those that may be depleted through plant uptake. Remineralization can help to ensure plants have the nutrients they need for healthy growth.
Root Aphids Tiny sap-sucking insects that can infest the roots of plants in an aquaponics system, causing damage and potentially stunting growth.
Root Exudates Substances released or secreted by plant roots that can influence the surrounding environment in the water or soil. These exudates can attract beneficial microbes or repel harmful ones.
Seed Starting The process of germinating seeds and nurturing seedlings before transplanting them into the grow beds in an aquaponics system.
Settling Tank A tank where the water flow slows down, allowing solid waste particles to settle out of the water column before the water moves on to the next stage in the system.
Siphon A mechanism used to regulate the flow of water in and out of the grow beds in an aquaponics system, often utilizing gravity or air pressure to initiate flow.
Sludge Accumulated solid waste that settles at the bottom of tanks or containers in an aquaponics system, typically consisting of decomposing organic matter like fish waste and uneaten food.
Solid Waste Particulate organic matter produced in an aquaponics system, including fish waste and uneaten feed, which can accumulate and require removal.
Stomata Microscopic pores located on plant leaves that allow for gas exchange, including water vapor, oxygen, and carbon dioxide.
Stocking Rate The optimal amount of biomass (total weight of plants and/or fish) that an aquaponics system can support based on its size, capacity, and filtration.
Supplemental Lighting The use of additional artificial lights, such as LEDs or fluorescents, to extend daylight hours for plants or improve light intensity in an aquaponics system, particularly important indoors or during low-light conditions.
Suspended Growth System An aquaponics system where plants are grown with their roots suspended in water without the use of a solid media like gravel or clay pebbles.
Swirl Filter A type of mechanical filter used in aquaponics systems that employs a circular water motion to separate solid waste particles from the water column.
System Cycling The initial process of establishing beneficial bacteria in a new aquaponics system. These bacteria are crucial for converting ammonia from fish waste into plant-usable nutrients (nitrates) through the nitrogen cycle.
TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) A measurement of the combined content of all dissolved inorganic and organic substances in a liquid, used to assess water quality in an aquaponics system.
Transpiration The process by which plants release water vapor into the atmosphere through their leaves. Transpiration helps regulate plant temperature and nutrient uptake.
Vascular System The network of tubes within a plant that is responsible for transporting water and dissolved nutrients throughout the plant.
Water Hardness Refers to the concentration of dissolved minerals, primarily calcium and magnesium, in the water. These minerals are crucial for plant growth and the health of aquatic life, as they contribute to nutritional balance and water stability. However, excessively hard water can lead to nutrient imbalances, affecting plant nutrient uptake and potentially causing scaling and clogging in the system's plumbing. In aquaponics and hydroponics, managing water hardness is essential to maintain an optimal environment for both plants and fish, ensuring efficient nutrient absorption and overall system health.
Water Quality The overall condition of the water in an aquaponics system, encompassing its chemical, physical, and biological characteristics. Maintaining good water quality is essential for the health of both fish and plants.
Water Temperature A critical factor for the health and growth rate of both fish and plants in an aquaponics system. Different fish species and plants have different temperature requirements.
Worm Tea A liquid fertilizer rich in nutrients derived from the castings (waste) produced by worms as they break down organic matter. Worm tea can be a beneficial supplement for aquaponic plants.
Zeolite A natural or synthetic mineral used in some aquaponics systems to absorb ammonia. This can help manage nitrogen levels and prevent ammonia spikes that can harm fish.