Aquaponics: An innovative way to learn science!

Most of us have at least a plant or a fish at home. However, have you ever thought of changing the water of your aquarium less often? Of being more ecologic and re-use aquarium water? And maybe of feeding your plants with natural fertilizers? The answer to these questions is an aquaponic system: a combination of fish aquaculture and plant hydroponics that uses fish dejections to feed the plants, and the plants to clear the water from components that are toxic for fishes (ie. Nitrates: NO3‾).

Our project was spurred by the visit of the aquaponics greenhouse at Les Grands Voisins where carps and vegetables cohabitate. We thought that it would be great to be able to have a miniaturized aquaponic system at home. Imagine that your aquarium is no longer only decorative, but also serves the practical purpose of feeding your plants, wouldn’t that be wonderful?

We did more research and also participated in a ‘Make your own Aquaponic System’ workshop at the Greenlab. Since we found out that miniaturized aquaponic systems already exist, we looked for many ways to innovate it: cheaper sensors to monitor the water, automatic water changing system, automatic live-feeding system… But all of these were already made or too complicated to make so we could not innovate on these aspects.

In the end, we have decided to stick to a basic aquaponics system with simple and cheap sensors (water temperature and plant substrate humidity) and tried to make it more easily accessible to the general public, such that the it could also be an educational tool. We wanted to build an interactive system that could benefit children as well as adults, and our device was designed to be showcased in a public space were people could come and learn about aquaponics.

When we started the project, we first had to face the complexity of building the aquaponics system from scratch, and then find ways to teach the biology of plants and of fishes, the physics of the siphon and the chemistry of the toxic compounds in water, using this system. Our prototype will aim to show, in a simplified way, the science behind aquaponics, while being interactive and self-explanatory. For more documentation about the project, please consult our Hackaday page!

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