In the best examples of aquaponics, each system supports the other in a symbiosis -- materials from the soil garden go to feed the aquatic life, and the nutrient-rich water from the pond is used to fertilize the soil garden. Unlike straight hydroponic practice where nutrients for plant growth are often provided by a chemical mix, in an aquaponic system most of the nutrients come from the creatures living in the water -- "dirty fishwater" becomes a valuable fertilizer!
Aquaponic systems may also be used for greywater purification -- the plants in the system loop provide filtration and oxygenation.
Aquaponic systems have been successfully used around the world for thousands of years, on all scales. A sustainable aquaponic system may be surprisingly compact, and operate even in a small yard.
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