Types of Aquaponics Systems

Now that we know what aquaponics is, it is important to explore the various types of this system of farming. Generally, there are three main and different types of aquaponics systems in practice. It should be understood that there could be a lot more types, but the three discussed in this article are the main types that are widely used or practiced. These are:

  • Deep flow culture
  • Nutrient film technique
  • Media-based

These types of aquaponics systems have been developed over time by enthusiasts and specialists in this system of farming. They have been improved over time to be some sort of accepted standard or formulas. They are used by both the small-scale farmer and the large-scale farmer, that is, the home gardener as well as the commercial farmer.

aquaponics systems

Deep Flow Culture

Not only is it cheap in terms of setup costs, but the Deep Flow method is the most widely used type of aquaponics systems. It is a method that is used by both commercial farmers and home gardeners. The Deep Flow, sometimes referred to as the Raft system, is made up of a raft that floats on water. This type is also known Deep Water Culture.

In this method, after water has been filtered to remove whatever solid effluent has been released by the fish, it is collected in a container. The floating raft has holes through which plants are “planted,” enabling their roots to hang down into the water.

Deep Flow is very popular among commercial farmers due to the fact that it makes it very easy to tend the plants.  It is also the best way plants can be harvested.

Be that as it may, the Deep Flow method is big consumer of water which is required to stabilize the water temperature for both the vegetables and the fish.

If your domain is growing leafy veggies, this is the best method to use. It is also the first choice for aquaponics farmers whose main crop are herbs, as compared to fruits or plants that yield big roots.

For a caution if you intend to use this method, the farmer must be careful on what type of fish they will grow in this type of aquaponics system. It is unwise to go for voracious fish that might end up eating the dangling roots!


Nutrient Film Technique (NFT system)

Also simply referred to as the NFT system, this method is highly recommended of aquaponics production on a large-scale. It is quite costly to setup, and that explains why it is more of a preserve for commercial aquaponics systems. It is mainly composed of polyvinylchloride (PVC) pipes and a mechanical filtration system.

Because the surface area in this type is not exposed to the air, the system is built up with a biological filter that helps in the production of plant nutrients from the effluent discharged by the fish. The NFT system is good for leafy vegetables and other plants with small roots.

Unlike in the Deep Flow where plants are planted onto floaters, the NFT system has netted growing pots in which plants are grown. In this method, the plants are held up by holes that have been cut in the pipe. The roots then reach the nutrient-rich water that runs at the bottom of the enclosed gutters.


Others call this method the “gravel bed system. When it comes to setting up, this is the simplest of all types of aquaponics systems. No wonder it is common among home gardeners.

In this method, seedlings are planted into small porous rocks that are filled into a container of water. As water from the fish tank is circulated in the container, the plants are able to easily get the nutrients flowing down in the water. There is no need for other filtering system equipment as the rocks cater for both biological and solids filtering.

Unlike the other two above, this method is ideal for cultivating fruiting plants as it is a system that is designed to hold plants stalks firmly.

The three types of aquaponics systems have been tested and tried, so to speak, and it is up to the farmer to choose what method best suits their budget, environment and goals. However, as in everything, whichever is your choice here, it is best to start on a small scale so that you learn and understand which type of aquaponics systems is best for you.

As the adage goes, experience is the best teacher.

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