How Do Aquaponics Work?

Scott Runkel’s Advanced Chemistry classes have been deep into how an aquaponics system works.  The system in our Kemmerer Family Greenhouse uses the nutrient build-up from the fish to grow leafy greens without soil. Soil usually provides all the nutrients that a plant needs to grow and flourish, but since the water in the system is so nutrient dense, soil is not needed.

The class began by creating a list of questions that they wanted to answer. These questions varied from nitrogen and PH levels to types of bacteria and how the types of fish could affect the system. Having each student research their own question allows for the whole class to learn about all the different variables that can affect an aquaponics system. One question—how the kind of water you add to the system can influence the outcome—helped students understand the ways local tap waters vary, the chemical make-up of our local tap water, and the impact that has on the nutrients in the water. 

Encouraging students to explore what interests them, while still reaching the class goal of understanding the aquaponics system, is a sure way to get more engagement from students, and more importantly, for students to grow to understand the topic they are studying.