Aquaponics for Kids
As the school year gets underway and parents breathe a collective sigh of relief, our minds are abuzz with cool and fun Back-to-School projects. Everywhere we look there’s another DIY project smothered in Popsicle sticks and craft paper. But this year, why not try a project that will be fun, educational, and (best of all) glue/glitter free? We’re talking about the Back to the Roots water garden, a mini-aquaponics kit that’s perfect for classroom projects or growing at home. Some people might balk at the idea of having to take care of a fish, but let’s take a closer look at what you’re getting.
Stand back! We’re doing science!
The “Aqua” in aquaponics actually doesn’t come from water, but rather “aquaculture,” which is the farming of aquatic organisms like fish, mollusks, shellfish, etc. The other half comes from “hydroponics” which is growing plants in a solution without soil. These two sciences may be completely separate, but smush the two together and Voila! Aquaponics: the cultivation of plants in water that is used to raise aquatic organisms.
How does it work you ask? The fish produces ammonia rich waste, which in a normal fishbowl would lead to the growth of algae and that fishy-smell no-one likes. But in the water garden, plant roots extend down into the water, creating a habitat for beneficial bacteria which can convert the ammonia into nitrogen. The nitrogen is taken up by the roots and feeds the plant. So, the fish provides organic fertilizer for the plants and the plants help clean the water for the fish! Your kids will learn about symbiosis, the nitrogen cycle, responsible pet care, and more.
The best part, however, is actually for parents. Fresh herbs are easy to grow and can be used in a hundred different ways around the house. Pick up seeds of your favorites from any local gardening store. Just place it by a bright window or grow light. Love to juice? Try quick sprouting wheatgrass. Kids are picky eaters? Basil and oregano are great for homemade pizza (pizza totally counts as a vegetable, by the way).
I wish, I wish I were a fish…
What kid doesn’t love colorful fish? The water garden comes with everything but. Choose between a betta, zebrafish, or fancy guppies at your local pet shop. While the water garden is small enough to fit on kitchen counters, nightstands and coffee tables, it is large enough for your fish’s favorite aquarium decoration. You can also show your nippers larger aquaponics systems online. Commercial operations can sell not only the fruits and veggies they produce, but the fish too! They are an excellent sustainable source for tasty species like tilapia, trout and crappies.
Forget the Popsicle sticks and craft paper this year. Start the school year off with the project that keeps on growing with aquaponics. Show off pictures of your fishy-friends or leave us a comment on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!