Hydroponics vs Aquaponics vs Aeroponics – Which One’s Best For You?

Hydroponics vs Aquaponics vs Aeroponics – Which One’s Best For You

If you are new to plant growing techniques that don’t require any soil, chances are that you need a few pieces of advice to decide on the best method. Sure, hydroponics is the first thing that comes to mind but what’s the essence of the hydroponics vs aquaponics vs aeroponics comparison then?

Each method has its benefits, and aquaponics is sometimes even regarded as similar to the deep water culture hydroponic system. However, there comes a time when you have to prevail in using one of these methods, so we’ll give you the right perspective and details.

Comparison Factors

Aeroponics is often considered the 6th hydroponic method besides water culture, Ebb and Flow, NFT, Wick system, and Kratky method. Moreover, even aquaponics is somewhat similar to DWC systems, with the inclusion of a fish tankOpens in a new tab. for the nutrient solution. There are still vast differences between the 3 comparison techniques that resulted in the making of this debate.

That’s why we’ve established a set of factors that can help you deal with the hydroponics vs aquaponics vs aeroponics dilemma and choose the best option:

  •       Specific plant types
  •       Maximum crop yields
  •       System components
  •       Indoors growing capacity
  •       Electric and water consumption

Before we get into the deeper debate, it’s time to consider the comparison based on these factors alone. If you are planning on using one of these systems to grow plants without soil indoors in your household, you can use the comparison details.

On the other hand, people with commercial use will find other methods more suitable. Here’s a short overview of each of the aspects mentioned to indicate some pros and cons of each method.

Specific Plant Types

You can make the decision on the best method for your needs easier with the specific type of plant in mind. Hydroponic systems are the best option for beginners<span style=”font-weight: 400;”> without any doubt. They are easy to set up for indoor use, and with options like water culture or wick systems, you can set them up while staying on budget.

All you would need is a growth tray or an old aquarium and some nutrients and growth media. You can use hydroponic systems to grow lettuce, basil, strawberries, and mint. These plants evolve fastest in hydroponic systems and they can all be grown indoors with a UV lamp instead of direct sunlight. 

On the other hand, you can grow larger plants like tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, and cucumber aquaponically.

The reason for this is not because these can’t grow with hydroponic systems. It’s due to the main commercial use of the aquaponics system. With a larger ecosystem of the nutrient tank with fishes and a growth tank for plants, there’s more space for deep root plants to thrive.

Finally, aeroponics is suitable for carrots, corn, onions, potatoes, and other plants that are tougher to grow hydroponically. These plants need space for their roots to spread but they don’t develop the best with the roots fully submerged in water. That’s why this technique is best suited for them, as there’s an air gap between the roots and nutrient solution mist sprinkler.

Maximum Crop Yields

The overall yield is always going to be larger with aquaponics as the commercial method where you not only have a plant growing system but a fish farm as well. However, it can all depend on the type of plant again with this factor.

Growing lettuce and other leafy greens come with the highest yield when you use deep water culture hydroponic kitsOpens in a new tab.. Up to a 30% higher yield can be accomplished with this method when compared to traditional soil planting.

On the other hand, aeroponics work best for the plants that don’t develop in the best way with submerged roots.

System Components

With the hydroponic system, you would be using the least components among the three systems. It only requires a growing tank, growth media, nutrient solution, and an air pump. This makes it easier for household use unless you are using more complex hydroponic systems.

Systems like NFT (nutrient film technique) require a tank for both growing and nutrient solutions, timers, and PVC pipes. 

Moving on to the next technique, you’ll need a bit more components for building a genuine aeroponics system.

With aeroponics, you will need a whole set of plant basket platforms with sprinklers or nozzles that spray the nutrient solution mist onto the roots. So, it might be tougher to build this type of system on your own. As much as you can build a version of each system mentioned in this section for home use, it might be more difficult with aquaponics.

Unless you are trying to make a small improvised system with a fish aquarium, it will simply work better for commercial use. That’s also the primary purpose of this technique – it saves nutrient solution water and electricity on a large scale and provides the highest yield commercially.

Indoor Growth

As you might have guessed by reading this far, hydroponic systems are the best and easiest solution for indoor growth. Precisely, if you are going to grow small plants in your home, this is the best way to go.

You can even build aeroponic systems in your garden, but most of the plants grown this way need space and sunlight. Because of this, you will need a large outside growing surface. There’s not much difference with aquaponics either since this system is also suitable for large-scale growing instead of household use.

Electric and Water Consumption

Regardless of the growth scale, these systems also require electricity. It’s mostly due to UV lamps and air pumpsOpens in a new tab. used in the system, with a few exceptions. For instance, the Kratky method can be used to save both electricity and water consumption.

The Kratky hydroponic system relies on oxygenated water due to the small air gap as only about one-third of the plant is in contact with water. Therefore, you don’t need any air pumps and the nutrient solution doesn’t need to be changed more frequently than once every few weeks.

In that sense, the aquaponics vs hydroponics comparison is quite close, but the aeroponic system stands out. It relies on less water due to water sprinklers and is set outside so there’s no need for UV lamps.


Growing Spinach In A Hydroponic Garden
Growing Spinach In A Hydroponic Garden

The main difference between hydroponics and aquaponics is in the way of providing nutrients to the plants. Aquaponic systems use water to grow the plants and natural fish waste as nutrients provided into the water.

Hydroponics uses a seemingly simpler approach – the growth tank is filled with water that has nutrient solution added to it. Even aeroponics is considered the 6th hydroponic technique as the nutrient solution is sprayed onto the roots, and that’s the biggest difference.

There are 5 main hydroponic systems in general besides aeroponics:

  •       The Kratky method
  •       Water culture method
  •       Wick system
  •       Nutrient film technique
  •       Ebb and Flow

This is one of the main advantages of hydroponics in the hydroponics vs aquaponics vs aeroponics comparison – it has more sub techniques. You can mainly use the water culture and Kratky system for home growth. With it, it’s easy to sustain smaller leafy greens and plants that don’t need much space for the root system.

It’s also arguably the least expensive type of plant growing you can set up indoors. All you need is a growth tank and a blend of nutrients and growing media. Some systems like deep water culture need air pumps and stones, while others like the Kratky method don’t need any of those.

The NFT system requires a hydroponic timerOpens in a new tab., and UV lamps are always an additional cost when setting this system up indoors. Still, each of the hydroponic systems is fairly simple to build and maintain with just a few hours of dedication weekly.

Benefits of Hydroponic Systems

Another big difference between hydroponics and aquaponics is that you can spend less time maintaining the system. There’s no regular daily fish feeding included in the process. Moreover, you can set up a vertical hydroponic system and save quite a bit of space, especially indoors.

When discussing the hydroponics vs aquaponics vs aeroponics dilemma, it’s impossible to go by without stressing the water consumption. While aeroponics might use less water than hydroponics, it’s still vital to point out that hydroponic systems use less water than aquaponics.

It’s quite logical as well since you don’t need a large and additional fish tank. Finally, if you don’t need a vegetable garden but just a few plants, a water culture hydroponic system is the way to go.


Lettuce In Aquaponics System Combining Fish
Lettuce In Aquaponics System Combining Fish

If you have enough space to build a large growing system, aquaponics can be the best way to go. It’s used by many commercial horticulturists and for a good reason. When you have enough space, you can provide organic natural nutrients directly to the plants with a bit of help from your fish.

The main difference between hydroponics and aquaponics is that there’s no nutrient solution absorbed in the water with the aquaponic method. Rather, it relies on the natural waste that occurs in the fish tank and flows right into the plant growth tray.

On the other hand, it might be quite expensive and costs significantly more to set up than regular hydroponic systems. However, you can’t make a mistake with the substances and nutrient mixture this way.

The natural ecosystem that occurs recreates the natural order of things, so many organic growers decide to pursue this method.

Benefits of Aquaponics

The main benefit of aquaponics is in the organic fertilizer used to grow plants. However, there are more positive traits such as 8 times higher yield when compared to the traditional growing method. Also, aquaponics is an environmentally-friendly way of growing plants without soil.

You won’t have to bother mixing up the different parts of a nutrient solution with this technique, which is a great relief. However, you’ll have to deal with feeding fish every day.


Aeroponics Growing Food Or Plants
Aeroponics Growing Food Or Plants

In the hydroponics vs aquaponics vs aeroponics comparison, aeroponics is the best method of growing plants without soil outside. It always requires a lot of sunlight as the plants grown with this technique are often those that can’t thrive with their roots submerged 24/7.

On the other hand, it cost-effectively produces a high yield. Not only would you not need electricity for air pumps or UV lamps, but you also won’t need as much water as with main hydroponic systems.

Aeroponics uses sprinklers or nozzles that spray mist onto the roots of the plants directly, so there’s no need to oxygenate the nutrient solution any further.

Benefits of Aeroponics

The main benefits of aeroponics are low maintenance costs and low water consumption. Also, the low electric consumption is another thing to consider when using this method. It also offers the fastest growth rate among the methods listed in this hydroponics vs aquaponics vs aeroponics comparison.

Because of this, you can also count on higher yields and the timer can do the job for you in terms of having to spray the nutrients on the roots.

Final Thoughts

So, which option is ultimately the best after going through the hydroponics vs aquaponics vs aeroponics discussion? Every option has its advantages and flaws, and hydroponics is the best for growing small plants indoors.

On the other hand, aquaponics serves the best role for commercial growing, while aeroponics works best in outside systems.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

What method is the most cost-effective one for growing plants without soil?

Without a doubt, you can get the best budget-friendly option by growing plants with aeroponics. Not only can you save on air pumps and other electrical devices that are not needed for this system, but you’ll also save on water consumption.

Which is the simplest method in the hydroponics vs aquaponics vs aeroponics debate?

You’ll surely be able to set up a growing system even as a beginner with hydroponic techniques like Deep Water Culture, the Wick system, or the Kratky method.

What's the system that brings the highest yield?

Aeroponics provides the fastest growth time and if you are looking for a plant-based yield alone, it's the best option. Aquaponics, on the other hand, provides a high yield of both plants and fish.

What’s the easiest system to maintain among soilless planting methods?

Simple hydroponic systems like the Kratky method and water culture are the easiest to maintain and preserve.

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