Last week, I reviewed why Veggies are awesome. The primary reason (aside from all that nutritional goodness) being that they provide sustenance for our lovely gut microbes. Microbes are awesome–not just the lovely Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, or Lactobacillus Acidophilus because of their magical ability to transform milk into a creamy, tasty treat; or Saccharomyces cerevisiae which gives us bread and beverage; or even acetobacter that makes vinegar for us to pair with olive oil when eating bread.
Aside from food production and health, microbes help to cycle nutrients–which is especially important if you love gardening or want to grow your own food. Plants require a healthy dose of nitrogen, but it must be in an acceptable form (usually nitrates.) While animals excrete nitrogen as waste products (either as ammonia in many aquatic animals) or as urine (in many land animals), these forms of nitrogen are not readily taken up by most plants. Fortunately, nitrosomonas and nitrobacter help to convert ammonia into nitrates which can then be taken up by plants.
In an aquaponics system, these bacteria are EVERYTHING. The ammonia excreted by fish are converted into plant food, which removes it from the water and keeps it from poisoning the fish. In this manner waste from fish that are being grown for food (or fun) is removed from the water and used to feed plants (also grown for food or fun). Aquaponics are a neat way to grow vegetables, raise fish, and just appreciate the nitrogen cycle as well as the microbes that make it all possible.