Building an Aquaponics System
Want your own Aquaponics System but don’t know where to start?
Having an Aquaponics System, which is essentially growing plants and fish together, has become increasingly popular in recent years. This system of aquaculture allows the waste, which is produced by the fish, to serve as nutrients for the plants. The plants in return filter the water for the fish by removing this waste. Waste, which would otherwise be toxic to our fish. By combining both aquaculture and hydroponics, numerous benefits have been identified. These benefits include no more watering, weeding, reduction in the level of energy required, and allows for more space, as plants can now be placed closer together. Having an Aquaponics System ultimately allows us to become more self-sufficient and produce food that is free from chemicals, allowing for healthier eating.
Are you wondering how exactly an aquaponics system works? Firstly, beneficial bacteria are the vital element that makes the aquaponics system a success. It is this bacterium that allows the fish waste to be converted to nutrients that are in turn used as food by the plants. The waste that is produced by fish is in the form of ammonia. Plant matter and uneaten food also turns to ammonia. This in large quantities can be detrimental to both the fish and plants. The nitrifying bacteria, which can be found naturally in the soil, will convert this ammonia to nitrites and then nitrate. Plants then use the nitrate as nutrients, removing these nitrates from the system and filtering the water for the fish.
Setting up an aquaponics system is an easy task. Below we have compiled some basic knowledge of aquaponics to help you set up and get the best results from your very own aquaponics system.
The location where you decide to put your aquaponics system is extremely important. The choice of location can play a significant role in the development of your plants and fish. To obtain optimum results, we recommend that you place your system in a room where the temperatures remain fairly constant. Significant variations in temperatures, from high too low, can seriously impact on the quality of your produce. Your set up will further require enough light for your plants to prepare their food. Therefore they it will need to be placed close to a window to obtain natural light. You may also need to provide additional artificial light.
If placing outside, consideration must be given to protecting plants from severe weather conditions. You may need to relocate your system to a greenhouse during the winter months. Climate is a principal factor to consider as we go about setting up our aquaponics system. Some people who have placed their system outside choose to switch it off during the winter period. You will also need to make sure that no harmful chemical substances can get into the water, as this may prove detrimental to both your fish and plants.
Oxygenising the water
The happier your fish are, the better your system will work! This is why you need to oxygenize the water on a daily basis and make sure your fish have all the “comfort” they need. An air pump is an essential element of your system. The success of your aquaponics system will largely depend on the quality of the environment you provide for your fish. Therefore we must strive to create an optimum environment for them by ensuring that they have the best possible water conditions and parameters. Water quality and level of oxygen supply is a fundamental part of our aquaponics system’s overall success. Temperature, salinity, and height all affect the level of oxygen in the water. The warmer the water, the less oxygen it will contain.
Choosing your fish accordingly
The aquaponics system works well with almost all types of fish. Tilapia, Carp, Koi and some fancy goldfish have all thrived and been kept with a good results in a successful aquaponics setup. Some people have had success keeping catfish and various ornamental fish in their setups. However, there are some states in which you are not allowed to grow certain types of fish. It would be wise to check and see if there are any restrictions in place where you are located before embarking on your aquaponic venture.
Choice of Plants
There are three hundred plus plants that will happily grow in your aquaponics system. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, peas, squash, beans, cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli are plants that have higher nutritional demands. These plants do well in a heavily stocked, and established set up. Basil, mint, arugula, lettuce, kale, pak choi, watercress, chives and most common houseplants will do well in majority of aquaponic set ups. Root vegetables, however, will not grow in an aquaponics system. The best plants to use will ultimately depend of your location.
Placing the pots
In order to make the harvest much easier, you should place the pots or the entire system at your waist level. This way you will not have to bend over, making the daily care routine a much easier activity. Some thought must be given to the choice of gravel we use in our system as some can alter pH levels. Many people use clay pellets. Clay pellets are a great choice as they are pH neutral and also hold moisture well.
You must also give some attention to the choice of grow bed that you intend to use in your setup. This will be where you grow your plants. The bigger the grow bed, the more plants you’ll be able to grow, but you must also take into account the size of your tank. The number of plants you can grow will be directly related to the number of fish, size of fish, amount of food that fish are fed daily and the size of the tank. You will need to consider whether your tank can hold enough fish to provide a sufficient amount of nutrients required by the plants to grow.
There are cases in which your fish may not provide all the nutrients needed for your plants. If the quantity is lower than what the plants need, then you will have to supply them with the respective substances. In most cases you will need to add iron, calcium carbonate or potassium carbonate. When it comes to adding additives to an aquaponics system people take different approaches. Most people try to only use natural inputs to impersonate a living ecosystem whereas others use additives that control their system to ensure maximum growth output. Some natural additives include banana peel, which can be used to alter potassium, and eggshells which can be used for calcium and ph,
Feeding your fish
When it comes to feeding the fish in your set up you must bear in mind that as the temperatures decrease, the fish will eat less. During times of colder weather conditions you’ll need to ensure that plants are getting all the nutrients they require. The less food your fish eat, the fewer nutrients they will produce. People who have smaller setups over come this by adding a small heater to raise the temperatures and increasing the amount the fish consume. You should feed your fish as much as they will eat in five minutes. This can be repeated two to three times a day.
On average an adult fish will consume about one percent of its body weight each day. Baby fish on the other hand will consume about seven percent. If there is food left in the tank after the five minutes, you should decrease the amount of food given to the fish. You should also check that all water parameters are ok and ensure that oxygen levels are correct. Overfeeding of fish can give rise to an ammonia spike in your aquaponics system which can prove detrimental to both fish and plants. Should this arise you must reduce the amount you are feeding your fish or even avoid feeding them for a day or so and do some partial water changes. A sudden increase in the ammonia levels will harbor more serious results quicker if the water temperature is higher.
“Grow organic food in your home by using your very own aquaponics system!”
Aquaponics systems are very easy to run and maintain. For the most part, the benefits of running such a system will far out weight the costs. However, you will still need to keep a close eye on your system, especially in terms of water parameters. Any sudden change in these may lead to the fish becoming stressed. When fish are stressed they are more susceptible to diseases and infections. By constantly monitoring and checking on the fish you will be better able to protect and avoid any such incidences occurring. Having a water test kit to regularly test the water in our system and ensure that the ph, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels are all respectable is definitely recommended.
Grow an entire dinner right in your backyard with aquaponics! Safe, healthy fish and organic vegetables with no weeds!
Aquaponics is an easy activity which will provide you with the necessary vegetables and fish in a short amount of time. Just follow the tips mentioned above and you will have great success in your attempt to grow organic food in your home by using your very own aquaponics system.