Aquaponic Gardening

Aquaponic Gardening 101: An In-Depth Guide

The term Aquaponics initially originated during the Cold-war era in America. During this period, a-bomb scare forced most people to think of a combination of aquaculture- raising fish for personal consumption and hydroponics- soilless plant production.  

Extensive research was later carried out on the system, and it was discovered that the agricultural growing system is, in fact, a form of symbiotic system, which is between the plant, fish, and bacteria. And it only requires a small space. The fish helps to provide fertilizer for the plant and also controls insects.  

Aquaponics is the technique of using farm fish or other marine life to supply nutrients to plants that are grown using a hydroponics system.   

This means that instead of adding nutrients to the water as you would in a hydroponics system, you would instead rely on the waste from the fish or other marine life to add the nutrients to the food.   

Even though both of these systems are great ways to grow plants as well as fish when we look at combining the two systems the problems within each system become a positive in the new system.   

What happens when you combine both systems are that you get a system that enables you to grow both plants and fish without having to do a lot of water changes and without having to dispose of nutrient rich water. You also will find that you do not have to spend a lot of money on nutrients to place in your water.   

The way it works is that the plants are able to extract the water that they need and the growing medium cleans the water for the fish, the bacteria that grows on the medium converts the ammonia waste from the fish into nitrates that are in turn used by the plants.   

There are many different mediums you can use and although some require that you do remove some of the water each day you will be able to recycle the water and use it to water your garden or other plants around your yard.   

You should also know that you can grow differently types of fish in your aquaponics system but you need to make sure you check with state regulations first as it is illegal to grow some fish in certain areas.   

What is Aquaponics 

Let’s break this definition down a little bit further: 

  1. Aquaponics is a farming system What is Aquaponics
  2. As part of this farming system, fish are grown in a fish tank where they provide water and wastewater  
  3. The waste and the wastewater are then piped into the hydroponically cultivated plants, meaning plants that are growing in a soilless environment 
  4. The plants draw nutrients from the waste and wastewater as generated from the fish tank 
  5. The waste and wastewater from the fish tank are continually recirculated through the plant bed system, allowing the plants to thrive and provide an abundant harvest 

This type of system is a win-win situation for both the plants, the fish, and you. Because of your minimal efforts, you receive a plentiful harvest of vegetables to go along with your grilled fresh fish, a complete meal that is sustainable all year round, anywhere you’d like your garden to grow. 

The whole point of an aquaponic system is to create a setup that is low maintenance with a high yield: no weeds, no dirt, no fertilizers, and no watering. The idea behind this garden is to let the fish do the work for you.  

To begin building your system, there are a few questions you will want to ask yourself. Look at each of these questions. Get an overall view of all that is considered to put your system together. Then, each question will be answered further to give you more insight as to how each piece works together, so you can find that one that works best for you. 

The first questions you will want to ask yourself are: 

  • What type of system can you afford? 
  • What type of system would you like? 
  • What type of fish would you prefer? 
  • What type of plants do you seek to grow? 
  • Where would you like your system located? 

To answer what kind of system you can afford, you need to know how much aquaponic systems cost. When it comes to building your system, you can go all the way to purchasing a brand-new one, for as much as $10,000, or you can find each piece you need at a garage sale, thrift store, or online for as little as $100. 

The next question, what type of system would you like? Following is a list of the most popular aquaponic gardens. 

  • Media Based – this is the most popular aquaponic garden, particularly for beginners. Plants are grown in a container filled with a substance, like expanded clay pebbles—or any other substance that absorbs moisture and nutrients—while keeping air circulating so the plant’s roots can get oxygen.  
  • Sun Pond – this system is most like the ancient aquaponic setups. If you are familiar with ponds that are stocked with fish and grow lily pads, this is the perfect example of how an aquaponics system works.   
  • One Barrel – using a 55-gallon barrel, this aquaponic system is all contained within this drum. The media bed is formed from the top third of the barrel, turned upside down, sitting on the bottom 2/3 of the barrel.  
  • Two Barrel – this system uses two 55-gallon barrels. The barrels are cut in half, lengthwise with one barrel used to house the fish and the other barrel used to hold the plants.  
  • Vertical Rack – a vertical rack garden grows plants in a soilless environment vertically (up and down) rather than horizontally (left to right). This allows more room for plants to grow as they sit in a hole in the vertical pipe. A fish tank is attached, so water can trickle up the pipe and through the system. 
  • IBC Tote – commonly used to transport mass substances, one of these industrial-grade bulk containers is adapted to house the entire aquaponic system. The media bed is made from a cut-off portion of the top, and a fish tank is created from the bottom part.  
  • Deep Water Container/Raft Method/Floating – nutrient-rich water is circulated through long canals at a depth of about 20 cm while rafts (usually polystyrene) float on top. Plants are supported in net pots located in holes of floating rafts. Plants grow out of the top of the platform while nutrient-rich water circulates along long canals. 
  • Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) – this system uses a shallow flow of nutrient-rich fish water, needed for plant growth, to circulate through the bare roots submerged in a narrow channel.  

From media bed to shallow water circulations, aquaponics also comes in all kinds of sizes, from containers that can fit on your window sill to multimillion-dollar commercial enterprises. 

After considering the cost and type of system, the following are the types of fish that work best in an aquaponic system. Each variety will be discussed in more depth later: 

  • Tilapia  
  • Goldfish  
  • Koi  
  • Trout  
  • Catfish  
  • Carp  
  • Bass   
  • Silver perch  
  • Barramundi  

The next question is, what kind of plants would you like to grow? This list includes those fruits, vegetables, and herbs that grow most successfully: 

  • Basil 
  • Cabbage 
  • Cauliflower 
  • Chives  
  • Garlic  
  • Cucumbers 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Herbs 
  • Lettuce 
  • Onions 
  • Peas 
  • Spinach 

The question then becomes where you would like to grow your system? 

  • Inside 
  • Outside 
  • Up high, as in suspended from the ceiling 
  • Down low, as in on the ground  

Now that a simple look at the primary considerations for an aquaponic garden has been presented let’s look at the theory behind the system.   

How Aquaponics Work? How Aquaponics Work

Aquaponics is a mixture of aquaculture producing fisheries and other marine species, as well as hydroponics producing soilless plants. Aquaponics uses both in a symbiotic mixture in which plants feed the discharge or waste of aquatic animals. In exchange, vegetables clean water from the fish. In addition to fish and their waste, microbes play an essential role in plant nutrition. These beneficial bacteria collect from the roots of the plant and turn the fish waste and solids into the substances that plants can use to grow. As a result, aquaculture and gardening fit together well.

Aquaponics is great hope for the sustainable production, aquaculture, and consumption of organic crops. Instead of dumping the waste into the sea, it is recycled and used for plant growth. In a closed system, the water is recirculated to lower the consumption of this resource. 

If your interest is now on fire because you want to grow and combine fish and vegetables to make a fully functional greenhouse, we suggest that you check our great and simple DIY Aquaponic Greenhouse. In the beginning, you can play with the aquaponic method to see what happens to you. 

Read about the advantages and some suggestions about this sort of garden. 

As aquaponics generally use the same systems as hydroponics, there are few variations in the functioning of the system except for the inclusion of fish in the water tanks. Drip irrigation, flood and drain, deep cultivation or water submerged roots, and nutrient film technology are highly compatible and adaptable for combining with cultivated fish. 

Importance in aquaponics of pH regulation 

A big part of aquaculture is pH. It can be confusing to set the level exactly since three living organisms need to be taken care of: your plants, your fish, and your bacteria within the water, and each has a different pH requirement. For the aquaponic garden, a neutral pH between 6.8 and 7.2 is fine. The pH is acidic due to the fish waste, and you have to use aquaponic compliant pH adjusters. If the pH level is not advantageous for a too low or too high method, the plants cannot optimally consume nutrients, and your fish will ultimately die. It is critical that the pH level is tracked each day and kept in neutral order. Koi is perfect for your aquaponics. 

One of the key reasons why fish and plants die, leading to garden failure, is too alkaline or too acidic pH. The pH adjusters must be built for this form of cultivation method; otherwise, the fish could be harmed. These adjusters can be found in a nearby aquaponic gardening supplier. Another thing to note is the hardness of the water as it influences how pH can be modified. Often the water hardness also needs to be taken care of when dealing with pH. Fish don’t like abrupt pH changes, so when adapting, try to minimize or increase it slowly. 

You can cultivate fish and other aquatic animals in aquaponics: 

How Aquaponics Work

It’s fish that feed your plants. Freshwater fish, most common for tilapia and barramundi, is the fish used in this form of aquaculture because they tolerate different aquaculture conditions and grow quickly. Trout may also be used for lower temperatures in particular. Snails and shrimps are other aquatic animals you can create. 

You can feed special fish items, such as lettuce and duckweed, you can buy in an animal store or other items. 

What vegetables in aquaponics can you grow? 

You can grow vegetables that don’t need a strong nutrient input in a small aquaponic garden. Lettuce, kale, watercress, arugula, ornamental flowers, mint, garlic, okras, spring ointments and poultry, radishes, spinach, and other small plants. Cob, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, broccoli, and cauliflower can require additional nutrition and an advanced and stocky aquaponic system. Avoid plants that need acidic or alkaline water because these levels of pH will certainly kill the fish. 

Aquaponics Benefits: 

Aquaponics are a means to simultaneously cultivate your own fish and vegetables. You feed the fish, and then naturally, fish feed your plants with waste. 

Fertilizers are not required because fish provide plants with rich nutrients. 

Less water is used for crops in aquaponics. Research has shown that aquaponic gardens use 1/10th of the water they use to garden the soil. 

It is not possible to use normal gardening pesticides or other chemicals as they will damage fish. This leads to healthy organic plants. 

You will not encounter any plant-borne aquaponic diseases because there is no plant. 

You can grow plants in very little space and get a big harvest. 

Plants grow rapidly because they get very nutritious fish waste substances. 

In a regulated temperature setting, plants and fish can be grown. 

Water is used and distributed efficiently in a closed system minimizing usage and bills of water. 

Tips for an Aquaponic Garden 

You can produce your own aquaponics system, and here you can use an easy and full manual. Start little see if it’s good for you, then you’ll feel free to expand. 

As a backup, you have set a separate power source. It is important that the water flows and that the oxygen pumps continue. 

Ensure you feed fish properly and let them flourish. The loss of fish stocks prevents this method of cultivation. 

Keep the input of food in the fish constant, resulting in daily fish waste that can be used to feed your plants. 

Ensure good aeration of your plants and fish. Not only do plants need to oxygenate their roots, but fish and bacteria also need to oxygenate their water. As fish grow larger, their oxygen requirements increase, and you will need to adapt accordingly. 

When selecting which plants, you want to cultivate, choose those that have the same water conditions as fish, and you will be more successful. 

If possible, eliminate any excess fish waste. Too much will affect the fish’s health. 

Keep a close eye and observe the pH level because it is important for the garden, as shown above. 

Glass or food-grade plastic fish tanks should be made. 

Prevent the use of all other chemicals or substances other than organic ones (vinegar, citric, and or hydrochloric acid) that might and would harm fish or healthy bacteria. 

We wish you a great development, keeping this in mind! 

Indoor agriculture 

Are you looking at indoor agriculture? Check out the highly efficient Transparent Flow Aquaponic Systems expert by Experts for more indoor food. 

Normal and durable 

Aquaponics is a completely natural method that imitates all Earth’s streams, lakes, rivers, and waterways. Fish food is the only input into an aquaponic system. Fish consume the food and excrete waste that is turned into nutrients the plants can use by beneficial bacteria. The plants help to clean and purify the water by absorbing these nutrients. In an aquaponics system, you cannot use herbicides, pesticides, or other harsh chemicals to render fish, plants, and healthy/safe to eat. 

Use 1/6th of water to produce eight times more food per acre than conventional farming! 

  • All-natural fish waste fertilizer source. 
  • No reliance on fertilizers mined and produced. 
  • Solid, powerful, and highly productive. 
  • The commodity is pesticide-free and herbicide-free. 
  • Fish are free of antibiotics and growth hormones. 
  • Allows for continuous food production. 
  • Grows both vegetable and protein crops. 
  • Sustainable and earth-friendly integrated framework. 
  • Dust reduction prevents pathogens transmitted by dust. 
  • Combined with a regulated agricultural ecosystem, you can grow in any climate all year round. 

Which Plants Grow Best?

Almost any plant you grow in a traditional garden can grow in an aquaponics garden, particularly if you are using media-filled grow beds. There are a few minor differences between growing in an aquaponics garden and growing in a traditional soil garden. For the most part, however, you can learn from the extensive experience base of traditional gardening.

Which Plants Grow Best

Strictly Summer Plants

These are plants that can’t tolerate cool weather and are killed by frost. They love the heat of summer and are often referred to as very tender plants. You will typically want to start these plants indoors as seeds a couple of months before the last projected frost. After about three months, they will be large enough to safely plant in your outdoor garden

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are tasty and full of vitamin C and are the most popular of the nightshade vegetables. They were among the vegetables the Aztecs cultivated. Tomatoes grow in either bushes or vines. The bush varieties are called determinate, meaning that they reach a certain height and stop growing. Because the bushes are fairly compact, these kinds of tomato plants usually don’t need cages or trellises. Tomatoes can take up a lot of space, but if properly trellised, a single plant should need no more than a 2-foot by 2-foot area.

Peppers

Peppers are part of the nightshade family. They do best planted near other nightshade plants as well as near onions, carrots, and basil. It’s best to keep peppers and other nightshade vegetables away from beans, corn, and plants in the cabbage family. If you live in a windy area or if your pepper plants grow too large to support themselves, you can drive a yard-long stake into the ground and tie the stem to it with something soft, like old pantyhose. Peppers are self-pollinating, making these a good plant for an indoor garden.

Eggplant

Eggplant is another member of the nightshade family popular among gardeners. The plant is native to India and spread to Europe during the Middle Ages. Each plant should produce two to three fruits, which are usually purple with white flesh. Eggplant should be harvested while they are glossy. When they become dull and lighter in color, they are overripe and are best sent straight to the compost bin.

Melons

Melons like cantaloupe and watermelon originated in Africa, but their sweet flesh has made them a favorite food around the world. Melons grow on vines with large leaves and can take up a lot of space if left to grow along the ground. In small gardens, melons can be trained on trellises to maximize production in the small space available. Melons are not self-pollinating, relying on insects for pollination.

Warm-Weather Plants

Warm-weather plants don’t like frost but can often be seeded or transplanted into the garden as soon as danger of frost is past, even if the weather is still cool. You will also see these plants referred to as tender.

Squash

In the eternal categorization wars of fruit and vegetables, botanists will call squash fruits. But most cooks, parents, and children consider squash to be vegetables. Squash, like tomatoes and peppers, originated in the Americas.

Summer squashes have soft skins and should be eaten during the warm season in which they are grown. Winter squash can last many months after the autumn harvest; they keep well for use later in the winter because of their tough skins. Squash plants take up a huge amount of area per plant—I like to encourage my squash plants to do their growing outside of my greenhouse, even though their roots stay in my aquaponics grow beds. The squash plant will put out both male and female flowers. You can tell the male flowers because their stems are straight and skinny. The stems of the female flowers are rounded, and these stems will develop into squash if the flower is pollinated.

Green Beans

The common green bean was another crop Columbus brought to Europe in 1493. Green beans are classified as either bush beans or pole beans. Bush beans mature quickly and will produce their beans over a short two- to three-week period. You need to start successive plantings to keep a steady supply of beans coming through the duration of the growing season.

Sweet Corn or Maize

Corn was originally the generic name for cereal crops like wheat, barley, oats, and rye. The bright yellow grain we now think of as corn was introduced to Europe by Columbus and fellow explorers. The corn plant produces a tall stalk that yields two to three ears apiece. Because corn requires a lot of nitrogen to thrive, it is traditionally spaced 12 inches apart. But if the corn is supplied with adequate nitrogen, possible in an aquaponics system, corn can be planted as closely as every 6 inches, or four plants per square foot.

Cool-Weather Plants

Many popular garden crops will actually fail during the heat of summer. These cool-weather crops, or semi-hardy plants, do best in the cool of spring and fall. With an aquaponics system that bathes the roots in cooling water, these semi-hardy plants can be grown throughout the summer except in the hottest climates.

Beets

Beets were probably domesticated around the Mediterranean Sea before they spread to ancient Babylon and China. We usually think of the sweet, red root vegetable when people talk about beets, but the leaves are also very good to eat. Beets can be sown two to three weeks before the last spring frost and can continue to be sown up to two months before the first killing frosts of fall. The leaves are edible and make a colorful addition to raw salads or a flavorful stir-fry.

Carrots

The carrot is native to Europe and southwestern Asia. Both the greens and the root of the carrot are edible, though the root is the portion most of us are used to eating. Carrots don’t transplant well and take a long time to germinate, but they can be planted a few weeks before the last spring frost and as early as 14 weeks before the first fall frost.

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens refer to all the salad greens, including leaf lettuce, head lettuce, chard, and mustard. There are approximately a thousand species of plants with edible leaves, and within each species, there can be hundreds of varieties. Beets are actually one of those many species, though most folks don’t think of it as a leafy green.

Cold-Weather Plants

Cold-weather or hardy plants can often be planted outside several weeks before the final frost of spring and may also be sown a second time as fall approaches. These plants may fail to thrive in the heat of summer, even in an aquaponics system.

Cabbage and Other Brassicas

Cabbage and other members of the brassica family can be grown in very cold weather. Kale is a popular brassica because it is particularly rich in vitamins and can help prevent cancer, as can many vegetables in the brassica family. Bok choy is a member of the cabbage family used frequently in Asian cooking. The crisp stems and leaves are cut up and used in stir-fry. When grown in proper conditions (early spring or fall), bok choy can mature as soon as 35 days after seedlings emerge.

Peas

Peas are starchy round vegetables that grow in a pod. The earliest evidence of humans using peas was found around the Fertile Crescent, near the time when humans first began to grow food rather than merely gather it. Peas are a good source of vegetable protein, and fresh peas from a home garden can be so sweet that children treat them like candy. There is a wide variety of peas, allowing you to select plants that fit your gardening style (compact plants, vining plants, climbing plants), color preference (green, purple, yellow), and taste (from stir-fried snow peas to mushy peas and sausage).

Mâche

Mâche may not be familiar to most modern gardeners, because it is slow to mature and can’t be easily harvested using machines. But most of us have heard of mâche by its alternate name, rapunzel. Rapunzel was the delicious plant in the witch’s garden that tempted a pregnant peasant, who was forced to give up her golden-haired infant in payment. Mâche is also known as lamb’s lettuce, field salad, and corn salad because it is so often found in fields.

Spinach

Spinach is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, and research is constantly turning up new reasons we should add spinach to our diets. Boiling spinach can remove many of the nutrients, but microwaving spinach does not affect nutrient levels as much. There has been a couple of contamination scares involving spinach, but these scares were caused by contamination due to wild pigs and mass production, neither of which should occur with plants grown in your aquaponics system.

Beyond Garden Vegetables

You can grow more than vegetables in your garden. In fact, it would be easier to simply list the few plants that don’t thrive in aquaponics systems. Following are a few categories of plants you might be interested in adding to your system.

Herbs

Herbs are the spice of life. It is wonderful to be able to nip down to the garden and gather fresh herbs to season a meal or garnish your plate. You pay a pretty penny for these in the store, but they continue to grow in your garden, easily replacing the bits you snip off in a matter of a few days. Basil is probably the herb that provides the most value if you are considering specializing in herb production to earn a bit of money on the side. Basil grows quickly and can be propagated through cuttings very easily. Simply snip off excess branches and stick them straight into the grow bed to root and form a new plant. I’ll often cut a slit up the middle of the woody stem just to increase the amount of water and nutrition the cutting can get before roots form. Mint is one herb to grow with caution. Mint grows aggressively, and its root systems can quickly overwhelm other plants in the same grow bed. I enjoy taking a few branches from the mint, stripping off the leaves, and steeping them in boiling water to yield fresh mint tea.

Trees

I was fascinated when I first saw people growing banana trees, papaw trees, and citrus trees in their aquaponics gardens. I’d always thought that a tree’s root system was like an underground mirror of its aboveground branch system.

Building Aquaponics Garden 

Several innovative Aquaponics systems are being built together in small spaces to grow fish and vegetables. Sadly, several of these schemes–both for you and for the fish–struggle to solve a variety of common problems and thus end up in the Craigslist or the garbage. And none are easily integrated at a fair price. I’m trying to build something better: a clever, low footprint-controlled, a DIY Aquaponics device that is made with parts from your local big-box store or Amazon — all right, apart from the valve, from eBay. 

The Aquaponics Garden with relay operated pumps and sensors can be fully automated to monitor moisture, temperature, soil moisture, and level of water in your fish tank. It has a backup air pump to save the fish if the power goes out, and in the event, something goes wrong, the master device destroys the relay. You can also use the internet. I design kits for sale, but I also share the entire DIY instructions and Arduino code so that everyone can create their own. 

Notably, this garden uses no fault-prone bell siphons. Alternatively, a motorized ball valve is used to water the bed, which allows for gravity feed pressures. It gives you precise control of water cycles so that you can schedule them for a large number of plants. 

Here’s how you can set up an Aquaponics system to generate your food at home through a media bed system. 

Put your fish tank together 

Like holding fish, you must take into consideration all good fishing practices. Depending on your species, your fish can take up a certain amount of space, which will decide the size of your tank. 

Depending on the size of the tank you select, a regular acrylic aquarium can be used or repurposed. Many people, however, prefer to use large barrels or food containers with opaque sides. 

You will have to set up a standard fish tank, dechlorinate the water and allow it to cycle for 4-6 weeks before adding any fish. This gives the bacteria time to build up and ensure that the ammonia and nitrites are separated into the nitrates required and feed your plants. 

Join a pump that lets the water drawn from the tank, into the bed and back again. 

Building Aquaponics Garden 

Build your media bed 

The medium bed may be placed over the fish tank or on the tank side. 

The container in which the plants grow will be your media room. This is often called a flood platform. You may use a large plastic heavy duty tray or a wooden pallet box. This must be built on a stand that can withstand its weight. After you have put the media bed, you will have to fill it with your media chosen. Clay cake is pH-neutral and does not impact your drink. They do have sufficient moisture. For these reasons, they are one of the most common media in domestic Aquaponics. Once you start, adhere to a 1:1 ratio from the tank size to the bed size so that the volumes are the same. 

Add the fish 

You should add the fish once your tank has cycled correctly. 

  • There is a variety of fish that fit well in Aquaponics. Popular choices are: 
  • Tilapia–the easiest fish to grow, easy to look after and immune to disease  
  • Goldfish–produces a lot of waste, so suitable for this establishment 
  • Koi–Paco is huge and has a strong re-selling value–for people looking for an ornamental fish (guppies, tetra, mollies, etc.).  A few less common choices are: 
  • Carp –reproduces well and is easy to grow silver perch–a fast-growing, high-density school fish  
  • Catfish –Do not have scales, so it is vital that the handling of barramundi, the Prince of Fish in Aquaponics, is held to a minimum. 

Add the plants 

For Aquaponics systems, leafy plants tend to grow best. However, you can also grow fruiting plants, including peppers and tomatoes, if you have enough water. 

Here’s a list of some plants that are easy to grow for your system: 

  • Basil 
  •  Kale 
  • Lettuce 
  • Mint 
  • Watercress 

These plants may also be grown if you have a fully stocked tank and well established: 

  • Beans 
  • Cabbage 
  • Cauliflower 
  • Cucumbers 
  • Squash 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Peas 
  • Peppers 
  • Strawberries 

It is best to plant seedlings to launch your plants. Place the roots in the pebbles gently, making sure they reach far enough from the water that passes through. 

Maintain your system 

It’s pretty easy to manage this system 

You’re going to have to give your fish a healthy diet. You may use plain flake food and feed it periodically. Be careful not to introduce any pathogens into the tank. We advise against adding live food to the fish for this purpose. 

Feed your fish just as much as possible in about five minutes, two or three times a day. 

You will need to monitor the pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrate levels by checking the tank water every week or two. The level of ammonia and nitrite will always be measurable, and if the plants do their job properly, nitrites will always be small. 

The pH will be favourable for fish, plants, and bacteria between 6.8 and 7.0. 

Aquaponics systems normally need to be buffered because when the initial cycle ends, they will fall below 7.0. To increase the pH, calcium hydroxide and potassium carbonate can be alternated, added to the tank as a powder. Tend the plants as you would with your usual gardening techniques, but not as many weeds are growing. 

We hope this will give you insight into exactly what an Aquaponics system is and how you can start growing food for your whole family in your kitchen or the backyard. 

Tips on system maintenance 

There are important maintenance checks every day, weekly, and monthly to ensure the reliability and durability of the network. Below are some valuable tips to keep your Aquaponics device running effectively. 

Observing and Monitoring 

Frequency: daily 

Every day, it is important to test the system visually to make sure that the water flows, the air pumps work, and solid materials do not obstruct the drains. Check, too, to see if your fish feed, trigger and swim normally. Observe the insects and rodents for your plants and kill any dead plants. 

Fish feeding 

Frequency: daily (once or twice a day)

Fish are an essential part of your environment and should, therefore, be thoroughly nourished. Feed your fish at least one or two times a day, once a morning, and once an afternoon with fish food. You may use an automated fish feeder, but it’s time to keep your fish fed and to monitor any odd behaviour. 

Water Temperature 

Frequency: daily

Test regularly to ensure that your fish tank’s water temperature remains within the optimal temperature range. Change the temperature with the water heater to ensure your Aquaponics system is an ideal fish type environment. 

Check the pH Level 

Frequency: weekly

The optimal pH is between 6.8 and 7.4 for your Aquaponics program. It is necessary to maintain the pH at levels appropriate to your system’s plants and fish. PH control is very important periodically since abrupt pH changes can be lethal for fish and plants. If the system pH levels are too low, nitrification slows or stops, and ammonia accumulates to the point that it is harmful to the fish. A high pH can lead to poor growth of plants and poor production of fruit and flora. Using pH test kits to check your water pH regularly. 

Ammonia Level Check 

Frequency: weekly 

Check your ammonia level regularly to test for any problem your system might have. Ammonia comes from fish faeces, the disintegration of solid fish waste, and is often excreted by gills. Ammonia levels in a fish tank must be controlled carefully because ammonia is harmful to fish. A high level of ammonia can destroy the fish in the fish tank. Further, ammonia may be produced in an Aquaponics system, overfeeding fish, a fish density that is too high for water volume, or not enough ventilation. The plants do not grow very well because they don’t have enough nutrients to consume with low levels of ammonia. The amount of ammonia does not exceed 0.5 ppm. 

Insects 

Frequency: weekly 

Search for insects weekly to test for insect problems before they get out of control. Some insects stay at the stem or below the plant’s leaves, so check the plants thoroughly to see if insects live. 

Nitrates Level Check 

Frequency: Monthly 

A safe Aquaponics system should report a low nitrate level. Nitrate is generally fine, but it can result in insufficient plants in your system to take in the nitrogen produced by the nitrifying bacteria if it reaches a high level. When they are above 150 ppm, nitrate levels are considered high. Adding additional plants or adding a new bed could solve this issue. 

Cleaning Filters and System 

Frequency: Monthly 

Keeping it clean is essential to a safe Aquaponics environment. Filters need to be washed and maintained periodically. 

Pumps and Plumbing System Check 

Frequency: monthly

You should test your pumps and plumbing connections every day, but all pumps and pipes should be washed once a month. This should be done to preserve the system’s performance. Running high-pressure water from each part is perfect for cleaning your pumps. 

Keeping an Aquaponics Journal 

The last tip to keep track of what is happening in your system is to keep track of what is happening. Having a list of your assessments or a few notes from time to time is nice to keep a list of the state of the program that will help prevent issues from repeating. Maintaining a record will aid in the future. 

How To Build An Aquaponics Garden 

Below is a brief guide that was written by Thomas Geen to help students create a mini aquaponic system to demonstrate aquaponic technology. 

Students enjoy the aquaponics and have fun! 

In a recirculating aquatic climate, a mini aquaponic device is an ideal way of explaining aquaponic concepts and the nitrification process. The following are guidelines for creating a small system that is suitable for instructors, students, or hobbyists who want to get started in aquaponics. 

How To Build An Aquaponics Garden

What You’ll Need 

Here is a collection of the pieces you would need to build a mini aquaponic device. The next portion, Module Explanation, defines and discusses each of these elements, and includes suggestions for alternate pieces and goods. 

  • Fish tank: 3-20 gallons, glass, or acrylic containers ($10 – $30). 
  • Around Gravel: 2,5 lbs. Gravel in the fish tank for every 5 gallons of water ($5 – $15). 
  • Water pump: 3-4 watt pump with a lifting power of 18 “– 54” at 30 – 100 gals/hour (small circulating or pool pump is ideal) ($25 – $50). 
  • 3 ft. The plastic hose that suits the water pump outlet ($1 – $2). 
  • Aqua air pump is designed for gallons in your fish tank ($10 – $25). 
  • $2 – $10 Air Stone (1 “– 3”) 
  • 3 ft. Air tube for attaching the air pump to the air stone (must suit the air pump outlet) ($1). 
  • Develop bed: must be 3 “– 8” thick ($5 – $20) on top of the fish tank. 
  • Enough pea gravel, perlite, coconut coir, extended clay pebbles, or peat moss to cover the rising bed ($5 – $10). 
  • PH check package and pH down or pH up ($10-$50) depending on the pH of the drink. 
  • Fisheries and plants. 

Tools Required 

  • Drill with 1/4″ or 3/16″ bit and 1/2″ bit 
  • Scissors 
  • Electrical tape 

Component Explanation 

A tank for the fish 

The fish tank maybe a glass or plexiglass aquarium, or some other sterile container that contains water, such as a plastic bowl, bucket, or rack, may be used. We suggest anywhere from 3 – 20 gallons, but if you have the capacity, you can go for a bigger tank. Small, clean amphibian plastic cages, accessible in most pet shops, shape an excellent mini-system. They carry around 3 gallons and are fairly small. 

The regular ten and 20-gallon capacity fish aquariums are both fairly priced. The bigger the tank you can help, the larger the bed area you expand. In general, 1-2 square feet of the rising area can be sponsored for every 10 gallons of fish tank water.
 

Gravel for tank bottom 

The Gravel acts as a habitat for the nitrifying bacteria that turn ammonia into nitrite and then nitrate, which the plants will use. Most pet stores carry Gravel from the aquarium in natural or colour. The thickness of the individual pebbles is about 1/8. Be sure to properly scrub the Gravel before you use it, as it is sometimes dusty. Unwashed Gravel will fog the water at your tank. 

Water pump and tubing 

It requires a tiny water pump to transfer the water from the fish tank to the grow bed. The gravity-feeds back to the fish tank after the water is drained into the grow area. You’ll need enough tubing to go from the pump outlet to the top of your rising bed and shape a circle within it. 

Air pump, air stone, and tubing 

For the fish as well as the plants, you need an air pump to blast air into the tank water. At the bottom of the reservoir, tubing attaches the air pump to an air block. The air stone splits into micro-bubbles the stream of bubbles flowing from the air pump, which significantly enhances the oxygenation of the water. 

Grow bed 

The grow bed which sits on top of the tank must be slightly larger than the fish tank’s length and width. The growing bed is lined with an increasing substrate, in which the plants rise. A Rubbermaid storage tub, a flower planter, orsome other pot that lies on top of the tank should fit perfectly. The jar will have a diameter of about 3-8.” 

You may either use a plastic tub or create one out of plexiglass for a really good looking package and cover it with a non-toxic, silicone adhesive. If you create the growing bed, you can handle an aquarium light by building a cavity in the growing bed, through which the light will slip. When you use some other sort of jar, if there is space, a light will sit just behind it. 

The Proper Amount Of Fish

It is highly recommended that you operate with 0.3 pounds of fish per square foot of the raft area in your system. The trough area is used as a guide because the fishes generate the fertilizers that serve as a manure for the plants. Although it is not compulsory, you have that much to start.

The Proper Amount Of Fish

The fact is, you may not even need this to start a good system. There was an incident where an aquaponics farmer wasn’t able to get the “recommended” amount of replacement fish, he lost all his fish in an accident, and when he tried to replace them, he was only to get 7-pounds of 2-inch tilapia fish. This is ridiculously small compared to the recommended number, but the plants and vegetables still matured like magic! And the most surprising aspect is that he only feeds the fish twice because of his busy schedule.  

This is what is referred to as the lower end. Although they had a small amount of Fish, the system still worked! These systems are balanced and always productive, but it still works if you don’t get the recommended number of fish. However, we strongly recommend that you start your system with (at the most) 20% or so of the “recommended” amount of fish for your system. There are reasons for this: first, an attempt to buy a large amount of fish might be futile or herculean due to cost issues, and with the happenings we’ve observed, we’ve been able to deduce a system. That is supposed to have 80 fish will still work with 10 percent of that.  

Secondly, at startup, you’re trying to establish the nitrifying bacteria population in your system, the sensitivity of these bacteria to the ammonia of 3 ppm or over, and an excess of ammonia over three ppm is detrimental! It has what it takes to slow or even stop the startup process in its tracks.  

Because the fish produce ammonia, a smaller quantity of fish that produces a smaller amount of ammonia is more preferable during startup. We’ll also suggest that you do not feed your fish until the level of ammonia in your system comes down to 1 ppm, this helps you keep the ammonia level low and controllable.  

Keeping Your Fish safe during hauling  

If your hauling techniques are wrong, you’ll end up killing your fish! Even if the place you get your fish from is close by, you’ll still need to transport them into the aquaponic system. Unfortunately, hauling Fish stresses them and even on the best and most careful fish hauls cases using haul tank with lots of aeration that has good oxygen levels even with 300 lbs. of fish in it, about 10 percent of the fish still died. Hence, if you have a terrible haul that stresses your fish or your fish supplier is not very careful the way he treats the fish, and you just go ahead to pick them up, you can lose up to 20% OR MORE!  

Feed Your Fish  

Your fish are pivotal and relevant to your aquaponics system, so they must stay fully nourished. Their feeding routine should be daily: once in the morning and again before sundown. And at worst they should be fed once a day. Although an automatic fish feeder can be used in case of your absence, it is more profitable to be around while feeding your fish to do a health check, because if you see that your fishes are not feeding properly, it may be a sign that something is wrong.  

 Check the Temperature of Your Fish Tank   

It’s sacrosanct and vital that the correct water temperature is maintained in the fish tank(s) to create an ideal environment for the aquaponics fish species present. It’s a check that can be quickly done with ease just by searching on the perfect temperature for the type of fish you’ll be raising. The important aspect is that this must be done every day.  

Check for Insects   

It is better to solve an insect problem on time because it can quickly get out of hand. Whenever a plant is harvested, you should check for insects, which will usually reside beneath plant leaves or in the stem areas. Given its importance, this should be done weekly.  

Check The ph. Levels   

The ph. level in your aquaponics system is what determines the nutrients your plants will take in, the reproduction of the bacteria and how healthy your fish would be. It can be argued that the ph. level is the most important factor in determining how the aquaponics system works. Hence, it is vital that it be checked every week. The proper ph. level should be between 6.5 and 7.0, while some aquaponics systems steadily maintain this; over time, most system’s ph. will decrease naturally. If it drops below 6.5, it’s high time hydrated lime or potash is added to increase the ph. levels again.  

Check the Ammonia Levels  

Just like the ph. levels, another thing that dictates the health of your system is your Ammonia level. Ensure to inspect this every week to be able to detect any impending problem on-time. A good Ammonia level should be precisely 0.5ppm or slightly less. If it suddenly increases, it might be a pointer that a fish is dead.  

Check the Nitrate Levels  

Nitrates are usually very beneficial, but when they sky-rocket to detrimental levels (above 150ppm), this could mean that there are not enough plants to take in the nitrogen that’s being released by the nitrifying bacteria. Three things can be done to solve this: include more plants, harvest some fish, or add another grow bed to your aquaponics system. This check should be done every month.  

Pumps & Plumbing System Check  

All the pipes and plumbing must be inspected daily to ascertain that it’s still functioning properly. However, monthly, the pipes and conduits should be cleaned. This may be somewhat dirty and stressful, but it is crucial to avoid blockages in the pipes.  

Common Problems to Avoid  

Establishing an aquaponics system takes time, patience, knowledge, and most importantly, trial and error.  

Being aware of the most common mistakes will make it easier for you to avoid making these and build a successful system.  

Access to The Fish  

You’ll notice some fish tanks are designed with the grow beds on top of the fish tanks. This can save on pipework but will not help you access your fish. The same can be said if you build the fish tank in a location that is difficult to access.  

If you can’t get into the fish tank, you can’t check when a fish is ill, and there will be no space to do some plumbing. This can cause a serious issue if you need to act quickly and can’t get into your tank. You must consider access before you start setting up your system.  

Iron deficiency  

This is one element that is often overlooked but is essential to the health of your plants and their ability to do photosynthesis. Iron is needed in a plant to produce chlorophyll, which results in green leaves. If there is an iron deficiency, the leaves will start to become yellow. The deficiency is called chlorosis.    

It is advisable to purchase an iron test to check the iron levels at least once a month.      

If iron levels are low (1.5 to 2ppm), you can add some with a chelated iron supplement (to 3ppm) that can be bought online or in a hydroponics store. You can spot iron deficiency if the leaves are turning yellow instead of green while the veins are still green. It will show up on the new leaves (top of the plant).  

Iron will become less available to the plant if the pH is higher than 6.5. That’s another reason why you need to keep your pH between 6.5 and 7.5.  

Potassium deficiency  

Potassium is needed by the plant to regulate its water uptake.  

Potassium is provided by the fish food but is barely enough to run the system because fish need potassium too. A deficiency in potassium will lead to reduced resistance to pests, unhealthy roots, and smaller fruits.    

The symptoms of potassium deficiency are scorching and burning leaf tips and yellowing of the leaf between the veins. This deficiency is most common in fruiting plants. Symptoms will show on the lower leaves first because they were the first to grow (oldest growth first).  

Do not confuse potassium deficiency with nitrate or iron deficiency. You can test nitrate deficiency with a simple test kit, and you can rule out iron deficiency to look at the place the yellowing leaves occur. If the yellowing occurs in the lower leaves, it’s potassium deficiency. If it occurs in new leaf growth, it’s iron deficiency.  

When your pH is low, you will be supplementing with a 50/50 mix of potassium hydroxide and hydrated lime.The hydrated lime (calcium) will raise the pH, but the potassium hydroxide will avoid that calcium takes the upper hand.    

When you don’t need to lower your pH but have a potassium deficiency, you need to supplement potassium that is pH neutral. One of these supplements is kelp or kelp meal. You can spray it on the leaves or supplement it in the water.  

If you have a large deficiency, consider using potassium sulfate dissolved in the water of the system. It’s much stronger than kelp or kelp meal. The amount depends on the volume of the system and the strength of the solution.  

pH Issue  

If your pH levels are off (6.5 to 7.5 is good), it is important to adjust them to ensure your fish and plants are comfortable. However, this is something that must be done gradually. You should not drop or raise the pH by more than .5 per day. If you do, you’re likely to put the fish under stress; that’s not a good plan as stress will reduce their slime layer, which is protecting them from diseases.  

Algae  

It is worth talking a little more about algae. In the long run, the level of algae should stabilize, but when you’re first getting started, it can be a real pain.  

Green algae are the most common issue in aquaponics. Too much of it is likely to make your water appear green and can even block your pipes and filters in extreme cases.  But this is only part of the problem! Algae can also accumulate in your grow beds and steal the oxygen that is vital to your system.   

It can also affect the pH of your system. It can cause the pH to swing in both directions. It can make remedial action difficult, especially if you’re new to aquaponics. It is best to watch the pH for a day or two before reacting. If it’s low in the morning but high late in the afternoon, you probably have an algae problem.    

To control the algae, you’ll need to add shade to your fish tank and exposed water. The lack of sunlight will stop the algae from reproducing.   

It’s important if you are planning to use grow beds, which the top layer that’s exposed to the sun will not get wet. This is to discourage algae from growing in your grow beds. Place 1 inch of dry expanded clay or river rock on the top of your grow beds to block out sunlight.     

It is also possible to add organic humic acid. It’s an organic darkening agent. It will darken the water, preventing the algae from getting the light they need to grow.  

If you are running a DWC system, you can add shrimps under your floating rafts. They eat the algae and other organic matter that will be in your troughs. You should supply them with some objects to hide from each other because they are territorial. You can use the leftovers of your building materials like piping scraps.  

Leaving the system to do its work  

Once you’ve got the system working and the fish are doing well while the plants are growing, you need to continue to monitor them. One of the most surprising and common issues is when people leave their systems completely alone if everything is running properly once the fish and the plants are happy. In theory, this is correct, but it is unlikely to be the case in practice.    

An aquaponics system is generally less work than the traditional approach to gardening and crop growing. But you still need to monitor the system and make the appropriate changes. Forget this, and your system will have a problem; faster than you think. 

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