Setting up an aquaponics system is not as hard as it seems. A small system should be well within most price ranges and you may even be able to bring in a little extra money by selling excess fish and produce. If you already have an aquarium, why not try and grow some vegetables?
Other important considerations
Several things to consider when setting up an aquaponics system are space, time, lighting, and money. Some things to ask yourself before you purchase anything are: Why do you want to do this? Do you have an aquarium and just want to try it out for fun? Or do you want to save money by raising your own food? How much time would you devote to work on the system? These questions will help you to determine how big or small you may want your system.
For a basic outdoor aquaponics system you will need a tank for the fish, hydroponic grow beds, and biological filtration.
The fish tanks you use may be commercially bought aquaculture tanks but they don’t have to be. Maybe you already have a koi pond or an aquarium. These would work wonderfully.
Hydroponic Grow Beds
The hydroponic grow beds usually consist of a container that holds several layers of gravel or some type of appropriate aggregate (see hydroponic systems). They are raised off the ground and are sloped horizontally to allow water to flow toward a drain.
For indoor purposes, the grow bed can be situated above your aquarium. A clay pot with a single plant will do the job quite nicely. Water from the tank would be pumped up into the clay pot and then by way of hoses and gravity would make its way back down to the tank.
These grow beds can be hand made using wood, fiberglass, or other materials found at a home improvement store or they could be bought from an aquaculture store online.
If you are building your system outside, lighting may not be an issue. If you do want to grow indoor plants, which can be very rewarding, then you will want to consider lighting. There are several different types of lighting you could use such as
- metal halide
- flood lights
There are of course some considerations you will need to make regarding the heat the lights give off and affordability. It is possible to use natural light from a window that receives light for a long duration during the day. Just keep in mind that some plants require more light than others.
You will need one or more submersible pumps depending on the way you set up your system. An air pump is used to aerate the fish tank. Both fish and plants need oxygen to thrive. If you are using an outdoor koi or goldfish pond you could install a fountain or a waterfall. Not only is the sound of moving water relaxing, but it would satisfy the need for aeration.
Before water from the fish tanks enters the grow beds it needs to go through some sort of biological filtration to take out the larger particles of fish waste and uneaten food. The larger particles can block the aggregate and cling to the roots of the plants. This will cause problems with how the plants absorb nutrients.
Most regular garden plants do well with an aquaponics system. Listed are some of the more common choices for growing:
There are endless possibilities when it comes to what can be grown in an aquaponics systems!
An efficient aquaponics system raises fish in addition to crops. Fish that are commonly kept in these closed systems are tilapia, trout, perch, arctic char, bass, and some cod varieties. If you are not interested in raising fish, you could use an existing koi pond instead. Being of the carp family koi are considered dirty fish and produce a lot of waste. Indoor systems use freshwater fish like Oscars and cichlids. You could potentially cut down on maintenance fees while growing your own vegetables by utilizing an aquaponics system.
As you can see, the components of a basic aquaponics system are not really that complicated. Plus you have the added benefit of earning a little from selling excess crops. For more information about building your own aquaponics system at home check out Aquaponics 4 You!