One of the first questions that comes to mind to any aquaponic beginner is, does aquaponics really work? This question is quite tricky, but most, if not all, aquaponics systems produce optimal yield when they are properly planned and maintained. Here are some tips on what you can do to maintain the proper conditions of your aquaponics system for it to be successful and produce a higher yield.
Tips on Setting Up Your Own Aquaponics Garden
1. Learn How Aquaponics Works
Research is an essential aspect of aquaponics, and it will help if you do some research on how an aquaponics system works. Find out what you'll need and how each part works. So that when you're ready to begin, you already have some knowledge about aquaponics. There are lots of free aquaponics reading materials and tutorials online. Watch videos of how others created their aquaponics systems and read blogs about aquaponics to learn from them.
2. Choose Your System Carefully
The three main aquaponics methods are; Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), Media Based, and Raft System. The media based system is recommended for new hobby aquaponics growers. It is because, among the three methods, the media bed is the easiest to set up and maintain. Here are some reasons why a media based method is excellent for aquaponics beginners.
- The media based system is more closely related to traditional gardening.
- Media provides better plant support.
- Building a media based aquaponics system is cheaper compared to other methods because there are fewer components.
- The Media based system is easier to understand and learn.
3. Gather Your Supplies
After you've learned how an aquaponics system works and decided which method you will be using, it's time to gather the supplies you need to build your own aquaponics system. If you're not using a ready-to-use kit that comes with step-by-step instruction and technical support, then you need to gather all the materials you need. You will need a fish tank, sump tank, grow bed, water pump, pipes, fish, plants, and other materials, depending on the type of system you plan on creating. The easiest way for beginners to start is to purchase a kit that has all the necessary parts and is ready to use.
4. Choose The Fish Tank Carefully
The fish tank is where your fish will live, so it is essential to choose the best tank for your fish. Any shape fish tank will work well in aquaponics, but the best fish tanks are round-shaped tanks. Round tanks with flat bottoms are the best because they are easier to keep clean. It also allows better water circulation and flow, which improves the water quality in the tank. It is also recommended to use inert plastic or fiberglass tanks for durability.
5. Choose Plants Wisely
Almost all plants can be grown in aquaponics, but choose plants that are suitable for your location and climate. Choosing the right plants for your aquaponics garden will help ensure its success. You can start adding plants as soon as you start cycling your aquaponics system, but take note that they may not grow well for the few weeks required for cycling to occur.
6. Starting or Cycling Your System
Fishless cycling is the recommended cycling method because it is the easiest method of establishing bacteria into your system. Fishless cycling allows you to fully stock your fish tank in two weeks.
Fishless Cycling Instruction
Once you have chosen your source of ammonia (liquid ammonia, ammonium chloride, Urine), you are ready to start the fishless cycling process. Just follow the simple instructions below.
- Add the ammonia to the fish tank a little at a time until the reading from your ammonia test is 5ppm.
- Record the amount of ammonia and then add that amount daily until the nitrite level is 0.5 ppm.
- Once nitrites appear, lessen the daily dose of ammonia to half.
- Once nitrates appear (5-10 ppm) and nitrites dropped to zero, you can start adding fish to the tank.
Tips on Maintaining Your Aquaponics Garden
1. Ensure Adequate Aeration and Water Circulation
You can use water and air pumps to ensure that the water in your system has high levels of dissolved oxygen. Having water or air pumps will also help give good water movement to the water in the system, which is suitable for the fish, plants, and bacteria. Here are some tips on ensuring your system has adequate aeration:
- Try using and placing two air stones at opposite locations in the fish tank.
- Include cascading water into your system's design, as the falling action of water provides aeration.
- Keep extra batteries and aeration systems as a backup to use if there is an equipment failure or power interruption.
2. Maintain Good Water Quality
Water is the lifeblood of an aquaponics system. It is the medium through which plants and fish receive all the essential nutrients and oxygen requirements. To correctly manage an aquaponics system, every aquaponics grower must understand the basic water chemistry in order to get the most out of plants, fish, and bacteria. The five key water quality parameters that you need to monitor and control are; dissolved oxygen (5 mg/liter), pH (6-7), temperature, ammonia (0 ppm), and nitrites (0 ppm). Always keep in mind that water chemistry may seem complicated, but the actual management is simple if you have the correct water test kits.
3. Avoid Overfeeding and Remove Uneaten Food
Feed your feed every day, but only feed the fish what they can consume in 5 minutes. Scoop out wastes and uneaten food to avoid water quality issues. Rotting food can cause fish diseases and can use up the dissolved oxygen.
4. Maintain Balance Between Plants and Fish
Applying a batch cropping system can help keep a steady harvest and helps maintain a good balance between plants and fish.
5. Avoid Using Any Harmful Chemicals
Do not use any harmful chemicals like fertilizers or insecticides in maintaining your aquaponics system. These chemicals are not necessary for aquaponics, and they can do more harm than good. Remember, fish and plants in aquaponics have a symbiotic relationship. So if your fish gets sick or dies because of these chemicals, your plants will not thrive, and your whole system could be in trouble. Just let the fish and plants work together, and your system will be full of life. There are options available on how to add nutrients and get rid of insects in your system.
6. Have Fun
You can make building your aquaponics system fun by involving family and friends in the process. You can use this project to get your kids to learn about life and science. Aquaponics will teach your kids how to take care of plants and animals. It will also introduce them to the importance of growing and eating healthy foods. When your system gets successful, you and your whole family and friends will be proud of your accomplishment.
7. Enjoy The Benefits
Be proud! You've done it. Your aquaponics system is established and thriving. Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Whether you're growing an indoor or outdoor aquaponics garden, your system will be a great addition to your home. Your family and friends will enjoy watching the fish grow and eat healthy fresh harvest from your own yard.
Now that you've learned the basics, you can start expanding and experimenting with your system. You'll enjoy the challenge of growing plants and fish as well as trying out new dishes from your harvest.
Aquaponics gardening may seem complicated at first, but once you know the ins and outs of aquaponics, it's not as hard as you first think. Once your system is fully established, all you need to do is regular maintenance to keep it in top shape. Doing routine maintenance in your system will also help you take fast action whenever an issue arises. Thank you for reading our blog. We hope these tips will help you keep everything in your aquaponics system easy and running well.