Once your aquaponics system is set up and running comes the maintenance to ensure its success and the return of your investment. But how do you maintain an aquaponics system? Well, one of the great thing about aquaponics systems is that it requires less maintenance than the traditional growing methods because there is no weeding, fertilizing, and watering involved.
However, you still need to do all the essential regular maintenance tasks to ensure its effectiveness and success. This article is a brief look at what you can do to maintain the right conditions for your aquaponics system to work.
How do You Maintain an Aquaponics System?
Below are several important areas you need to consider when it comes to maintaining your aquaponics system.
- Ensure good dissolved oxygen levels for the fish and plants by maintaining consistent and adequate aeration and water circulation.
- Maintain good water quality by regularly checking the pH levels, water temperature, water source, and ammonia levels. The water is the link between the fish and plants and the carrier of the nutrients for the plants.
- Avoid overcrowding of fish in the water. Overcrowding your fish can cause fish stress and overproduction of ammonia, which is dangerous to fish health. Keep in mind the fish to plants ratio.
- Avoid plants overcrowding in your grow bed, floating raft, or nft pipes. Plants need space to get enough nutrients and sunlight.
- Avoid over-feeding your fish. Feed your fish with the right fish food on what they can consume in five minutes. Always remove uneaten fish food after feeding, as leftover fish food can cause the rise of ammonia levels and might clog the system.
A maintenance checklist (daily, weekly and monthly) can help provide a poutine guide for maintaining and managing your system. Keeping a record of your aquaponics maintenance is also essential because it can be your guide in the future if issues arise. It will also help minimize mistakes and negligence.
Daily Maintenance Checklist
The daily maintenance checklist is the routine management tasks you can follow in maintaining your aquaponics system:
1. Feeding the Fish
Feeding the fishevery day is an essential part of an aquaponics system. It is necessary to ensure that they are fed adequately at all times. Make sure you feed them at least once a day, although two meals are highly recommended; one in the morning and the other before sunset. It is always great to be physically present when feeding your fish because you can perform health checks and lookup for unusual behavior. However, you may want to consider getting an automatic feeder to help you when you are not available.
2. Observe Fish Behavior and Appearance During Feeding
Fish feeding is the perfect time to observe and monitor your fish behavior. Observe your fish behavior before and after feeding, take note of any unusual behavior and check if they are showing any symptoms of stress or diseases.
3. Scan for Leaks
Always check and observe the water flow to see if there are leaks. If the leaks are not addressed properly, they can cause issues that can damage the fish and plants. Checking for leaks will also help ensure your system has adequate aeration.
4. Check if the Water and Air Pumps are Functioning Correctly
Without pumps, dissolved oxygen levels will drop, which can kill the fish. So ensure that the water and air pumps are functioning correctly at all times.
Weekly Maintenance Checklist
1. Check Water Quality
Check and test the pH, temperature, ammonia, and nitrate levels weekly. Water quality problems can cause damage to your aquaponics system. So it is essential to monitor them regularly to prevent any possible issues. Adjust the levels of your water quality parameters when needed.
- pH: The ideal pH range for plants, fish, and bacteria is 6.8 to 7.0.
- Temperature: The general compromise temperature range for aquaponics is 68-86 °F (20–30 °C).
2. Harvest Fish or Remove or Add Plants if Necessary
Balance is crucial in aquaponics systems. So always keep a balanced fish stocking density. Keep in mind the fish to plant ratio and harvest fish or remove or add some plants if necessary to maintain a balanced system.
3. Inspect for Nutrient Deficiencies in Plants
Regularly check your plants to see if there are signs of nutrient deficiencies. Some signs of plant deficiencies are plants not growing and changes in the color of the leaves. If you see signs of plant nutrient deficiencies, check your water quality to see if it is ideal for plant growth.
4. Inspect for Insect Infestation
Check every week for insects to prevent or correct any insect problems before they get out of hand. It is also good to remember that most insects tend to stay in stem sections and under the leaves of plants. With this tip in mind, it will be easier to find insects in your system.
Monthly Maintenance Checklist
1. Restock Fish Supply
As mentioned above, refilling or restocking your fish is essential in maintaining a balanced system. Again, keep in mind the fish to plants ratio. Your fish should complement the number of plants being grown in your system.
2. Cleaning Four Filters, Clarifiers, and Biofilters
Always consider cleaning your filters, clarifiers, and biofilters monthly to avoid clogging. If your pipes are blocked, it may result in low efficiency of your filters and increase the ammonia levels in your fish tank, which is very dangerous to the fish, so it must be avoided.
3. Cleaning Your System
On top of good maintenance comes a clean aquaponics system. A clean system means a successful aquaponics system and a healthy harvest of fish and vegetables. The following are vital to having a well maintained and clean aquaponics system:
- Keep your system free from algae. Algae growth is normal when raising fish, but it can get out of hand if preventive measures are not taken. If left unmanaged, algae can cause problems to your aquaponics system because they can clog up the hoses and pipes and impact your system's pH and nutrition.
- Again, avoid overfeeding your fish and remove uneaten fish food. Unremoved fish food will build up excess organic matter that can clog your pipes and cause excess ammonia.
It is every beginner's dreamto be well-oriented about aquaponics and achieve the best yields. That is why it is essential to keep the maintenance tips above in mind before starting your aquaponics trip. With the proper maintenance of aquaponics, you are sure that you can harvest your vegetables, fish, and fruit at any time of the year. Also, make sure that you feed your fish regularly and that from time to time, you check the condition of the system to ensure that all your efforts are rewarded accordingly.