One of the advantages of aquaponics over other growing methods is that the crops can be grown in an indoor setup such as in the basement, garage, spare room, kitchen, or inside the greenhouse. The use of a greenhouse is a practical solution to the many challenges of an outdoor aquaponics setup.
That is why many small-scale aquaponics growers have opted to use aquaponics greenhouses because it allows them to grow crops and raise fish all year round right in their backyard. This article discusses aquaponics greenhouses, its benefits, types, and the factors you need to consider in planning your aquaponics system.
What is an Aquaponics Greenhouse?
Greenhouses provide shelter to your crops. It is a structure with walls and roofs usually made of plastic or glass to grow plants that require regulated climatic conditions. Greenhouse structures can range in size from small sheds to industrial-sized buildings. A greenhouse can help increase plant growth and fruit production and allow growers to grow plants that wouldn't usually survive in your climate.
How Does Aquaponics Greenhouse Work?
Greenhouses work by converting light energy into heat energy. When light rays from the sun enter the greenhouse through plastic or glass panels, the framework entraps the heat that warms the air inside the building. The greenhouse's walls and roofs will capture the heat, providing a steady air temperature inside. The windows, vents, or fans in the greenhouse help release hot air when it gets too hot. Some greenhouses also have separate heating systems that help raise the temperature when there is not enough light from the sun, like during the winter months.
Benefits of Using Aquaponics Greenhouse
Here are some benefits of using an aquaponics greenhouse.
Enclosing your fish tanks and plants in the greenhouse prevents hungry predators like raccoons and other animals from taking advantage of the crops you're growing. Encompassing your aquaponics system will also discourage theft by keeping the most valuable components hidden from others.
2. Temperature Control
Some aquaponics growers chose to enclose their aquaponics systems to control air and water temperature for healthier fish and plants. Warm climates may not need additional heating, but the temperature in cold climates needs the heat-regulated effect of a greenhouse. Even if you use air conditioning and a water cooler to deal with high temperatures, greenhouses are easier to control.
3. Prevents Water Loss and Contamination
A greenhouse interrupts the water evaporation cycle, thus preventing too much evaporation of water in the system. Greenhouses are also designed to help keep the water in the system clean and free from contaminants.
4. Use of Natural Light
Using a greenhouse lets aquaponics growers take full advantage of the natural light rather than paying high electric bills. Fish need to stay out of direct sunlight to prevent algae growth and water heating, but this can be controlled in any greenhouse structure by covering the fish tank with a shade cloth.
5. Year-round Growing of Food
The temperature control offered by greenhouse enclosures allows growers to grow crops outside of the regular season. With its cooling and heating features, you can grow and harvest food all year round.
Disadvantages of Using Aquaponics Greenhouse
Aside from its initial costs, using an aquaponics greenhouse also has its disadvantages that you need to be aware of so you can adequately decide if this is the best solution for you.
An aquaponics greenhouse requires substantial capital investment, depending on its size, structure type, location, and utility integration. The larger space you need, the more costly and more advanced the equipment is. Operating a greenhouse may also cause higher monthly maintenance costs. So if you decide to use an aquaponics greenhouse, you must consider allocating a budget for your electrical costs, unless you also use alternative power sources such as solar panels.
2. Additional Maintenance
Using an aquaponics greenhouse means additional responsibilities. Understanding how aquaponics works and greenhouse operation can create other management duties for your checklist. You must know how to control and troubleshoot your aquaponics equipment, such as water heaters, as this could potentially harm the plants and fish in your system.
Factors to Consider in Using Aquaponics Greenhouse
Once you have decided to use an aquaponics greenhouse, consider the following factors when setting up your framework:
Aquaponics greenhouses require a sturdy deck to hold water and heavy equipment. Regular greenhouses often use dirt or fabric for their flooring, but keep in mind that the floor should not accumulate water to ensure a safe and clean environment in aquaponics.
In selecting a suitable area for your greenhouse, look for a spot that receives full sunlight. Usually, it is on the south side of a place. Place the grow beds in the sunlight and fish tanks in shadier areas. Place the grow beds in the sunlight for optimal year-round growing. Avoid placing your fish tanks in the direct sunlight as they can quickly get too hot and lower the dissolved oxygen in the water, which is fatal to the fish. Direct light can also facilitate unwanted algae growth in the fish tank.
Ensure proper ventilation in the greenhouse. Sufficient ventilation is essential to maintain adequate airflow inside the greenhouse, maintain humidity during colder months, and regulate the temperature of the summer.
Insulate the greenhouse. Ensure that the greenhouse is adequately insulated. Insulating your greenhouse will help prevent temperature fluctuations.
Your Greenhouse's Design should be in tandem with your aquaponics system. There are several methods of aquaponics systems, such as media bed, NFT, raft, and hybrid systems that growers implement. So ensure that your greenhouse can accommodate the system you want to implement and the expansion you wish to later on. Your greenhouse should meet your system's needs and increase the productivity and performance of your system.
Consider your working space and walking space in planning the design of your greenhouse's layout. Give yourself enough room to roam around, monitor, or harvest your crops.
Aquaponics greenhouses need a proper electrical design for switches and wirings. Consider hiring a professional electrician to ensure your electrical design is within your local safety standards. Plan Your Aquaponics Greenhouse's Electrical needs based on the following factors:
- How controlled the greenhouse environment needs to be.
- The heating, cooling, and ventilating needs of the greenhouse depend on three factors. First, your climate, greenhouse design, and location. Second, if you are using grow lights to supplement winter lighting. Third, the size of your aquaponics system and total water flow.
Types of Aquaponics Greenhouse
Greenhouses come in various sizes, shapes, and designs. Before choosing your framework design, you must know your garden's dimensions to select a greenhouse that will fit your system requirements. Below are the types of greenhouses used in aquaponics systems.
1. A-Frame Greenhouse
The A-frame is a standard aquaponics greenhouse used by many growers because it only uses few materials. A-frame greenhouse is affordable, straightforward, and can easily be built by DIYers. Most growers use wood for the framework and clear plastic for their covers. During winter, the roof's angle prevents snow buildup and roof collapse. While A-frame greenhouses give a terrific structure, the broad base and the roof's constricting peak give limited growing space and airflow problems.
- Lower costs because it uses few materials.
- Simple design.
- Best for single-row planting.
- The narrow side walls limit the practical use of the entire greenhouse.
- The corners can have air circulation issues.
- The greenhouse is limited to just a few plants.
2. Gothic Arch Greenhouse
The Gothic Arch greenhouse shows an exquisite and sleek design with an efficient structure. The roof's gothic arch prevents snow buildup and allows water to fall from the sides during the rainy season. Plastic sheets are used to cover the Gothic Arch, which helps lower the cost of these greenhouses. One downside of the Gothic Arch design is that it has limited headroom and space for growing crops.
- The simple and efficient design of the gothic greenhouse allows for easy water and snow runoff.
- The plastic sheeting reduces the design cost.
- Using plastic sheeting also conserved more heat.
- The lower sidewall height limits headroom and storage space.
3. Lean-To Greenhouse
Lean-To greenhouses are often attached to the side of the grower's home for reinforcement. This greenhouse is excellent for those who live in windy areas or have limited garden space. Having one wall of your home attached to the greenhouse will bring stability to the structure and easy access to water, heat, and electricity.
- Easy access to power, heat, and water.
- Wind resistant.
- Limited interior space.
4. Hoop House Greenhouse
The Hoop House greenhouse features more clearance and gives additional spaces for plants to grow vertically. The shape allows growers better access to the plants and provides adequate ventilation to the structure. Constructing a Hoop House type of greenhouse is inexpensive because it uses plastic sheets for cover. One downside, though, is that snow and water can pile up on the roof, which can cause damage to the structure.
- Easy to build.
- Can adapt to small growing spaces.
- Inexpensive compared to other designs.
- The shape allows for easy snow and water runoff.
- The frame is not as sturdy as other frame designs.
5. Post and Rafter Greenhouse
Aside from the A-frame, the Post and Rafter greenhouse is one of the popular greenhouse designs used by many aquaponics growers. Most Post and Rafter structures use glass or polycarbonate panels as covering materials. The structure allows for a more effective air circulation because of its simple but sturdy design.
- Simple and straightforward design.
- The post and rafter's simple design allows for efficient air circulation, particularly along the side walls.
- Maximize the usage of space.
- The design requires more materials than other designs.
Where to Purchase Aquaponics Greenhouse
If you are a do-it-yourself person, building your aquaponics greenhouse from scratch can be a fulfilling task. However, if you are not a builder, you might end up spending more than just buying ready-to-use ones. Fortunately, some manufacturers offer small-sized greenhouses perfect for small or backyard aquaponics growers.
Conclusion: What is the Best Aquaponics Greenhouse?
Aquaponics systems work very well inside greenhouses because they harbor sustainable growing environments for plants, fish, and bacteria. As with any design, each greenhouse has its pros and cons. So it is essential to know the details of the greenhouse you're planning to use and see if it suits the aquaponics system you're planning to implement.
It is important to do research on the greenhouse design you’re planning to implement. So you can select the best greenhouse design that will suit your needs and allow you to get the most of your aquaponics system. Thank you for reading our article. For more information on building your own aquaponics system, check our blog, the ultimate aquaponics beginner's guide.