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The Different Types of Aquaponics System

Several types of aquaponics system designs are being used by home growers right now. Each of these aquaponics system designs may be the best aquaponics system design to implement in a given situation. So to help you in the process of deciding what system might be the best for you, we made this article about the different aquaponics systems.

Achieving a good balance between fish, bacteria, and plants is the most important thing in aquaponics. Once you have a good balance, you will have a successful and sustainable aquaponics system design that you can rely on.

Every aquaponics system design comprises the following components:

  • A grow bed for the plants to grow.
  • A fish tank for the fish to live.
  • A pump that transfers the water from the fish tank to the grow bed.
  • Standpipes or siphons that drain the water from the grow bed back to the fish tank.
  • The water pump helps water circulate through the entire system and also helps with aeration.
  • Grow media or floating rafts that give support to the plants.

Overview of The Different Aquaponics System Design

1. Media Based Aquaponics System

Also called Flood and Drain, the media based is common for small-scale aquaponics systems and popular with do-it-yourselves aquaponics home growers. The media based system design is simple and efficient with space and has a low initial cost suitable for beginners in aquaponics.

The media-based consists of a grow bed filled with grow media (expanded clay pebbles, gravel, lava rock) into which the vegetables are planted. The water from the fish tank is pumped or flows by gravity into the grow beds so that the plants can access the nutrients. The grow beds host the colony of nitrifying bacteria and provide a place for the plants to grow. Some media-based aquaponics systems are run by flooding and draining the grow beds, using a bell siphon to drain the water when it reaches a saturation point.

Advantages of Media Based Aquaponics System:

  • Relatively simple and inexpensive.
  • Suitable for all kinds of plants, from leafy greens to larger fruiting plants.
  • Minimal cleaning is required.
  • Ideal for hobby applications, home gardens, and as part of the commercial farm

Disadvantages of Media Based System:

  • A good-quality medium can be relatively expensive.
  • The pore spaces in the medium may get clogged over time, causing anaerobic conditions that are poor for your plants.
  • By itself, this style system is not usually suitable for commercial purposes due to lower productivity and difficulty in a large-scale implementation.
  • The media beds are heavy and need a robust and rigid structure.
Media Based Aquaponics System

 2. Nutrient Film Technique

The Nutrient Film Technique(NFT) is a hydroponic growing technique adapted to aquaponics because of its simple yet effective design that works well in some environments. This method uses horizontal pipes (PVC) with shallow streams of nutrient-rich water flowing through them. The NFT is popular for commercial aquaponics and is also useful in urban places where space and food production are problems.

Advantages of NFT:

  • Compared to other systems, the NFT uses fewer materials and less space.
  • NFT allows for continuous water purification.
  • The partially submerged roots have access to sufficient oxygen.

Disadvantages of NFT:

  • The narrow channels or the pipes are susceptible to clogging.
  • The roots may be deprived of water when the pump fails.
  • Suitable only for small rooting plants.
Nutrient Film Technique Aquaponics System

3. Raft System 

Also known as the Deep Water Culture (DWC), the raft system of aquaponics is one of the most efficient aquaponics system designs. This system is often used in large-scale or commercial aquaponics systems because of its mass production capability.

In a raft system, the nutrient-rich water circulate through the long canals, usually at a depth of about 20 cm, while rafts (polystyrene or foam board) float on top. The plants are grown on the raft boards that are supported within holes by net pots. Plant roots hang down in the nutrient-rich, oxygenated water, where they absorb oxygen and nutrients to grow rapidly. The nutrient-filled water flows continuously from the fish tank through the filtration process, then to the raft tank where the plants are grown, and finally back to the fish tank. Most often, the raft tank is separate from the fish tank.

Advantages of Raft System:

  • High productivity of crops with cheap labor.
  • The roots are more exposed to the nutrients in the water.
  • Plants are easier to harvest since the roots are submerged in the water. Not in any media.
  • Raft beds are easy to clean.
  • Best suited for large commercial production.
  • It allows for a higher stocking of fish.

Disadvantages of Rafts System

  • Limited to growing of small leafy greens like lettuce and basil.
  • It can be a mosquito breeding ground, if not designed correctly.
  • It needs filtration since the roots are entirely immersed.
  • Requires a larger space to set up.
  • It required filtration and aeration because the roots are completely submerged in the water.
Raft System of Aquaponics

4. Vertical Aquaponics System

A vertical aquaponics system is one aquaponics method that grows plants without soil in columns above the fish tank. Vertical aquaponics mainly uses the nutrient film technique (NFT) aquaponics method. The NFT is an aquaponics method in which the plants are grown in a long narrow channel. NFT is a hydroponic growing technique adapted to aquaponics because of its simple yet effective design that works well in many environments. The only difference is that in the NFT method, the grow channels are set up horizontally, while in the vertical system, the grow channels are set up vertically.

Advantages of Vertical Aquaponics System:

  • It does not require a large space to set up.
  • More plants can be stacked up in vertical pipes.
  • No bending over to garden because vertical systems keep plants off the ground.
  • Vertical pipes are easy to set up and move to different areas.

Disadvantage of Vertical Aquaponics System:

  • The narrow channels or the pipes are susceptible to clogging.
  • The roots may be deprived of water when the pump fails.
  • Suitable only for small rooting plants.
Vertical Aquaponics System

5. Hybrid Aquaponics System

A hybrid aquaponics system is a combination of two or more systems into one system. There are several approaches to the hybrid system, and all can work well depending on the design. Some aquaponics home growers and commercial aquaponics use hybrid systems because of their efficiency and great use of space.

Advantages Of Hybrid Aquaponics System:

  • A hybrid system offers flexibility in plants to grow.
  • High productivity.

Disadvantages of Hybrid Aquaponics System:

  • Hybrid aquaponics systems are more complex to set up and manage.
  • More expensive to set up.
Hybrid Aquaponics System

Important Factors to Consider in Choosing an Aquaponics System Design

Before you choose a system design, think first about the intended use of the system. Is it for personal, educational, or commercial use? Your intentions will determine what kind of system design fits your particular needs. Properly planning your system will help you become more successful in setting up your own aquaponics system. Here are some important questions you need to answer in choosing your aquaponics system design:

  • Location

Your chosen location will affect your system's health all year round, so choose a suitable location for growing fish and plants. If you want an indoor aquaponics system, ensure that the location is easily accessible and near the water source. Lighting and temperature are not a problem because they can be controlled using grow lights, a heater, and a cooler. For outdoor aquaponics systems, make sure that the location is safe from predators and has enough sunlight. 

  • Space

How much space do you have? You need to consider the size of your system and the space available. Ensure that there is enough space to move around your system quickly so you can access your fish tank and grow beds. 

  • Type of Plants

Your choice of plantswill influence the system you end up setting up because you have to match the plants to the system. In general, the media beds are the most versatile system's design and work well for fruiting crops like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. Leafy greens such as lettuce and kale also work well with raft system design. A hybrid system design will give you more options of what plants to grow with. Knowing the right plant type to grow in a specific aquaponics design will ensure your aquaponic system's success.

  • Environment

Your environmental condition, such as the daily temperature fluctuations, and water source, will directly affect the productivity of the different life forms and ultimately your system's design. Understanding where your water comes from and its quality is also essential. You need to provide de-chlorinated water tested for its hardness, pH, and we delivered other water quality parameters to ensure good water to the system.

  • Technical Capability

Who will use and manage the system? Do you have enough knowledge about aquaponics? Are you going to do-it-yourself (DIY) your system, or are you going to buy a pre-made system? These are very important considerations that you need to think about before choosing an aquaponics system design.

What System Is The Best for You?

The best aquaponics system design for you will depend on your answers to the factors you need to consider in choosing an aquaponics system design. The best thing you can do in choosing the best design for you is to weigh each design's advantages and disadvantages. It is also good to ask for the expert's opinion and experiences on each system by joining aquaponics groups online. There are also lots of free resources online for you to learn what fits your needs. 

Conclusion

A successful aquaponics system requires proper planning and putting your plan into your system's design. In choosing your aquaponics system's design, it is a must to know the difference between each type of aquaponics system's advantages and disadvantages. So you know what will work best for you and what fits your needs.

We hope this article has been helpful for choosing your aquaponics system. Starting something is always exciting but challenging. We highly recommend reading more about aquaponics so you can learn more and know how to manage your aquaponics system. If you need assistance in planning your aquaponics system, please contact us

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