As you may know aquaponics is derived from two major fields: aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaculture involves the growing of edible fish while hydroponics is the cultivation of herbs and vegetables, using water without any soil. You can buy a pre-built system from an aquaponics supplies distributor at a premium price.
But building a simple aquaponics system in your backyard could be one of the most fulfilling adventures in your life. Here are some expert tips to enable put your first aquaponics system together.
Choose a Suitable Space
The location of your aquaponics system will determine how effective it will be. You must take at least two major factors into consideration: the climate where you live and the amount of space you have for your system. If you live in a tropical climate in Florida or California, you will be able to put your aquaponics system in an open space and grow your fish and vegetables all year round. However, if you are living in a colder climate, you can use your garden during summer but during winter, you will need to relocate it into a greenhouse or shut it down if your can’t afford one.
The space where you place your aquaponics system must be accessible to direct sunlight. That is why it is easier to build and manage this type of ecosystem in your backyard. However, people living in high rise buildings may still build one in a room or space that has very large windows that can permit adequate sunlight or where you can use artificial lighting throughout the day. You may also decide to build a greenhouse that will enable you to control virtually all aspects of the environment.
Best Aquaponics Fish to Use in Centerport Systems
The most popular kind of fish used by owners of domestic aquaponics systems is tilapia. These fish are tropical species; the temperature of the water should be between 75 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit so the fish can remain healthy and grow up quickly. Tilapia is preferred to other fish species because of their high growth rate. Tilapia also permits a high stocking density and they do well in imperfect water conditions. Their ability to spawn at the same temperature at which they breed also makes them very attractive.
Two other fish species are used in aquaponics systems: yellow perch and catfish. Yellow perch can grow in colder climates. So this may be a better choice for people who live in areas with low temperatures throughout the year. You will not need to use a heater to raise the temperature of the tank most of the time. However, you will not have the same volume of fish as tilapia because yellow perch breed just once a year while tilapia can breed every two months under the right conditions. On the other hand, catfish permit high-density and are suitable for recirculating aquaponics systems. These species can grow in both tropical and cold regions.
Pick the Right Plants
Not all plants are suitable for aquaponics systems. You will need to grow leafy vegetables that can thrive on nutrients available in fish water without additional nutrients. Examples of such plants include; dill, basil, spinach, arugula, kale, and lettuce. Similarly, you can cultivate plants grown for their fruit including raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes. However, growing fruit bearing plants will require additional organic fertilizers which you can purchase from aquaponics suppliers.
You have several options to choose from when you are selecting your tank. You may use a conventional glass tank but this could be quite expensive. Instead, you should try a stock tank or large barrel to save cost. Theoretically, an ideal aquaponics system will support up to 1 pound of fish for each gallon of water. But when you are building your first tank you should stock just 1 fish for every 5 gallons of water to ensure that the system remains balanced and the fish have sufficient space to swim.
You will usually find a glass tank among the aquaponics supplies stocked in most hydroponic stores but you should look for food-grade tanks. You can use any of the two standard sizes: the square bin (225-gallon capacity) or the 55-gallon barrel. Ensure that they were used for non-toxic substances and avoid those used for chemicals that can harm the fish or vegetables.
The Grow Bed
This is the water-resistant container that holds the soilless medium for the plants. For a DIY project, you could build wooden boxes that are about between 6 inches to 1 foot deep. Each box should be coated inside with pond liner. Then fill each box with an inert growth bed medium such as perlite (an amorphous hydrated volcanic glass), gravel or clay pellets. Gravel can influence the acidity of the water depending on their source while perlite and clay pellets are neutral and they retain moisture.
Another option available at aquaponics supplies stores is coco coir. This is mainly used by professionals due to its ability to retain moisture and air at the same time. You can actually mix these media together to enjoy the benefits of each one simultaneously. After building the growth medium, you should support it with a stable foundation using either lumber or concrete blocks.
Pumps and Piping
Basically, you will need two kinds of pumps for your aquaponics system: a water pump and air pump. Your air pump will supply sufficient oxygen into the tank for the fish. The water pump helps to circulate the water between the fish tank and the growth bed. The growth bed media will filter out the waste products from your fish tank and enable them to grow without the need for fresh water. At the same time, the waste water from the fish tank will serve as a source of fertilizer for your plants. If you can afford a solar pump, you can even make the entire aquaponics system self sustaining.
When you are choosing your water pump, ensure that you get a reliable and durable brand. Magnetic drive pumps work best since their motor has a distinct compartment that is sealed to prevent oil from leaking into the tank. To enjoy the service of this pump, however, you will also need a network of durable PVC pipes. The piping should be handled by an expert if you don’t have the skills and experience required to arrange the pipes without making costly mistakes.
Assemble your aquaponics systems on a flat sturdy foundation. It is advisable to complete your construction in spring so you can stock the fish when the temperature has reached at least 70 degrees in summer. You will need to stock your fish fingerlings first. Then create a nursery for your plants. By the time the fish are producing sufficient waste, the seedlings will be ready for transplanting. You can plant the seedlings 6 inches apart from each other.
Those are some of the most important aquaponics supplies and design factors you need to consider before you build your system. It is important for you to do more research on each of these items and start with a small tank and a few fish till you have mastered all the basics of maintaining a well-tuned system.
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