Aquaponics is a great way to grow nutritious, organic foods. It is a system of growing plants with no soil but using fish waste instead to provide all the nutrients they need. These systems are used with great effect in large-scale industrial food production, but the advantages of the process can be used on smaller scales for home use as well.
How Aquaponics Works
Aquaponics is a method to cultivate both crops of food and fish in a controlled environment. Fish live in tanks, and the plants grow without the need for soil, or hydroponically. They are placed in beds, and their roots are made to stick down into a tub of water. The process works because of the waste that is produced by the fish. As it builds up in their tank, the water become poisonous to them. However, the waste is nourishment for the plants. So, the waste water created by the fish is funneled to the tubs where the plant roots collect all its nutrients and filter the water. This clean water, in turn, is funneled back into the fish tank.
Benefits of Aquaponics
Aquaponics provides many benefits when compared to traditional ways of farming both fish and plants. The biggest benefit for home use is that it removes all chemicals and fertilizers from the process of growing plants. The fish waste acts a kind of natural fertilizer. This means that the food produced in this manner is wholly organic. Another benefit is that it saves water. Instead of spraying water onto a garden, it is recycled in the tank. Finally, these aquaponics systems can be built and set up anywhere. Building them in a backyard will require a bit of effort, but it can be done. Both of these benefits have the bonus of reducing costs.
The basic requirements for an aquaponics system are fish, plants and water. Many kinds of fish have been used in these systems with success. These species include cod, trout, bass and perch. However, the fish that seems to thrive the best is tilapia. They are more tolerant of changes that can occur in the system. Combined with their high demand, this makes them an almost perfect choice for the system.
Many kinds of plants also thrive in this environment. However, the type of plants will work best in an individual system depends on the number of fish and the amount of waste they create. Leafy green plants like lettuce, spinach or herbs work well most of the time. More substantial plants that yield fruit grow well, but they may require a well stocked and established system to grow their best. Root plants like potatoes or carrots don’t respond well to these systems. They grow, but they are often deformed and hard to harvest.
It is necessary to keep a close monitor on the quality of the water within a system. The pH of the water, along with the amounts of dissolved materials, can have a huge impact on the health of the fish. These values can also change quickly. Keeping a close eye on them is important.
Aquaponics at Home
Just a few components are needed to build an aquaponics system at home. A tank is needed to hold the fish, and a grow bed is needed to for the plants. A type of rock called red scoria is often used as a grow bed. Washing it to make sure it is free from anomia is important. An efficient water pump is necessary to move the water from the fish tank to the plants. Tubing is also needed to connect the tank and grow bed. To keep the water at a consistent temperature, normally in the range of 70 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, an aquatic heater is required. Clay or gravel is normally used as a surface to rest the plants on. These materials support the plant and also help filter the water. Finally, a testing kit is required to measure the pH of the water.
These basics give a good overview what aquaponics is, how it works and the benefits and requirements of building a system at home. Learning more about the specifics of the process will help determine the types of plants, fish and materials or methods that would best suite an individual’s needs.