Hi, good to have you on. And if you’re interested in this trending DIY gardening technique, please pay attention. As in this article, we’re going to cover a lot of information about it.
Such as, what is aquaponics and how does it work? and then we’ll run through a couple of pros and cons as I see it to setting up a small little backyard aquaponics system. So, we’ll hook straight on into it and answer the question what is aquaponics?
what is aquaponics?:
Well, aquaponics is the combination of two food production systems. The first being aquaculture, which is the raising of fish in a controlled environment. And the second being hydroponics, which is the growing of plants in a soil-less medium using nutrient-rich water.
when these two are combined, they form a symbiotic relationship or poly culture called aquaponics. Now, by themselves both aquaculture and hydroponics, create a large amount of wastewater which needs to either be filtered, which can be quite expensive and added back into the system. or in some cases depending on the local laws can be dumped straight into drains and waterways, which can cause huge amounts of damage to the local environment and ecosystems.
So, when hydroponics is integrated into the aquaculture system, we get to conserve a lot of the water it gets recycled through the system over and over with very little actually going to waste. Plus we also get the added benefit of faster plant growth rates, that you traditionally see in most hydroponic systems.
The reason aquaponics is so great at recycling water through the system rather than sending it out to waste, because, of some naturally occurring nitrifying bacteria they’re all around us in the atmosphere in the soil in the water different families different genus.
So, these nitrifying bacteria obtained their energy by oxidizing ammonia and nitrite from the water in the system and turning it into plant-available nitrate, which isn’t toxic to the fishes in the aquaponics systems. So, these bacteria are the backbone of the system.
without them, the water wouldn’t be clean enough for the fish. And the ammonia, wouldn’t be converted into nitrate. So, that plants can flourish, so they really do perform the key role of bringing these two systems together.
We’ll talk more about those in a moment, but for now, let’s have a sneak peek at how an aquaponics system works, and how the water flows through and gets cleaned for the fish.
Well, to begin with, we need to put some sort of nutrient into the system, and that’s where the fish feed comes in. we drop a couple of pellets in and the fish will eat it. they’ll assimilate the majority of it into their own growth, and then the rest of it has to be passed through.
Now, the majority of the ammonia will be excreted through the respiratory system, or the gills of the fish with a smaller amount of it leaving out the back passage or the cloaca with the solids waste.
The ammonia and waste rich water is taken from the fish tank and delivered into a grow bed. The grow beds are made up of media. and this media provides a home for the nitrifying bacteria to live in.
So, the ammonia enters, and the first lot of bacteria gets to work on oxidizing it. These bacteria are called nitrosomonas. They will oxidize ammonia into nitrite from there, the nitrite is oxidized by another genus of bacteria called nitrobacter. and they turn the nitrite into the plant available nitrate or NO3.
So, the nitrate is then taken up by the roots of the plants, where it’s used to facilitate their growth. and the clean water is delivered back into the fish tank ready to be loaded up with more ammonia in solids waste to go through the cycle again and again and again.
So, when it comes to the aquaponic systems themselves and their design and their layout, there’s a whole host of different ways you can configure them. So, I’m not going to go into them in this article. But if you’re interested to know, check out this professional course. as they have so much experience in teaching newbies step by step how to build thier own aquaponics system. And now let’s move on to the Pros and Cons of having your own aquaponics system.
Cons of aquaponic systems:
So, one of the largest reasons that holds people back from starting an aquaponic system if they’ve been to a course or a visitor to a shop, is the price of the system itself they are rather expensive. But you have to keep in mind, these tanks grow beds and filters are all purpose-built.
And in saying that if your are quite handy, it is fairly cheap to make your own aquaponic system out of recycled drums containers troughs and the commonly seen caged IBC tanks. These systems do require a little bit of handyman knowledge, because, you’re using power tools and such which can be another drawback. But if you have the ability to source these materials and you have the tools on hand, they will reduce the cost of your start up system dramatically.
Another big whammy when it comes to the cost, is a lot of people will see the little clay balls. those things can be quite expensive up to a dollar a litre to purchase them and use them in the system. Now, there are cheaper alternatives much cheaper alternatives. there’s things like river rock.. and basalt, which is also known as Road base or blue metal rather cheap when you buy them from the landscape suppliers and there, they basically a fraction of the cost of the clay media.
The one downside is clay media, is very light. The rocks are heavy naturally, so you have to make sure you have a nice solid stand for the grow beds or you could end up with a few issues down the line like grow bed sinking into the soil.
Another Con that some people have pointed out with the system like this, is we need to run the power 24 hours a day the reason behind that is we need the water constantly being filtered and cleaned. So, the fish as healthy as can be.
But if have a feed-in solar system in your house, it can feed back into the grid. So, L the electricity you use in the system will be subsidized to a point.
And you’ll be able to set up your aquaponic system, depending on its size on various DC voltages. A small system, could run fine on a small 12 volt system. A large system, would need a 24 volt system. I think having them hooked up to solar, was actually seen as a Pro to a lot of people who I want to live as sustainably as possible and not draw any more energy from the grid. So, that’s something you might want to keep in mind. Another Con could be depending on the species of fish you use. The need to buy a commercial fish feed basically because you want your fish to be as healthy as possible, and some do have particular nutrient requirements.
There are other fish though, that you can get away with feeding things like duckweed and Azolla. and also raising your own compost worms, and the little larvae, black soldier fly larvae and also mealworms. You just need to do a little bit of research and find which species of fish would be the best for your application, if you want to look at growing your own feed for them.
Pros. of building an aquaponics:
So, enough for the Cons. and let’s jump on to the numerous Pros of why a lot of people think it’s a great idea to grow with aquaponics. Firstly, a lot of people are attracted because it is an organic growing system. basically fish and the bacteria as well and the grow beds, they are very susceptible to harsh toxic chemicals. So, you can’t just spray any old insecticide in there to look after aphids. even though, sometimes I would really like to take a flamethrower to them. So, it’s just one of those things you need to grow as cleanly as possible. on the upside you end up with great nutritious food, that you can share around with your family and friends knowing that there’s no harsh toxic chemicals on there.
The second reason a lot of people want to get into aquaponics, is it seen as a very sustainable use of our water resources. For water in the system is recycled round, and round with very little going to waste, other than a transpiration from the plants themselves.
A little bit of evaporation and in some systems, people will have a solids filter. some of that water is used to evacuate those solids out of the system. I’ve also come across a number of people who want to stop relying on ocean caught fish, for a couple of different reasons. So, that’s what’s drawn them to.. I’m setting up aquaponics system.
Aquaponics, also tend to have very little if no weeds at all. It allows you to have a couple pop up in, from when birds and other animals have deposited their waste. and have things like tomatoes, some native gum, sprouted trees, and more…
And you don’t have to spend hours on the weekend on it pulling out weeds and bits and pieces. So, if that is seen as a big plus by a lot of people as I mentioned before, because it uses hydroponic growing methods with nutrient-rich water. you’ll also be able to get very fast growth rates on some plants, particularly, the greens in aquaponic systems.
So, you’ll be able to turn over the plants like Asian greens bok choy in a number of weeks from the time they’ve gone in as seedlings to being harvested and taking into the kitchens.
Another Pro. for aquaponics: is I actually have a very small footprint for the amount of food that they can produce. So, if you’ve only got a balcony in an apartment block or a small courtyard in a townhouse, you can actually grow a lot more food in there, then you possibly could if you were growing in containers or in the soil itself. You’ve got the added benefit that with most systems like this they’re raised and off the ground. So, they’re able to get a little bit more sunlight, which is a bit of a premium in some courtyard based areas.
Now, that brings me on to another point. our beds are raised off the ground, which makes them excellent for people who have mobility issues. people who can’t get down to tend garden beds in you know traditional soil garden beds find it quite easy to walk around an aquaponic system where the beds are all at waist height. you can also use these systems indoors, so if you’re in an area like I’m the northern states of america or an Antarctica, you can actually set up an aquaponic system and grow under lights. The fish don’t require a great amount of UV light, and you can buy very efficient LED lights.
now for the plant side of things so there’s no reason you can’t set up a small little barrel system or even an IBC tote system if you’ve got a decent-sized garage or basement and grow inside it especially come in handy through winter when most people in your neighborhood will have to wind down their veggie patch in the backyard because it’s under a foot of snow.
So, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little bit of a look at what aquaponics is and also how it works in a small little backyard aquaponics system if you have enjoyed it, it’ll be great if you could share it around the various social media networks.
And don’t forget to take a look at our #1 recommended DVD course for aquaponics system. You will get complete walk through instructions as I build a working Aquaponics system all on in step by step video.
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